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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Atonement Makes Repentance POSSIBLE

“The Atonement Makes Repentance Possible”
by Connie Raddon

Each month the “Ensign” has a section called “What We Believe”.  In the February 2011 issue, the article in this section is called “The Atonement Makes Repentance Possible”.  (There is no specific author for this section – it is put together by the leadership of the church.  They cite “Gospel Principles 2009” and “True to the Faith” as references.)

The article begins, “We come to earth for the purpose of growing and progressing.”

The Bible teaches that our purpose is to glorify and worship God.  In the Garden of Eden, humans were able to be in His presence.  With our agency, we chose to let sin into the world, and could no longer be in God’s presence.  So He provided a Savior to redeem us so that once again we will be able to glorify and worship Him in His presence.

The article continues, “Every commandment from God blesses us if we obey it (see D&C 130:20-21).  However, if we disobey it, there is a punishment attached (see Alma 42:22).  This meting out of blessings or punishments is called justice.”

If our purpose on this earth is for growing and progressing, this is the way the LDS church claims that God “trains” us.  Following this logic, however, we are merely Pavlov’s dogs getting treats for good behavior, and unpleasant consequences for bad behavior.  It also places God under obligation to us – if we have obeyed a certain commandment, then God must bless us.
This idea is NOT found in the Bible. 

The only commandment with a promise was to honor your mother and father ‘that your days may be prolonged in the land’.  

The LDS teach this idea and never give any clues about what the blessings or punishments are, or what commandments they are linked to. 

This is how that idea impacted my life.  I was a single parent for a time in my life.  I was a very active Mormon.  I paid a full tithing.  I paid a fast offering.  I held a calling in the Relief Society Presidency.  I believed I was keeping all the commandments to the fullest.  It was very frustrating to me that I could barely afford food.  I couldn’t afford babysitters.  I was going to school and drove a car that continually broke down.  Where were these blessings for keeping the commandments?  Eventually things got better.  Once I got more established in my business, I had nicer things and more money.  I wasn’t as active in the church anymore.  I didn’t pay tithing, or hold a calling, but still attended.  I knew I wasn’t keeping all the commandments.  But I was being blessed.  It made me very arrogant – thinking that I had to be doing something right for the Lord to bless me.  I gained a sense of entitlement. 

The article goes on to say that because Heavenly Father loves us, he made it possible for us to repent.  He sent His Only Begotten Son to pay the penalty required by the law of justice for our breaking God’s commandments.  “Because the Savior suffered for our sins, we will not have to suffer the full punishment for them if we repent.”

This seems to be saying that if we repent, we will only suffer partial punishment… not the full punishment.  It doesn’t explain how much we will suffer, or for which sins, or for how long, or even how we will be punished.  (I think I’m going to call this a “Dangling Doctrine”:  very vague, but scary enough to keep people in obedience.)

“Repentance is God’s gift to us.”

Bible: “…but the free GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

“For by grace we are saved, through faith; and that not of ourselves.  It is the GIFT of God;” Ephesians 2:8

The Mormon Church teaches that Repentance is a series of steps that we must accomplish to be forgiven.

The Bible teaches that through faith, we are given the gift of grace, the righteousness of Christ, and eternal life.  No process required.  No forms to fill out or lines to stand in. 

“Through REPENTANCE we become clean again, making it possible for us to return to our Heavenly Father (see Moses 6:57).

The Bible teaches that it is only through Jesus Christ that we become clean.  And the term “clean again” implies that we were once clean to begin with.  In my arrogance as a Mormon, I believed that I was sinless at many times in my life, and once in a while I would make a mistake – then repentance would erase everything and I’d be perfect once again.  Studying the Word of God, the Bible, has taught me that I am evil in my heart, in my thoughts, and through and through.  I only deserve God’s wrath.  If I deny myself, and accept Christ’s righteousness in place of mine, I am given eternal life. 

“The repentance process includes the following:

1.      Have faith in our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. (see Alma 34:17)
2.      Recognize our sins and feel sorrow (see Luke 16:15; Alma 42:29-30)
3.      Confess our sins to Heavenly Father and, if needed, to our bishop or branch president (see D&C 61:2)
4.      Abandon our sins (see D&C 58:43)
5.      Make restitution when possible (see Ezekiel 33:15-16)
6.      Forgive others who have sinned against us (see D&C 64:9; 3 Nephi 13:14-15)
7.      Live righteously (see D&C 1:32)

I am really troubled with number 3.  It seems we must confess our sins to God – but only the small ones because the more serious ones require the bishop to step in and assist God in forgiving us.  The God I believe in (the God of the Bible) has complete power and authority to forgive all by Himself.  I find great confidence in worshipping an all-powerful God – not a “bishop-assisted” one.

I have also learned of the impossibility of numbers 4 and 7 – to “abandon sin” and “live righteously”.  If I could do that, why would I need repentance in the first place?

On May 18, 1873 (as recorded in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16 p. 46), Brigham Young issued a challenge:  “Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter Day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test.”

I have accepted that challenge from Brigham Young.

In the February 2011 issue of the Ensign, the LDS religion fails this test.