Category: sin

Accountability

All of us are accountable before God for our own sins. (D&C 101: 78.) No one can escape responsibility based on their willful ignorance. If you have the scriptures, you know you cannot be saved in ignorance. (D&C 131: 6.) You also have been warned that the scriptures have information which is able to teach you about salvation. (2 Tim. 3: 15.) You also have the Lord’s warning to search into the scriptures if you expect eternal life. (John 5: 39.) When this is before you, it is impossible to sin ignorantly, even if you are ignorant as a result of your own neglect. (3 Ne. 6: 18.)

Freedom from Sins

The reason “confession” of sin is required, is to free the victim. (D&C 58: 43.) Confession robs the accuser of his power to accuse. (Rev. 12: 10.)

Once the sins of Alma and Younger and the sons of Mosiah were known, confessed and public, the sins no longer had any control over them. They felt no shame for these sins because confessing and admitting they were sinful robbed sin of its power. Similarly, the Apostle Paul’s admission of his sinful past allowed him to move on to accepting and celebrating God’s grace. (1 Tim. 1: 12-16.)

There is power in confessing. It puts the confessor above his sin. (James 5: 16.) We confess to celebrate God’s great deliverance of us. We are all weak. It is part of worshipping Him. (D&C 59: 12.) This is why the testimony of God’s redemption by Alma the Younger included confession of his own sins. (Alma 36: 6, 12-14.)

Those who claim they are holy men, without sin, and thereby cover their weaknesses while courting the praise and admiration of others, have no truth in them. (1 John 1: 8.) But if we confess we are sinful and weak, God is faithful to forgive us. (1 John 1: 9.)

Freedom from sin can only come through admitting your sinful nature. When we confess, He forgives. (D&C 64: 7.)

Repentance

I received a question: “Knowing that the local church leaders sometimes misjudge the repentance process and sometimes struggle to know what the individual truly needs. Is it possible to properly repent for serious sins and have the repentance process be between just you and the Lord, without confessing your sins to your bishop? On many occasions, we read in the scriptures that repentance was done by confession to the Lord alone. If you truly had a change of heart and had abandon the sin, wouldn’t it be ok for you and I to do the same today, as recorded in the scriptures, without confessing to church authorities?”

This question is a reflection of just how “institutional” our orientation has become. The church is powerless to forgive sins. Christ forgave sins during His mortal ministry. (Mark 2: 5-12.) Christ forgives sins in His current ministry. (D&C 61: 2.)

Christ may allow men to possess the power to forgive sins as in the case of Joseph Smith (D&C 132: 46), but that has definite limits. Men are given such power because they will never use it independently of the Lord’s will. (Helaman 10: 5.) Even those who will be allowed to “judge” others in the final judgment, will not have independent reign, but must announce Christ’s judgment, not their own. (3 Ne. 27: 27.)

The only one who can forgive sin is Christ. He requires us to forgive one another, but will Himself determine whose sins He will forgive. (D&C 64: 10.) He is the only gatekeeper for forgiveness. (2 Ne. 9: 41.)

If you think the church leader is attuned to the Lord’s voice and can give you comfort, encouragement to come to Christ, and help guide you in the path, then counseling with such a man is very worthwhile, but he cannot forgive sins, for that you are required to look to the Lord.

Forsake, come, call, obey, keep, see, and KNOW

I had a discussion about the difficulty of rising above the sins of this world. It was provoked by the recent post on adultery. It has in turn led to these additional thoughts.
 
It is impossible to become altogether clean in this fallen world. We can do our best, but in the end we’re going to find we are lacking. The scriptures admit this. The proposition is so fundamentally understood among most saints that it goes without saying. We’re all in need of redemption from an outside power, someone with greater virtue and power than we have, who can lift us from our condition into something higher, cleaner, and more godly. This is the role of Christ. His atoning sacrifice equipped Him to accomplish this.
 
The atonement, however, is not magic. Through it, Christ accomplished some very specific things, and has the power to lead us all back to the presence of God, the Father. The process was difficult for Him and is necessarily difficult for us.
 
Christ participated in the ordinance of the atonement to acquire two things. First, knowledge. (Isa. 53: 11.) It is through His knowledge He is able to “justify many.” The knowledge was acquired through His suffering the pains of all mankind. That allowed Him to know exactly what weaknesses afflict mankind, and how to overcome them. This allows Him to succor, or relieve, or teach mankind how to overcome every form of guilt, affliction, and weakness. (Alma 7: 11-12.) This knowledge was gained by suffering guilt and remorse for sins He did not commit exactly as if He were the one who committed them. He performed this great burden before His Father, who would never leave Him; even in His hour of temptation, despite the fact that all His followers would abandon Him. (John 16: 32.) When He suffered the guilt of all mankind, it was necessary for His Father to draw near to Him. (Luke 22: 42-43.) This was required because it is impossible for Christ to know how to redeem mankind from the guilt and shame of sin unless He experiences the pains of uncleanliness before God the Father, as mankind will do if they are unclean in the day of judgment. (Mormon 9: 4-5.) Unlike all of us, however, Christ knows how to overcome this shame because He has done so.
 
Second, Christ acquired the keys of death and hell by suffering, reconciling, dying, rising, and reuniting with the Father. (Rev. 1: 18.) Because the keys of death and hell belong to Him, He has the power of forgiveness. He can forgive all men all offenses. But He requires us to forgive others. (D&C 64: 9-10.)  If we fail to forgive others, we cannot be forgiven. (Matt. 6: 15.)
 
We do not move from our state of evil to redemption by Christ’s sacrifice alone. It is required for us to follow Him. (John 10: 27.) We follow Him when we allow Him to succor us, to impart knowledge to us, and to forgive others through His knowledge gained from the atonement.
 
Through the keys of death and hell, Christ’s atonement cleanses us from our errors, our failings, and our deliberate wrong choices. He provides cleansing from those failings. But His atonement does not change our character unless we follow Him. The atonement, if properly acted upon, frees us to develop character like His, unencumbered by the guilt of what we’ve failed to do. He removes our guilt. But developing character like His is our responsibility.
 
We cannot be passive and obtain what He offers. We are required to actively pursue the redemption we seek through Him. When the sin is removed from us, we are free to pursue virtue without the crippling effects of remorse which He removes from us. (Alma 24: 10.) When freed from the guilt of sin, the past mistakes no longer haunt us. Our sins are no longer remembered by the Lord, and we are free to confess and forsake them. (D&C 58: 42-43.) The reason we can publicly confess them is because they are no longer us. They do not define us. It is no longer our sin, nor our character. We have chosen to follow Him into a new life.
 
The development of a godly character happens in stages, gradually. We are forgiven in an instant, suddenly. (Alma 36: 18-20.) When forgiven we necessarily turn to a new life, in which sharing the joy of forgiveness and the joy of redemption through Christ is our abiding desire. (Alma 36: 24.) The mind changes in proportion to the joy found in the new life. (Romans 8: 5-6.) Such new people are no longer the sons of men, but they become the sons of God. (Romans 8: 14-17.) They know the joy of having the voice of the Father declare to them that they have been begotten by the Father and are the sons of God. (Psalms 2: 7.) 
 
Remaining mired in the flesh is evidence a man has not been redeemed, not been succored by Christ, not accepted the saving knowledge which He can impart, and has not risen up to receive salvation. The atonement is not active in such lives. The fullness of the atonement is the fullness of knowledge, which comes by following Him and abiding the conditions. No one can receive what He offers unless they conform to the conditions He has established for redemption. (D&C 93: 27-28.)
 
This is the Gospel of Christ. This is the news which comes from the Lord – the Messenger of Salvation. Those who know Him will declare these things in unmistakable words to allow others to come and partake of the same fruit of the tree of life. All the other vitrues, causes, programs and, “inspirational stories” are distractions which, if indulged in to the neglect of these other things, will damn you. 
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men.” (D&C 93: 1-4.) 
 
I am not that Light. But I have seen that Light and can testify He lives, and His atoning work continues today among all of those who will receive Him. If you will receive Him, He will not leave you comfortless, but He will come and take up His abode with you. (John 14: 18.) Not only Him, but the Father also. (John 14: 23.) This is literal, and the idea this is only an abode “in your heart” is false; for they will come and make themselves known to you. (D&C 130: 3.) Eternal life is to know Him. (John 17: 3.) This means to come into His presence again. (Ether 3: 19.)
 
These things are the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyone who teaches otherwise is in error and a deceiver.

2 Nephi 33: 5-6

2 Nephi 33: 5-6:

“And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil. I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”
 
Nephi’s writings “speaketh harshly against sin.”This is because of “plainness of the truth.” If you’re going to speak plainly about sin, the words are necessarily harsh, because there’s no other way to be plain about it. Warning against sin and pride is offensive. (2 Nephi 4: 13.)
 
Those who become angry at the truth have “the spirit of the devil” in them. That is, they are under the devil’s influence and deceived. Nephi understood this principle because of his older brothers’ reactions. (1 Nephi 16: 1-2.)  So when someone becomes angry at the truth, they are in darkness.
 
Christ gave this as one of the signs of the deceived.  They argue against the truth and become angry. (3 Nephi 11: 29.)
 
Those who are Christ’s, however, join with Nephi in glorying in plainness, even if it cuts or requires repentance. They appreciate the plain direction which allows them to follow in the true path. They appreciate truth, even when it condemns their acts and requires them to change. They glory in Christ, preferring Him to unbelief, traditions of men, and the arm of flesh.
Nephi knew Christ had redeemed his soul from hell, for He had declared it to Nephi. The reason Nephi understood the fullness of Christ’s Gospel, could declare the doctrine of Christ, and was a prophet given a commission to teach was because he had been taught by the Lord. (2 Nephi 11: 2.) The return to Christ’s presence was not merely a spectacular event to write in a journal, or a bragging point to claim among others. Indeed, much of what Nephi obtained from the Lord was never recorded for us or Nephi’s posterity. The return was to obtain light and truth, or intelligence, which is the glory of God. It was to be ministered to by the Perfect Teacher. This, in turn, made Nephi the great minister he became.
 
The Greatest Servant teaches servants to serve. They are not chosen to be idolized. They are not chosen so a band can strike up “Hail to the Chief” when they enter a room, as everyone rises in adoration and respect. Nor are they chosen to wear silk robes, with subservient sycophants kissing their ring in adoration, hoping for favors. They are chosen instead to serve, while being discarded, challenged, rejected and scorned. Yet in this they only follow their Master, who came not to be served, but to serve. Christ disparaged us gentiles because we submit to abuse and call our abusers our benefactors. (Luke 22: 25-27.)
 
We hardly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all because we utterly reject its principles. We won’t live them to know if they are true. Then in our ignorant darkness we judge the light. All the while Nephi’s words invite us to choose a different route, act with real intent, with full purpose of heart, repenting of our sins to find our way back into the light. Instead, we cling to the false traditions of our fathers, claiming for ourselves the prerogatives of God Himself, believing we are better than others, and failing to see the burden of sin we carry in our blind ignorance.

Nephi may have gloried in plainness, but we glory in positive messages telling us we will be saved in our sins. Nephi may have gloried in Jesus, but we use His name to endorse our products and ratify our false teachings. Nephi may have urged the plainness of truth itself, but we market based on focus group tested and opinion polled results so our product line should get good market acceptance.

 
Nephi’s way would work better, you know. The truth attracts those who seek truth. No matter how utterly it may fail in market testing, truth sells. Truth attracts. At least it attracts the Master’s sheep, and we’ll never be able to save any others anyway. So we should offer the truth to make a clarion call to those sheep. When we dilute it with the theories of marketing, the arm of flesh, salesmanship and branding, the sheep have no idea that there is any truth under the slick presentation. How can you hear the Master’s voice in such a cacophony of Wall Street gibberish? Truth alone wins, prevails, succeeds against all opposition and will have its final vindication in the triumph of the Lamb!
 
I appreciate Nephi’s plainness and preference for the truth. I think I may join him in that view. I suppose, however, it’ll make some folks angry.

Come and be saved

In the preceding verses Nephi has changed from giving his own advice and counsel to quoting the Lord. He began in verse 30 with the words: “behold, thus saith the Lord” and continues quoting Him through the end of that chapter and into the next.

The third “wo” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord. The “cursing of the gentiles” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord.

Now I didn’t point that out as we went through the materials. It is significant enough that it requires additional attention.

Christ has divided judgment up into two separate functions. For those who will be blessed, He will delegate the honor of blessing to others, including His twelve at Jerusalem, (Matt. 19: 28, 1 Ne. 12: 9) and twelve Nephite disciples (3 Ne. 27: 27). Their judgment is honorary, however, because they are given no discretion in the matter. The Lord will decide the judgment. It is His alone, so as to insure it will be the right decision. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) For those who are to be cursed, however, Christ will be the one who pronounces the judgment. (D&C 29: 27-29.)

It is of terrible significance that these statements come from the Lord who alone holds the right to judge.  He sacrificed His life for all, and is the Savior and Redeemer, seeking to save all who will come to Him.  This is the same Lord who pronounces the words through Nephi: Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts!” (2 Ne. 28: 31-32.)

The message is delivered by Nephi. The words are the Lord’s. The merciful and loving Christ who suffered for all that they might not suffer if they would repent (D&C 19: 16), is announcing His pessimism about the latter-day gentile effort to obtain repentance. Why do we seem destined to fail? Why is repentance so difficult for us? What terrible “precepts of men” hold us bound in chains that we cannot break free.

Several have made comments on the question of how we are to repent and come to Christ.  There is a fundamental first step to be taken which the Lord has explained repeatedly in His teachings. I have written about this often, including in my first and last books.

In the chapter on the Atonement in Come, Let Us Adore Him there is an explanation given of what Christ suffered and what obligations are devolving on us as a result. We must do as He did, suffer in like manner, and forgive all offenses. His infinite suffering cannot be replicated in one sense, but in our own sphere and time we do suffer offenses and abuses. We are required to forgive as He forgave. It is our own forgiveness of others that qualifies us to receive forgiveness from Him. When we harbor grudges and resentments, we cut ourselves off from His Atonement. IF we are to be forgiven we must in turn FORGIVE others.  In The Second Comforter it is shown how we must make intercession on behalf of others, even our enemies, if we are to have a hope in Christ. We must lay down the burden of sin to enter into His presence. Much of that “sin” in each of our lives has been the offenses against us, and the resentment and anger we hold from these abuses. There are people who have done you wrong. There are some who did so intentionally. When you forgive them, and plead on their behalf for the Lord to also forgive them in sincerity and love, you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Lord did this. You must do as He did to be like Him. It is the only way to understand your Lord. In this, you must suffer as He did, choosing to forgive offenses rather than to seek justice. When you show mercy, you merit mercy. The beginning of repentance is found in forgiving others.

Your just claims for retribution must be surrendered. Your worthy desire to have vindication must be abandoned. Your right to have judgment against the ones who abused you must be forfeited. And you must go on to pray for their forgiveness.

If you have read all I have written you already know this. I am disappointed to have those who have not read what I’ve written trying to make sense of this blog. It will make absolutely no sense if it is not seen as an extension of what I’ve already covered. Even this brief statement about the relationship between your own salvation and redemption through following Christ is a brief note, a cryptic signal, and altogether inadequate to explain the matter. The careful, patient and fulsome explanation has been laid out elsewhere in what I’ve written. You must go there to see why, along with the many places in scripture where the Lord has made the matter clear.

Nephi takes no delight in pronouncing these wo’s and writing the “cursing” the latter-day gentiles face. The Lord takes even less. He suffered and died to make salvation possible for these very same latter-day gentiles. He would save them all. But to do so it is absolutely necessary to bluntly warn those whom He loves. Enos recorded his own ministry and how it was affected by the audience he addressed: “And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” (Enos 1: 23.)

Why would a joyful Lord, who delights in our own happiness, speak in terms of “wo’s” and “cursing” to us? What is it about us as His audience that compels Him to rebuke us? Have you thought of the standard in Section 121 (“reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”) as part of this rebuke?

He so completely loves us that John equated Him with love. (1 John 4: 8.) Can you imagine the frustration it causes our Lord to have to speak in these terms to us?

Why do we not repent? Why do we harbor and protect our sins? Why do we worship men rather than God? Why do we cleave to the precepts of men rather than the Holy Ghost? Why do we resist the truth when it is declared to us. Why do we demand that the truth be conformed to our understanding of the precepts of men? Why do we measure the things of God against our own traditions? Why do we not abandon instantly our false notions, and stop arguing against the truth which is in Christ? Why do we think any institution, fellowship, association or man can lead us to salvation instead of Christ alone who can save? (2 Ne. 31: 19.)

How long will you harden your heart against your Lord, whose pleas are aimed only at saving your soul? Why turn away and say that you prefer membership in a great and spacious building, pointing an accusing finger at those who would lead you to eternal life? (1 Ne. 8: 26-31.) Your awards and honors are nothing.  Your recognition and praise is corrosion. Everything here is doomed to decay, rot and fail. (Matt. 6: 19-20.) This is the Telestial Kingdom. Everything here, every institution, organization and order is Telestial. None of it will survive death. (D&C 132: 7.) Even the one association intended to endure (the family) will not endure unless it is through the Holy Spirit of Promise.

If you are going to be rescued from this Telestial Kingdom, it will be Christ who rescues you. His arm has been stretched out to you as long as you have been here, and it will remain stretched out until you depart here.  If you are not saved, it will be because of your rejection of Him, not His rejection of you. He has done all He could. He has sent stern warnings, warm invitations, cheerful messengers, the dignified and the undignified, to show in all things He is willing to meet you more than half way. Those who reject these widely different invitations are accountable for their failure. (Matt. 11: 7-24.)

The Lord continually asks: “What more could I have done?” (Jacob 5: 41, 47, 49, 75; 2 Ne. 15: 4.)

Apparently we will only accept the “precepts of men” and trust the “arm of flesh” and therefore merit the coming disappointments.

Come unto Christ and be saved.