Thursday, October 25, 2007

Three Most Serious Sins

A friend of mine asked me the other night about the fate of people who commit murder. I figured that I would include the other two serious sins as well. This is taken from my lesson when I teach Alma 39:3-6. If anyone has other statements or scriptures they think would be useful, please send them to me and I will add them.

Denying the Holy Ghost

According to the Lord, individuals committing this sin do five things: (1) They “know my power, and [2] have been made partakers thereof, and [3] suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome and [4] to deny the truth and [5] defy my power” (D&C 76:31).

This leads that man to deny “the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to open shame” (D&C 76:35).

Joseph Smith indicated that such an individual must “have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. . . . He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 358).

“The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 23).

Brigham Young taught this remarkable principle: “How much does it take to prepare a man, or woman, or any being, to become angels to the Devil, to suffer with him to all eternity? Just as much as it does to prepare a man to go into the celestial kingdom, into the presence of the Father and the Son, and to be made an heir to his Kingdom, and all his glory, and be crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives.” Journal of Discourses 3:93.

For a sin to be unpardonable, it must be of such a nature that the atoning blood of the Savior could not “cover” it, nor could the personal suffering of the sinner pay the price for the broken law. All other sins can be covered by either of these methods and, therefore, are pardonable.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The unpardonable sin is to shed innocent blood, or be accessory thereto. All other sins will be visited with the judgment in the flesh, and the spirit being delivered to the buffetings of Satan until the day of the Lord Jesus” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 301). In his sermons the Prophet used the term “innocent blood” in relation to both the sin against the Holy Ghost and murder. In relationship with the sin against the Holy Ghost, this apparently refers to those who have so rebelled against the Savior that they seek after the blood of Christ and if possible would shed his blood anew.

Shedding Innocent Blood

Elder McConkie wrote: “We do know that there are murders committed by Gentiles for which they at least can repent, be baptized, and receive a remission of their sins” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 231; see also 3 Nephi 30:12).Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: Even among willful murderers there are grades and categories. . . . There are those who kill in drunkenness, in rage, in anger, in jealousy. There are those who kill for gain, for power, for fear. There are those who kill for lust. They certainly will suffer different degrees of punishment hereafter. (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 129-30)

Because of this rebellion, the fulness of the atonement of Jesus Christ is not effective in murderers’ lives. In order for the demands of justice to be met, murderers must pay the price themselves before they can enter into a kingdom of glory. Elder McConkie suggests that it appears that they “shall eventually go to the Telestial Kingdom” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:584).

Joseph Smith further explained David’s situation by stating that his “remains were then in the tomb. Now, we read that many bodies of the Saints arose at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the Saints, but it seems that David did not. Why? Because he had been a murderer. If the ministers of religion had a proper understanding of the doctrine of eternal judgment, they would not be found attending the man who forfeited his life to the injured laws of his country, by shedding innocent blood; for such characters cannot be forgiven, until they have paid the last farthing.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 188-89) However, after paying the last farthing, murderers will reside in the Telestial Kingdom and thus be saved in the kingdom of God. Although the sin of murder is unforgivable as far as the atonement of Christ is concerned, the repentant murderer can still qualify for salvation in the Telestial Kingdom. Thus the sin of murder is different from the sin against the Holy Ghost and sexual sin.

Sexual Sin

President Joseph F. Smith emphasized the significance of this power when he stated:

The man and the woman who engage in this ordinance of matrimony are engaging in something that is of such far-reaching character, and is of such vast importance, that thereby hangs life and death, and eternal increase. Thereupon depends eternal happiness, or eternal misery. For this reason, God has guarded this sacred institution by the most severe penalties, and has declared that whosoever is untrue to the marriage relation, whosoever is guilty of adultery, shall be put to death. This is scriptural law, though it is not practiced today, because modern civilization does not recognize the laws of God in relation to moral status of mankind. The Lord commanded, “Whosoever sheddeth innocent blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Thereby God has given the law. Life is an important thing. No one has any right to take life, unless God commanded it. The law of God as to violation of the marriage covenant is just as strict, and is on a parallel with law against murder notwithstanding the former is not carried out. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 273)

The seriousness of this sin has been repeatedly restated in this dispensation. For example, in 1942 the First Presidency stated: “The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. Each has fallen under His solemn and awful condemnation.”

Joseph Smith declared: “If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom” (HC 6:81). This troublesome statement has caused some to feel a hopelessness because of their transgressions. However, after making a thorough review of scriptures on repentance revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Spencer W. Kimball observed: “Going back to the Prophet’s original statement, had he inserted in it the three words I believe it implies ‘and remains unrepentant,’ this statement would fit perfectly in the program as given in the numerous scriptures, many of which came through the Prophet himself” (Miracle of Forgiveness 350). In stating this, President Kimball emphasized that he did not intend to minimize “the seriousness of the sexual sins or other transgressions but merely to hold out hope to the transgressor, so that men and women of sin may strive with all their power to overcome their errors, wash themselves ‘in the blood of the Lamb’ and be purged and purified, and thus be able to return to their maker” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 351).