Reflections on The Dilemma of “Warning Against Sin” Without Destroying Hope and Motivation to Change
By Ken K. Gourdin
Overemphasizing the dangers of sin, the difficulty in repenting, and the residual consequences that may remain even after one has repented may lead one who has succumbed to sin to lose hope and to believe that repentance (and resulting purification) isn’t possible. Emphasizing such things can also lead to confusion if one sees someone who occasionally partakes of pornography (or other things considered sinful according to the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ) yet seems relatively normal, well adjusted, and something less than, for example, a completely crazed sex fiend.
However, downplaying the dangers of sin, the difficulty in repenting, and the residual consequences that may remain even after one has repented might lead one to accept such justifications as, “Just this once,” or “a little won’t hurt,” or “you can stop any time you want to”—until once becomes dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of times, and “just a little” becomes more than a lot, and “you can stop any time you want to” is a preface to “after all, you’ve ‘stopped’ hundreds (or thousands) of times before.”
So where is the middle ground between these two extremes? I have no idea. I hope, and have faith, that God guides my leaders who consider such questions and who are charged with dealing with individual cases as Judges in Israel. Isaiah 1:18 doesn’t say, “Though your sins be as scarlet, repentance will turn them more of a faint pinkish hue.” It says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
While I know that I could do a better job of availing myself of these blessings (can’t we all?), I also know that the Atonement, and Repentance, and the Peace that they bring, are real. And I know that none of us, regardless of what sins we have (or have not) committed (“big” or “little”) can make it, as Joanne, Jim’s wife in the movie The Prodigal Son, tells him, “halfway through this life or into the next without the Savior.”