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10 Things You Can Learn About Mormonism by Reading the Ensign Magazine

may 2016 ensign jpgBy Michael Rabus

I have found one of the most effective ways of showing Mormons the dangerous doctrine that comes from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to share with them articles from the churches own official magazine, the Ensign.  I started reading the Ensign magazine in February of 2015 and made note of any statements that might confirm doctrine that I’ve found some Mormons don’t believe.

Let’s take a look at quotes from the last year’s worth of Ensign magazine to see what we can learn about Mormonism!

  1. The Ensign magazine is authoritative, inspired, and offers the word of God.

Before we get too far into Mormon doctrine, we need to ask ourselves if the Ensign magazine is even a valid source of LDS doctrine, or does it just offer theories and opinions of church leaders and members.  From my own experience, whenever I ask a Mormon about their opinion concerning doctrine or theology, they will always send me to an Ensign article or General Conference talk which they believe best describes their opinion.  So practically speaking, I think a lot of Mormons believe the Ensign to be authoritative.  But, I’ve found that as soon as I use an article that goes against their personal beliefs, they are quick to dismiss the Ensign as mere opinion.

Here’s what the Ensign magazine has said about itself:

Refer to Church magazines.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn that “by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (1:38).  Conference addresses, First Presidency messages, and other inspired articles are also considered scripture and should be included in our studies.  (“13 Ways to Study the Scriptures,” Apr 2015, 58-59).

Members of this group apparently did not read or study the scriptures, listen to or watch general conference, read the Ensign, or attend Sunday meetings, all of which offer the word of God.  Consequently, they lost their way.  (“Hold Fast to the Rod,” Feb 2016, 58-61).

The Ensign magazine is definitely worthy of our attention since within its own pages it claims to “offer the word of God.”  With its authoritative nature established, let’s dive a little deeper into specific Mormon doctrine.

  1. The Holy Ghost can only accompany those that are worthy, and your works alone will qualify you for the Holy Ghost.

In my experience, most of the Mormons I’ve talked to don’t fully understand the details of how the Holy Ghost is supposed to work in their lives according to LDS leaders.  From my understanding of Mormon doctrine,  individual Mormons are responsible to make themselves worthy to have the Holy Ghost accompany them.  If they haven’t created and maintained a pure dwelling, the Holy Ghost will not dwell in them.  This is supposedly what initial baptism does in the LDS Church.  It takes a fully repentant candidate and cleanses any past sin.  Only after this crucial step has been completed will the Holy Ghost find the candidate suitable, and therefore dwell in that person.  But, as soon as any sin has been committed afterwards, the Holy Ghost withdraws from that individual.  In this case, the Holy Ghost doesn’t require individuals to get re-baptized, but instead the ordinance of the sacrament has been created to cleanse the truly repentant person again, therefore allowing the Holy Ghost to set up residence in them once again.

Most of the Mormons I’ve talked to think the Holy Ghost has always accompanied them after their initial baptism, and they don’t think anything has happened to cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw.  The problem is that all of them have admitted to committing at least one sin after their initial baptism, and they’ve all been confused when I ask them how they made themselves worthy enough to get the Holy Ghost back.

I can specifically remember two sister missionaries teaching a Book of Mormon class at the local ward, and I asked them how they were so sure the Holy Ghost was dwelling in them since they had previously admitted to committing sins since their initial baptism.  Everyone in the class, especially the missionaries, was confused with my question.  Finally, an older man who had been a long-time Mormon told the missionaries that I was right; the Holy Ghost withdraws after a sin and won’t come back until the sacrament.  The missionaries looked dumbfounded.

So, I appreciate articles in the Ensign magazine that correctly teach Mormon doctrine concerning the Holy Ghost.  Not only do Mormons need to make themselves clean to receive the Holy Ghost, but they must maintain that cleanliness through strict obedience to the commandments:

Is all lost?  Mercifully, our Father has made provision for our human frailties.  We can once again pursue the process of faith and hope in Christ and sincere repentance.  But this time and in subsequent times, the ordinance of baptism is not necessary, as a rule.  The Lord has instead provided the ordinance of the sacrament.  It gives us the weekly opportunity to examine ourselves and to symbolically place our sins on the Lord’s altar as we sincerely repent, again seek His forgiveness, and then go forward in a newness of life.  (“The Gate Called Baptism,” Feb 2015, 44-47).

Nephi’s faith in and love for the Savior is exemplified in his obedience to God’s commandments.  Such obedience permitted the Holy Ghost to powerfully accompany Nephi throughout his life and yielded ongoing personal revelation.  (“Go Forth in Faith,” Apr 2015, 16).

You must stay close to the Lord by keeping God’s commandments.  I testify that consistent obedience to small things such as reading the scriptures, praying daily, attending Church meetings, heeding the counsel of living prophets, and serving others will qualify you for the Spirit—and the revelation it will bring.  (“Go Forth in Faith,” Apr 2015, 16).

Help youth understand the power of their personal spiritual preparation.  Teach them to exercise faith in the covenants they make in the ordinance of the sacrament.  Their willingness to take upon them the name of Christ, to remember Him, and to keep His commandments qualifies them to always have the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  (“Teaching Youth: How to Lead in the Savior’s Way,” Oct 2015, 58-61).

I am in awe that we have such ready access to a member of the Godhead and have it so constantly and repeatedly if we live worthy of it.  I express my near-inexpressible gratitude for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  (“Knowing the Godhead,” Jan 2015, 32-39).

Second, as with any sinful behavior, willful use of pornography drives away the Holy Ghost.  (“Recovering from the Trap of Pornography,” Oct 2015, 32-37).

If you want to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a Mormon, you need to make sure you maintain a worthy environment by keeping all of Heavenly Father’s commandments and staying clear of all sinful behavior.

  1. It is possible to meet the standards required for the celestial kingdom. We can endure any temptation.

Before we get too far into the required standards for the celestial kingdom, and you might be surprised to learn the unwavering standards that need to be met, we need to hear if it’s even possible.  Luckily, the Ensign has given us some guidance in this area from Elder Allan F. Packer, Of the Seventy:

Our Heavenly Father is the designer of the plan of salvation.  He has put in place all that is needed for us to qualify to return to His presence.  The standards are set, known, and easily available to each of us.  The Savior has said that all of us are capable of meeting the standards.  The Savior also teaches that we will not “be tempted above that which [we are] able to bear” (D&C 64:20), but we must “watch and pray continually” (Alma 13:28).  You can meet the standards and tolerances.  You have the capacity to qualify for exaltation.  (“Heavenly Father’s Fixed Standards,” Aug 2015, 68-71).

So without seeing the specific standards that are required for each and every Mormon according to the plan of salvation, it seems that Elder Allan F. Packer thinks exaltation is actually possible, and even “easily available to each of us.”  The standards might seem difficult and challenging, but if the Savior says we are capable of meeting the standards, then Mormons need to make sure they are meeting the standards.

  1. Living forever with families will only happen for those achieving celestial glory.

There are at least two questions that I try to ask each Mormon at some point in the conversation:

1) What are the best parts of being a Mormon?  (Usually a good question at the beginning of the conversation.)

2) If you died tonight, based on your performance so far in your mortal probation, what kingdom would you be worthy of?  (Usually not the best question to ask at the start of a conversation.)

Without a doubt, one of the guaranteed answers to the first question will include something about the prospect of spending eternity with their family members.  This is currently one of the most popular selling points of the LDS faith, and I see it all the time on Facebook from my Mormon friends.  “I love my forever family!” or “Can’t wait to spend forever with my family!”  This first question is usually answered with a lot of confidence.  The Mormons I talk to seem to be very confident they will be spending eternity with their families.

Interestingly, the second question usually doesn’t get answered as confidently.  I usually hear, “I’m just trying my best” or “I think I’ve done everything to merit the celestial kingdom.”  But sometimes I hear, “I have no idea” or “I know for sure it’s NOT the celestial kingdom.” The problem is that, according to Mormon doctrine, living forever with families is only going to happen for those individuals achieving celestial glory.  If parents of a certain family are worthy of attaining celestial glory, but their children are only worthy of attaining terrestrial glory, according to Mormon doctrine, this family will not spend eternity together.  And if a husband and wife only attain terrestrial glory, they will spend eternity unmarried and without exaltation (D&C 132:17). So, I appreciate Ensign articles that make this doctrine clear, because it seems to be a point of the LDS faith that gets confused:

It is only in the celestial kingdom that we can live in families forever.  There we can be in families in the presence of our Heavenly Father and the Savior. (“Families Can Be Together Forever,” June 2015, 4-5).

It is also Mormon doctrine that parents of wayward children will not spend eternity together.  Even though these children may have been sealed to their parents in the LDS Church, this doesn’t mean the children can ride on the coattails of their parents into celestial glory.  According to LDS doctrine, this is our mortal probation, and is a time for everyone to prove their worthiness by their own righteousness and obedience, and that includes children sealed to worthy parents.  In my experience, somehow the truth of this doctrine has gone unnoticed, and I think it might be for obvious reasons.  It’s much more comforting to think that families sealed together will stay together for eternity, regardless of their performance during their mortal probation.  So, what does the Ensign teach concerning this matter?

In fact, prophets have promised that family members who are sealed to parents will feel the tug of their righteous upbringing and will someday return. Such promises give us great hope for our own loved ones. (“When a Child Leaves the Church,” Feb 2016, 44-47).

We must remember that we simply do not know what will happen to our loved ones.  One father of rebellious teens shared that he has learned that even though his sons are not living righteously right now, he should not assume that disaster is imminent.  (“When a Child Leaves the Church,” Feb 2016, 44-47).

Although these authors don’t seem to know exactly what happens to wayward or rebellious children, it’s clear that they don’t get into the celestial kingdom on the worthiness of their parents.

  1. Members of the LDS Church are obligated to keep ALL of the commandments, without fail, to achieve celestial glory.

From my perspective, the restored gospel taught by Joseph Smith only offers good news to the Mormon that is completely obedient to all the commandments of Heavenly Father.  If only one commandment is broken or ignored, the individual has not successfully done everything in their power, and therefore, will not be worthy of the best Mormonism has to offer.

When I ask a Mormon how many commandments they need to follow, they will usually answer, “All of them.” When I ask a Mormon how often they need to keep all those commandments, they will usually answer, “All the time.” The problem is that every Mormon I have met admits to me their inability to follow all the commandments, all of the time.  And yet, somehow, they think that Heavenly Father is only interested in their attempt at keeping the commandments.  Apparently, their success at keeping the commandments is not the focal point.  It only matters that they try.  But is that what 1 Nephi 3:7 says about keeping commandments?

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

This verse in the Book of Mormon makes it clear that God will provide a way for everyone to keep all the commandments, and therefore, the best that each of us can do is to keep all the commandments.  If my Mormon friends are admittedly not keeping all the commandments, then they’re admittedly not doing all they can do.  And if they aren’t doing all they can do, then they’re not going to be saved by grace (1 Nephi 25:23).

Let’s see what the Ensign magazine says about keeping the commandments:

When we become members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we covenant to always remember Him, take His name upon us, and keep His commandments (see D&C 20:77).  Any sin prevents us from keeping this covenant.  (“We Believe in Being Humble,” Aug 2015, 10).

Living a Christ-centered life means we learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel and then we follow His example and keep His commandments with exactness.  (“The Joy of Living a Christ-Centered Life,” Nov 2015, 27-30).

The plan for us on this earth is it obtain a body, have experience, receive ordinances, and endure to the end.  Standards have been established and tolerances set that we need to live to qualify for exaltation.  God has promised that we can be exalted, but He has also said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have not promise” (D&C 82:10).  (“Heavenly Father’s Fixed Standards,” Aug 2015, 68-71).

Perhaps during [hard times], we might find ourselves asking, “Do we really need to obey all of God’s commandments?” My response to this question is simple: I think God knows something we don’t—things that are beyond our capacity to comprehend! Our Father in Heaven is an eternal being whose experience, wisdom, and intelligence are infinitely greater than ours. Part of our challenge is, I think, that we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven, refusing to give them to us unless we comply with some strict, paternalistic requirements He has set up. But the commandments aren’t like that at all. In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us. His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings. (“Prophetic Promise” Mar 2015, 8, cited from “Living the Gospel Joyful,” Ensign, Nov. 2014, 121–22).

Obedience to the commandments is an important part of living a happy life.  King Benjamin encouraged his people to “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 2:41).  It is difficult for us to be happy when we believe in God’s commandments but do not live them. When our beliefs and actions are misaligned, repentance is the key to reestablishing harmony in our lives.  (“What Can the Book of Mormon Teach Us about Happiness?” Feb 2016, 16-21).

Let me paraphrase what the Savior has promised in our day: If we keep His commandments and finish with our torch still lit, we will have eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7; see also 2 Nephi 31:20).  (“Finish With Your Torch Still Lit,” Oct 2015, 4-5).

Knowing that eternal marriage is a commandment of God and that He prepares a way for His children to accomplish all He commands, we know that our marriages will succeed as we unite in keeping the covenants we have made. (“The Plan of Salvation,” Oct 2015, 24-31).

It seems that just trying to keep the commandments isn’t going to be enough.  If a Mormon wants the gift of eternal life, the commandments need to be successfully followed.

  1. Perfection is not required, but all ungodliness needs to be denied. All sin needs to be abandoned. There is a difference between being perfect and being pure.

As soon as I tell my Mormon acquaintances that all their sin needs to be abandoned, and all their ungodliness needs to be denied in order to attain the good news of the LDS gospel, they are quick to tell me that perfection is not required.  In their minds, perfection is the same thing as abandoning sin.  To their relief, the Ensign magazine does clearly say perfection is not required.  The problem is that the Ensign authors mean being “complete,” or “fully exalted.”  Or full of all truth.  Here is one example of not being perfect:

Do any of your family members ever get discouraged because they’re comparing themselves with others?  Consider sharing this story of a sister missionary who struggled as she compared her slow progress in learning a language with the faster progress of other missionaries.  (“Family Home Evening Ideas,” Sept 2015, 3).

If the sister missionary was perfect, she would have no problem learning her missionary language.  But that’s not what the Ensign authors are saying.  They’re saying you don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to be the best at everything, and know all the truth about everything.  If you were a perfect Mormon baseball player, and you were a pitcher, every game you played would be a no-hitter.  If you were a perfect missionary, each time you knocked on a door you would successfully lead that person to baptism.  But that’s not the requirement placed on each Mormon by the Ensign magazine.  That kind of perfection is impossible.  But abandoning sin and becoming pure is another idea completely, and in Mormonism, it absolutely needs to be achieved.

A friend asked recently, “How close to perfection must we live to receive the exalted promises of a temple sealing?” Husbands and wives know each other so well, especially those who seek for eternal blessings, that on some days they can honestly wonder if they are living close enough to perfection—or if their spouse is. I like the answer given in Moroni’s farewell words: “If ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that…ye may be perfect[ed] in Christ” (Moroni 10:32; emphasis added). One way to rid ourselves of ungodliness is to stay close to the temple, because it its ordinances “the power of godliness is manifest” (D&C 84:20; emphasis added). Further, loving “God with [our] might” means loving to the extent of our own unique personal capacity, not to the extent of some abstract and unreachable scale of perfection.” As we deny ourselves of ungodliness and honestly love God as fully as we are able, Christ’s perfecting grace can complete the process of making us whole. A First Presidency letter written in 1902 suggests what Christ’s total sacrifice combined with our own total sacrifice will look like: “…Those who attain to the first or celestial resurrection must necessarily be pure and holy, and they will be perfect in body as well…”  (“The Temple and the Natural Order of Marriage,” Sep 2015, 40-45).

Like Joseph Smith, you need not lead a perfect life in order to be a powerful instrument in God’s hands.  Mistakes, failure, and confusion were part of Joseph’s life and mission, and they are going to be part of yours too. (“The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” July 2015, 40-45).

You don’t have to be perfect or the greatest person who ever graced the earth or the best of anything to be with Him.  (“Be at Peace,” Dec 2015, 31).

Understanding that Jesus Christ was without sin can help us increase our faith in Him and strive to keep His commandments, repent, and become pure.  He also understands how to win the struggle…The power of His Atonement can erase the effects of sin in us.  When we repent, His atoning grace justifies and cleanses us (see 3 Nephi 27:16-20). (“The Attributes of Jesus Christ: Without Sin” Feb 2015, 7).

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become clean again as we repent of our sins.  King Benjamin taught his people of the Atonement of Jesus Christ…that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually…And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things (Mosiah 5:1-2, 5).  (“The Attributes of Jesus Christ: Without Sin,” Feb 2015, 7).

How does being pure differ from being perfect?  (“The Attributes of Jesus Christ: Without Sin,” Feb 2015, 7).

Being pure is denying yourself of all ungodliness and sin, and in Mormonism, you absolutely need to make sure you have made yourself pure.  Now, you don’t have to become perfect, because the Ensign authors make it clear there is a difference between being pure and being perfect.

  1. The grace of God assures immortality for everyone, but it does not assure eternal life. You must qualify for eternal life, which is the life that Heavenly Father lives.

I often hear from Mormons that think they need to try their best at following the commandments and requirements of the restored gospel, and the work of Jesus Christ will make up the difference.  According to Mormon doctrine though, the work of Jesus Christ assures two different things: 1) everyone will have immortality, and 2) everyone will have the potential to receive eternal life.  The work of Jesus Christ doesn’t make up the difference in Mormonism, it only opens the door and makes it possible for you to work your way through.  It’s all about making sure you meet the qualifications to inherit the gift of eternal life.

When you read through these quotes, notice the conditional nature of the blessings that come from the work of Jesus Christ.  Pay particular attention to the words may, if, and can.  If you want eternal life, there are certain requirements that you need to accomplish by yourself:

The gift of eternal life is worth any effort to study, learn, and apply the plan of salvation.  All humankind will be resurrected and receive the blessing of immortality.  But to achieve eternal life—the life God leads—is worth living the plan of salvation with all our heart, mind, might, and strength.  (“The Plan of Salvation,” Oct 2015, 24-31).

You are beneficiaries of the infinite Atonement of the Lord.  Because of Him, you will eventually be rewarded with immortality.  And because of Him, you may enjoy the blessing of eternal life with Him and your families.  (“Disciples and the Defense of Marriage.” Aug 2015, 34-39).

However, we can have faith that Christ has the power to heal, that He is mindful of us, that He will strengthen us, and that if we endure well, we may qualify for eternal life…As we align our desires with His desires and acknowledge our complete dependence on Him, we may qualify to receive “the end of [our] faith, even the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Peter 1:9)…Faith, Alma teaches us, is hope in true principles.  (“The Power of Faith,” Apr 2015, 8-9).

Let me paraphrase what the Savior has promised in our day: If we keep His commandments and finish with our torch still, we will have eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7; see also 2 Nephi 31:20)…For the torch is not about us or about what we do…It is about the Savior of the world.” (“Finish With Your Torch Still Lit,” Oct 2015, 4-5).

We can qualify for eternal life only through obedience to the commandments.  This requires having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in following the Savior’s example…In practical terms, we must receive all essential priesthood ordinances and endure to the end in keeping the associated covenants…After we die, we will one day stand before the Savior to be judged.  Because God is merciful, those who exercise their faith in Christ unto repentance will be forgiven and inherit all that the Father has, including eternal life.  Because God is just, each person who does not repent will not receive the gift of eternal life.  Each person will be rewarded according to his or her faith, repentance, thoughts, desires, and works.  (“The Plan of Salvation,” Oct 2015, 24-31).

One of the primary purposes of the scriptures is to help us know, understand, and become like the Savior (see 3 Nephi 27:27).  Continually studying the scriptures helps us keep our eyes, minds, and hearts focused on Him.  As we apply and live the teachings found in the scriptures, we become more like Him.  As we become more like Him, we become candidates for eternal life (see John 5:39)…As you come to know Jesus Christ, apply His teachings, and follow His example, you will become like Him.  As you become like Him, you will be a candidate to live forever in His presence.  (“Hold Fast to the Rod” Feb 2016, 58-61).

  1. Forgiveness of sins only comes after certain conditions have been met, and Christ’s Atonement will only apply to sins that meet those conditions.

There are two kinds of sin: 1) sins that we have stopped, and 2) sins that we have not stopped.  According to Mormon doctrine, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can only be applied to one of those kinds of sin.  Only the sins that have been sincerely repented of will be forgiven.  LDS leaders have taught that the process of sincere repentance is not complete until a sin has been successfully abandoned or forsaken.  In other words, if you want to be forgiven of a sin according to Mormonism, you must never commit that sin again.  The problem is that this belief is not widely held by the Mormons I have talked with, and most of them actually agree this would make Mormonism a real turn-off.  I appreciate it when the Ensign magazine clarifies this doctrine.  Remember that repentance, according to D&C 58:42-43, means that sin has been forsaken, or abandoned:

“Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.  “We must repent …Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace?…Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?…Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart.  (“Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ: Forgiving and Merciful,” July 2015, 7).

Father knew we would stumble and sin as we learned by experience in mortality, so He provided a Savior to redeem from sin all who repent and to heal the spiritual and emotional wounds of those who obey.  (“The Plan of Salvation,” Oct 2015, 24-31).

Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself our sins so that we can be forgiven if we will repent.  In this way, He strengthens us by removing the ill effects of sin.  (“The Cornerstone,” Jan 2016, 74-75).

Although most mistakes can be confessed privately to the Lord, there are some transgressions that require more than that to bring about forgiveness.  If your mistakes have been grievous, see your bishop…If at first you stumble, do not give up.  Overcoming discouragement is part of the test.  Do not give up.  And as I have counseled before, once you have confessed and forsaken your sins, do not look back.  (“The Savior’s Selfless and Sacred Sacrifice,”  Apr 2015, 36-41).

  1. Sincere repentance is only accomplished when a sin has been successfully forsaken, or stopped. Christ’s Atonement will only be applied to those sins that have been abandoned.

If you haven’t successfully abandoned, stopped, or forsaken a sin, the LDS gospel says that you haven’t sincerely repented.  If you haven’t sincerely repented of all your sins, the Atonement of Christ will not do anything to cover those sins, and you’ll be required to pay the punishment.  The only good news that comes to a person with unrepentant sin is that you’ll be resurrected for judgment.  I’m just not convinced that the prospect of going to Final Judgment with unrepentant sin is very good news:

Perfection is not a prerequisite to personal revelation.  The prerequisite is daily repentance (See Romans 3:23).  If your repentance is sincere and thorough (see D&C 58:42-43), the cleansing power of the Atonement will bring the Spirit to guide you in the weighty decisions of life. (“Go Forth in Faith,” Apr 2015, 16).

As he said those words, I felt something ignite within me.  “Don’t you believe in the Atonement?”  I asked him.  “Didn’t the Savior suffer for all of our sins?  Do you really think you’re beyond His power to save?”  I pleaded for him to not give up, bearing testimony that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all the blessings of eternity could be his as he repented…He eventually took all the necessary steps to fully repent of his transgressions, become clean and pure before the Lord, and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (“Repentance Is Real,” Apr 2015, 12).

When we sincerely repent—including changing our mind, heart, and behavior; offering appropriate apologies or confessions; making restitution where possible; and not repeating that sin in the future—we can access the Atonement of Jesus Christ, be forgiven by God, and be clean again…Becoming clean is essential because nothing unclean can dwell in God’s presence.”  (“It Isn’t a Sin to be Weak,” Apr 2015, 30-35).

Thus, a Redeemer, the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, suffered and died to atone for Adam and Eve’s transgression, thereby providing resurrection and immortality for all.  And since none of us will have been perfectly and consistently obedient to the gospel law, His Atonement also redeems us from our own sins on condition of repentance.  With the Savior’s atoning grace providing forgiveness of sins and sanctification of the soul, we can spiritually be born again and reconciled to God…Even those who do not repent are redeemed from spiritual death by the Atonement in the sense that they come again into the presence of God for the Final Judgment (see Helaman 14:17; 3 Nephi 27:14-15).  (“Why Marriage, Why Family,” May 2015, 51).

The Savior wrought the Atonement, which provides a way for us to become clean…Those who will repent and forsake sin will find that His merciful arm is outstretched still…The result of His sacrifice is to free us from the effects of sin, that all may have guilt erased and feel hope.  (“Hold on to the Rod,” Mar 2015, 58-61).

The doctrine of repentance allows us to correct or fix defects, but it is better to focus on meeting God’s standards than to plan on invoking the principle of repentance before the Judgment.  (“Heavenly Father’s Fixed Standards,” Aug 2015, 68-71).

I encourage you to live a deliberate and focused life—even if you haven’t consistently done so in the past.  Don’t be discouraged by thoughts of what you have already done or not done.  Let the Savior wipe the slate clean.  Remember what He has said: “As oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven” (Moroni 6:8; emphasis added).  (“Living With Real Intent,” Oct 2015, 12-15).

After we die, we will one day stand before the Savior to be judged.  Because God is merciful, those who exercise their faith in Christ unto repentance will be forgiven and inherit all that the Father has, including eternal life.  Because God is just, each person who does not repent will not receive the gift of eternal life.  Each person will be rewarded according to his or her faith, repentance, thoughts, desires, and works. (“The Plan of Salvation,” Oct 2015, 24-31).

Yet the heart of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ affirms that change is not only possible but also a command from God.  John the Baptist prepared the way for the Savior with the message that all must repent…No one was exempt…Yet the New Testament makes clear how great the change is that God expects of all: that we become a new man or a new woman in Christ (see Galatians 6:15)…For this to happen, we must “be strengthened…in the inner man” until we rise to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 3:16; 4:13).  That puts into perspective just how much work we must do.  (“The New Testament’s Message of Repentance,” Feb 2016, 48-51).

  1. Sin requires repentance, which in turn leads to forgiveness from God. A weakness requires faith in Christ, which leads to God granting grace.

I have yet to meet a Mormon who says it’s possible to stop sinning.  Some of them think they’re pretty close to achieving the objective of being sinless, and I’ve even heard that Thomas S. Monson is probably closer than anyone.  But everyone agrees that it isn’t possible, which is great because I completely agree.  I don’t think anyone will be capable of remaining sinless.

The problem is that according to Joseph Smith in D&C 58:42-43, the Lord will only recognize true repentance if a sin has been forsaken, or abandoned.  That’s how the Lord will know you were sincere in your repentance.  Did you abandon the sin or not?  Did you ever commit that sin again?  Because if you didn’t stop that sin, according to official LDS sources, you were never sincerely repentant, and forgiveness will not be in your future.  There are some other requirements in repentance according to LDS leaders over the years, but this one requirement is unavoidable, and Ensign authors have made it very clear.

As with any new member, the process begins with a sincere desire in faith to do the will of the Father by being baptized.  It continues with a searching inventory of all our past sins and an unreserved effort to cease them, confess them, make restitution where possible, and never return to them.  (“The Gate Called Baptism,” Feb 2015, 44-47).

A great Book of Mormon prophet taught these same truths…And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you (Mosiah 4:9-10).  (“Stand as Witnesses of God,” Mar 2015, 28-35).

I have been told by Mormons that the grace of God will forgive them from sins that they haven’t stopped, but the following chart from the Ensign magazine seems to differ:

Distinguishing Sin and Weakness




Willful disobedience to God

Human limitation, infirmity


Encouraged by Satan

Part of our mortal nature


Knowingly breaking God’s commandments, believing Satan over God

Susceptibility to temptation, emotion, fatigue, physical or mental illness, ignorance, predispositions, trauma, death

Did Jesus have?



Our response should be?


Humility, faith in Christ, and efforts to overcome

God’s response in turn?


Grace—an enabling power

Which results in?

Being cleansed from sin

Acquiring holiness, strength

(“It Isn’t a Sin to be Weak” Apr 2015, 30-35).

Pay close attention to the different response that we should have in regards to our sin and our weakness.  If we commit a sin, our response should be repentance and then God, in turn, will grant forgiveness which results in being cleansed from that sin.  But if we have a weakness, our response should be humility, faith in Christ, and we should try with effort to overcome that weakness.  God’s response to our humility, faith, and effort will be grace, which results in acquiring holiness and strength. From my experience, it seems that most members of the LDS Church confuse their response to a weakness with their proper response to a sin.  In other words, when they sin, they think the proper response is humility, faith in Christ, and effort to overcome.  And this will cause God to grant them grace, which results in forgiveness and being cleansed from sin.  But can you see that isn’t how the process of forgiveness in Mormonism is supposed to work?

  1. Your Mormon friends probably don’t agree with these truth claims from the Ensign.

I know there were only supposed to be 10 things to learn about Mormonism in this article, but this last one is the most important, and you won’t find it within the pages of the Ensign.  The average Mormon that you consider a friend or a neighbor probably doesn’t agree with the true nature of Mormon doctrine presented in this article.  This is what I’ve found to be most frustrating in my discussions with Mormon friends; they all seem to believe something different.  And for a religious belief with such a strict authority structure and control of their material, it doesn’t make sense why any Mormon would disagree on doctrine.  But the truth is they do.

For a similar article, check out 7 ways the Mormon leaders are not budging on traditional LDS doctrines



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