When I talk with Latter-day Saints about sin and salvation, the conversation inevitably turns to the LDS idea of meriting God’s grace via personal worthiness coupled with repentance. During these conversations I find that, generally speaking, Mormons don’t seem to think about sin in the same way God talks about it in His Word. They don’t seem to grasp the seriousness of sin. They don’t seem to recognize the depth and breadth of the corruption of men’s hearts.
God says there are none righteous (no, not one). He says there are none who do good; that the intentions and desires of men’s hearts are evil continually (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:3; Genesis 6:5).
Christian preacher Charles Spurgeon explained:
“The essence of sin lies in its being committed against God. When men are fully convinced that they have disobeyed the Lord, and that this is ‘the head and font of their offending,’ then they are brought to a true perception of the character of sin. Hence David’s penitential psalm has for its acutest cry, ‘Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight’ (Psalm 51:4). Yet the sword of sin cuts both ways, it not only contends against God but against His creatures too. It is a double evil. Like a bursting shell, it scatters evil on every side. Every relationship which we sustain involves duty, and consequently, may be perverted into an occasion for sin. We are no sooner in this world than, as children, we sin against our parents; as members of a family we sin against brothers and sisters; and against playmates and acquaintances. We launch into the outside world, and…[our] sins dash like raging billows. As our various relations are multiplied, our sins increase also: we sin against a husband or wife, against a servant or against a master, against a buyer or a seller. On all sides the roots of our soul suck up sin from the earth in which they spread. We sin in public and sin in private, sin against our poverty and against our wealth. Our sin, drops on all who come under our shadow. As the sea surrounds all shores, so sin beats with deadly waves upon all connected with our life. Our hundred-handed sin assails both heaven and earth, time and eternity, great and small, old men and children.”
Our sin is so deep and so wide; the temptations so persistent; our righteous determination so prone to faltering. Like Paul, our proper response to a knowledge of our sin should be,
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
For deliverance is what we need. Repentance and trying hard to please God won’t cut it. Our sinfulness is too ingrained. The roots are way too deep.
Until we recognize, as Paul said, that “nothing good dwells in [us]” (Romans 7:18), we will not recognize our true hopelessness before God. Instead, we’ll think we can progress in righteousness (though perhaps in baby steps) by strengthening our resolve to prove our worthiness — which lies hidden somewhere within us. We’ll show God how good we can be, and He will welcome us into His kingdom. When I talk with Mormons, I find that this is the way many think about themselves and about their sin. But, according to God’s Word, this is not the way God thinks.
Isaiah heard the seraphim crying out, in the presence of God’s holiness, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). In that moment, Isaiah recognized his true hopelessness. He said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5). God purged Isaiah’s sin and took his iniquity away. God, in His mercy, delivered Isaiah, just as He will deliver all who recognize their hopelessness and call upon Him.
Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word!
Let my plea come before you;
deliver me according to your word.