Heartbreak of the Mormon Gospel

In a recent article on Mormon Times, LDS author Orson Scott Card wrote a column about books. Books he’s seen, books he’s read, and “Mormon books [he’ll] do without.” Much of the article was written a bit tongue-in-cheek, but Mr. Card got serious when he wrote about the LDS mission he served in Brazil in the early 1970s.

“There have been church books that changed my life. On my mission, I read then-Apostle Spencer W. Kimball’s ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness,’ which was so warm and open and real that it touched my heart and gave me great hope, as I realized that this was a part of the gospel I was in Brazil to teach.”

I, too, read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” when I began my mission to bring the Gospel to Latter-day Saints. And like Mr. Card’s experience, it touched my heart, as well. But not in the same way.

When I read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” my heart broke for the LDS people. If Mr. Kimball’s teaching is believed, Latter-day Saints live under a sin burden from which they can never escape.

“The Miracle of Forgiveness” says that gaining forgiveness for sins requires the successful completion of a six-step repentance process, which includes a permanent abandonment of sin and keeping all the commandments of God. In other words, to be forgiven one must reach a state of perfection:

“Eternal life hangs in the balance awaiting the works of men. This process toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through the perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us… Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.” (page 208-209)

“Repentance must involve an all-out, total surrender to the program of the Lord. That transgressor is not fully repentant who neglects his tithing, misses his 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. A reforming adulterer who drinks or curses is not repentant. The repenting burglar who has sex play is not ready for forgiveness. God cannot forgive unless the transgressor shows a true repentance which spreads to all areas of his life.” (page 203)

“There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin. Desire is not sufficient. In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his ways and started on a new path… the saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life. Trying is not sufficient.” (page 163)

Christian friends, is this not heartbreaking? The “gospel” Orson Scott Card was sent to Brazil to preach was that “the repentance which merits forgiveness” is found in one’s own work and worthiness. One must perfectly and completely abandon all sin, and then (as Moroni 10:32 in the Book of Mormon states) Christ’s grace is applied. This is an impossible gospel.

Furthermore, “The Miracle of Forgiveness” maligns the genuine Good News, the biblical Gospel of grace:

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.” (pages 206-207)

The Bible does not agree with Spencer W. Kimball. The Bible does not teach “that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). The Bible teaches that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). We do not earn or merit forgiveness by keeping the all the commandments of God; rather, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The Good News is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Indeed, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5).

Pastor John Piper wrote,

“Forgiveness costs us nothing. All our costly obedience is the fruit, not the root, of being forgiven. That’s why we call it grace. But it cost Jesus His life. That is why we call it just. Oh, how precious is the news that God does not hold our sins against us! And how beautiful is Christ, whose blood made it right for God to do this.” (Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, page 37)

Yes, in the Gospel given to us in God’s Word there is much to rejoice over. Jesus came to remove our yoke of slavery and our burden of sin. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47).


For Further reading:

The LDS Repentance Quiz
Bill McKeever’s review of The Miracle of Forgiveness

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Forgiveness, Gospel, Grace, Repentance, Salvation. Bookmark the permalink.

157 Responses to Heartbreak of the Mormon Gospel

  1. GRCluff says:

    Berean said:

    “Must we list the side-by-side differences between the two faiths again and again? Please do some basic research on your own. I would like to recommend that you get your information about Christianity from sources outside of the LDS.”

    No please don’t list the differences again. We are well aware of each of them, we just disagree on were truth lies.

    We don’t even agree on the proper approach for “basic research”.

    My proper approach for basic research will engage my correct source– prayer. The answers to my prayers are the foundation of my faith.

    Somehow I don’t think that is what you intended.

    So, to be clear. When you say “I would like to recommend that you get your information about Christianity from sources outside of the LDS.”

    Since my “source” is direct communication with God and the witness of the Holy Spirit in answer to my prayers, I really don’t think that could be a source outside of the LDS.

    Your source to me is the “wisdom of men” spoken of by Paul, (1 Cor 2:1-5) while my source of truth is the Power of God, which I continue to believe is the witness of the Holy Ghost.

    To get on the same page, you have to seek the same witness that I have recieved. I will continue to reject the “wisdom of men” as a false foundation for faith.

    falcon said:
    “What is the foundation of the Mormon religion and the Mormon god? You won’t address that. The Biblical God has nothing in common with the Mormon god.”

    Why do you say I won’t address the foundation for the Mormon religion? I just did exactly that above in response to Berean. It was NOT the first time that I discuss the “Mormon foundation”. It is the continuing witness of the Holy Spirit. A quite correct foundation I might add.

    Do we need to begin the “foundation of apostles and prophets” discussion again? Again, revelation, both personal and prophetic is our foundation. I discuss it constantly, so don’t continue to tell me I don’t.

  2. LDSSTITANIC says:

    Cluff…I would continue to ask for any text in the Bible (read in it’s own context…not Cluff making it say what it doesn’t directly state) where we are told to rely on the inner witness of the Holy Spirit for direction as opposed to written Scripture which our elder brothers in the faith (Jews) taught us quite well.

    Or can you find a text which states that the “power of God” is anything other than the Gospel…Jesus…the preaching of the cross? I’d be happy to look into that further but I have never found anything that even remotely suggests such a thing.

  3. 4givn says:

    Mr. defender, Foundation? Try this on. “Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava!For I will come out on top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A (large) majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesusever did it. Iboast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesusran away from Him; but the LDS never ran away (yet)… When they get rid of me, the devil will also go. Joseph Smith jr.(history of the church vol.6 p408,409) That dosn’t sound like the foundation is Christ to me. And as for salvation, that is recieved through faith in Christ. The contingencies you speek of are the trick of the devil, things that will never amount to anything. Grace is a gift from God that is not earned. Faith is the vessel which all of the works will flow from. Freewill, is the only thing that can merky up the water as to become “blind” in your faith. That is something that comes from the heart which contains so many things which are not pleasing to God. You should do something to show your salvation, but that is easy as faith is the producer of that (CTR). Repentance is also easy to do for it is from faith. The Commandments are but impossible for us to keep truly according to Christ. Sin can start with a thought. If the sinful part of the heart dwells on it, it comes even closer to becoming an action. In the (wilderness)society, the influences of the devil can be camoflaged so easily that you must stay in the WORD to ensure that you don’t become confused and slip into the feelings which can “blind” us. The strive to do good works without them being added to you is in vain. We can never(on this earth) do as Christ has done for we have the heart of mortals. Pile up what ever you want, it will never add up to the fullfilment of what we recieve through Christ. Please leave these Cristians be. They have some “works” to do. W/love

  4. DefenderOfTheFaith says:

    4 Givn:
    Nice quote. I will admit that JS did have a flare on occasion. I can’t say that I blame him, given his circumstances. That has no bearing on his status as a prophet, nor does that make it the foundation of our faith. Is your foundation on David the adulterer, or Peter the ear-hatchet man, or Saul the Christian-slayer? Of course not. Prophets are men nonetheless. Their comments have never been a complete test of their divine calling.

    You said, “And as for salvation, that is recieved through faith in Christ.” That, my friend, is a contingency. If contingencies are the trick of the devil, then you have been tricked. You can call it whatever you want, if salvation requires faith then it is contingent on faith. Does one have salvation who does not have faith? According to your definition (which is a correct one) faith is a prerequisite to salvation. Is faith a free gift? If so, everyone must have it. If they don’t, why not. Because they have not RECEIVED it. Any how do they receive the free gift? By FAITH. It is a contingency plan by every conceivable explanation. Note: I have said nothing of someone EARNING it. I think everyone has agreed that salvation is contingent on Faith. Our HUGE chasm comes with the defintion of faith. I have been trying for weeks now to establish that Faith is necessary for salvation. The scriptures are clear on that. You have stated that yourself. There is no way to proceed unless we agree on this. I just want a yes/no answer. Is Faith necessary for Salvation?

    TRUE FAITH is ALL that is required for salvation in the very fullest sense. That is LDS doctrine. However, true faith leads one down the path of gospel obedience (with all the ordinances). It has nothing to do with earning something, rather we are becoming something through faith. I am not trying to get Evangelicals to admit anything. But our view of FAITH is vastly different and needs careful examination

  5. 4givn says:

    Faith is what a man receives from hearing the Gospel, seeing things with their eyes, etc. The only measure that is certain is that God can see what is in a mans heart. There has been numerous discussions on what constitutes faith. No matter what makes sense to a man, God is the Judge of his character and knows what he holds dear to. The mere fact that Smith could not forgive the people, which hated his hypocrisy to what has been tought for 1800 years, shows that he truly didn’t believe that he was forgiven for Christ’s sake. A forgiven man will hate evil, but not return evil, with evil. That is the love, which a man of the Lord, would just simply turn his cheek and pray for the one that has hated him. The time that Smith,which you speak of, is no differant than the time of Christ, Moses, or even the present day. The only differance is in the years. You seem to try to justify your zealousness in trying to make sense of something that God only understands. Those contingencies you worry about are from your heart, that has not changed from the time of Adam, when they were also deceived by the devil. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5 Than tell me what it is that you try to strive to obtain. W/LOVE

  6. Eric the Red says:


    In Mormon theology general salvation is gratis, no faith required. Contrary to what you said, faith is not all that is required. In Mormon theology, nothing is required to receive Christ’s atonement. Reread the quotes I gave from your church’s authoritative writings. Full salvation in Mormon theology has everything to do with earning something. This is the rub. Full salvation for a Christian is all of grace. I will dwell with God through grace alone in the finished work of Christ. My works, my faithfulness, will have nothing to do with whether or not I dwell with God for all eternity. Do you believe that good works are necessary for you to dwell with heavenly father?

  7. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    This has been a great conversation, but as folks have been drifting toward more personal comments, the time has come to bring it to a close. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful participation.

Comments are closed.