Some time back I purchased and read The Miracle of Forgiveness based on a recommendation from Bill McKeever of Mormonism Research Ministry when he was speaking at one of the conferences we attended a few years back. In our pedestrian mall book table ministry we often encounter Mormons, so I have a “Mormon bag” in which I keep all the LDS standard works, the Smith translation of the Bible, various tracts and other material for engaging them in discussions. The book I am about to discuss is part of my “ammunition,” and I have prepared questions to ask the Mormon in regards to this book.
Some background for these questions to ask, many of which are based on parts of McKeever’s talk. The Mormon president from 1973 to 1985 was Spencer W. Kimball, and he wrote our subject book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. There are some Mormons who will try to refute it because Kimball was just an apostle when he wrote it, and therefore “it’s teachings are not authoritative.” However, this argument has some weak points that you can counter:
1. The book was reprinted when Kimball was president of the church. If there were errors in the book, why didn’t he correct it then, or why didn’t the Church itself correct it then?
2. So what if Kimball wrote the book when he was only an apostle; didn’t the New Testament apostles write most of the New Testament? If Mormonism is truly a “restoration” of Christianity, then why don’t Mormon apostles have the same authority as New Testament apostles?
3. It is displayed in the LDS Museum of History and Art in a huge display highlighting all the LDS presidents. Next to the painting of Kimball is a copy of his book preserved under glass. If it isn’t important, why is it preserved?
4. The 2004 Deseret Book (church owned book store) catalog said that The Miracle of Forgiveness is “a penetrating explanation of repentance and forgiveness that is illuminated with a bright hope for those who are searching for peace and security. It is a landmark work that has spoken with authority and insight for 35 years, bringing to bear President Spencer W. Kimball’s rich experience and the inspiration of his calling.” Later catalogs may also say something similar, but this is the last citation I have on file. The current web-site description is thus:
In The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Spencer W. Kimball gives a penetrating explanation of repentance and forgiveness and clarifies their implications for Church members. His in-depth approach shows that the need for forgiveness is universal; portrays the various facets of repentance; and emphasizes some of the more serous errors, particularly sexual ones, which afflict both modern society and Church members. Most important, he illuminates his message with the brightness of hope that even those who have gone grievously astray may find the way back to peace and security.
Okay. So now you have counter arguments to use if you are pooh-poohed, here are some questions for them:
1. Do you believe that mankind has the ability to “subdue the earth, to perfect himself and to become as God, omniscient and omnipotent”? (Pg 2). It would be interesting to know what answer you get.
2. Kimball said, “There are two basic requirements every soul must fulfill or he cannot attain to the great blessings offered. He must receive the ordinances and he must be faithful, overcoming his weaknesses. Hence, not all who claim to be Latter-day Saints will be exalted.” (pg. 9) In light of this statement, have you overcome all your weaknesses to the point of salvation?
3. Kimball said (pg. 16), that “All transgressions must be cleansed, all weaknesses must be overcome, before a person can attain to perfection and godhood.” Have all your transgressions been cleansed, all weaknesses overcome? If not, how do you expect to attain godhood? Kimball also said, “There is never a day in a man’s life when repentance is not essential to his well-being and eternal progress.” (pg. 32). Are you repenting daily? (Watch carefully as we go because the idea of repenting is a crucial point to make them think.)
4. In chapter 4 Kimball states, “Some would categorize as minor the sins discussed in this chapter, but when not repented of they will still keep us from eternal life.” Among the sins listed are the following:
a. Idolatry, an example of which is: “Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry.” Other examples given include not paying tithes. If the Mormon is married without children, hit him with the first part. Ask all single members if they are paying tithes.
b. Rebellion. This includes “criticism of authorities and leaders.” Has the person ever criticized anything about their leaders or authorities?
c. Sabbath-breakers. Kimball says that one is a Sabbath-breaker if they “buy commodities or entertainment on the Sabbath.. … If we buy, sell, trade, or support such on the Lord’s day we are rebellious as the children of Israel.” Hmm, this makes them guilty of that other eternal-life-losing sin of rebellion - a double whammy!
d. False witness. Kimball says this includes gossiping, being envious, being bitter, flattering others. Ask the Mormon if he is guilty of any of this.
e. Vulgar language. Has the Mormon ever used vulgar language?
f. Violation of the Word of Wisdom. Has the Mormon been faithful here?
g. Being ungrateful. Has the Mormon ever been ungrateful?
h. Being unmerciful. Has the Mormon ever lack mercy towards someone?
i. Anger. Has the Mormon ever been angry?
Kimball says any of these sins not repented of will cause a loss of eternal life. Wait until we get to what repentance means before you let them get away with that claim.
5. Kimball says this on p. 121: “Having received the necessary saving ordinances - baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances and sealings - one must live the covenants made. He must endure in faith. No matter how brilliant was the service rendered by the bishop or stake president or other person, if he falters later in his life and fails to live righteously ‘to the end’ the good works he did all stand in jeopardy.” Is the Mormon at all concerned that he may falter somewhere and lose everything?
Here is a real crucial teaching, that of what repentance is. All the foregoing is based on proper repentance in order to make it right and regain eternal life. So now we look at chapter 12 and Kimball’s teachings here.
“There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin.. …. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin.”
So, when you begin discussing whether or not the Mormon has repented so as to receive forgiveness and eternal life, you must watch for his claim of trying to abandon his sin. Kimball says that isn’t good enough. Kimball teaches that there is absolutely no forgiveness to eternal life without repentance. And look again at how he defined it - “abandonment of the sin.” He says that “repentance is inseparable from time. No one can repent on the cross, nor in prison, nor in custody. One must have the opportunity of committing wrong in order to be really repentant.” Kimball teaches that if the sin is repeated, all forgiveness of previous repentance is cancelled.
Look at this teaching and ask the Mormon if he has ever repeated a sin or even sinned again:
“To return to sin is most destructive to the morale of the individual and gives Satan another hand-hold on his victim. Those who feel that they can sin and be forgiven and then return to sin and be forgiven again and again must straighten out their thinking. Each previously forgiven sin is added to the new one and the whole gets to be a very heavy load.”
Can you see how devastating this teaching is? How can one ever be forgiven if each time one sins all forgiveness is revoked and all previous sins are added to the new one?!?! Ask the Mormon if they have ever sinned, and then ask if they have ceased sinning; if they haven’t, then they cannot be forgiven because they haven’t truly repented. To add insult to injury, Kimball says, “Discontinuance of sin must be permanent.” I wonder how he would have responded to 1 John 1:8?
Now we go to Chapter 15. This can be very devastating. Kimball says, “The Scripture is most precise. First, one repents. Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point. This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness. … That transgressor is not fully repentant who neglects his tithing, misses is meetings, breaks the Sabbath, fails in his family prayers, does not sustain the authorities of the Church, breaks the Word of Wisdom, does not love the Lord nor his fellowmen…. God cannot forgive unless the transgressor shows a true repentance which spreads to all areas of his life…..‘Doing the commandments’ includes the many activities required of the faithful, only a few of which are mentioned above.”
Has the Mormon never failed in any of these areas? Kimball is very clear - no forgiveness is granted! Kimball says that only by living all the commandments can a Mormon be sure he is forgiven, and that perfection is an achievable goal, and the time to become perfect is now, in this mortality, because there is no second chance. Ask the Mormon if he is living all the commandments and if not make sure he sees he is not forgiven until he does, and therefore cannot receive eternal life. I’m sure you can think of ways to prove he isn’t obeying all the commandments. Ask if he ever looked at a girl with lust! Ask him if he ever masturbates! (Kimball spends a good part of chapter 6 addressing this sin). Then remind him again of this by Kimball: “All transgressions must be cleansed, all weaknesses must be overcome, before a person can attain to perfection and godhood.” And then you can go in circles - to be forgiven all sins must be repented of, repentance means never repeating a sin, when a sin is committed all forgiveness is revoked and the old sin is added to the new one. If a person isn’t repentant, then he can’t be forgiven. If he doesn’t follow all the commandments, then he isn’t repentant. Isn’t that a vicious cycle? Oh, and don’t forget to mention that if they have ever failed to forgive someone’s sin against them, all forgiveness has been cancelled also.
Now, ask him what happens to him if he dies single; he will never be exalted. Kimball says, “Regardless of his virtues, the single person, or the one married for this life only, cannot be exalted.” This has to be done in the mortal life, not in the spiritual realm. “Exaltation is available only to righteous members of the Church of Jesus Christ; only to those who accept the gospel; only to those who have their endowments in holy temples of God and have been sealed for eternity and who then continue to live righteously throughout their lives.”
Do you see the difficulty with this salvation message? What a horrible burden they have to bear!
Well, this ought to give you plenty to work with to get them thinking about the lack of true assurance of salvation, an assurance that we as true Christians have.