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PATRICK - Had a non-confrontational conversation with a colleague recently about sin. He mentioned that all sin is sin and basically the same (he sais the Bible supports this). I agreed that by definition, there are many sins, and a sin is a sin. However, I feel that some sin is greater or more serious than the other. All requires repentance, and some sins may take more time to repent of. Is their scriptural documentation of this?
JOEL - You are both right. The scriptures tell us:
"For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;" (D&C 1:31-32)
And James said:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2: 10)
Any sin we commit brings us short of perfection and exaltation; it doesn't matter how small the sin. It's like noone can be just a little bit pregnant.
That being said there are a few sins that in the eyes of God might be worse than others, because for them there is no repentence possible, such as the unpardonable sins of blasphemy against the holy ghost and shedding of innocent blood(murder).
"Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:" (Mark 3: 28-29)
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." (1 Jn. 3: 15)
Alma said adultery is the second most serious sin next to murder (see Alma 39:3-5), but that comes from the Book of Mormon so it won't convince your friend.
Then there are the sins of ommission:
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James. 4:17.)
Most certainly a sin of omission, like not paying tithing, is not as bad as committing fornication. There are opinions of past church leaders who agree that there are different degrees of sin.
According to President Joseph F. Smith:
"We are of the opinion there are more grades or degrees of sin associated with the improper relationship of the sexes than of any other wrongdoing of which we have knowledge. They all involve a grave offense — the sin against chastity, but in numerous instances this sin is intensified by the breaking of sacred covenants, to which is sometimes added deceit, intimidation, or actual violence.
Much as all these sins are to be denounced and deplored, we can ourselves see a difference both in intent and consequence between the offense of a young couple, who, being betrothed, in an unguarded moment, without premeditation fall into sin, and that of the man, who having entered into holy places and made sacred covenants, plots to rob the wife of his neighbor of her virtue either by cunning or force and [who] accomplishes his vile intent." (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., p. 310.)
"Of course, there are different degrees of sin, and there is a difference in the degrees; but no man or woman, in listening to the confession of another, need pride himself or herself and say, "I am not a sinner" (George Q. Cannon).
"There are different sins, and there are different degrees of sin of the same kind. For instance, the word of the Lord has come to us that we must observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Some men disregard this commandment to the extent that they go to their fields and work upon the Sabbath day; some attend horse races, or theatres, or pleasure resorts, etc., on the Sabbath day. Others have advanced so far towards perfection in righteousness that they cannot look upon such conduct with toleration; it is sin and wickedness in their sight, and yet some of them, perhaps, will justify themselves in going out for a carriage ride, or an automobile ride, or perhaps remain at home on the Sabbath day, although the commandment is that we shall meet together, partake of the sacrament and
worship the Lord our God." (Elder George F. Richards, Conf. Report, April, 1911)
In Proverbs God seems to single out a few sins He hates worse than all others:
"These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Prov 6:16-19)
As Jesus stood on trial before Pilate He seems to suggest that one sin might be greater than another when he said:
"Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (John 19:11)
In this life and to the mortal man, sins may have different degrees of severity and consequences that we expereince as a result of committing the sin. The type of sins we commit may also determine which of the two lower kingdoms we enter in heaven after this life. But ultimately, in regards to our salvation in the Celestial Kingdom(where no sin is tolerated), it doesn't matter if there are "degrees" of sin, because any sin hinders our striving for perfection and disqualifies us from obtaining exaltation if we don't repent.