How can I know that the Lord has forgiven me?
How would you answer that question? Think about that for a moment before reading on.
Before sharing my answer, I want to talk about how it is answered in the latest edition of the Ensign, the official monthly magazine of the LDS Church. That question serves as the title of the last article in this January’s issue. It is a reprint of an article by one of Mormonism’s former prophets, President Harold B. Lee. After expanding on what a person must do to be assured of the Lord’s forgiveness he concludes with this sentence: “The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more.”
Think about that - especially those last three words “return no more”. Mormonism teaches that the Lord will forgive you IF you don’t repeat the sin. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, lists “Abandonment of Sin” as the 4th step in the “painful process” of repentance. It explains that step this way: “Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold he will confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:43).” (p. 134). And then, if that isn’t enough, it says under the sixth step, Righteous Living: “It is not enough to simply try to resist evil or empty your life of sin.”
“Return no more.” “Abandon and forsake the sin.” “Empty your life of sin.” Then and only then will I know that the Lord has forgiven me? Really? But note that President Lee describes this as the miracle of forgiveness. That doesn’t look like a miracle to me. It looks like something impossible for me to obtain.
Over the years the thousands of Mormons we have talked with react to the LDS teaching of forgiveness in drastically different ways. One reaction is to redefine sin as only the really bad things. With that redefinition of sin, many Mormons don’t think they sin much and thus don’t feel the pressure of “emptying your life of sin”.
Many others, however, react by giving up. They realize how impossible this is and end up throwing in the towel. They might remain in the LDS Church because they really have no other place to go but they become inactive. Or else they just give up on religion totally.
And then there are those who tighten their belts and try all the harder. Although they are already running themselves ragged, they kick it up another gear and do even more. One woman once commented about her Mormon neighbor: “She drives into her driveway at 40 miles an hour and runs into her house going 50.”
All three reactions are sad – and wrong. The Lord’s forgiveness does not depend on what a person does! It depends entirely on what Jesus has done for all!
How can I know that the Lord has forgiven me? I make Colossians 2:13-14 very personal. When I was dead in my sins and in the uncircumcision of my flesh, God made me alive with Christ. He forgave me all my sins, having canceled the charge of my legal indebtedness, which stood against me and condemned me; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
My prayer is that in this New Year you will remain assured that the Lord has forgiven you because of Jesus even when the ugliness of your sinfulness smacks you right in the face. I further pray that in this New Year you will all the more confidently and joyfully share the true miracle of God’s forgiveness far and wide. There is no greater way we can praise God – there is no greater way we can help others – than this.