By Eric Johnson and Bill McKeever
When it comes to the area of God’s forgiveness, there is a vast difference between the God of Mormonism and the God of the Bible. Because of the sinful nature that clothes all humans, everyone struggles with sin and temptation. Not even the apostle Paul was exempt from the daily contentions with sin. Though he said that in his heart he delighted in the Law, he was constantly at war with the flesh, as he said in Romans 7:15: “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” This daily grappling with sin makes it necessary to turn to God for His forgiveness. However, if Mormonism is true, no one can be assured that forgiveness is ever secure. Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 warns the reader:
And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.
Twelfth LDS President Spencer W. Kimball stated that the Lord anticipated the weakness of man, which would return him to his transgression, and therefore gave this revelation in warning (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 360). The awful impact of D&C 82:7 is clarified by Kimball under the subtitle Forgiveness Canceled on Reversion to Sin. He wrote:
Old sins return, says the Lord in his modern revelations. Many people either do not know this or they conveniently forget it. “Go your ways and sin no more,” the Lord warned. And again, “… Unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (D & C 82:7)…. Those who feel that they can sin and be forgiven and then return to sin and be forgiven again and again must straighten out their thinking. Each previously forgiven sin is added to the new one and the whole gets to be a heavy load (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp.169-170).
Kimball quoted the words of Jesus spoken to the lame man at the pool of Bethesda and interpreted them to mean that his former sins would return if he sinned again. This is not likely. A close reading of John chapter five shows that nothing was said concerning this man’s spiritual condition. Jesus merely recognized his physical condition and healed him. Later, Jesus again met this man and told him to sin no more (or more literally, do not continue in sin). Jesus knew this man’s unreconciled position with God. His words to the healed man called for repentance lest a worse thing, eternal damnation, come upon him in the next life. To assume Jesus was supporting the notion that forgiveness can be canceled completely ignores the many passages in the Bible that tell how God forgives the believer’s sins and erases them from His memory. The God of the Bible promises that there will be no double indemnity, that a forgiven sin can never be used against a person twice. God declares:
I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isaiah 43:25).
… for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:34.5).
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:12).
In light of these passages, how can God bring back former sins upon a person if He refuses to remember them? Kimball proceeded to define “repentance that merits forgiveness.” He states true repentance is when
the former transgressor must have reached a “point of no return,” to sin wherein there is not merely a renunciation but also a deep abhorrence of the sin–where the sin becomes most distasteful to him and where the desire or urge to sin is cleared out of his life (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 354-355).
Could President Kimball honestly say that he cleared out of his life the very desire or urge to sin? While Christians should abhor sin, it is impossible for sinful humans to purge themselves of their very nature. The desire to sin is merely temptation. In and of itself, temptation is not sin. Rather, it is succumbing to the temptation that is sin. Speaking of Christ, the Bible states He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In a booklet published by the LDS Church, Kimball added:
The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again … Now the phrase “with all his heart” is vital. There can be no holding back. If the sinner neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, or fails in his prayers and other responsibilities, he is not completely repentant (Repentance Brings Forgiveness, pp. 7, 12).
Kimball said that “presently impure people can perfect themselves and become pure” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 355).But the Bible says:
Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? (Proverbs 20:9).
The answer is obviously, “no one.” All the good works in the world will not cleanse a sinner of his sins. If people could purify themselves, there would be no need for Jesus to pay the ultimate price for our transgressions. The only way to purify oneself is to have hope in the One who is pure, namely Christ Jesus (1 John 3:3). It is faith in Jesus Christ and His cleansing power that purifies the sinner.
Kimball gave his readers a false hope that they could somehow be good enough to warrant a position in heaven. Honest seekers know this can never be because every person, on occasion, has sinful desires. While we may feel awful when it happens, we, like the apostle Paul, must fight our sinful nature constantly. If this is the case and Spencer Kimball was telling the truth, nobody has ever really been forgiven! The Mormon needs to realize the hopelessness of this dire situation. The struggle with sin will only be over when the person meets Jesus in heaven. Paul declared:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect…. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:12, 20-21).
Comparing the natural body with the spiritual body, Paul wrote:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body…. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
However, the Good News is that the Bible promises the assurance of forgiveness:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The mercy shown by God to Christian believers is that they are not given the just punishment they deserve for the sins they have committed or will commit. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 teaches that the “wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Without the acceptance of the gift of God through Jesus, a person’s sins merit the punishment of eternal death. If the God of Mormonism expects people to never have sinful thoughts, who could make it? It is obvious that the plan of salvation as proposed by the LDS leaders is different from the plan proposed by the God of the Bible.