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Friday, January 11, 2008

What is the punishment for sin?

Is the punishment for sin (in terms of an eternal perspective) just the absence of the reward (living with God) or is there an additional punishment? I realize that there are sometimes immediate punishments for sin particularly if you violate a law. But what about when this life is over? Is the punishment for sin simply the negative consequence of how your sin affects your life right now, or is there an additional punishment dealt out by God after this life is over?

19 comments:

Dan and Wendy said...

That's a good question, which made me stop and think for a while. My initial thoughts were that to be cut off form God is definitely suffering, but that seems to just represent an absence of blessings I could've received had I been more faithful.. Then I got to thinking about the suffering the Lord went through in the Garden of Gethsemane, and it changed my thinking a bit. If we read D&C 19:15-20, it appears that the suffering also has a more real, and tangible application. Also D&C 78:4 talks of being turned over to the buffetings of Satan, which I doubt will be a very pleasant experience.

Robby C said...

Dan and Wendy, Thanks for your comment. The scriptures you quoted are very interesting. Definitely there was suffering taking place in the garden. I wonder though, is the suffering the punishment, or is the suffering caused by the punishment. At first it may seem that there isn't a difference, but let me see if I can explain. If somebody in our society commits a crime we send them to prison. This is the punishment. While in prison the person may suffer. The suffering is caused by the punishment of being in prison. It seems that something must cause the suffering, whether it be a beating, a seperation, guilt, whatever. Something must cause the suffering. This is the distiction that I think exists between punishment and suffering. Punishment is what causes the suffering.
D&C 19:15-20 definitely says there will be some suffering for sin, either Christ or us if we don't repent, but what will be the punishment that will cause the suffering?

Anonymous said...

I would think there would be some type of punishment after death because as a part of the plan of salvation there is a judgement day which all will be accountable for their sins and thus be placed in the "class system" or one of the three kingdoms. If the only consequences of sins were immediate and had no punishments after death then what would the "judgement" day be for? However, if the only consequences of our choices were on earth and immediate then we would probably feel better about our own salvation.

Dallas said...

Here are my thoughts on this topic. Sorry I can’t quote any prophets or Scripture for this one, just what I believe.

This all came about while during a class I had on Nuclear Physics and the discussion of electron spin. For those not familiar with this concept let me try to give a super brief description. All electrons are give a property called spin. This is either “spin up” or “spin down.” In order to get to higher energy levels these spins have to be in a particular order (i.e. up, up, up, down, up.)

Now the human body is filled with countless numbers of electrons all with this spin this going on. I believe that sin causes our electron spins to be out of the correct alignment. As we repent we are actually realigning our electron spins with that of Heavenly beings.

Here are some thing that back up my hypothesis. It is said that without certain Priesthoods we could not stand in the presence of God. Well if our electron spin was out of alignment with God, it would be like a huge magnet, God being the north pole us the south pole. There are also stories of people after they are “truly converted” to the Lord they start to glow. Or Heavenly Messengers “far brighter than the sun.” If the electron spins where aligned enough for a high energy level. Would it put out light?

What do you think? Maybe I am just crazy.

Robby C said...

Dallas, that is an interesting idea. I've also been developing a theory about the physical "mark" that sin leaves on us, though mine's not on quite as quantum of a level as yours. I'll post it sometime when I get the details worked out. Anyway, from your post, I'm assuming that your view on the punishment of sin is being separated from God by a repulsion on the quantum level. Do you feel there is any other additional punishment? I guess I'm trying to nail down what punishment Christ recieved to cause his suffering during the atonement. I am assuming it is a punishment that we will recieve if we don't repent and make use of the atonement.

Dallas said...

Robby, as far as any other punishment for sin, if you are going with my model of electron spin. Lower levels could would effect the atoms and even cells to mutate. If we thing of cancer we can see the effects of sin. I am not advocating that people with caner are evil sinners, rather cancer a form of mutation. With all of this going on multiple seeming small sins could lead to fatigue, effects on personality, or even being more susceptible to possession of evil spirits like Brigham Young taught in the Journal of Discourses volume three, the last sermon.

Robby C said...

Dallas, I may be putting words in your mouth, so let me know if my interpretation isn’t right. In relation to the question I think this is what you are saying. The punishment for sin will be both in this life and the life to come. In this life it is manifested physically in the form of fatigue, disease, etc. and then in the world to come by a separation. If I understand correctly I’m still assuming that the punishment is a natural consequence of sin and not a punishment handed out by God. I’m still wondering, in relation to your theory, what Christ suffering in the Garden was? According to your theory, do you think he was suffering the physical pains associated with the fatigue, disease, etc. that sin causes in this life, or was he suffering the agony of separation that will be experienced in the next life? Perhaps both or something else entirely?

Robby C said...

I thought of an analogy to illustrate my original question which is this, does God actually hand out a punishment, or does he just let the natural consequences of sin take care of the punishment.
I teach school. Though I know it may be hard to believe, often times student’s behavior isn’t always perfect. When students misbehave I have a couple of options.

Option #1 - I punish the students. In the “old days” that may have even involved a physical beating, although these days we are much more limited in the punishments we can hand out. Still, a student may be punished with extra work, a writing assignment, a trip to the principal’s office, suspension or even expulsion. Point is, I hand out a punishment.

Option #2 - I don’t hand out a punishment, I let the natural consequences of the behavior serve as punishment. That is, they didn’t pay attention to the lecture, so they will fail the test, perhaps fail the class, not graduate, etc.

In all reality the natural consequences are still in play in option#1, but there is an additional punishment handed out by the teacher.

In both cases, the student may realize what he has done at some point and come to me after school, say he is sorry and ask for me to teach him the material so he can avoid failing the test.

So hopefully you have made the connections.
Teacher = God
Student = Us
Misbehavior = Sin
Coming in after school = Repentance

So what do you think? Does God go with option #1, hand out a punishment for sin. Or does he go with option #2, the punishment is the natural consequence of sin.

Jenny said...

I don't know, option #1 just doesn't seem to feel right to me. I mean, if God is handing out punishments, isn't that like God causing bad things to happen to people. I guess I've always just believed that God allowed bad things to happen because of peoples free agency, but not that he caused bad things to happen to people, especially because of sin.

Dallas said...

When you ask option #1 or #2 I feel like I am at the optometrist and he is flipping the lens’s and they are different, but you don’t really know which one is better. It all depends on whose glasses we are looking through. Of course we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of god and need to repent to return to him , but option one just looks like some scare tactic taught in Sunday school or by the Nazi Regime to enforce a good attitude. Don’t sin or you will be punished.

Lets take Honesty for example, and claim that lying is a sin. I work hard in my life and try to be honest, but I can’t help but see others who I feel are dishonest, and it doesn’t appear to me that they are getting any punishment from God for this. There is always the thought, “just wait until they die then they will get there own.” I don’t believe that.

Option two seems good, but I have always been taught that when we sin we lose the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Without the Holy Ghost I might not be able to be guided as much, which in turn might bring what I seem as a punishment from god. However this might just be the natural occurrence of things. If we go by what actually happens I tend to think Option #2, but what we perceive happens is probably Option #1.

Dallas said...

Robby, as far as what Christ felt in Gethsemane, I have wondered this a lot. In fact it is on my list of visions I want to see, if I ever get around to developing spiritual gifts. I definitely believe that through what he felt there he is able to understand us better in our sin filled lives. But as to what it was, I believe that it was the fatigue, disease, separation we have from heavenly beings. Basically anything that would help him understand how we feel in this life.

Also there might be something doctrinal that took place that caused the pain also. I believe in a progression of sorts. Meaning that Jesus Christ will eventually go on to become a God the Father. It is easier to go with the “God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator” trinity that Joseph Smith used to explain this. For this let us assume that right now Christ is a “God the Redeemer” and that God the Father is a “God the Creator.” At some point “God the Redeemer” will become a “God the Creator.” When this is I do not know. But going with the electron spin model I have presented. I pose a question, Is the spin of Redeemer and Creator different? If it is somehow a Redeemers Molecules would need to change to a Creators. This change could have taken place in Gethsemane. Causing some of the pain also. What do you think.

This is just a new Theory that I have been toying with. Please feel free to poke holes in it and let me know how wrong and apostate like I am.

Robby C said...

There is one more option here that I didn't bring up yet. I thought I'd let everyone chew on #1 and #2 for a bit. The third option I have found is definitely the most effective and I'm sure that if you were a parent of a student in my class is the option you'd want me to choose. It is also the option that I'd feel most comfortable with God using, though I'm not sure if he does or not. Here it is.
Option #3
I don't wait for the student to come in and ask for help before or after school. I don't let them fail the test because they didn't listen. I know that the student did not get the concept from the lecture and so rather than let them fail the test, I go to the student during class, reteach the lesson to them whether they want me to or not, stand right there and make sure they do a few problems so I know for sure they know how to do it, and then go do the same thing for all the students in the same boat. Rather than let the student suffer the consequences of their bad behavior, I forgive, help, and get them on the right track, all without any repentance on the part of the student. Which class would you rather your child be in. One where the teacher chose option #1, #2, or #3. Which one does God use? I sure like the sound of #3. If I did any less in my classroom I'd feel like I wasn't being the best teacher, yet forgiveness from God without repentance? Does that fly in our Mormon doctrine?

Dallas said...

Robby, I like your idea of option #3. Yet it seems with this option the "teacher" could stack the deck for his students if he was willing. It would seem that the student would have a certain # of Hoops to jump through and the teacher would make sure that student jumped though them.

One thing that caught my mind after reading this a few time is it seems like another plan I heard of in Moses 4:1 "...I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it..." It seems like it would be a fine line between option #3 and this plan.

Robby C said...

Dallas, I'm not sure I get what you mean by

"Yet it seems with this option the "teacher" could stack the deck for his students if he was willing."

Do you think option #3 is a viable action for God with regards to punishment? Option #3 being that there is no additional punishment and He will do everything that he can to help us avoid the punishment of the natural concequence, and all this without a repentance on our part.

Dallas said...

Before I can say that Option #3 is viable for God's Plan, you are going to have to show me how it is different that the Plan Lucifer put forth in Moses 4:1. The obvious difference is the glory part, but nonetheless this teacher is making sure no matter what the kid can't fail.

As far as the stacking the deck. This option seems that the teachers biases could come into play. They could spend time modeling the favorite students to certain things. If a student was to be a prophet, this teacher could see that they passes all the required tests to become the prophet. Regardless of whether the student wanted to or not. It seems to me that agency is limited in this model. That is what I implied by stacking the deck.

Robby C said...

O.K. I see what you mean. I need to explain myself better so we are on the same page. I'm thinking in terms of punishment and you're thinking in terms of reward or success. In my analogy, failing the test would be the punishment. Though I didn't mention it, passing the test then, would be the reward or success.
In option #3, just because the teacher approaches the student and does what is in their power to help the student avoid the punishment of the natural consequence (failing the test), doesn't necessarily guarantee that the student will succeed (pass the test). There is still a whole lot that needs to happen before that can be determined and most of it still depends on the student. Did the student complete the assignment? Did the students study for the test? Did the student show up for the test?

Let me try again with a different example.
Somebody commits a sin. In the process of committing this sin they offend us. We also know that because of this sin they are going to suffer some consequences which will not come form us. Three options.
Option #1: We say "ah, let them suffer", plus punch them in the nose. (Punishment because of natural consequences, plus and additional punishment)
Option #2: We say "ah, let them suffer." But don't punch them in the nose. Only after they come to us , repent, and ask for our forgiveness do we help them try to avoid the suffering that will be caused by the natural consequences.
Option #3: Even though the person is unrepentant we forgive them anyway and do all we can to help them avoid the suffering that will be caused by the natural consequences.

I think I would feel pretty comfortable teaching in Sunday School that we should follow option #3 as we interact with others. I would feel a bit weird teaching option #2. Telling people to let others suffer unless they come to you with a repentant attitude and ask for forgiveness doesn't seem very Christlike. I think if I told people to do option #1 I wouldn't be teaching for much longer. So how does it apply to God. If I had to pick one that seems the closest to what I've been taught I'd have to go with #2. We have to show the initiative, come to God and repent. Then he will forgive us and bless us. Why is it that it that option #2 doesn't feel right when we talk in terms of how we treat each other, but seems to be right when we talk in terms of how God treats us?
I think this is hard for me to express because I keep relating the punishments to those that we experience here on earth. I guess getting back to my original question, I don't know what the punishment for sin is. Is it just the punishment we experience here on earth? Is it guilt? Is it that we will be beaten when this life is over? After we die will we be put in a fire and feel the pain of burning? What is or will be our punishment?

Anonymous said...

As far as the punishment goes I believe that our punishment is really what happens on earth. The punishment that we are supposed to receive in the after life is supposed to be judgment day. I believe that judgment day is a mere formality. In 2 Nephi 9:14 it says that the unclean will have a perfect knowledge of themselves and their guilt while the righteous will have a perfect knowledge of their joy. Judgment day will not miraculously change us from who we have become on earth. Therefore we have already passed judgment on ourselves and judgment day is just a formality more than anything. In D&C 88:22-24 it says point blank that if you cannot abide by certain laws then you cannot abide in that kingdom. The glories that one will receive in the after life seem to be quite black and white. It is not like school where a student has an 89% and the teacher bumps him/her up to an 90% in order for them to get an A- instead of a B+. I don't believe the after life works that way.

Dallas said...

Let me see if I can understand you some more. I think you are trying to pinpoint exactly our punishment on earth and the next life. Our punishments are going to be in both places. Our guilt and stuff is defiantly a factor for on earth, but lack of Eternal Progression is defiantly a punishment in the next life. Let me see if I can explain a point, in Human Progression we start out lying, learn to roll over, learn to crawl, learn to walk etc. Once we are adults it would be hard for us to regress back to crawling because we have seen the efficiency of walking. But to my one year old daughter it is quite a paradox from crawling to walking. In her mind walking is slower, why should she walk she can get whatever see wants by crawling.

In eternal progression “glasses” I am sure there are some things similar to walking and crawling. Sin is what is preventing me from walking to running. Therefore it is a punishment. Once we see through the eternal progression glasses, that is when we feel the pain of sins. (If only I had repented, look what I could have done.) I think this is what happened to Alma the Younger when the Angel appeared. He had his eternal progression glasses put on and it put him in shock at who he was and the potential he had.

Does this help? We have danced all around this question, but I still don’t know if we have hit the bulls eye yet.

Also I like your idea of teaching option #1 punch people in the nose so I don’t have to teach Sunday School any more. Can you get me a complete list of things to teach to get me out of teaching the youth, w/o losing my membership?

Robby C said...

Dallas, your right, we have kind of danced all around this question. I think we have got a few things out though. We have gotten several suggestions for the punishment of sin.
1. The punishment for sin is the natural consequence of the sin.
2. The punishment for sin is not living with the Father (not making it to the celestial kingdom, progressing, exaltation, however you want to say it)
3. The punishment for sin is the sorrow (guilt, bad feelings, again, however you want to say it) that we feel.
4. The punishment for sin is that it leaves a physical mark (Dallas' electron spin model) that will cause use to be separated from the Father. This is in essence #2, only putting forth a reason for the separation.
5. The punishment for sin is a "punch in the nose" (or some other sort of physical beating/torture). Though in the context of this discussion the beating would come in the next life, not from the person you wronged here. The beating from the person you wronged here would fall under #1.
What do you think, have I summed them all up? If you have any other ideas for the punishment for sin feel to post them. In the meantime I would like to discuss some of these punishments and how they relate to the atonement and Christ suffering that he did for us. I will do this in a new post entitled Suffering for Sin