One of the many significant differences between Mormonism and biblical teaching centers on how much a person sins. The December issue of the Ensign contains an article that clearly illustrates Mormonism’s view. It is entitled, “Repentance: Making the Inside Clean”. The author summarizes the need for repentance this way: “As we go about our lives, we occasionally commit sins. But if we want to live with our Heavenly Father again, we cannot be unclean. We need to repent, which includes forsaking sin, replacing it with righteousness, and cleansing ourselves from the effects of sin.”
Later in the article, to make his point about repentance, he gives this illustration.
“During my time as a bishop, I used the following visual to help explain what we need to do after we forsake a sin. Picture in your mind a bucket of water. That bucket represents you and me, and the water represents the Spirit, which can reside within us. The water can also represent our pure, worthy state.
Now imagine that you have a brick and have dropped it into the bucket. That brick is like sin—it’s hard and rough and impure. As soon as it enters the bucket, it causes some of the water to slosh out. When we sin, we displace some of the good things in our life, like our peace of mind and some of our capacity
to feel the Spirit.
Repenting is like taking that brick out of the bucket of water and making the water pure and clean again. But the repentance isn’t complete by just removing the brick, because the bucket is still not full. We must add more water to fill the bucket again.”
The Bible speaks so differently. Look at Romans 3.
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 And the way of peace have they not known:
Note how all-inclusive these words are: “none, none, none, all, together”. There is no idea here of sinning occasionally; or of being in a pure state; or having just one brick at a time dropped into the bucket. From the Bible’s standpoint the water in the bucket is already filthy and a veritable downpour of bricks falls continually into the bucket. None are righteous – they have together become unprofitable.
That is emphasized throughout the Bible. The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6 laments about how unclean he is. The apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about how wretched he is because of his failure to do the good. The Bible pictures people not as occasionally sinning, but as constantly sinning.
This is no minor difference either. If we think that we only sin occasionally then much of the burden falls on us to stop sinning and to make right the wrongs we have committed. That is exactly what Mormonism does. In the last analysis, even though it talks about Jesus’ atonement, Mormonism places the emphasis on what we have to do.
But when we see ourselves as the Bible pictures us, all we can do is plead for mercy and help. We realize that all we can do is make the problem worse by piling up more and more sins! And that is why Christmas is so special. Christmas is God’s answer to our pleas for help. Jesus came to earth so that we could go to heaven. Jesus came to do everything for us. He kept all the commandments perfectly – not just to give us an example to follow – but much more importantly as our substitute – in our place. Because Jesus kept the commandments perfectly for me, I can know say that I have kept the commandments perfectly. And then he died to wash away all our sins.
Turning from emphasizing what I have to do and instead trusting that Jesus has done it all for me is what true repentance is all about. This Christmas see that Jesus came – not to show you what you have to do – but to do it all for you. See that and have a most joyous Christmas.