One of the reasons I started this blog was to provide personal motivation for gospel study. I like to think that by sharing insights and commentary on some aspect of the gospel in written form, that it becomes clearer to me and solidifies my thinking. This is the same reason I always get more out of a talk or a lesson that I prepare – because of the hours of study behind the summary.
I’ll warn you up front that this essay is going to be a little bit deep and perhaps a little out there, even for me. If you’ve been following my blog you know that I have tackled a few subjects that might be considered controversial. I’ve tried to address a lot of the things that I have read about in the Ex-Mormon and Anti-Mormon websites, mainly because I wondered how I would answer.
I’ll cut right to the point. We believe that one of the purposes of this life is to prove to ourselves and to the Lord that we are on his side when it comes to the fight against evil. Right now, a very visible part of that fight is centered in Proposition 8 in California. Voice of Deseret wondered in a recent essay if LDS opponents of the initiative should resign their membership in the church.
Administrative action removes membership
Some may not be aware that membership in the LDS Church can be easily terminated by a simple administrative action. You simply write a letter to the Bishop explaining that you would like to have your name removed from the records of the church. The bishop has the ward clerk fill out the appropriate form, attach the letter and send it off to Salt Lake. That’s it. You’re out.
Deseret Dawg was immediately taken to task for suggesting such a course of action. I can tell you from my own knowledge that there are some faithful members of the church who will vote no on Proposition 8 next week. The Bishop will not take away temple recommends and they will not be labeled bad people or anti-family. We are not forced to participate in the yes campaign.
But what about those people like Andrew Callahan who choose not to go the administrative action route and forced the church to proceed with disciplinary action because of his very vocal and active fight against the church on this issue? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to simply resign his membership? What has caused him and others to fight so hard against the church?
Doubt, dissent and apostasy
Deseret Dawg writes about those members of the church who fight against the First Presidency request that we give of our time and means to ensure the passage of Proposition 8. He then goes on to discuss a little bit about apostasy and becoming a son of perdition. However, I don’t think he fully develops the point, probably because it was in the concluding section of his essay.
I’d like to investigate that a little more. What does it mean to fight against the work of the Lord? Just how far is too far in expressing dissent and opposing the leadership of the church? I had an interesting dialog with Paul Toscano, part of the September Six, focused on this very subject as we discussed the doctrine of the Godhead on an earlier essay here on Latter-day Commentary.
From my experience, doubt and dissent are acceptable within the church as long as you either keep it to yourself or express it in such a way so as to not cause others to doubt or disbelieve. It is only when you actively strive to persuade others to disbelieve or to a course of action that is contrary to the commandments as taught in the church that you go down that road to apostasy.
Becoming a son of perdition
From what I understand about this doctrine that is not uniquely LDS, it is next to impossible to become a son of perdition. One must have a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and then link themselves to Lucifer and come out in open rebellion against Jesus Christ and his work to save mankind.
Sons of perdition are not merely wicked; they are incorrigibly evil. In sinning against the revelations of the Holy Ghost, they have sinned against the greater light and knowledge of God. They willfully and utterly pervert principles of righteousness and truth with which they were once endowed, and transform them into principles of evil and deception to destroy others.
The gravest of all sins is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. One may speak even against Jesus Christ in ignorance and, upon repentance, be forgiven, but knowingly to sin against the Holy Ghost by denying its influence after having received it is unpardonable, and the consequences are inescapable. Such denial dooms the perpetrator to the hell of the second spiritual death
The unpardonable sin
This extreme judgment comes because the person sins knowingly against the light, thereby severing himself from the redeeming grace of Christ. He is numbered with the sons of perdition. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “No man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, nor in this life, until he receives the Holy Ghost.”
To commit the unpardonable sin, a person “must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him…. he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened to him, and to deny the Plan of Salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it.”
If people have such knowledge and willfully turn altogether away, it is a sin against light, a sin against the Holy Ghost, and figuratively “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Such remain as though there were no Atonement, except that they shall be resurrected from the dead. Awful is the state of those who sin against the Holy Ghost.
Summary and conclusion
I have been taught all my life and I believe that there are relatively few men who could become sons of perdition. I suppose that is because there are few who can say that they have had the heavens opened to them and have had the Savior revealed to them. Those who have had this experience don’t talk about it. For most of us, a testimony without open vision is sufficient.
So it is doubtful that those who fight against the work of the Lord, even those who are former members of the LDS Church who are now doing everything in their power to promote same-sex marriage and defeat proposition 8 (or proposition 102 in Arizona) are anywhere near to being considered candidates to suffer the fate of those sons of perdition who deny the Holy Ghost.
I have read the writings of many former members, some returned missionaries and some who served in leadership positions in the church. I have yet to read anything that provided evidence that they at one time knew the Lord and had been recipients of open visions. I am of the opinion that there are very few today who will be consigned to the terrible fate of the sons of perdition.