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Earth Life: More about Overcoming Sin
In the Mormon view, mankind’s purpose here on earth is to continue to struggle to become more like our perfect Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Spiritually immature as ever and now without the benefits that come from being in God’s immediate presence, all of us here on earth are sinners, and with each sin the distance between us and God grows greater. Sin — which Mormons define as acting in ways known to be contrary to God’s will — makes us unhappy in this life and disqualifies us to stand in God’s presence in the next.
Jesus Christ is the central figure in God’s plan for us.
Fortunately, Jesus Christ kept the promise He made in the pre-mortal existence. He came to earth and lived a perfect life, providing the perfect example for us to emulate. Towards the end of His life, in a garden called Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary, Mormons believe that Jesus took upon Himself the sins of mankind
, paying through His suffering the price we could never pay, making it possible for us to be forgiven on condition of our repentance and compliance with His will. In the Mormon view, sin can be overcome when men and women first make a good-faith effort to follow Jesus. Imperfect as we are, however, we inevitably fall short; Jesus pays the difference, freeing us from sin and helping us move forward in our personal progression. By requiring us to try our best to follow Him but making up the difference when we inevitably fall short, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ neither eliminates our personal responsibility nor expects us to succeed on our own without His merciful intervention. ()
(Scriptures: Jesus Christ’s Role in God’s Plan)
But what is the nature of this personal responsibility? What must we do to take advantage of the atoning sacrifice Jesus Christ has made available to us? What are the steps we must take to begin this life-long journey? Mormons call the initial steps the “First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel.” The principles are two.
- First, one must accept Jesus Christ by having faith in Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
- Second, one must repent. Mormon repentance includes feeling sorrow for having knowingly chosen to act contrary to God’s will, asking God for forgiveness, doing all possible to correct problems caused by sinful actions, and turning away from sin to do it no more. Because we are imperfect and continuously sin, repentance is a life-long process rather than a one-time event. Mormons believe that we must apply Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in our lives time and time again as we strive to grow closer to God.
(Scriptures: Faith in Jesus Christ)
The initial ordinances are also two.
- First, one must signify his or her willingness to follow Jesus Christ by being baptized by one with authority given of God. Mormons believe that baptism is the symbol God the Father and Jesus Christ have chosen to represent one’s decision to become a member of their Church and to follow their example to the end. In Mormon theology baptism must be by immersion because of important Biblical symbolism: entering into the water represents a burial, the end of the old life; coming out of the water represents a resurrection, the beginning of a new life as a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ. Mormon baptism includes a covenant (two-way promise) with God. We promise to accept Jesus, become His follower, and keep His commandments to the end. God promises that our sins will be forgiven as we continue to repent and strive to follow Jesus’ perfect example.
- After baptism comes the gift of the Holy Ghost, which Jesus also called “being born of the spirit.” The Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead together with the Father and Jesus Christ, can be our constant companion, helping us recognize spiritual truths, providing us with strength to choose the right, and comforting us in times of trial. Mormons believe that the gift of the Holy Ghost is given exclusively by the “laying on of hands” by those who have authority given from God.
(Scriptures: Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost)
Of course none of these principles and ordinances guarantee salvation. What spiritual progress is there in accepting Jesus Christ only to subsequently put Him on the back burner? What good does it do to be baptized but then to abandon the faith? God requires a continual commitment. After taking the initial steps described above, Mormons believe we must endure to the end, striving always to leave our sins behind us as we grow and progress in Jesus Christ.
The Life to Come
Eventually our mortal bodies will succumb to death. For Mormons, death is not the end; rather, death is just another step on the path of progression. Upon our death, our mortal bodies and our immortal spirits are once again separated. Our spirits are sent to what Mormons call “the spirit world,” where humankind continues to progress as it did here on earth, although without physical bodies. Those who have not learned to control their physical passions will certainly suffer; imagine, for example, having acquired psychological addictions to things like cigarettes or promiscuity in this life but lacking a physical body to satisfy those uncontrolled passions in the next. While we continue to be capable of repentance, progress, and change through Jesus’ sacrifice in the spirit world, it is certainly advantageous for us to learn to control our passions and sinful tendencies in this life.
(Scriptures: The Spirit World)
The Resurrection and the Day of Judgment
A modern-day apostle’s Easter thoughts on Christ
At a future day, Mormons believe that all will receive immortal bodies. Spirit and body will once again be reunited in a process called resurrection
. With this resurrection, one of the key differences between the Father and His children will be eliminated; we will all be granted immortal bodies like our Father’s.
(Scriptures: The Resurrection)
Mormons see spiritual development, however, as another matter. Despite any spiritual progress hopefully made through repentance and the application of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we will still fall far short of the Father’s perfect example of spiritual maturity. On the day of judgment, Mormons believe that Jesus will evaluate our personal effort to follow Him, taking into consideration the knowledge and opportunities that were afforded each of us.
(Scriptures: The Day of Judgment)
After the Day of Judgment
After the day of judgment, those who have made an extraordinary effort to follow God the Father and Jesus Christ will be allowed to continue to progress eternally under their direct tutelage and in their immediate presence. Contrary to the allegations of some, Mormons do not believe that this eternal progression, which we call exaltation, will enable us to become greater than God or His Son Jesus; Mormons, like all Christians, will always worship our Father as our Creator and Jesus Christ as our Savior. Rather, under the loving, paternal guidance of Jesus Christ and God the Father, those who have demonstrated an extraordinary desire to follow God will be given the opportunity to continue to develop the divine within them.
(Scriptures: Eternal Progression)
Mormons recognize, however, that there will be many who will not have been particularly valiant in following the perfect example of God the Father and Jesus Christ. While these are not extraordinary in their convictions, they hardly deserve an eternal punishment. According to Mormon theology their progress will be limited, but the “lukewarm” will nevertheless be granted a state of eternal happiness, similar to what most “non-Mormons” would call “heaven.” ()
Rarely, some have openly rebelled against God the Father and Jesus Christ. These are sent to a place of eternal punishment similar in many regards to what most “non-Mormons” would call “hell.”
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