A while ago, we received a lengthy email from a Mormon man who had been raised in the LDS church. He talked about the various positions he has held in the church but mainly wrote to talk about the various struggles he has had with some of the teachings of Mormonism. One sentence he wrote, however, stood out from the rest. You could almost feel his anguish as he wrote: “the guilt is a gift that just keeps on giving.”
Some have characterized guilt as a corrosive acid eating away at us. That surely seems to have been what was happening with this man. Guilt is something that almost everybody, to varying degrees, has experienced. Guilt, especially when we see ourselves guilty before God, can be nothing less than paralyzing.
But what thrills me, what gives me joy and energy, is how the Bible, from so many different angles, tells me in no uncertain terms that there is no need for me to feel guilty before God, because God has declared me “not guilty” because of Jesus. One way it does that is with the idea of justification. Paul wrote: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). The concept of biblical justification comes from the courtroom. It describes the judge’s verdict of “not guilty”. (This is in contrast to today’s common usage of people trying to justify themselves and their actions.) God, the Judge, acquits us (declares us not guilty) because of Jesus’ redemption. In other words, because Jesus has already paid our tremendous debt to God’s justice, we are legally free, not guilty. “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This biblical concept of justification is one that has been treasured by many Christians for centuries.
It is a concept, however, that is unknown to many Mormons. Most Mormons, when I bring it up, tell me that they are unfamiliar with it. That’s not surprising either. It is not addressed in the LDS Bible Dictionary. It is not listed in the indexes of either, Gospel Principles, or True to the Faith, two of the most basic manuals of Mormonism. It is not something Mormonism talks about very much.
To get a handle on what Mormonism stands for, it is instructive to see not only what it stresses, but also what it doesn’t stress. Its lack of stress on justification speaks volumes. It is clear from the Bible that God does not want guilt to be a gift that keeps on giving. Jesus came to remove the cause of guilt from us. And that is what he did. Because of Jesus, no longer do we need to feel guilty. That’s not a message I hear from Mormonism.