Archive for June, 2009


Repaying a Forgiven Debt?

      The LDS manual, Gospel Principles, makes the following statement.  “Peace cones only through forgiveness.  But forgiveness has a high price.  Elder Kimball said:  ‘To every forgiveness there is a condition. . .The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or grater than the sin.  There must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”  (p. 252)

      One of the problems I and many others have with Mormonism is that it talks about repaying a debt that the Bible describes as having been forgiven.  I would like to expand on that a little bit more.  Where is the idea of forgiveness and repayment ever combined?  The two ideas just don’t fit together.

      I just got done googling “debt forgiven”.  The first sites listed all dealt with either mortgage or credit cards debt being forgiven.  I copied just a couple of paragraphs from one site.  It said:

     “All may be forgiven when a debtor reduces the amount you owe, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten a free ride.  Your windfall may be taxable. . .

     Here’s how it works.  You negotiate with your credit card company to get your bill reduced from $10,000 to $5,000.  You only have to pay Visa $5,000, but the Internal Revenue Service is likely to tax you on the $5,000 you didn’t have to pay back.  That amount is known as discharge of indebtedness, or DOI, income.

     That’s right.  A debt forgiven won’t be forgotten by the IRS.  The agency considers it earned or taxable income.”

     Notice how it is described as a windfall.  No longer does the person have to pay Visa the $5.000.  But what I found so interesting is that the IRS sees that forgiven debt as taxable income!  They don’t do that with loans that need to be repaid.  They view it as if Visa actually gave the person the $5,000.

     That is what the word forgiven means.  When I tell my grown son I forgive the loan he had with me, he will naturally think that he doesn’t need to repay me.  In fact, if in the next month he sends me a payment, I will be puzzled and wonder if he really understood me.  So I talk to him and make it clear that I had forgiven the loan.  Then the next month another payment arrives.  No longer am I puzzled.  Then I will be irritated.  Why isn’t he accepting my gift to him?  Doesn’t he believe that I was serious?

     When I forgive somebody his debt to me, I do not remain his creditor.  When God forgives our debt of sin, he does not remain our creditor.  If I continue to try and pay my debt to him, I irritate him and call his word into question.  The proper response to a gift is graciously and gratefully accepting it.



     That has to be one of the most earth-shattering words that could ever be directed at a person – especially when it is spoken by a judge.  We can almost see the defendant slump down as his or her family break out in tears.  This is magnified all the more when the guilty verdict results in the death penalty.

     “Guilty” is the verdict that rang down on all of mankind from no less a judge than God himself.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  As the footnote in the LDS edition of the Bible correctly states, “offend” means to stumble or err.  The breaking of the law in consideration is not an intentional, but an unintentional one.  It is a stumble, a mistake.  But that makes no difference.  The verdict is just as devastating.  Guilty!  “Guilty of all”.  You stumble at just one point – you break it all.  God’s commandments are a unified whole.  It only takes one pinprick to burst a balloon.  It only takes one sin to break the whole law.

     And it doesn’t make any difference how much good a person did before or after – the verdict “guilty” remains.  He could have been the model citizen before and the model prisoner afterwards but he remains guilty.

     But what makes matters even more sobering is the realization that James is talking hypothetically.  There has been no person who just erred once.  Reality is that we stumble and err regularly.  There are so many good things we fail to do – so many sinful thoughts, words, and actions that we end up doing.  No matter how hard we try, all we can do is dig ourselves into a deeper hole. This contrast: “offend in one point – guilty of all” makes for an airtight case.  If a person’s obedience isn’t perfect – if there is just one slip – he is guilty – guilty of all.

     That’s why I am so thankful that Jesus took all my guilt and became guilty in my place – and served my sentence.  That is why I am so thankful that Jesus was perfectly obedient and God credited that perfect obedience to me.  That is why, when I think of living eternally with heavenly Father the only work that I base that on is his work for me.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”


Source of Confidence

     In the recent General Conference of the LDS Church, President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk on adversity.  In it he refers to a young man who was out of work.  He said, “I spoke recently to a young father who has lost his job in the recent economic crisis.  He knows that hundreds of thousands of people with exactly his skills are looking desperately for work to feed their families.  His quiet confidence led me to ask him what he had done to become so confident that he would find a way to support his family.  He said he had examined his life to be sure that he had done all he could to be worthy of the Lord’s help.  It was clear that his need and his faith in Jesus Christ were leading him to be obedient to God’s commandments when it is hard to do.”

     I can’t identify with that young man.  As I examine my life, I see so many times when I haven’t been worthy of the Lord’s help.  Instead of always thinking first of my spouse or family, I see a lot of self-centeredness.  I see a lot of impatience and even flashes of anger when I’m driving, instead of patience and understanding.  I see pockets of worry when I should be trusting.  Exploring other nooks and crannies of my heart I stumble across love of money, lustful thoughts, jealousy.  Sadly to say, you name it – I can find it.  There is no way that I can identify with that young man.

     But that doesn’t mean that I’m not confident of the Lord’s help.  O, I am.  But I receive that confidence not by looking at myself but at my God.  What relief it is to see his incredible faithfulness in the face of my unfaithfulness.  What a comfort it is be wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness and to be found worthy because of that.  What a marvel it is to receive undeserved blessings from God.  I can identify more with the prophet Jeremiah who, standing in the rubble of a destroyed Jerusalem, said:  “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.  The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”  (Lamentations 3: 22-26)


Whom do Mormons worship?


    I pose this, not as a trick question, but sincerely.  To me, a non-Mormon, there are a couple of things that just don’t add up.  The one is that Mormonism teaches that the Father and Son are separate Beings.  It interprets their oneness that the Bible talks about as a unity of purpose or something similar, but never as a unity of being.  But what trips me up is a LDS Scripture like D&C 20:19.  “And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being that they should worship.” 

     The things that strikes me are the singulars (only God. . .only being).  Who is the only being that this verse refers to?  Who is the only being that should be worshipped?  Does this refer to Heavenly Father or Jesus?  It seems pretty clear to me that this scripture states that only one God is to be worshipped and, according to Mormonism, “one God” and “one being” can’t refer both to Heavenly Father and Jesus.   Therefore my question:  whom do Mormons worship? 

     Or more pointedly, would it be accurate to say that Mormonism does not teach worship of Jesus?  The brief article on worship in the manual, True to the Faith, at the very least, causes one to ask that question.  It quotes Moses 1:15:  “Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.”  In the next paragraph it specifically mentions that prayer is one way to worship the Father.  A little bit later it says:  “As you reverently partake of the sacrament and attend the temple, you remember and worship your Heavenly Father and express your gratitude for His Son, Jesus Christ.”  Again, as a non-Mormon, I find that distinction between Heavenly Father and Jesus quite striking.

       The bottom line is that D&C 20:19 states that only one being is to be worshipped.  In light of that, I think it is only fair to ask, whom do Mormons worship?

June 2009

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