What Mormons believe, part 2

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 0 comments

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
2nd Article of faith

Herein lies doctrine that I find sweet and compelling, and very personal, but so often taken for granted, or overlooked by many Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

This simple sentence explores the profound depth of difference between consequences and accountability.

Adam fell when he transgressed the law of God by partaking of the forbidden fruit, and by so doing, was cast out of the Garden of Eden, becoming mortal.  Because of that transgression, we too, are mortal, and as such, we live under the consequence of Adam’s decision.  But we are not accountable for it.

This is a profound principle, and one that has a much broader application.

Each of us grows up under the consequence of our parent’s (or ancestor’s) decisions.  Those consequences make up the environment of our past.  Some grew up in another religion, or with no religion.  Some grew up in abusive families.  Some grew up in poverty, and some in wealth.  Some grew up under the staining effect of racism, or with countless other derogatory views.

Those are the blocks with which we build (see my post on building blocks here).   

But that’s not what we’re held accountable for.  Rather we’re held accountable for our own actions.  It’s what we DO with those blocks that matter.  Some are faced with the challenge of overcoming great adversity.  Others, in perhaps an equally difficult manner, are required to hold higher an already high standard.

How often do we find ourselves blaming our parents or our past for our actions today? 

In short, we each have challenges inherent in the heritage we receive from the consequences of our parents actions, for good or for ill, but what matters in the eyes of God, is what we do on our own.

Hence my post “My story, why I think we’re not limited by our past“.

May we all be a little less focused on what we’ve been given, and a little more focused on what constructive things we can do with them.


For related posts, see also “It is what you make of it“, “A psalm of life“, “The Builders“, “Life Sculptor“, “The danger of reflection“.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ponderingpastor May 1, 2008 at 5:13 AM

Good morning Rusty.
The 2nd Article of Faith you post is important. “We believe that men [people] will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” I have a few comments from the Christian perspective. First, if this is meant to suggest that Christians believe that we are punished for “Adam’s transgression” (which I take to mean “original sin”), that could not be further from the truth. We are accountable (sort of … but more about that later) for our own sin. However, and this is important, Scripture indicates several examples of the reality that people are punished for the sins of their families. Witness 1 Samuel 3:13 and Exodus 20:5 as examples. So if one trusts the witness of scripture, the 2nd Article of Faith is already found to be false. Additionally, if faith in Christ makes us righteous, then we are not punished for our sins, but rather Christ’s death and resurrection provided the “satisfaction” for our sins … he took on the punishment for us. For LDS to use 2nd Article of Faith separate from the atonement of Jesus is quite puzzling to me. The Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed of Christianity only state that Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and the New Testament makes clear that those who have been baptized and believe have been made right with God … as if there is no sin.
Peace to you.

From Rusty

I think it sounds like there is a lot of common ground here, for I believe basically all of what you’ve spoken. To answer your question, it’s not meant to imply that other Christian faiths don’t believe in this principle, but is rather included because it’s so core to us, this concept of individual free agency, and our accountability for our own actions.

Additionally, we believe the same way you do, that upon accepting the Savior, and repenting of our sins, the atonement of Christ makes intercession, such that we can be forgiven and made pure again. An incredible gift, and something we seem to have in common. The second article of faith simply states that we’re accountable for our own sins, but we don’t need to be punished for them, if we will accept Christ and repent.

The scriptures you reference that talk about people being punished for the sins of their parents are not in disagreement either. In my comments within this post, that’s what I define as living under the consequences of our parent’s (or ancestors) actions. But our individual accountability is restricted to our own accountability.


2 ponderingpastor May 1, 2008 at 5:54 AM

I might add, that I’m responding more to the Article of Faith itself rather than your comments about it. You do express some insights into the difference between consequence and punishment. The challenge is that the OT references use “punishment” as the term. I’ll also grant, as I read the Articles of Faith in their entirety, that they build one upon the other. I will argue, however, that there are serious flaws in most of the Articles of Faith.

From Rusty

It’ll be fun to explore those together as we work through them. I appreciate your continued discussion!


3 jonseabourn May 1, 2008 at 5:17 PM

rusty, i stumbled across your blog and am intrigued by your progression through the lds articles of faith. thanks for the open discussion you are allowing.

it seems that your distinction between “consequence” and “accountability” is splitting hairs pretty finely, but not necessarily incorrectly. a question: in your understanding, what is the “consequence” of adam’s transgression? based on that answer, how was adam “accountable” for this transgession?

secondly, is this 2nd article of faith derived from the bible or from the book of mormon? i ask because as i read the bible, it seems to speak differently than what the article of faith expresses.

From Rusty

I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I think it’s valuable to simply discuss things openly.

Now, on to your question… Mormons definitely believe in the bible, where indeed part of this is derived. Genesis 3:16-19 articulates the specific consequences of Adam (and Eve’s) transgression. In essence, they were forced to leave the Garden of Eden, and from then on would have to toil and work to survive (whereas before all things were provided for them), and were made to offer sacrifices unto the Lord.

In terms of the origination of the 2nd article of faith, it is founded on principles taught in both books, for the Book of Mormon isn’t a replacement for the Bible, but merely supports it. Hence, the teachings are found to be the same.

For context, since I imagine someone is likely to ask the question… just as the Bible is a collection of books (or accounts) by prophets who lived in and around Jerusalem, the Book of Mormon is a collection of books by prophets who existed in the Western Hemisphere.

If one is to believe that God is unchanging, and his works are continuous, then it stands to reason that in the same way there were prophets who led and taught His people in one place (and wrote about it) there would likely be the same kind of record found in other places, since God is no respecter of persons, and loves all men equally.

The value behind this is clear. If you were to take only one of the books of the Bible, it would be difficult to derive the full spectrum of Christ’s teachings from it. Hence the value of all the books combined. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John all cover the life of our Savior, and each provides unique insight into his life in ways that we’d miss if we only had one account. So in the same way the books in the Bible serve to support each other, and expand our view and understanding of the gospel, so too do the records of other prophets that lived elsewhere.

So that’s the long way of saying, it came from neither one nor the other, but rather from both. Did that even come close to answering your question? LOL.


4 Archie May 1, 2008 at 5:23 PM

The 2nd article of faith is so intriguing, I can’t wait for the 3rd article to be published. Send me the link when it comes out.


5 nearlynormalized May 1, 2008 at 7:55 PM

Do you really believe in that propaganda?

From Rusty:

Certainly. What one views as inspiration and truth, another may view as… well, not. Such has always been the case, and ever will be. My aim is not to convince you to believe, for only a divine witness should do that, but rather to help present my beliefs as I understand them, so that those who desire to know of their truth, might be better able to do so.

But while you may disagree, on this blog, I require all comments to be respectful, as mine will always be in return. I don’t mind you (or anyone) questioning my faith, but using the term “propeganda” for something I apparently hold so dear, is, well… just not very nice. 😉


6 jonseabourn May 2, 2008 at 6:08 AM

Rusty – if the “consequence” of adam’s sin is that he is removed from the garden and must work for sustenance for the rest of his days, then what are sinners today “removed” from? when i read the bible it talks about death being the consequence. what do you think?

also, can you apply your distinction of “consequence” and “accountability” to adam? i am still trying to understand the difference. if the consequence was to be removed from the garden, then how was adam “accountable” for his sin?

thanks for your response

From Rusty

Yours is a very important question. I talked about this in depth on my comment to the Pondering Pastor here, where I elaborate on the laws of Mercy and Justice. But in essence, there were two primary consequences of Adams transgression.

First, he became mortal, which means he (and by extension, all his posterity) would inevitably suffer a physical death. Christ’s resurrection allows us to overcome that physical death, that we too might be resurrected and live again.

The second consequence was that he was cut off from God, being cast out of the Garden of Eden. In a similar way, our sin cuts us off from God, causing us to be unholy (for no unholy thing can dwell in the presence of God). So the consequence of our Sin is separation from God. The Atonement of Christ, however, allows Him to pay the price of justice, so that we might again become holy.

To answer your second question, the consequence of Adam’s transgression was that he was cast out of the garden, and became mortal (and so would die). So he suffered the consequence (as now do we), but in his case, he was accountable for that action, since it was he who committed it. His disobedience made him unholy (so he could no longer dwell with God), so by the same token I described above, the atonement of Christ made it possible for him to be completely forgiven for the actions for which he was accountable.

In contrast, we suffer the consequences of Adam’s transgression, as we too are mortal, but are not held spiritually accountable (or made unholy) by those actions, since they were not our own.

Did that help clarify things at all?


7 jonseabourn May 2, 2008 at 3:07 PM

thanks for your response. if i follow what you are saying, then when a person is born, they are not under any judgment (or accountability) for sin, they are merely mortal. therefore, a person can live a life without sinning and would not need Christ’s atonement for sin. though i guess, from above, the person would still die a mortal. is this correct?

From Rusty

That is correct. We are accountable only for our own sins, so when we are born, we are pure. We are mortal, and subject to death, but pure. Unfortunately, our mortality also ensures that we will not be perfect, will inevitably sin, thereby finding ourselves in need of Christ’s atonement.


8 jonseabourn May 3, 2008 at 5:32 PM

how does mortality ensure that a person will not be perfect and sin? it seems that if people are pure when they are born, then it would be easier to prevent them from sinning rather than Jesus having to die and be resurrected to pay for their sins, doesn’t it?

From Rusty

I certainly agree, and that is the aim – “Sin Prevention”! Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible for a mortal to go their entire life without sinning, we are… well entirely imperfect. I’ll try to see if there are scriptural references about mans inability to be perfect (without Christ). Thanks for the question.


9 birdwing7 May 11, 2008 at 6:59 PM

I’m not sure this scripture speaks to the question of sin’s inevitability, but Romans 3:23-25 says:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;


10 George W. S. May 13, 2008 at 3:07 PM

i have been thinking about this very same subject (sin). It seems God wants us to forgive others without retaliation but He doesn’t seem to be able to do the same thing that he commands of us. He requires a ‘sacrafice’ (His Son). Why is that? Why can’t we forgive our neighbor and then kill his dog as a sacrafice? (ok that wasn’t the best analogy, but I know you know what I am talking about. I can’t get around the idea that he demands more from us than He is willing to do. Why can’t He just forgive like the rest of us morals have too? Please don’t throw the ole “justice” factor at me, there is no justice when we forgive the person who just murdered my mother (for example).

I’m so terribly sorry. You’re being forced to go through something that nobody should have to go through, and I can’t even begin to comprehend what that must be like. It makes your question all the more poignant.

Please know that my attempt to address your question in no way infers that I think the task before you is any less difficult.

From my perspective, it seems His is the more difficult position. Let me explain…

The law of justice is eternal; it’s a law of consequence… that every action creates an undeniable penalty, or a price that must be paid. In the case of your mother, there is still justice; there is still a price that will have to be paid, either by him, or through our Savior’s atonement.

But whether or not he accepts Christ, repents of his sins, and is able to benefit from the power of the atonement only God will know. He will be the only one with enough knowledge to judge accordingly, which is why we’re required to simply forgive (sacrificing the notion of revenge and punishment). God is willing to forgive too, on conditions of repentance. His sacrifice is His Son – the willingness to let Him suffer in order to pay the price for such wickedness.

When I think about our two positions… I would rather be required forgive without question, my only sacrifice being the gratification of my anger, rather than having to see my own son sacrificed so that I might be able to forgive him.

In neither case is it easy. I can’t even begin to appreciate the difficulty of the task you face, since nothing of that magnitude has ever been required of me, so I speak by principle alone, not intending to sound immune to the pain of your situation.


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