The Miracle of Forgiveness
To hear a series on The Miracle of Forgiveness on the radio program Viewpoint on Mormonism, please go here. The series begins on Jan. 9, 2012.
By Spencer W. Kimball. Reviewed by Bill McKeever
In my opinion, one of the best books written by an LDS general authority that clearly exposes Mormonism as non Christian is The Miracle of Forgiveness. This book, which was written by 12th President Spencer W. Kimball, contains some of the most horrendous teachings imaginable including:
- Mankind has the ability to perfect himself and become an omniscient and omnipotent God (p.2).
- No one can repent on a cross, nor in prison, nor in custody (p.167).
- Forgiveness is cancelled on reversion to sin (p.169).
- Discontinuance of sin must be permanent (p.176).
- Keeping God's commandments brings forgiveness (p.201).
- Salvation by grace alone was originated by Satan (p.206).
- Only by living all of the commandments can a Mormon be sure he is forgiven (p.208).
- Personal perfection is an achievable goal (p.209).
- The time to become perfect is now, in this mortality (p.210).
- Forgiveness could take "centuries" and is granted based on a Mormon's humility, sincerity, works, and attitudes (p.325).
- The repentance which merits forgiveness requires the transgressor to reach the point where the very desire or urge to sin is "cleared out of his life" (pp.354-355).
Statements such as these make me wonder how he chose the title. If what Kimball said is true it would be a miracle if anyone is forgiven! However, this is what makes Kimball's book a very effective tool when challenging Mormons about their faith. Because many Mormons also find the above statements troubling, it is not uncommon for some to dismiss the importance of this book by insisting that since Kimball was only giving his own opinions and because he was only a Mormon apostle when it was written, its teachings are not authoritative. This argument is weak on many points, including:
1) Though written when he was an apostle, the book was reprinted while Kimball was president of the church. If Kimball thought that he had erred in his teachings, why didn't he, or the LDS Church itself, correct the mistakes? Besides, wasn't most of the New Testament written by mere apostles? If Mormonism is truly a "restoration" of early Christianity, why don't Mormon apostles carry the same authority as New Testament apostles?
2) On the second floor of the LDS Museum of History and Art (west of Temple Square), there is a huge display highlighting all of the presidents of the LDS Church. Next to Kimball's painting is a copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness preserved under a glass case. If this book should be forgotten, why has the church given it a prominent display in its museum?
3) If this book should not be taken seriously by members of the LDS Church, why has church-owned Deseret Book celebrated the book as a "landmark work"? In its March 2004 catalog, Deseret Book calls The Miracle of Forgiveness "a penetrating explanation of repentance and forgiveness that is illuminated with a bright hope for those who are searching for peace and security. It is a landmark work that has spoken with authority and insight for 35 years, bringing to bear President Spencer W. Kimball's rich experience and the inspiration of his calling" (p.8).
4) Consider also that on two separate occasions, The Miracle of Forgiveness was recommended from the pulpit in general conference. For example, in an April, 1970 conference message, Richard L. Evans called Kimball's book "a wonderful work":
Many of you would be familiar with President Spencer Kimball's wonderful work on the miracle of forgiveness. I witness to you that God is a loving Father who will forgive and help us find peace and self-respect as we repent and show our sincerity by the lives we live. And there is nothing he asks of us that we cannot do; there is no requirement we cannot keep-if we are willing, if we want to. Repentance is a miracle, if it is sincere (Richard L. Evans, Conference Report, April 1970, p.16).
In a 2004 conference message titled, "Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” Mormon Apostle Richard G. Scott called it a "masterly work":
When needed, full repentance will require action on your part. If you are not familiar with the classic steps to repentance, such as confession and abandonment of sin, restitution, obedience, and seeking forgiveness, talk to a bishop or study a source such as President Spencer W. Kimball's masterly work The Miracle of Forgiveness. (Richard G. Scott, Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2004, p.16).
Bruce H. Hafen, currently serving as a Seventy in the LDS Church, also recommended this book to LDS members when he wrote:
“Some of us make repentance too easy, and others make it too hard. Those who make it too easy don’t see any big sins in their lives, or they believe that breezy apologies alone are enough. These people should read President Spencer W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness, which reviews many sins of both commission and omission. And while forgiveness is a miracle, it is not won without penitent and strenuous effort” (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, April 1997, p.41).
Kimball's book not only makes repentance "too hard," he makes it impossible! In my experience I have found that many Mormons don't at all feel that this book is a source of peace and security. One such example took place several years ago as I was having a pleasant conversation with a Mormon missionary in the Assembly Hall at Temple Square. During the conversation I mentioned Kimball's book and was surprised to find that she had read it also. When I asked her what she thought of Kimball's tome, she said, "That book scared me to death." I must concur. If Kimball was telling the truth, everybody is in big trouble. Kimball's message is hardly "good news."
For a Christian perspective on God's grace and justification we recommend The God Who Justifies by James White.