At the Last Supper, when the meal was finished, Jesus washed the feet of each of His apostles, apparently without explaining why. When it was Peter’s turn, he refused to allow the Savior to wash his feet. Jesus responded, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Peter responded impulsively: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” His desire to commit fully was commendable, but he needed to recognize that the Savior understood exactly what cleaning was needed. “He that is washed,” the Savior explained, “needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” Then He added, “and ye are clean, but not all” (John 13:1-10).
John explained what Jesus meant by “not all.” One of the disciples had betrayed Him. Jesus knew that only eleven of the twelve were clean. Some English translations of the Bible clarify this point by saying, “Ye are clean, but not all of you,” or “You are clean, but not every one of you.” (See John 13:10 on biblehub.com.)
In October 1831, the Lord made the same statement, but this time, He was speaking to only one person instead of twelve. In a revelation Joseph Smith received on behalf of William E. McLellin, the Lord told William, “You are clean, but not all.” He went on to say, “Repent, therefore, of those things which are not pleasing in my sight.” And He added, “[I] will show them unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 66:3).
In William’s case, “clean but not all” meant that he had more repenting to do. He needed to recognize the areas in his life that needed improvement and to rectify them with God’s help.
Mormon testified that “there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity” (3 Nephi 8:1). Moroni promised that, with the Savior’s help, we could “become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:33). The goal was never partial repentance and limited cleansing, in order to become “good enough,” meeting some minimal standard. The goal was always to be “cleansed every whit,” and that requires us to willingly submit to the transformational power of God and to do the hard work of changing things in our lives that are not in harmony with His will.
President Russell M. Nelson has encouraged us all to look for ways we can repent and improve:
We know what will give us greater access to the powers of heaven. We also know what will hinder our progress—what we need to stop doing to increase our access to the powers of heaven. Brethren, prayerfully seek to understand what stands in the way of your repentance. Identify what stops you from repenting. And then, change! Repent! All of us can do better and be better than ever before.“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” General Conference, April 2019
Today, I will ask for God’s help in understanding what I can do better. I will make it my goal to be clean “every whit” and I will seek to understand what I must do differently in order to more fully access the Lord’s cleansing power.