After delivering the Ten Commandments to Moses, the Lord provided a rather surprising instruction regarding formal worship:
If thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.Exodus 20:25
Hewn stones are stones that have been cut or shaped. Here’s how the verse appears in the New Living Translation of the Bible:
If you use stones to build my altar, use only natural, uncut stones. Do not shape the stones with a tool, for that would make the altar unfit for holy use.Exodus 20:25 on biblehub.com
A similar instruction is given in Deuteronomy 27:5-6.
Why would God command them to make the altar out of rough stones rather than carefully carved ones, especially when hewn stones were perfectly appropriate for other uses? He told Moses, for example, to “hew tables of stone,” on which He would inscribe the commandments (Exodus 34:1, 4, Deuteronomy 10:1-3). And Solomon later built a temple of hewn stone, as instructed by his father, David. (See 1 Chronicles 22:1-5, 1 Kings 5:17-18, 1 Kings 6:36.)
As I’ve pondered this question today, I’ve had the following thought: Like the unhewn stones, we come to God in our current state, with all of our imperfections intact. The commandment is not, “Perfect yourselves, and then come unto Christ.” Rather it is, “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that God’s invitation is, “Come as you are, [but] don’t plan to stay as you are” (“Songs Sung and Unsung,” General Conference, April 2017).
Today, I will approach God as an “unhewn stone,” with all of my imperfections and weaknesses. I will trust that He will hew and polish me if I am willing to be honest and humble before Him.