Mormonism and Christianity/Grace and works/Unforgivable sin

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Mormonism and the "unforgivable sin"

Summary: Why did LDS apostle Bruce McConkie write that a man may commit a sin so grievous that it will place him beyond the atoning blood of Christ (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, p. 93) when the Bible says that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7)?

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Question: Is there an "unforgivable sin" that is beyond the reach of Christ's atonement?

Jesus taught that there was an unforgivable sin

Why did LDS apostle Bruce McConkie write that a man may commit a sin so grievous that it will place him beyond the atoning blood of Christ (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, p. 93) when the Bible says that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7)?

Bruce R. McConkie's book "Mormon Doctrine" is not an official publication of the LDS Church.

In this particular case, however, Elder McConkie is in good company since Jesus taught that there was an unforgivable sin:

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31–32, emphasis added)

Latter-day Saints understand the "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" to be rejecting the atonement of Christ when one has a perfect knowledge of it

Thus, it seems that 1 John is best interpreted as meaning that any forgivable sin is cleansed through—and only through—the blood of Christ. Latter-day Saints understand the "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" to be rejecting the atonement of Christ when one has a perfect knowledge of it.

John later qualifies his statement making clear there is a sin that is unforgivable.

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it 1 John 5:1.

The counsel here is to pray for those who sin unless they have committed the "sin unto death" which cannot be forgiven. Obviously, if one rejects the atonement of Christ, one cannot be saved by it, and so one will not be forgiven for that sin.


Question: What must one do in order to become a "Son of Perdition"?

D&C 76:31-32 lays out the criteria for being a son of perdition

31 Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—

32 They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;

Therefore, the criteria for becoming a "son of perdition" are:

  1. Know God's power
  2. Deny that power

If we argue that women are not capable of this, which of these two things are we saying that women are not capable of? Obviously they are capable of the first and if they aren't capable of the second, then that completely flies in the face of agency.

It is possible that the idea that women are not capable of perdition is part of a phenomenon of so-called "woman worship" that sometimes goes on at church—we may see elements of this in Brigham Young's conviction that women are more pure, and less tainted by the sins of the world, and thus do not risk utter damnation in quite the same way. Social factors also doubtless played a role, since the dangerous enemies of the Church in the 19th century were virtually all men. Social factors should also be considered, since Victorian thought tended to speak of women in exalted, angelic terms—the view was that women were responsible to civilize men and help them control their baser instincts, and their domestic domain was thereby a refuge from the corruption and competition the man's workaday world.

In a modern manifestation of "woman worship," men in the Church often put themselves down, praising the sisters, saying their wives are more righteous than they are, that there are "more women in heaven," mothers are all angels, and so on. It's a nice sentiment, but:

  • it may be incorrect–how can we know?
  • it can come across as condescending, even if intended sincerely; and
  • it does not do justice to the variety of the female mortal experience.

Men who think that women are, as a whole, better may not know enough women or perhaps don't know the women they do know well enough. Women are generally socialized to be social networkers and are on average more concerned with the social consequences to their actions (e.g., hurting someone's feelings, betraying someone, being embarrassed, etc.).

The reality is that women are just as human and flawed as men, and capable of good and evil to the same capacity as men. They are simply different and therefore prone to different behaviors. But, on the other hand, perhaps some of this difference in style protects them from the type of behaviors that merit perdition. If so, one can hardly complain.

One other possible reason for the idea that women may be excluded from perdition comes to mind. Motherhood is often set up as the female parallel of male priesthood. The scriptures teach that a man's priesthood comes to an end when he does not live worthily of it D&C 121:37. As far as we know, there is no such limit placed on a woman's access to her motherhood. Even women who have never physically borne children are still considered mothers. Mos 4:26 A man's priesthood can be taken from him but maybe a woman's analogous power, her motherhood, is differently -- and perhaps more permanently -- attached to her.


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