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An Email From a Mormon


Part Two of Two




Donna, (Sister Morley - You're protests to the contrary, I still see you as a sister).


Tom, you are a very kind man. Thank you for your brotherly words.



Thank you so much for responding in such a detailed and thoughtful way.


I only do what Jesus would have me do. You deserve nothing less.



First of all I'd like to apologize, not for sending the email, but- after reading it again I'm afraid it was somewhat sharper than I really intended it to be. But like you I am very passionate about my beliefs.


I respect those who are passionate and want to think deeply about things.



Regardless of my bumbling initial contact, I'm blown away at the time and energy you put into your response and at your sincerity. I have no doubt that you are a wonderful Christian woman and that your motives are pure. And If it's alright I'd very much like to respond to your comments. But, I'll need a little time to respond comprehensively and appropriately.


I appreciate the fact that you would like to respond to my comments. I look forward to seeing what you have to say. Don't worry, I won't take offense.


In the mean time, I was wondering if you would explain to me your beliefs on the fundimental doctorines of - Salvation, Grace, Sin and Repentance.


I will be happy to share with you my beliefs about salvation, grace, sin and repentance. Because I do discuss some of these topics in my book, I will not discuss what I wrote in the book here, but I will expound upon my beliefs to give you a clear understanding of what I believe. I warn you thoughósometimes I will be a bit redundant. It's only because I am driving home a few points, which I hope you will clearly see.


Rather than begin with my views on salvation, it might make more sense to begin with the doctrine of sin. I firmly believe that the doctrine of salvation is strongly influenced by our understanding of sin.


SIN:


I will first briefly discuss my belief in the doctrine of original sin. I know that we differ in this area. Let me try to help you understand why I believe this.


All of us, without exception, are sinners (Romans 3:23). By this I mean that we don't just merely sin, but that all of us have a nature which inclines us toward sin. Sin, then, becomes virtually inevitable. You may ask, how can this be? What is the basis for your belief original sin?


Paul tells us what original sin is: "Therefore as sin came into the world through ONE man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Romans 5:12). Here, Paul is speaking about Adam's sin in the garden of Eden. This thought is repeated in several different ways in the succeeding verses:


* "For if many died through ONE man's trespass" (Romans 5:15)


* "For the judgment following ONE trespass brought condemnation" (Romans 5:16)


* "If, because of ONE man's trespass, death reigned through that ONE man" (Romans 5:17)


* "Then as ONE man's trespass led to condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18)


* "For by ONE man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19)


The apostle Paul is arguing that because of Adam's sin, we now have condemnation; we were made sinners and that death is the consequence of sin. It all started with "ONE man's trespass" (Romans 5:15).


My understanding then, is as follows: As the above verses show, we become guilty of original sin, and thus receive both the corrupted nature that was Adam's after the fall, and the guilt and condemnation that attach to his sin. If you are wondering about infants, I firmly believe there is no condemnation until one reaches the age of responsibility, as shown in the account of David's child who died as an infant. He knew that he would see his child again (2 Samuel 12:23; there are other ways to support the age of accountability).


I believe that many people do not want to grasp the concept of sin. The idea of SIN as an inner force, an inherent condition, a controlling power, is largely ignored. People today think more in terms of SINS, that is, individual wrong acts, where they are something that is external and concrete; they are logically separable from the person. On this basis, if one has not done anything wrong (again, generally conceived as an external act), he considers himself good; there is no thought of sin, or that he is a sinful person. The problem with this thinking, is that we don't need to look at the heart, the inner person, where our thoughts reveal who we really are.


So, despite appearing to be a good person outwardly, "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23). The Bible not only affirms we are all sinners, but it also abundantly illustrates this fact. I am not just speaking about the blatant sinners who appear in the pages of Scripture, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4 and the thieves on the cross. I am including "good" people.


It's quite remarkable that Scripture presents the "good" people, the "righteous" people, and even the heroes of Scriptures as sinners. There are several examples of sinners in the Old Testament--Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. In the New Testament we read of the shortcomings of Jesus' disciples. Peter's sins brought him several rebukes from Jesus, the most severe being "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men (Matthew 16:23). Selfish ambition and pride were revealed not only in the attempt of James and John to be named to the places of authority at Jesus' right and left hands, but also in the resentment and indignation of the other disciples (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-27). This incident is all the more amazing in that it came not long after they had disputed which of them was the greatest, and Jesus had responded with a speech on the necessity of servanthood (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48).


What we can ask, how sinful is the sinner? How deep is our sin? Are we basically pure, with a positive inclination toward the good, or are we totally and absolutely corrupt? Jesus made the point of showing the inward nature of sin, in contrast to the Judaism of the Pharisees. Sin is very much a matter of inward thoughts and intentions. It's not enough that we don't commit murder---if we are angry with our brother we are liable to judgment (Matthew 5:21-22). It is not enough that we have abstained from committing adultery. If we lust after a person in our heart, we have committed adultery already (Matthew 5:27-28).


Jesus put it even more strongly in Matthew 12:33-35, where actions are regarded as coming from the heart. Our actions are what they are because we are what we are---sinners. It cannot be otherwise. Evil actions and words stem from the evil thoughts of the heart (Matthew 15:18-19).