Progress and Perfection Reconciled



Peace like a river.

Memory is one of our themes. More than memory, even. It’s the living reality of the past, the way nothing is ever lost, the truth that for the redeemed all things and all times are before our face, and we are united with all our past selves into a great, integral whole.

Brother Charlton has taken us to task a little bit for the implied Platonism of that theme. It is certainly true that the main thrust of Mormon thought has been to emphasize continual progress and growth, not static perfection in a timelessness where all the apparent movement and change of life can be enjoyed as one.

Isaiah promises us peace like a river. “How are rivers peaceful?” my wife asked our children. That got me thinking. I realized that the metaphor of peace like a river reconciles “Platonism” and progress. It combines the promise of rest in the eternities with the promise of endless increase.

The river always flows. It is inexorable. An increase of waters is inherent in its nature. But from the bank, the surface of the water is the same. If there are movements, they are continually repeated movements. They are patterns. The motion is certain, so it is calm. The river has flowed long enough that all the obstacles have been worn down. The river has now become what it wanted to be. The flow is the peace.


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