By Eric Johnson
This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
February 27-March 5, 2023
Matthew 8: Mark 2-4; Luke 7
One of the clearest messages in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ is a healer. Accounts of the Savior healing the sick and afflicted are many—from a woman with a fever to a widow’s son who had died. Why the emphasis on physical healing? What messages might there be for us in these miracles? Certainly one obvious message is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, with power over all things, including our physical pains and imperfections. But another meaning is found in His words to the skeptical scribes: “That ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). So when you read about a blind person or a leper being healed, you might think of the healing—both spiritual and physical—that you can receive from the Savior and hear Him say to you, “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke 7:50).
Jesus indeed is a healer. And He certainly is capable of forgiving sins. In biblical Christianity, it is believed that the forgiveness of sins comes when a person receives Christ as Lord and Savior. But what is required in Mormonism? Consider what the unique LDS scriptures and the leadership have taught over the years.
For example, Apostle Francis M. Lyman told a general conference audience that forgiveness comes by ceasing the sin. He said:
“There is no forgiveness of sin without repentance. Forgiveness does not come by faith alone, nor by promising that we will do better some time. It is necessary that we should cease sinning and begin to do well.”Conference Reports, April 1899, 38.
Criticizing Evangelical Christians on the teaching of forgiveness of sins through faith alone, Apostle LeGrand Richards taught,
“One erroneous teaching of many Christian churches is: By faith alone we are saved. This false doctrine would relieve man from the responsibility of his acts other than to confess a belief in God, and would teach man that no matter how great the sin, a confession would bring him complete forgiveness and salvation. What the world needs is more preaching of the necessity of abstaining from sin and of living useful and righteous lives, and less preaching of forgiveness of sin. This would then be a different world. The truth is that men must repent of their sins and forsake them before they can expect forgiveness. Even when our sins are forgiven, God cannot reward us for the good we have not done.”A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, 25-26. Italics in original.
Doctrines and Covenants 1:31-32 say that repentance and commandment-keeping are necessary. This passage says,
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Neverthelesss, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie cited these verses when he said,
“Complete forgiveness is reserved for those only who turn their whole hearts to the Lord and begin to keep all of his commandments not just those commandments disobeyed in the past, but those in all fields. ‘He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.’”Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 295.
D&C 58:43 says that repentance is ceasing that sin. This verse is cited a number of times in LDS writings, including:
“Abandonment of Sin. Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:43). Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression. When you keep this commitment, you will never experience the pain of that sin again.”True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 134-135.
Another church manual uses the same verse to teach this:
“D&C 58:42–43. The Lord Promises Complete Forgiveness to Those Who Truly Repent. The Lord forgives those who truly repent of their sins. This blessing comes through the Atonement of Christ, who ‘suffered … for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent’ (D&C 19:16). The Lord promises that He will no more remember the sins of those who repent (see Ezekiel 18:21–22). Repentance, however, requires that we forsake and turn completely from our sins and confess them.”Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, 2001, 120. Bold and ellipsis
These manuals are correct. According to D&C 58, forgiveness of sins is contingent on the individuals fully “repenting,” or “forsaking” their sin(s).
D&C 82:7 is also used commonly when describing what is required for the forgiveness of sins. Eleventh President Harold B. Lee said:
“The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: ‘Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God’ (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin.”The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 120. Brackets in original.
Lee also taught,
“REPENTANCE MEANS TO TURN FROM SIN. Repentance, in one sentence, means turning from the things that have been wrong and never returning back to them. It isn’t to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then go back and do it and again say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s not it—it is to go about our way and sin no more. But if they sin again it is as though they haven’t been forgiven in the first instance, to use the Lord’s own language (see D&C 82:7).”Address at Priesthood Board Meeting, March 1, 1972. Cited in The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 114.
Citing D&C 82:7, a church manual quoted twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball as saying:
“But President Kimball warned: ‘Even though forgiveness is so abundantly promised there is no promise nor indication of forgiveness to any soul who does not totally repent. … We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated forgiveness’ (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 353, 360). Those who receive forgiveness and then repeat the sin are held accountable for their former sins (see D&C 82:7; Ether 2:15).”Gospel Principles, 2009, 231.
Kimball did not mince words on this topic. In a church tract, he wrote,
“The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again…The Lord said: ‘Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return.’ (D&C 82:7)”Repentance Brings Forgiveness, an unnumbered tract.
Two LDS scholars agreed:
“One cannot return to sin and profess to have repented of it (D&C 82:7). To repent is to abandon sin, not just to sin less frequently. Through the waters of baptism and the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost we can receive a remission of sins. We retain that remission of sins by faithful observance of covenants we have made with God and through Christlike service to those in need.”Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 2:162.
Finally, a missionary manual explained, “20. In order to remain forgiven we must never commit the sin again” (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teaching Families. 1981, 36).
Yes, I have listed a lot of citations, I admit. But I wanted to make a point. In Mark 2, Jesus forgave the disabled man of all his sins without the man doing anything. This is in contrast to what is taught in Mormonism. True forgiveness in Mormonism only comes when a person has fully repented (forsaken all sins) and kept all their covenants.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Matthew 8:18–22; Mark 3:31–35
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that I put Him first in my life.
In these verses, Jesus taught that being His disciples requires us to put Him first in our lives, even if that sometimes means we must sacrifice other things that we value. As you study these passages, ponder your own discipleship. Why must disciples be willing to put the Savior first? What might you need to give up in order to put Jesus first? (See also Luke 9:57–62.)
I think the very first thing we must be willing to do is know the true God and Jesus as described in the Bible. I don’t say that flippantly. In John 17:3, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” First John 5:20 adds, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” And Philippians 3:10 says, “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection an participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
If we really want to know God, we must know Him as He really is. To worship a false God or a false Jesus is worse than not knowing Him all.
Matthew 8:23–27; Mark 4:35–41
Jesus Christ has power to bring peace in the midst of life’s storms.
Have you ever felt the way Jesus’s disciples did in the storm at sea—watching the waves of water fill the boat and questioning, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”
I have. And I must admit, without Jesus in my life, those storms would seem insurmountable. Knowing Him makes all the difference in the world.
Several times in this lesson the passage of Jesus forgiving the paralytic’s sins in Mark 2 was referenced. To me, this is the ultimate story in these chapters of the Synoptic Gospels A man is brought to the house where Jesus was teaching. His friends help him get down through the roof. Instead of healing the man, as everyone would have expected Jesus to do, He instead “forgives” His sins. That is just like Jesus. And then, for good measure, Jesus heals the man!
But why can’t the Latter-day Saint see that the man did not do anything to cause his own salvation. There was nothing good he did, or anything he was doing, or anything he could do to deserve complete forgiveness. Instead, Jesus forgave him of all his sin through mercy, saying, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And then it says “they praised God.” This was both a physical as well as a spiritual miracle. Wow! God is so good.