It is challenging to get Mormons to realize just how terrible sin is – all sin. One Bible story we can use to make this point is recorded in 1 Chronicles 13. King David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been neglected during the reign of Saul. While they were transporting it, we read:
And when they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
1 Chronicles 13:9-10
Most people think God dealt way too harshly with Uzza. After all, he tried to do the right thing and save the Ark from getting damaged. God, however, had stated very plainly in the law that nobody was to touch the Ark. In fact, just having it on a cart was not in accordance with his law. He made it very clear that poles were to be slide through rings on the side of the Ark and, only in this way, was it to be carried.
Most Mormons have never heard this story. Even fewer will know why God was so angry. In fact, many Christians, even after hearing God’s requirements about the Ark, are troubled. It sure looks like God overreacted. Putting a man to death for trying to keep the Ark from falling – really?
Yes, really. This is how serious sin is. And this is the point we want to make.
But how to do that?
Begin by talking about the importance of any event being recorded in the Bible. Just the fact that God made it part of the Bible shows he wants us to learn from it. But what lesson does he want us to learn?
Then read the story. Be sure to set the two verses in their context of the joyous return of the Ark to Jerusalem. Then, before mentioning the requirements of the law, ask them why God was so angry. They might make some guesses. Some might not even venture a guess.
After they have had time to think about it, point them to 1 Chronicles 15:13-15 which says that Levites were to carry the Ark. And then drive the lesson home.
- All sin involves disobedience. Sin, after all, is not obeying the law.
- All disobedience, even when it is done with good intentions, angers God tremendously. So much so, that Uzza had to die! God and his word are not up for debate. Ignoring it, downplaying it, treating it casually is not something he ignores or treats casually.
- All sin, regardless if we think it is insignificant, angers God. Sins aren’t misdemeanors or even felonies. Each and every sin is a capital crime. “The wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23.
This is so frightening because God law is so all-encompassing. It speaks not only to our actions, but even our thoughts! (If you haven’t done so before, you could refer to Matthew 5 and how Jesus makes this crystal clear.)
Neither does it say that just trying is good enough. We want to take every opportunity to make this point because “trying” is the default position of most Mormons. If they keep on bringing up the idea of trying, hold their feet to the fire by asking them to give you a Scripture passage supporting their idea of trying.
When we see everything God’s law condemns as sin and then when we see that all sin angers God tremendously, we must admit that, instead of progressing, we are only digging the hole deeper and deeper every day! Instead of progressing, we are making our debt even greater.
The hopelessness of doing anything to be saved is the point you want to drill home. If they are ready for it, you can next talk about Jesus, the only way out. But refer to Jesus only if it is apparent that they clearly see the predicament sin has put them in. Many won’t readily see it. If so, then they might have to wrestle with the law’s demands before hearing the answer of the gospel. The law needs to work despair in them- the despair of any ability on their part to contribute to salvation.