One of the things I have noticed in my reading of the Ensign and the LDS Church Manuals is that they use often words like mistakes, bad choices, etc. for things the Bible labels sinful. In True to the Faith, a manual recommended by the First Presidency of the LDS Church as a companion to scripture study, under the heading sin it reads: “When we willfully disobey God’s commandments, we commit sin. We also commit sin when we fail to act righteously despite our knowledge of the truth (see James 4:17).”
Is sin really only a willful disobedience of God’s commandments? In the majority of the world’s society, morality has been on the decline with the result that more and more people have a weakened sense of right and wrong. Does this mean that Islamic suicide bombers aren’t sinning especially if they see their actions as following God’s will? Does this mean that if a person doesn’t know that God commands us to lead chaste lives that he or she isn’t sinning by being unchaste?
The Bible doesn’t limit sin just to willful disobedience. Take Jesus’ prayer as he was being nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He would not have had to pray that if sin was limited to willfully disobeying God’s commandments. Especially sobering is this passage: “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23).
Neither does the Bible limit sin only to our actions. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly talked about the sinfulness of thoughts. One example: “But I say unto you, That whsoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in her heart.” (Matthew 5:28) And we see this not just in the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible repeatedly talks about evil thoughts, about sinful lusts, etc.
But True to the Faith. mentions none of this under the heading sin. In that, it is quite representative of LDS teaching. Mormonism drastically diminishes sin.
It is vitally important for people to see the extent of their sinfulness. The more limited and restricted people’s view of sin is, the less desperation they will feel for a Savior. On the other hand, the more accurate their knowledge is of how of how much they do sin, the more they will be inclined to despair of their works and trust solely in Jesus’ work for them. That is what I am doing.