An LDS young woman visited my Sunday School class yesterday. She has submitted her mission papers in anticipation of serving a mission, but hasn’t yet received her call1. She was invited to church by a co-worker, who is a member of our class.
The class is currently studying couples from the Old Testament, and yesterday we discussed the relationship of Hosea and Gomer as told in Hosea 1-3. This chapter draws numerous parallels to God’s relationship with man and centers around the concept of unconditional forgiveness.
Hosea was a prophet during a time when the northern kingdom of Israel was acting particularly rebellious. As a sort of reality object lesson, God commands Hosea to take an adulterous woman as his wife2. Hosea subsequently buys Gomer’s freedom3 from her life of prostitution and she later gives birth to three children4. Through Hosea, God tells the Israelites that they are not his children, but that one day they will be in the same way that Gomer was once a prostitute but is now the wife of a prophet5.
At one point in our discussion, a member of the class raised an important question: are we ever told whether Gomer showed fruits of repentance, or was Hosea resigned to deal with her unfaithfulness all his life? We are not told in the text whether Gomer ever cleaned herself up. In fact, the Bible leaves wide-open the possibility that her second and third children may not have even been Hosea’s. One would hope that Gomer eventually repented and reciprocated Hosea’s love. Unfortunately, the scriptures simply do not say.
To that idea, the young lady responded with the following statement. I know this is not a direct quote, but I’ve kept as closely as I can to her actual words.
I think it’s good that we don’t find out whether Gomer repented or not. We are commanded to forgive others unconditionally. We should always forgive other people whether or not they ever repay us for the wrongs they committed.
This is just like Heavenly Father. He always has his arms outstretched and is willing to forgive us if we will turn to Him in repentance.
Her statement illustrates something I have known indirectly for some time, but only recently began to seriously contemplate: Mormons have two different definitions for forgiveness, and I don’t think many of them even realize it. According to Mormonism, the forgiveness we are commanded to grant others should be unconditional, but God’s forgiveness is said to have conditions attached.
In conversation with her later, I restated her comments back to her to be sure I had heard correctly. She confirmed that I had. When I proceeded to point out to her the obvious inconsistency, she remarked that she had never thought of it that way. She then rescinded her remarks and agreed with me that God’s forgiveness is the same as what he requires of us. I didn’t get much more time to talk with her, but I got the impression that she has never studied these issues in any depth, and was merely agreeing with me to avoid an argument.
I believe a correct understanding of forgiveness is vital in relating properly to God and Christ. God’s forgiveness is unconditional. He has accepted us as his children in the same way Hosea was commanded to take Gomer—all our sins and shortcomings included6. As Hosea paid a price for Gomer, Jesus paid the ultimate price for us on the cross7. Since he purchased us with his blood, there is nothing we can or should do to merit our own salvation. It is solely by grace through faith8.
Evangelicals and Mormons can argue all day long about things like Baptism for the Dead or the Trinity, and many Evangelicals will say that Mormons aren’t Christians because they don’t accept the creeds or various theological views of Evangelicalism, but these should not be our criteria. A person should be considered Christian solely on their understanding of the gospel. Does the person believe that Christ died for them and has justified them by grace alone, or are there strings attached? Attaching strings to the work that Jesus finished9 on the cross would be to insult him and his perfect work.
- Mormon missionaries do not choose where they will go on their two year missions. They submit paperwork to church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah and wait to receive a letter directly from the President of the church. The President, who is considered a prophet, allegedly consults God and through revelation is told where the prospective missionary should serve. In this way, the young man or woman’s mission call is said to have come directly from the Lord. ⤺
- Hosea 1:2 ⤺
- Hosea 3:2 ⤺
- Hosea 1:3-9 ⤺
- Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 2:23 ⤺
- Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4-5 ⤺
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Revelation 5:9 ⤺
- Ephesians 2:8-9 ⤺
- John 19:30; Hebrews 12:2; Hebrews 10:11-14 ⤺