"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
September 3, 2014
What's the Problem with Sin?
by Kathryn Grant

It was one of those mornings when the universe seemed bent on making me late to work. After getting frustrated with obstacles and interruptions, I was feeling a bit distant from my Heavenly Father. So as I began my commute, I knew I needed to calm down, pray, and repent.

I started my prayer by saying, "I know You don't like it when I get frustrated like that..." when, to my surprise, this impression immediately came into my mind: "I don't like it because it hurts you!"

Wow. Talk about putting things in perspective.

If there’s one thing we mortals often misunderstand, it’s the real problem with sin. From our limited perspective, sometimes we think sin is only wrong because God arbitrarily said so, and if He’d just say it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be sin anymore.

Sure, we see negative effects of major sins like murder or robbery. But really, what’s the big deal if we don’t exactly keep other smaller commandments? For instance, is the Church going to go under if I don’t pay my tithing? Is it really such a big deal if I spend some time on the Sabbath doing non-Sabbath-type activities, or if I refuse to serve, or if I complain instead of being grateful?

But I’ve become convinced that sin isn’t sin merely because God said so. Sin is sin because, whether we realize it or not, it literally wounds our souls in ways we can't heal on our own. When God calls something “sin,” He is speaking the truth, not attaching negative connotations and consequences to an otherwise harmless action.

And if we can’t heal the wounds of sin ourselves, how are we healed? Only through the atonement of a perfect, sinless God, who literally took our sins upon Himself. And this is a vital point: these wounds to our souls don’t just vanish, gone because God “said so.” Stephen Robinson expressed it this way:

God uses no magic wand to simply wave bad things into nonexistence. The sins that he remits, he remits by making them his own and suffering them. The pain and heartaches that he relieves, he relieves by suffering them himself. These things can be shared and absorbed, but they cannot simply be wished or waved away. They must be suffered. (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ.)

I love these words of Terry Warner, who said the Lord “absorbed the terrible poison of vengeance into Himself and metabolized it by His love.” (“Honest, Simple, Solid, True,” BYU Devotional, 16 January 1996; emphasis added.)

So when we speak of Christ paying for our sins, we’re not talking about God writing some kind of divine check from a comfortable distance to cover the damage. We’re talking about a very personal, intimate sacrifice, motivated by love: Jesus literally heals us by taking our wounds into Himself and overcoming them.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16); Jesus “washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5).

“Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me” (Hymn 193).

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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