Seeing Sin

May 13, 2017
6 min read

What are we? Are we this tabernacle of clay composed of water, carbon, and a host of chemicals and bacteria? These atoms that existed long before our birth and will continue long after our death?

As I have pondered questions such as these, I have concluded that core substance of our being is our mind. Some call it consciousness or the soul, LDS scripture calls it “intelligence,” (see Intelligence, Guide to the Scriptures) but I will address it here as the mind.

Aside from immortality or mortality, when you peel back the layers of God or man, there is a mind at the heart of each.

Between God and man is a vast gap. One of the most noticeable differences is that God is immortal, and we are not. The resurrection is a gift from God that raises us to his level concerning physical death. With that aspect of the gap aside, what then remains?

At this point, I think the key differences between God and us lie in the realms of knowledge, understanding, and intelligence; in other words, the constitution of the mind.

Thus the purpose of our existence involves narrowing and eventually extinguishing the gap. The result is that two become one, but how is this accomplished?

It is as if we are all on a journey to a destination without a real knowledge of how long we have traveled and how much further still our destination is. Are we waiting on God, or is he waiting on us? We sense that there must be something we can do, but what about grace? Are we to walk or run, or stand completely still? All of our difficulties in life come from limitations of our knowledge, understanding, and intelligence. If we could see things as God sees them, we could see, understand, and act much differently.

Defining sin

The fall of Adam shattered the sphere of innocence and introduced the capacity to sin into the world. The apostle James explained, “for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.” (James 4:17 NABRE) Sin is not a virus that infects the innocent; it is a state where we have consciously violated a law of God. Overcoming sin is not done through the strength of will, but happens through an enlightening of the understanding and an expansion of the mind. (Alma 32:34)

For example, nobody has to tell you repeatedly to stop eating filthy gum from underneath a table because you know what it is, where it came from, you understand the risks, and you act intelligently regarding it.

There is no difference in respect to overcoming sin. Proverbs 26:11 teaches that a fool returning to their folly is like a dog returning to its vomit. This graphic example illustrates how we, like the dog, engage in things that we would be disgusted by if we could only see and understand.

Seeing begins in the mind

Nephi understood this and asked God, “make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin.” (2 Nephi 4:31) The people of King Benjamin experienced a mighty change in their hearts and declared that they “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2) Likewise, Nephite high priests expressed that they “could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.” (Alma 13:12)

In the cases of King Benjamin’s people and the Nephite high priests, they mentioned that the catalyst for change involved “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent” which wrought a mighty change and being “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” respectively.

How does the Spirit of God do this? In questions 13 and 14 of Lecture 5, we learn a vital truth:

“Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind? They do. […] What is this mind? The Holy Spirit.”

I’m not trying to redefine or contradict the idea that the third member of the Godhead is an individual being. In scripture, it is not uncommon to find the Holy Spirit spoken of as an ‘it’ rather than a being, consider Moses 6:60:

“Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.”

In this light, consider the words of Lecture 5 as they relate to the effects of the Holy Spirit or the Mind of God upon us:

“…which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.” (Lecture 5:2)

How important is it that we possess the Mind of God? Consider the following verse:

“And Satan […] knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.” (Moses 4:6)

For his reasons, God has chosen not to reveal the identity or the mechanics of everything regarding the third member of the Godhead. Much is said, however, regarding the effects of the Spirit in our lives and what we can expect.

Understanding the Holy Spirit as the Mind of God, that which allows our minds to transcend the limited paradigms of mortality, is the key to becoming one with God and overcoming all things.

Repentance is understanding

Instead of repentance being about feeling bad and continually apologizing for failures, we can come to see it as pursuing enlightenment through the Spirit to obtain, “a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” (LDS Bible Dictionary)

The brother of Jared, “having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil […] therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him.” (Ether 3:20,26) The brother of Jared had obtained the Mind of God to the degree that he could see what God could see. Obtaining the Mind of God is what allows a seer to see, a prophet to prophesy, and a testator to testify.

The Lord has said, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.” (Ether 12:27) Where the world smugly cries, “blind faith!” the Book of Mormon teaches about an “eye of faith.” (Ether 12:19, Alma 32:40, Alma 5:15)

Humanity sins because they are “blind in their minds,” (3 Nephi 2:1) and do not see things as they are. Indeed, when the Spirit, the Mind of God, influences you, “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:34)

President Boyd K. Packer was right when he said:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (“Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

When we have the Mind of God, we understand. Focusing on the behavior is the effect rather than the cause, but understanding doctrine is key. Elder David A. Bednar wrote:

Thoughts and feelings put into our hearts by the Holy Ghost are a result of the spiritual gift of revelation. Understanding, then, is a revealed conclusion and a spiritual gift.” (Increase in Learning, p. 67)

We receive the ultimate realization of these blessings by way of the covenant of baptism. Moroni wrote: “And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ…” (Moroni 6:4)

With a clear vision of truth and error, we can fully act as agents and choose according to our desires and experience the joy that comes when we discover that our desires align with God’s.

1 Comment

  1. Really great thoughts!!!! I love this quote by Bruce R. McConkie about the spirit.

    Bruce R. McConkie
    Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
    (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], pp. 257-8)

    There is a spirit — the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, the light of truth, the light of Christ — that defies description and is beyond mortal comprehension. It is in us and in all things; it is around us and around all things; it fills the earth and the heavens and the universe. It is everywhere, in all immensity, without exception; it is an indwelling, immanent, ever-present, never-absent spirit. It has neither shape nor form nor personality. It is not an entity nor a person nor a personage. It has no agency, does not act independently, and exists not to act but to be acted upon. As far as we know, it has no substance and is not material, at least as we measure these things. It is variously described as light and life and law and truth and power. It is the light of Christ; it is the life that is in all things; it is the law by which all things are governed; it is truth shining forth in darkness; it is the power of God who sitteth upon his throne. It may be that it is also priesthood and faith and omnipotence, for these too are the power of God.
    This light of truth or light of Christ is seen in the light of the luminaries of heaven; it is the power by which the sun, moon, and stars, and the earth itself are made. It is the light that proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.” It is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.” It is the agency of God’s power; it is the means and way whereby “he comprehendeth all things,” so that “all things are before him, and all
    things are round about him.” It is the way whereby “he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.” Because of it, “all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.” (D&C 88:6-13, 41.)
    Thus, when the Mosaic account of the creation says that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2), and when Abraham records of those same events that “the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters” (Abraham 4:2), the revealed word is speaking of the light of Christ. And when Job says that “by his spirit [the Lord] hath garnished the heavens” (Job 26:13), and the Psalmist explains that all things were created because the Lord sent forth his spirit, by which also he “renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30), both are teaching the same truth. Creation itself came by the light of Christ.
    The light of Christ is neither the Holy Ghost nor the gift of the Holy Ghost; but that member of the Godhead, because he along with the Father and the Son is God, uses the light of Christ for his purposes. Thus spiritual gifts, the gifts of God meaning faith, miracles, prophecy, and all the rest — come from God by the power of the Holy Ghost. Men prophesy, for instance, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And yet Moroni says: “All these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ” (Moroni 10:17), meaning that the Holy Ghost uses the light of Christ to transmit his gifts. But the Spirit of Christ, by which the Holy Ghost operates, is no more the Holy Ghost himself than the light and heat of the sun are the sun itself.

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