The Miracle of Forgiveness Ch. 2 reviewed by Stephen Livings

This second chapter is entitled ‘No Unclean Thing Can Enter’ and therefore it focuses largely on sin.  In fact it dwells on the vast swathes of sin of which humans are capable.  Anyone brought up in the LDS faith knows very well this obsession with sin.  This personal striving to rid ourselves of sinful behaviour is characteristic of life as a Mormon.  The frustration of the impossibility of this task, alongside the stringent demands that the Mormon God places on his followers, leads to a depressing view of our existence for a great many Mormons.  This is well expressed by one of the first sentences in this chapter: “But to God who is perfection, cleanliness means moral and personal cleanliness. Less than that is, in one degree or another, uncleanliness and hence cannot dwell with God.”  The use of words such as cleanliness, purity, and conversely stained or unclean, is a very LDS trait.  Traditionally, one of the key ways Christians have understood sin is in terms of ‘debt’ and of a ransom being required to pay that debt.  I think this difference of emphasis is quite interesting.

Kimball goes on to make the point that when we sin we are serving Satan.  In making his point there follows an excellent example of Mormon leaders using the Bible to teach what they want and not letting the Bible speak for itself.  Kimball quotes Romans 6, but look at the part he has left out (I have added it back in in italics):  “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield

yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you:  for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”  The Bible here is clearly teaching a very different view to that which Kimball is trying to present.  Kimball is trying to say that we must serve God and avoid sin at all costs so that God will accept us.  But the quote, in its context, is saying that those who are under grace are not subject to these demands, because such people have accepted the saving work of Christ.  The point being made by Paul is that such people must not then think it is fine to sin, you must instead serve Him in whose righteousness we share: “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”  It is because of the deceptive use scripture such as this that many of us work to expose Mormonism as a manipulator of the true gospel.

Moving on through the chapter, Kimball attempts to categorise sins:  “Sins may be classified in many categories. They range from the simple improprieties and indiscretions to the shedding of innocent blood and the sin against the Holy Ghost. There are sins against ourselves, sins against our loved ones, sins against our fellowmen, sins against our communities, sins against the Church, sins against humanity. There are sins which are known to the world and others which are so carefully hidden that the sinner is

the only mortal being who knows of the error.”  Surely the sentence missing at the end of this paragraph would be: “Yet no matter what the sin is, all are sins against God, since sin is when we don’t live up to the image of God that He created in us.”  This is surely the key characteristic of sin, that we have become corrupted from what God intended for us and as a corrupt version of God’s ideal for us, we are therefore incapable of ‘de-corrupting’ ourselves.  Of course, this is not Kimball’s emphasis.  Later, Kimball does say, “every sin is against God” but I will respond to that in its context when I reach that point in the chapter.

Amongst the many examples Kimball provides of scriptural examples or descriptions of sin, we have a quote from 2 Timothy 3, which includes a phrase Mormons love to use in describing traditional Christianity: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away”.  It is important, as ever, to note the context of this verse, in which Paul is warning people to stick to the gospel he has taught them (i.e. that which we read in his epistles) and not be swayed by people who wish to lead them away from the gospel:  “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”.  Please note that Paul is emphasising firstly, adherence to that which they have already been assured of, and also dependence upon the holy scriptures that they have known since they were children, these scriptures having the capacity to make them, “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”.  Therefore it is clear that the deceitful people Paul is warning about are those who would distort the Biblical gospel.  I think the above example of Romans 6 being ‘distorted’ by Spencer Kimball is a good case in point.

Kimball quotes the book of Romans again, from Chapter 1, where Paul outlines in great detail how people have turned totally away from God and given themselves over to sin.  It is noteworthy that Kimball is more than happy to use Romans to illustrate the problem of sin, but is equally happy to ignore the solution provided through Christ that Romans contains: “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:8-13)  This is a typical example of how Mormons are made to feel.  As a Mormon, one is made acutely aware of one’s own failings in comparison to the LDS church’s expectations, yet the solution (i.e. Christ) is never truly presented as contained in the Bible.  Therefore, for the Mormon there is no hope, only a wishful thinking that one day they’ll make it and be good enough.

Kimball goes on to quote Revelation 21 where it talks of those who will enter the ‘second death’.  Of course, the description of ‘the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone’ sounds pretty scary. But this chapter of Revelation also talks about, “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”  So who will be there? The answer:  “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  Revelation 20 also adds that there are those for whom ‘the second death’ has no power: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”  And who are these that will reign with Christ?  Those that have given themselves to Him: “ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  (Romans 8)

Kimball then goes on to list eight more examples from the Bible where sins are listed and/ or described, and then, in case there be any doubt about sin, he lists eighty-nine examples of sinful behaviour.  Of course, this mammoth list saves the ones Mormon culture obsesses about the most until last: sex.  Kimball lists, “masturbation, petting, fornication, adultery, homosexuality; and every sex perversion, every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure practices.”  This could pretty much be taken to read that, as a Mormon, you are only allowed to acknowledge any sexual urges at the actual moment that you are engaged in sexual intercourse with your spouse (to whom you are eternally married), and this is only acceptable if it is carried out in the conventional manner (oh and don’t forget the instruction that your ‘garments’ must be worn ‘at all times’ in order to show absolute faithfulness and as a sign of the promises you have made!)  OK, so I may be attempting to make some light of the LDS obsession with sexual activity here, but this is partly because I know just how lethal a cocktail it is to have everyday, middle-aged and older men with delusions of godly authority seeing themselves as appointed to pry regularly into the private lives (in excruciating detail) of anyone from the age of 12 and over they believe to under their jurisdiction.  Can you imagine the potential for emotional and psychological damage in such circumstances?  Regular Mormons believe that their eternal destiny is based on their participation in their church, and this participation can be weighed in the hands of their bishops.  And of course the bishops have the right to pry in such detail because leaders like Kimball have gone into such specific detail about acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviour.  As someone who has experienced this, I am reassured by 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

As I mentioned earlier, Kimball does go on to say that ‘every sin is against God.’  However the remainder of the sentence lets you know that it has been written by a Mormon leader: “for it tends to frustrate the program and purposes of the Almighty’.  Does anyone who really believes themselves to be a follower of Christ actually think that God has His very own ‘program’ or even think in such terms.  Did Jesus ever sit his followers down and say, “OK my disciples, let me explain the program to you.”???

Kimball explains his view on how sin affects the sinner: “it limits his progress and curtails his development”.  Of course, this fits in very well with the notion that Mormons are part of some ‘program’ to become gods.  However, as Christians, we know that sin is a symptom of our fallen nature, that corrupted version of how God intended us to be earlier.  This can only be overcome by Christ.  When we sin as Christians, we put ourselves at a distance from God and we suffer greatly by pushing ourselves away from our Father (for that is who God is to the Christian) but we do not suddenly stop being God’s sons and daughters.  God is faithful, even when we are not.  For the Mormon, sin must be wiped out completely; by the sinner.  How can the sinful one make him or herself pure?  “To follow his example and become as a god, we must attain perfection.”  This an act of self in Mormonism, not an act of God.

Next Kimball quotes various verses which express the notion that only righteousness is acceptable in the Kingdom of God.  This is true, but we are unable to attain this righteousness of our own accord.  The sinner on the cross was certainly not righteous, yet for his acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord, Jesus promised him “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”.

For Kimball, it all has to come from our own actions: “self-control, self-mastery, can be substituted for the dominion of sin, and the sinner can move by his own agency toward God rather than under the control of sin toward Satan.”  Yet we know that ultimately we are only brought into a right relation with God by grace through faith: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:8-10

Next we see where Jesus finally fits in.  Not as our Saviour, but as our template: “We certainly cannot expect the rules to be easier for us than for the Son of God.”  In Mormonism, Jesus was simply on the path that we are now on.  Of course we know however, though Jesus suffered and was tempted, being the ‘Word made flesh’, he was able to be that unblemished Lamb that we cannot be; He was able to be a human with no sin, because he is also God.  Kimball here uses Hebrews 5:8-9 to talk of Jesus being “made perfect”.  The implication Kimball wants us to take from this is that Jesus also had to make himself perfect.  Clearly this is not the meaning.  The verses quoted mention Jesus learning obedience by the things which he suffered.  This meant that he was ‘made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation.’  In other words, Jesus could not have fulfilled his role as Saviour of mankind if he had not demonstrated perfectly his ability to overcome temptation.  This is what is meant by being made perfect, not that Jesus was once less than perfect and had to make himself perfect.

Kimball tries to suggest that we can prove ourselves deserving of salvation: “The dividends from both obedience and repentance amply repay the effort.”  Yet surprisingly, only a few lines further on, he quotes Romans 6:23 which makes it plain that salvation is not something which can be ‘deserved’: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.  If only Kimball had built his teachings around verses such as this, instead of insisting that we can earn our way to godhood through self-mastery and self-discipline!

 

2 thoughts on “The Miracle of Forgiveness Ch. 2 reviewed by Stephen Livings”

  1. Wonderful post Stephen. I love your picture of God having a program. Your exposition on sin and grace is solid and biblical. Mormons need to engage with this urgently.

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  2. Thanks Mike. It’s amazing what God can help you to write when the kids are out of the house for a couple of hours! 🙂 I have to say for the record, I can’t take the ‘credit’ for the concept of God having a program; that is pure ‘Kimball’ teaching.

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