Impossible gospel

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"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." (Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 163)
Part of the series on the

Miracle of Forgiveness
1 Nephi 3:7
2 Nephi 25:23
Moroni 10:32
Merit, earning, and worthiness
Personal worthiness

"Who can say, 'I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin'?" - Proverbs 20:9

The "impossible gospel" is a presentation to Mormons showing the hopelessness and impossibility of the Mormon gospel. It attempts to help Mormons reflect on the actual teachings of Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. It is designed to remove the complacency and lack of urgency most Mormons have toward their own teachings on the gospel.

For peace of mind, Mormons appeal to generalized notions of mercy and forgiveness, and use alternate definitions of "keeping the commandments" and "repentance" and "all you can do" (depending on how manageable or unmanageable their sin is). This is done to avoid thinking about the specific requirements of the official definition of repentance. These alternate definitions contradict what their own religion teachings about the demands of obedience and steps of repentance. These alternate definitions usually come from popular non-authoritative sources, like Stephen E. Robinson's Believing Christ. The "impossible gospel" presentation confronts a Mormon with the highest standards of their own religion from more authoritative Mormon sources. It can be presented in a non-threatening way, using many questions that help him or her to think about answers.




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The following presentation derives largely from the work of Tim Martin, Timothy Oliver, Keith Walker, and Bill McKeever.

"And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to atake them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain..." - Alma 24:11
"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." - D&C 58:42-43
"Eternal life hangs in the balance awaiting the works of men. This process toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection." (Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 208)
"And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins." - Alma 11:37

[edit] Underlying principles of the presentation

[edit] Law before gospel

Proponents of this method believe that the law must be presented in order to fully understand the gospel message. This stems from biblical passages found in Romans and Galatians which link the law and the gospel closely together.

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:19-20
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. - Galatians 3:24

[edit] The helpfulness of questions

Asking questions relieves a person from the accusation that words are being put in the mouth of LDS. However, one must be careful in the sort of questions being asked. That is, a Mormon could accuse a person of asking manipulative questions which back them into a corner. This does not mean that an evangelist cannot have an agenda (i.e. desiring the salvation of the LDS person), but questions should not be asked with a hidden intent where an LDS person may feel lied to at a later point.

[edit] Main parts of the presentation

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"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." - Moroni 10:32 (emphasis added)

Modern interpretations try to remove the time element from "after", and the conditional "if... then". The term "all" is also downplayed whereas the text seems to clearly state that all ungodliness must be denied.

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." - 2 Nephi 25:23

Many Mormons haven't thought about the meaning of this verse. It is helpful to ask them specific questions about it.

"I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." - 1 Nephi 3:7

[edit] Attempted loopholes

All things consider, the following loopholes can be generalized as follows: "It's OK that we can't live up the requirements for receiving the blessings of the savior, because we have the savior."

[edit] That's what repentance is for

"That's why we have the gift of repentance."

All things considered, this is essentially like saying, "It's ok that we can't fulfill the requirements of the six steps of repentance, because we have repentance." Ask the Mormon if he can list the six steps of repentance, and help him list them all:

  1. Faith in Heavenly Father and in Jesus Christ
  2. Sorrow for sin
  3. Confession
  4. Successful abandonment of sin
  5. Restitution
  6. Righteous living ("Living all the commandments")

Then ask him if he has fulfilled all six steps. Ask, "Does uncompleted repentance count?"

[edit] That's why we take our covenants at sacrament

"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Book of Moroni 4:3, Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).

All things considered, this is like saying, "It's OK that we can't live up to the requirements of the covenant we make at sacrament, because we have the sacrament." Remind the Mormon that he or she is a repeat covenant-breaker, failing every week to do what was promised at sacrament.

[edit] That's why we have the atonement

All things considered, this is like saying, "It's OK that we can't live up to the requirements for receiving the atonement, because we have the atonement."

"Should choices be wrong, there is a path back: repentance. When its conditions are fully met, the Atonement of the Savior provides a release from the demands of justice for the errors made." - Richard G. Scott[1]

Help the Mormon see that they have yet to live up to the requirements set down in Mormonism for taking advantage of the atonement. They have yet to prove themselves worthy of the atonement by keeping all the commandments.

[edit] Complete repentance not possible in this life

"It's impossible to completely repent in this life."

"I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." - 1 Nephi 3:7
See related article: Perfection

[edit] Repentance possible in the next life

"I can wait until after death to finish the repentance process."

Help the Mormon see that this belief contradicts the Book of Mormon:

"And now, my brethren, I would that, after ye have received so many witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, ye come forth and bring fruit unto repentance. Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked." - Alma 34:30-35
"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever." - Book of Abraham 3:25-26

[edit] Alternative definitions of repentance

"Just try your best, and Jesus will do the rest."

If you have already asked the Mormon if they are sure they would go to the Celestial Kingdom and they said no (which is a likely answer), then remind them that they must not being doing their best. If they were, they could have assurance of their destination.

Also, establish that doing their "best" means perfection in Mormonism. (See the above section, "Complete repentance not possible in this life".)

See related article: Repentance

[edit] Transitioning to the gospel

Do not transition to the gospel until you see the Spirit working through the law to convict a person of their sins. If this is the case, they will stop raising loopholes and objections, and they might get quiet. Some wonderful passages to bring them to are Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 4:4-8, and Titus 3:5.

[edit] Offline resources

[edit] Quotes

[edit] Notes

  1. Richard G. Scott, "Have No Regrets". Fireside address given at Brigham Young University on 12 September 1999.

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

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