Your Friday Firestorm #54

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.

(D&C 82:7)

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Sorry for the delay in posting this, everyone.

  2. a.k.a. plea in abeyance

  3. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    the sin pyramid scheme. explains why so many MLMs in utah county.

  4. Sagacious advice. Thank you, Dora.

    This verse makes me think of a merry-go-round going faster and faster. Sin [half turn], repent [half turn], sin again [half turn with double velocity, since the former sin is there too], repent, repeat.

  5. This video doesn’t really relate, I just feel like reposting for olde tyme’s sake, to celebrate the return of Your Friday Firestorm.

  6. So you slip up and sin on something you’ve repented for. That repentance is null and void?

  7. meems, that’s right. Such is our advice to the addicted!

  8. The revelations were not dictated word for word, and were subject to subsequent editing for clarity, for correction of errors, and to accommodate future revelations. The Joseph Smith papers make that abundantly clear and show where such handwritten changes were clearly made. Of course, even before JSP, there was abundant evidence of this–just comparing one edition to another.

    Revelations must be read in context, including not just the context of the times, but the context of other revelations.

    I think D&C 82:7 is poorly worded; literally, it cannot mean what it appears to say at first blush. Why? Because it means that no one could ever be forgiven of any sin ever.

    D&C 82:7 says that “to the soul that sinneth shall the former sins return.” This is commonly understood to mean if the repented of sin is repeated, that the former repentance is, in effect, invalidated. That certainly is a viable interpretation–it is an arguable reading of the passage in context. But that is not what the passage says.

    On its face, the passage invalidates the prior repentance for any “soul that sinneth”. And all souls sin, even if they don’t repeat the repented sin, they will likely sin in another way. Therefore, it is impossible to repent and be forgiven (at least until a person has ceased sinning in any way–good luck with that).

    In my mind, a better contextual interpretation takes into account D&C 58:43 (as well as verse 42), footnoted in D&C 82:7.

    D&C 58:42-43 says that God remembers no more sins of which we repent. If this concept of repentance–actually continual repentance–is incorporated into D&C 82:7, then it makes sense

    That is, a good reading would be that “to the soul that sinneth (and doth not repent) shall the former sins return.”

    This leads to another question, what does it mean that the “former sins return”? A couple of interpretations.

    One is that it is like a relapse for a recovering alcoholic; when he or she falls off the wagon for an extended period of time, then he or she may have returned to a state of despair and hopelessness similar to what he or she felt before recovery.

    Another is a sort of binary grace and sinfulness choice–the object of repentance is to put ourselves in a state of grace/redemption by Jesus. When we sin and do not repent, then we are facing away from God instead of towards God. In this state of sinfulness generally, when we face away from God, we may feel again the burden of sin, which might seem as heavy as did in a more sinful past. But when we turn back to God (i.e., repent), the burden disappears.

  9. What does “former sins return” mean?

  10. Nice try, David — you’ll have to do better than refer to that liberal rag the JSPP.

  11. In my mind, pages 187-190 of Preach My Gospel indicate that the Church has backed away from the despair inducing interpretation of D&C 82:7, although D&C 82:7 is not cited. In particular the following:

    Since it is likely that some [converts] return to an addiction, priesthood leaders and members should not be shocked or discouraged if they learn that an investigator or new member may be struggling with such problems. They should show confidence in the individual and not be judgmental if the person yields to an old craving. They should treat it as a temporary and understandable setback. Condemning the addicted investigator or new convert is never helpful and will likely lead to discouragement, failure, and inactivity. A new convert who suddenly stops attending Church may have given in to an old addiction and is feeling unworthy and discouraged. An immediate visit giving encouragement and support can help the person succeed. Members should show in word and action that they accept the converts
    (see 3 Nephi 18:32).

  12. I think of it as partially the binary grace thing David described and..similar to the faith preceding miracle. I think sinning affects our vision and we are unable to see the miracle of grace when we sin. Our perspective on our past behavior returns to seeing it as a burden and feeling hopeless.

  13. Because of a certain book of repentance published many years ago, repentance and forgiveness are often conflated with administrative principles that the Church follows in administering discipline. There are waiting periods imposed by the institutional Church before a person who has been disciplined may be reinstated. Of course, being aligned with God and receiving God’s forgiveness are not necessarily tied to the slow wheels of Church discipline and reinstatement. I believe a person’s burdens of shame and guilt and despair may be lifted much more quickly than we think sometimes. (In my opinion, God does not wait until life is over to see if we have sinned again before making the Atonement effective.)

    Elder Ashton said in his address While They Are Waiting (Apr conference 1988):

    “‘Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me’ (3 Ne. 9:14).

    “This scripture indicates that in life there is no waiting period before we can come unto God. In our weakness we know where we can turn for strength. What good advice and wise direction for our lives can be gleaned through study of the scriptures! Self-esteem can be renewed and strength to do His will can be revived. People must always count more than programs.

    “As one comes unto Christ, he learns of the reality of forgiveness: ‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

    ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:42–43).”

  14. Extreme Dorito says:

    Don’t forget Ezek 33:1-20.

  15. If forsaking the sin is part of the repentance process, then how can I return to a sin for which I’ve repented? By returning, I fail to to forsake, and therefore fail to repent in the first place.

  16. Is “former sins return” a prophetic statement of behavior?

  17. is this why if you do something bad you have to go the bishop and tell them everything youve done bad your whole life?

  18. So, let’s see if I’ve got this down:

    1 Fornication – Read Miracle of Forgiveness, six months disfellowshipped.
    2 Fornications – Read MoF 2x, 1 year disfellowshipped.
    3 Fornications – Read MoF 4x, 2 years disfellowshipped.

    8 Fornications – Read MoF 128x, 64 years disfellowshipped.

    12 Forications – Read MoF 2048x, 1024 years disfellowshipped.

    So much for the yoke being easy and the burden being light.

  19. #18 – Thank goddness that’s not required as a general rule.

    I think the straightforward interpretation is best:

    In our verbiage, a “soul” is the combination of spirit and body. So, if a “soul” sins, both the spirit and body act together in a manner that removes them from God.

    “To repent” means “to change”. The only constant is change. Therefore, repentence must be a continual process or it doesn’t exist – like climbing a mountain includes occasional dips into a valley to get to the next summit. If I stop climbing, I stop reaching higher summits. If I stop changing, I stop repenting – and my former unrepentant nature returns.

    At the macro level, the most basic “sin” is to not repent (change) – to remain the same natural person I am without effort to change. So, if my “soul” returns to my former “sin”, I am returning to my former lack of repentance – a condition, not just an action.

    At the micro level, if my “soul” sins again, by very definition I return to my previous sins – since there has to be something that I changed at one point in order to be repentant. If an alcoholic changes, he does so by not drinking anymore; if he “sins” (doesn’t continue that change), he starts drinking again. Hence, “the former sins return”. The same is true of an adulterer, or a theif, or a liar, etc.

    That’s the way I see it, anyway. It’s also why I am glad the Church has moved away from such a harsh stance toward occasional mistakes (dips in the climb). Someone’s body can give in occasionally without the spirit giving in and “returning” to a condition of “sinfulness”.

  20. Steve Evans says:

    Michael if you’re fornicating and facing church discipline on 19 different occasions I think by that point you don’t worry about being disfellowshipped.

  21. Eric Russell says:

    I’ve no idea what God is talking about here, but whatever it is, I’m sure he’s right.

  22. Interesting thread, and I like the references to “Miracle of Forgiveness” even if some are intended to be ironic. Heidi Swinton’s biography of pres. Monson (“To the Rescue”), has a tidbit about publication of MOF by Pres. Kimball (then president of the 12). One day he walked into Elder Monson’s office and said:

    “I don’t know if I should have printed that book or not. I have people coming in to confess mistakes they made long years ago. Could you help me talk to some of them”? Elder Monson agreed to help, to which President Kimball responded “I’ll send several people in to see you.” When Elder Monson asked “What would you like me to tell them?” President Kimball answered simply, “Forgive them, brother, forgive them.” (p. 374)

  23. StillConfused says:

    I love comment #4. We need the “like” button

  24. As I said in a personnel review a few years ago when I was deemed deficient in several areas: After all this time you expect me to change?

    What do you do when your sins are mostly personality flaws? Like the inability to keep your mouth shut? Or asking every hard question possible of every possible person? Or requiring caffeine to stay awake in Sacrament Meeting? Or thinking that Gospel Doctrine Class is an advanced class in spiritual perception? Or blurting irony in inappropriate venues?

    There are so many more, many of which must be offensive to God. So, I guess the account book fills up and we will have to pay the last farthing. Is there no mercy?

    When you die you will stop doing these things. I guess that is the ultimate repentance.

  25. Mommie Dearest says:

    Interesting how we squirm and struggle against being labeled sinners. None of us likes to think of ourselves as a sinner. We’re much more comfortable thinking that we have all our sinfulness nicely corralled and respectably domesticated, and this sort of caveat might not apply to us.

    There are numerous places in the scriptures where we are warned, chided, reminded, scolded, and what-not against that sort of comfortable outlook. I bet everyone who’s commented would come up with a different one.

    We’re all completely at the mercy of the grace of God, pretty much the same as any heathen beer-swilling fornicator. Some days I’m amazed that he lets us all take the sacrament.

    My hope is that He will see my repeatedly feeble efforts at diligence and notice the general trend toward improvement while somehow missing the flaws, and extend undeserved mercy to me anyway.

  26. #24: I can’t figure out if I would also press a “like” button for comment #4, because I have no idea what an “MLM” is . . .

  27. @27: multi-level marketing (urbandictionary.com)

  28. Count your blessings, Ken.

  29. StillConfused says:

    MLM is multi-level marketing. The SIN of Utah County

  30. does this verse cancel out when the Lord says he will remember our sins no more, or does that verse cancel out this one? Either he will remember them no more, or they will return to us again.

    Is this verse implicating that sinning continuously become progressively worse and takes us further away from God? Would not this indicate that someone who has smoked for ten years is further away from God than someone who has smoked for five years? (Assuming both are members).

    As a regular sinner, I can’t see how the former sins return in my life. They don’t seem to add upon the new sins to become a greater burden than before. I’m still just a regular sinner, trudging along in life doing the best I can.

  31. I think I have a pretty good perspective on many aspects of Church doctrine that give others heartburn.

    However, I admit that this scripture and doctrine really caused me to fret very much when I was “of a child.” I was a worrier and somewhat sad as a child, and my understanding of this scripture caused me to worry more. It vexed me logically because of the issues of #31 (forgetting is forgetting, there’s no intermediate place that I know of where you can forget but still retain in remembrance), and also the emotional issues of the fact that I was always sinning.

    I would say now I’m more relaxed, but my strategy was just to take the scripture less seriously, which is probably not the best choice but it worked for me.

  32. MLM clarification: Thank you for the enlightenment . . . I am so dense. And I now I would definitely press “like” to Eric S.’s comment #27.

  33. RE: #25, R.W., I feel your pain…transcendence is so hard. But as far as “when you die you will stop doing these things” being the ultimate repentance, that is debatable. If we take Alma 34 literally (“do not procrastinate the day of your repentence…that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” etc.), it seems as though it’s possible we might still be able to commit some sins after this life ends. How scary is that?

  34. Eric Russell says:

    Scary? Just the opposite. An existence that lacks the ability to sin is a meaningless one – and that’s scary.

  35. Yes, forsaking our sins means permanently turning away from them, but I like what Elder Andersen said a few Conferences ago: “The forsaking of sins implies never returning. Forsaking requires time.” As you repent of (that sin), you may regress a time or two; that does not immediately bring all those former sins back into your life–nor does it mean you aren’t repenting. Rather, it means that you are once again guilty of that sin. You are once again a (liar, curser, adulterer, etc.), and have need to repent of that sin. Elder Andersen also said in that talk: “If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting.” That’s why it is termed the “repentance process”.

  36. Thanks for the insight, Eric Russell (#35). My comment “how scary is that” regarding the potential for being able to sin post-earth life was partly to make a point, but the more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that such an existence in the hereafter is cause for great hope: the ability to commit sins of some sort–even without a body while awaiting the resurrection–would mean we still have that most precious of gifts: free agency…ummm, I mean “moral agency.” That thought is so great I won’t expend any energy considering whether a sin in the next phase of existence brings back all the sins from mortality….

  37. Thomas Parkin says:

    There is an interesting tension between the first couple phrases and the last, and I’m not sure that we interpret it correctly.

    First, God says that He is not going to lay any sin to our charge, and invites us to walk away – with the allusion to ‘neither do I condemn thee.’ Second, he says that if we do sin again, _which we inevitably will_, that the deal is off. This is, naturally, no deal at all, and hence the firestorm.

    We just can’t seem to get away from this legalistic, bookkeeping God that is keeping a tally, and that everything we do is somehow points in the for or against column. This is a game that we can never win – which is exactly the point that Paul, and King Benjamin, and others make.

    Unless we want to believe that God insists on us playing this game that we can’t win, we need to see the last phrases in a different light. I propose that God’s attitude toward sin remains what He expresses first: He is not going to ‘impute sin’, and is not going to condemn us. As far as He goes, that is the story. However, sin continues to exist independent of His forgiveness and we continue to be subject to its effects in spite of God’s indifference to charging and condemning – His refusal to force us to play the game that we cannot win.

    What this means is that God’s forgiveness is not, finally, the essential thing when it comes to admittance into His presence. Forgiveness is accomplished; it is a forgone conclusion. What is necessary is that we are redeemed from the effects of sin, and this requires the sanctifying process. The initial phrases retain their positive charge. We can therefore approach God confidently, knowing that He has no personal interest in holding our sins over us. In that approaching we begin the process of sanctification.

  38. Isn’t this the whole purpose of the Atonement? That no matter how weak and foolish we are, if we do our best to repent and live righteously we are saved by the grace of God.

  39. #38 – another example of why Thomas Parkin is one of my favorite commenters in the Bloggernacle.

  40. Eric Russell says:

    I don’t think so, n[r]2, unless you’re an evangelical or Stephen Robinson. I think Parkin’s on the right track.

  41. Mommie Dearest says:

    Sanctification. How could I forget? It’s not one of the “Rs” in the repentance process…but it should be. Or maybe it’s better that it’s not been correlated and tweaked into spiritual pablum.

    Still, thanks for pointing a way out. I’ve appreciated the discussion.

  42. I am pretty sure I am not Stephen Robinson. The last I checked I wasn’t an evangelical either.

    This is part of the same section and I think you really need to read it along with 82:7 to understand what is being said: D&C 82:3 For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.

    Once we are given sufficient light to understand that we have sinned, then to go back to those sins is worse than commiting them in the first place. Someone is going to say that we couldn’t go back to our sin if we truly had sufficient light to understand it and I hope that is true but I am not fully convinced.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    TP is, as Ronan might say, the DBs.

  44. When we view any scripture through the light of Jesus’ life, we see One who forgave readily (Samaritan women), urged others to consider their own sins before they judged another (adulterous woman), and who reminded us that God runs for forgive His repentant children (prodigal son).

    When we see the gospel through the lens of God’s love, it becomes a hopeful, healing, happifying thing. However, when we see life through the lens of pride, self-loathing, or egotism, we feel overwhelmed with fear.

    I believe God’s readily answers the prayers of his repentant children. Perhaps we need to remember that His mercy is never failing, even when we feel least deserving of it.

  45. There is at least one other scripture in the D&C that suggests that returning to serious sin (the scripture speaks of adultery) permanently loses the forgiveness of God for the sinner. Section 42, verses 25 & 26, I believe.

  46. Ed, not so! This verse is instruction to excommunicate but of course the Lord has responded to changing times by informing the Brethren that they need not any longer automatically excommunicate in such situations. It is just that such updates don’t get recorded in the D&C.

    Irrelevant to excommunications, the Lord said elsewhere in the scriptures that as often as a person repents, he will forgive that person. We cannot know if the Lord will ultimately forgive another for we cannot tell whether the unrepentant will repent or whether the repentant will return to unrepented sin. Church membership has eternal implications but that membership status can change post-humously. Therefor, the Church does not condemn a person’s eventual status with God with excommunication, a fact that was not lost on God when He commanded for a time (in D&C 42:26) that some be excommunicated.

  47. john Harvey says:

    Repentance requires the one going through the process to become a better person with God and Christ’s help. If we don’t make some positive changes we aren’t repenting. The Pearl of Great price explains that through the water (baptism), blood (Atonement), and Spirit (Holy Spirit of Promise) we can become a new person.

  48. Coming late to this discussion. But it seems to me that sometimes we talk about repenting of individual sins and sometimes we talk about repenting of sin in a broader and more general sense. I think that typically in the scriptures they talk of the latter (although not always). I think GAs have talked about that a lot as well.

    It makes sense. After all if someone is a serial adulterer but repents of swearing it’s hard to see them as really getting right with the Lord. So I think that the reason the former sins return is more the idea that you’ve lost that relationship with God that your repentence had engendered. Thus you’re back in your sinful state not much better than before despite perhaps having somewhat better habits. This idea of sin isn’t just self-improvement over bad habits, which is often how we teach sin, but a more general spiritual relationship with God.

  49. An other way of looking at the issue is that I think we quite regularly conflate justification with sanctification and that this leads to no end of problems. This is why, I think, some make overcoming sin purely a matter of self-improvement. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be overcoming bad habits (and trying to find habits we ought overcome). However that’s really not the key issue religiously. Yet I think some Mormons (despite the stereotype I have a hard time believing it to be the majority) get caught up with works so much that they neglect the justification that comes to us in our relationship with God. Thus repentence becomes purely a matter of checklists and behavior. This can both be self-defeating (since we never finish, and often slip) but also misses the fundamental spiritual aspect of repentance which is to draw near to God. It’s as if we expect that good behavior automatically engenders spirituality, when of course it doesn’t.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    Clark, just because you’re late to the party doesn’t mean everyone’s already left! You’re fashionably late.

  51. Is it really such a terrible doctrine?

    If you repent of a sin you abandon it. You turn away from it. You stop doing it.

    If you do it again, it’s not that your effort is undone or negated, rather that you simply haven’t finished a job you thought you had finished with.

    If you stop smoking and live the WoW you have repented. If you smoke again you haven’t really stopped smoking yet. When you do permanently stop smoking you have overcome a sin.

    This ought to be credited and God does so by forgetting that you ever smoked at all. You literally never smoked.

    If you’re fornicating the message is pretty simple. Stop fornicating and stay stopped. Once you do, you never did.

    To obtain the never did from God you have to actually stop permanently. Seems reasonable. It feels as though you are trying to say this makes repentance impossible or worse unreasonable.

    What gives?

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