What is sin?

For those interested, here is the Sacrament talk I gave this Sunday:

Sacrament Talk St Martin 05/17/15:                 WHAT IS SIN?

I will talk about three principles: Bad thoughts, Judging others, Accidents

Bad thoughts:       If you have a bad thought, is it a sin?      No!

This might seem an odd answer given these well-known scriptures:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence. (Alma 12:14)

 Again, is being tempted, or having a bad thought, a sin?   NO!   WHY?

 The answer comes from answering another question:

HOW does Satan tempt us?    God has given Satan the power to tempt us.

In the pre-mortal life there was a war in Heaven. Satan and 1/3 of the host of heaven was at war with God over the agency of man. Satan was cast out of Heaven and into this earth. Why did God send Satan and those that followed him here on earth? It was so Satan could tempt us—giving us a trial of our faith to see if we would choose to do good, or choose to do evil.

** Satan tempts us by placing bad thoughts in our minds. **

 Satan does not have a physical body. God has given Satan the power to tempt us—not by force, but by placing bad/evil/negative thoughts into our minds.

 How do we KNOW that bad thoughts are not a sin?

 Because even Christ, who was perfect, had bad thoughts and was tempted!

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was left to be tempted of the devil. (Matthew 4:1-2 JST)

(Speaking of Christ) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

How did Satan tempt Christ? The same way Satan tempts us—by placing bad thoughts into our minds!

What turns a temptation, or bad thought, into a sin?

Using our agency to choose to act upon a bad thought leads to sin.

It is not a sin until we ACT upon the bad thought!

Example:    the thought comes to steal some candy

Just because you had the thought does not make you a bad person, or that you have sinned. It is what you do with that thought that makes the difference. If you choose to continue to ponder the evil thought and act upon it, then it becomes a sin.

 Example:    you look at a pretty woman

If you see a pretty woman and a bad thought comes into your mind, that does not make you a bad person or that you have sinned. It is what you do with that thought that makes the difference. If you look upon the woman to lust after her, it becomes a sin…you used your agency and chose to let your mind go to that evil place.

Definition of Sin:

 Sin is the transgression of divine law. A man sins when he vio­lates his conscience, going contrary to light and knowledge – not the light and knowledge that has come to his neighbor, but that which has come to himself. He sins when he does the opposite of what he knows to be right. Up to that point he only blunders. One may suffer painful consequences for only blundering, but he cannot commit sin unless he knows better than to do the thing in which the sin consists. One must have a con­science before he can violate it. (Cowley and Whitney on Doc­trine, pp. 435-36)

How did Christ deal with the evil thoughts he had?

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:3-4)

Satan placed a thought in Christ’s mind: turn these stones to bread—a selfish request to perform a miracle for his own benefit. Christ fought the temptation by using scripture: Man does not live by bread alone, but by the word of God!

The Prophets have taught that we can do the same thing—fight bad thoughts and temptations by using scriptures we have memorized, or hymns, or other ways to train our minds to cast out evil thoughts and to focus on positive thoughts.

Accidents             If you have an accident, is that a sin?

Example:     You are distracted while driving and accidentally kill someone with your car.           Is this a sin?         NO!  

Remember the definition of sin:

Sin is the transgression of divine law. A man sins when he vio­lates his conscience, going contrary to light and knowledge – not the light and knowledge that has come to his neighbor, but that which has come to himself. He sins when he does the opposite of what he knows to be right. Up to that point he only blunders. One may suffer painful consequences for only blundering, but he cannot commit sin unless he knows better than to do the thing in which the sin consists. One must have a con­science before he can violate it. (Cowley and Whitney on Doc­trine, pp. 435-36)

We experience many problems and painful consequences to our actions that have nothing to do with breaking a commandment or sinning. These problems are just a part of the Telestial world in which we live—something we must learn to overcome and endure. They are just more trials/tests for us here on earth. But do not confuse the nature of this Telestial world (with all its problems and trials) with sin! They are NOT the same thing!

How would this example become a sin?

If you hit the woman on purpose, causing her death, then it would be a sin.

Accidents still have consequences! But they are not sins!

In order to commit a sin you must choose to sin!

Yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease to pesti­lence and by reason of the weakness of the flesh and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed prin­ciple to say that such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death for all flesh is subject to death and the Savior has said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, p 15)

We may foolishly bring unhappiness and trouble, even suffer­ing, upon ourselves. These are not regarded as penalties im­posed by a displeased Creator. They are part of the lessons of life, part of the test. (Boyd K Packer, Conference Report, Oct 1980:29)

Judging others

One of the most common sins in the Church is judging others.

This often comes from true doctrine that is simply carried too far:

For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil. Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil… For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:11-17)

This is a true doctrine: by their fruits ye shall know them!

Unfortunately, some have taken this true doctrine and distorted it, by saying:

          If something bad happens to a person it means they have sinned or they are being punished by God for something they have done.

People often judge others who are having trials:

He must have sinned or he is just getting what he deserved!

The Jews believed this doctrine, but Christ taught this way of thinking was false!

         And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be manifest in him. (John 9:1-3)

Bad things happen to ALL people!

When bad things happen to people it does not mean they are bad or have sinned. It is just a part of the Telestial world on which we live.

Instead of judging people, have compassion on them. Instead of condemning them, bless them and help them!

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One Response to What is sin?

  1. Joy McMullin says:

    Great talk!!
    We are really enjoying hearing about your experiences. What lucky young missionaries to have you there with them.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Joy

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