Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Condemnation and Forgiveness

Condemnation is the opposite of being forgiven. Forgiveness is the act of “giving as before” and cancelling a debt or punishment owed, thereby restoring the status of the offender to what it was before the offense occurred (D&C 58:42). Condemnation is the lack of forgiveness. Both are states of being before God (Luke 6:37, D&C 64:9). In other words, a person can be "condemned" for a long period of time, and conversely can remain in a "forgiven" state for a long period of time, as well.

Being forgiven is connected with the privilege of receiving more light and truth from God through the mediums of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost (D&C 39:6, Moroni 10:5). Whenever a covenant people of the Lord abide in His love and forgiveness by keeping the commandments, it is their right to receive the blessings and knowledge of God.

People come under condemnation because of a refusal to receive the light that is offered to them (D&C 93:31-32). The way to remove the condemnation is to repent (D&C 58:42), otherwise there is a punishment that must be inflicted on the condemned person (2 Nephi 9:25). The way to remove condemnation that was brought about by refusing light and truth is to repent and accept the light and truth originally offered. A person is not condemned for not having received a fullness of the glory of God (or receiving all light and truth), but is only condemned for refusing light and truth that is specifically offered to them (2 Nephi 9:25, 27).

The results of condemnation and forgiveness are the opposite. Condemnation (‘condemn’ has its roots in the latin ‘damnere’, which means to ‘inflict loss on’) results of a loss of light and truth. A person under condemnation is disobedient to God’s commandments, and as a result of that disobedience Satan “taketh away light and truth” (D&C 93:39). Unless the person repents, he will eventually lose so much light and truth that he will be taken captive by Satan. Conversely, someone who continues to repent will receive more light and truth until he knows the mysteries of God “in full” (Alma 12:10-11).

The Lord is merciful and loving, and prefers to forgive us insead of condemn us. We are not condemned for our weaknesses or imperfections, but only for our sins (D&C 9:12). These are all principles upon which individual souls operate, and the Church operates by similar principles. It is the “body of Christ” and is led by the principle of common consent. Therefore if the whole church is under condemnation then the Church, as a whole, will continue to lose light and truth until it, as an institution, is taken captive by the devil (or Babylon, the world).

The Church is in the process of losing light, truth, and knowledge, as evidenced by the narrowing and loss of doctrine since the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day and the shifting nature of the temple endowment. While certain wording and minor parts may be changed without changing the overall ordinance, the removal of the penalties in 1990 resulted in a significant loss from the nature of the covenant being made. There is no real covenant without a warning of the penalties inflicted for breaking it, which was signalized by a specific type of ritual sacrifice in Biblical times (see here for more details). By taking the penalties out of the endowment, a significant alteration to the endowment was made. The penalties allowed the one making the covenant to make it in a way that hearkened back to the time of the Patriarchs. These penalties testify of Christ, who took our rightful punishment for breaking the Law in our stead to answer the ends of the law (Alma 41:21-22, 2 Nephi 2:10).

There are currently two distinct spirits in the Church: one is seeking to reestablish the religion that Joseph Smith restored by repenting and living the teachings restored through him. The other prefers to become more like the world, more like mainstream Christianity, and is glad to jettison the doctrines, ordinances, and policies that made Mormonism “peculiar”. This second spirit seeks to redefine LDS scriptures and reshape the religion to be more harmonious with popular ideological trends. The Lord promised that there was a needed cleansing that would befall the whole world, and that it would begin with the Church (D&C 112:23-26).

The condemnation the Lord declared the Church was under in 1832 was significant. It resulted from rejecting the message of both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s other teachings. Essentially, it resulted from rejecting what the Lord really wanted the early Church members to believe and do.

In his first General Conference address as the President, Ezra Taft Benson reaffirmed that the condemnation of the Church was still, in his day, in effect ("Cleansing the Inner Vessel", Ensign, May 1986). In a CES Fireside given June 6, 1993, Dallin H. Oaks reaffirmed the fact that the condemnation still remained in effect ("Another Testament of Jesus Christ", Ensign, March 1994). Because no church president since then has contradicted those messages, if we are to honor and follow the living prophets we must conclude that the condemnation still exists, and behave accordingly.

Unless we want to continue to labor under that condemnation--and continue to lose precious light and truth--we must repent and return to the root of the Restoration. We must turn away from some of the additions to and subtractions from the religion that, like too much weight on one side of a ship, threatens to capsize the "Old Ship Zion". If the ship capsizes, then those left holding onto it for dear life will drown.

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