A Controversial Book That Should Not Be Controversial

Many times over the years that I have been sharing my testimony online I have run across active members of the Church, or at least those who say they are active members, who have a very low opinion of The Miracle of Forgiveness by President Spencer W. Kimball. “He wasn’t President of the Church when he wrote it,” they protest. “Before he died he regretted ever having written that book,” I have been told by others. Then why then do I love that book more than any other gospel text outside of the standard works? Much and perhaps most of the genuine repenting I have done since joining the Church in 1963 has been inspired and motivated by reading that book multiple times, each time more carefully than the last. If I were to nominate a book to be included in the standard works in some future dispensation, I would nominate this book by Spencer W. Kimball ahead of anything ever written by James E. Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith or Bruce R. McConkie. Outside of the standard works themselves, for me it has been the most useful advice on putting the gospel into actual practice that I have ever read. Is it really that controversial? It should not be. If it is controversial, it is controversial only in the sense that the truth almost always is.

Today I was browsing the books that are available from Church Distribution on the Official Church Website. It is a very short list. And guess what? The Miracle of Forgiveness is there. Apparently there are prophets in high places who do not think it is controversial. Some of them undoubtedly have received the same inspiration that I have about this book. If The Miracle of Forgiveness is a controversial book in some circles even among the active membership, it is because there are people who do not like to repent of their sins and have not yet decided that they are going to do so anyway.

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44 Responses to A Controversial Book That Should Not Be Controversial

  1. [...] only doctrinal work promoted by Church Distribution or one of very few.  Six years ago I wrote A Controversial Book That Should Not Be Controversial. It has always surprised me that so many saints hate this book.  I love it.  Next to the [...]

  2. DLS says:

    I’ve never heard that SWK “regretted” MoF but it’d be understandable if he felt later on that he might have come across as a bit harsh. The SWK that I remember from joining the Church in the late 70′s didn’t seem like the same man that wrote the book. HOWEVER…
    1) We all learn “line by line”, even SWK as a GA.
    2) In his day, Apostles did deal with a lot of the “hard cases” in person. Seeing such grief and suffering can’t help but take a psychological tool on anyone. And take into account the health issues SWK suffered and yet he soldiered on. So cut the ol’ boy some slack, he was tirelessly performing a thankless task.
    3) I postulate that if anyone, even with professional training, were to deal with but one-tenth of the situations that SWK dealt with in the nearly thirty years of apostleship prior to MoF, and be only ten times as cranky, then you’d be in a position to judge!
    4) SWK did state that it’s HIS own work and it should be judged accordingly. He himself would have always said to rely primarily on the Standard Works.
    5) Although I’ve jocularly referred to his work as “It’s a Miracle if You’re Forgiven”, I’m sure that SWK did not intend that tone.
    6) It’s easy to criticize. Write a book on the subject and get it published, if you can, and then field the criticism. Anyone can throw stones.
    7) Keep in mind that at the first publication there was a huge swell of political and religious liberalism, free love (aka the “sexual revoltion” which ought to have been termed the “sexual revolting”). To quote another Arizonan, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”.

    In short, in spite of whatever issues MoF may have, it’s a worthwhile read with value for virtually anyone.

  3. Rameumptom says:

    I would like to see the MoF updated. Pres Kimball did a great job at describing the horror of sin and the importance of repentance.
    However, I think he missed on discussing grace and atonement. In the 1960s and before, many GAs focused on obedience over faith/grace. It was a reaction to the “saved by grace alone” Protestant crowd. Too many people were insisting that one could be saved by simply saying “I’m saved!”
    Since then, the Church has refocused on the atonement and forgiveness. Obedience is still important, but instead of talking about perfection, we talk about being complete/whole in Christ.
    I do have a copy on my bookshelf. I also have “Believing Christ” next to it. I think that MoF is incomplete without Robinson’s revisiting the theme of atonement and grace.
    And in helping those seeking to repent, I recommend they read and ponder both, so as to get a fuller understanding of what it is all about.

  4. Brother Redfels,
    You have some good points. However, I think I did not make my main point clear enough, if at all.
    My main point is that I do not think that these statements by Presidents Kimball and Tanner were ever meant to be applied to rape. They are being taken out of context.
    When Jesus said it would be better for one who offends a little one to have a milestone placed about his neck, was he advocating we do so? No.
    What Presidents Kimball and Tanner were attempting to imply is the serious nature of violating moral commandments, not that people should commit suicide.
    These statements were not given in discussions of rape, but in discussions of immorality. Their application to issues of rape is a case of misapplying the context, which was meant to impress upon people the seriousness of sexual sin to rape.

  5. The comment about resisting evil is not given in the context of rape. The rape context is not what President Kimball meant. There is a similar quote from N. Eldon Tanner “it is better to die pure than live having compromised your virtue”.
    The problem with applying these statements to rape is that they do not work. If the women has not consented, she has not compromised her virtue. To think otherwise is to assume virginity has some sort of physical power dissociated with spiritual righteousness. Men will be punished for their own sins not for Adams transgressions. Women will be punished for their own sins, not for Steven’s transgressions upon them.

    • Since nearly all words have different denotative meanings, and they also have connotative meanings that are largely influenced by the intelligence, experience and biases of the hearer, it is very difficult or even impossible to say or write anything that will be understood by two people in exactly the same way. Keeping this in mind, Brother Lambert, you may be using a different meaning for the word “virtue” than was intended by the prophets who used this word. Your ideas about “consent” may also be different. There may be different levels of consent than you are taking into consideration. Two women in an identical situation when face with imminent rape might respond differently. Two women who fail to put up a fight, might do so for different reasons. One might prefer to die rather than be a rape victim. And the other might not want to be raped but only slightly so. Still another might take a “lie back and enjoy it” attitude that is totally inconsistent with the gospel. In such a situation her failure to put up a fight might actually be consent, or at least some degree or level of consent. And there is no way for a third party to know the motives and feelings of either the victim or the rapist. The truth cannot be discerned because it means being able to read minds and know another person’s heart, something that only the Lord can do. Before we judge the prophets who have made remarks on this topic, we need to be certain about what they meant by what they said. And we need to be able to know their hearts, especially as regards this issue. And of course, that is impossible. Those who love the prophets of God will err in their favor when weighing their words. Those who do not, but are looking for reasons to dismiss their counsel, will put the most damning interpretation possible upon them.

      If God thinks that a woman should have put a struggle, and she did not, then to some degree she gave her consent. But you are right that a woman’s failure to struggle is no sin if the Lord feels that she did the right thing and was motivated by the right reasons. And assuming that God approves of her failure to struggle, he virtue is not impacted whatsoever. But then I imagine that is something the prophets already knew even before you informed them.

      How about a woman who consents to rape because one of her children is being held hostage and will certainly be killed or badly injured if she fights her rapist? Certainly no virtue would be lost in that situation. Nor do I feel that any prophet would think so.

  6. Janelle says:

    “Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

    It’s well known that a nearly universal emotional reaction to the violation of being raped are unjustified feelings of guilt and shame, and feeling that one is somehow responsible for being attacked. To reinforce such feelings in a victim by telling them that they are indeed guilty because they didn’t struggle to the death, is the psychological equivalent of raping them all over again.

    • Lee Crites says:

      Janelle/Agnes/etc:

      I don’t believe this is what SWK was trying to say. Look at the two comments:
      1) There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation.
      2) It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.

      Both are true statements, and stand on their own.

      The first seems pretty obvious. If you were not a part of the decision, you are not responsible for the decision. If you dissociate in the doctor’s office, and he takes advantage of you sexually while you are “out of it,” then you are not responsible or condemned for it. Period.

      The second one seems to be what you have taken umbrage to. In today’s “politically correct” world, it is better to allow the rape than to fight it: “just go along with it” kind of thing. So the Lord needs to forge that line in clear and unmistakable words.

      As such, SWK’s second declaration should be seen as instructive, not condemnatory. If the rapist says he will kill you if you fight, then you fight — because it is better to die defending your virtue than to just give it up. If you struggle, and are yet defeated and the rape continues and you life to tell the tale, then there certainly is no condemnation — but the fighting is certainly to your advantage.

      Having said that, SWK does not say the opposite. He does not say that “if you don’t fight, then you are responsible for the rape.” He does not declare that “if you live through it you are condemned.” So don’t try to read that into his comments.

      Rape is a powerfully destructive event in the lives of most women. Fighting the rapist seems to lessen the emotional destructiveness for most women. (There are those whose sexual makeup is such that they don’t care either way, but they are not part of this discussion, on purpose.) If nothing else, fighting the rapist will relieve the victim of some of those feelings of guilt that will come as they progress through the steps of grief in their recovery.

      Some might even say that their feelings of guilt come because they DID NOT struggle, and are worried about just what you are saying here — they might be condemned because they allowed the rape to continue. For them, I’d go back to sentence #1: it if was not voluntary, there is no condemnation.

      So the two work together. A loving Heavenly Father is not going to condemn a woman who is raped. Even if she comes to that realization that fighting is futile and just “lays there and lets it happen.” The damnation falls on the rapist, 100%.

      I suppose this might be one of those “harsh” comments that SWK might have reworded if he made a revision of the text. I don’t know. But the truth of both statements is still there. There truly are fates worse than death. There truly are things worth fighting to the death for. There truly are struggles worth making, even if it is under threat of physical harm.

      I’m sorry that this doctrine is something you are seeing as “the psychological equivalent of rape.” No true servant of Heavenly Father would do such a thing — because Heavenly Father would not do such a thing.

      If you keep that one point in mind, and use it as a rule of thumb, then you might be able to more clearly read comments like the one you quoted and come away with a better understanding of what was intended.

  7. To Agnes,
    You must understand his statement in context, and you are ignoring the context of a broad definition of sin. As President Kimball said “There is no comdemnatio where there is no voluntary participation in sin”. He is clearly saying that someone who is a victim of rape is guiltless in the matter.
    The next passage only offends you because you are stuck in a mortal view. If you recognize that this life is only a short time than purity is more important. That said, President Kimball is not recomending suicide but struggle. There is a big difference, and it is you who have to work out an agreement with his word, not he who needs to alter his word so it fits with your world view.
    President Kimball saw with spiritual discernment.

  8. Gary,
    You give the comments context. First, we have them not as Edward L. Kimball heard them from his father, which is how they are normally implied to be, but how a neighbor of President Kimball heard them.
    What this means is they are second hand, and thus may have lost some of their full meaning in the transmission. Secondly, there is a difference between regretting writing a book and feeling you were maybe “a little too harsh”. It is the latter that President Kimball mentioned.

  9. I think I was too harsh in my last comment. I think Brother Redfels heart is in the right place, and he is trying to promote good, and to lead people to the true doctrines of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
    I am just not sure if picking only a few of the Special Witnesses of Christ is the best way to do this. The fact that Brother Redfells analyzes a book by Spencer W. Kimball, and has elsewhere made posts that follow indepth specific teachings of Boyd K. Packer and Gordon B. Hinckley, tells me that he is a true believer in the broad array of those who the Lord has called to lead His Church in these Latter-days.
    I guess my feeling on this issue is that the sub-title of the blog makes it seem more narrow than it really is.

  10. I have to say I am a little uncomfortable with the general premise of this blog. I think we should seek to learn the Doctrine of Jesus Christ as taught by his prophets and apostles, and I think the specific citing of some past apostles is too close to creating a division in the truth.
    However, I do support the Miracle of Forgiveness. We all look back and wish we could have said things differently, but that does not mean that the way they were said was not good. I also think that even at times President Kimball did not fully recognize to what extent the things he said in the Miracle of Forgiveness were those the holy spirit was moving upon him to write.
    I think that introspection is good, and would rather have missionaries in the MTC who are wondering and contemplating if they have fully reprented than to have missionaries in the field who have grevious and unconfessed sins, some of which they continue to commit. That was too often the case with missionaries in my mission.
    With the number of complaints I have seen from some quarters about the preaching against pornography in genera conference, I think that there is definantly calls to reprentance going out. Also, I clearly remember the time on my mission when Elder Pinegar invited the sister missionaries to leave the room, and then he went into a full force denunciation of the elders for moral sins being committed by some. That was in 2000, so not really long ago.
    Lastly, in response to DB’s comments, from what I have seen it tends to be those who want to remove the designation as sinfulness from homosexuality who object the most loadly and most often to The Miracle of Forgiveness.

  11. Trevor says:

    Our creating rigid definitions on what is official and what is not only demonstrates close mindedness to God’s delivery of revelation to us, for our benefit. I believe the scriptures use the term “divers” or diverse in describing the operations of the Spirit. If a person closes a door to the spirit when receiving revelation from any of the possible methods that revelation can come to us, then that person is effectively “quenching the spirit” and shouting to God that he will not accept truth. The light that person had will begin to fade, unless repented of, until there is nothing but darkness and separation from God. If we refuse to accept truth, where ever it is found, then we will not receive personal revelation of greater knowledge; and that is the whole point of being a priesthood holder, the whole point of being a member of the true Church! To get greater and greater knowledge of God and Christ revealed to us personally because that is eternal life! John 17:3. Anything less, is less than what God desires us to receive. Can we cleave to truth and light and not shrink away?

    One of those methods of receiving revelation is to read the revelations given to General Authorities and communicated by them by word written or spoken. If a bishop (Judge of Israel, Shepard of God’s flock) counsels us to read the Miracle of Forgiveness as a part of our repentance process from some sin, then that is as official as it gets. Bishops have done this in the past, are doing this at present and are encouraged to continue recommending MoF by stake and general authorities. The only unique counsel they give, and they give it consistently, with regard to the MoF is that a person read the last part first (about the atonement) and the first part last (about sins to be repented of). I suppose a person could ignore their bishop and risk arriving at the Judgment Bar unable to explain away why they ignored the righteous counsel of their priesthood leader called and ordained by God, and continued to live a life of sin in whatever degree, instead of submitting to wise counsel and learning how to live righteously during their probation.

    Goldarn: Using your definition of “official doctrine” you would be allowed to disregard all the general conference talks ever given since the restoration (excluding the few that actually made it into the Doctrine and Covenants) How many talks do the apostles and prophets need to give on how the true Church of Jesus Christ has, and always will have, an open cannon of scripture. Moses 1: 4 “for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.” And how many times will you sustain the general authorities as “prophets, seers and REVELATORS” before you decided to accept them as such?

  12. Goldarn says:

    The Miracle of Forgiveness is NOT accepted by the LDS church as official. It is very easy to find out what is accepted: Get your scriptures out. See? There’s all the official stuff. Jesus the Christ, Doctrines of Salvation, Miracle of Forgiveness, etc. are NOT CANONIZED SCRIPTURE. Select parts of them may be of worth to read, but they aren’t official, no matter what anyone says.

  13. Trevor says:

    Amen.
    Pray about it and live it. John 7: 17 “If any man will do his will [the Father's will], he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself [Jesus Christ].”

    How can anyone of us tell the prophets what to do with their words spoken or written Agnes or LDS Anarchist? If you were harmed in your youth, as I was and others have been, then you would know how difficult it is to live with anger/hatred. The bitterness of soul suffered by a victim is just like the pride suffered by the poor who despises the rich for his wealth and envies it in his heart. Spencer W. Kimball is teaching you a great truth about living the Gospel with all your heart and how one can endure to the end faithfully even in the most trying of circumstances (rape, torture, even to death). Perhaps your father or some other person took Brother Kimballs words and emphasized them in such a way that you became scared of falling short of such an ideal act of faith. Perhaps you came to believe that God wouldn’t love you or save you if you didn’t do what was described in resisting an attacker/rapist. If that is the case then you have learned false doctrine by the overzealousness of your teacher NOT from the words as Bro. Kimball wrote them. I tell you clearly that the mistake is yours (and your teacher’s) not Spencer W. Kimball’s and your belief in God needs to be corrected in order for you to exercise greater faith than you presently possess. God loves you and me and all of us and will save you and me and all of us by the same Plan without respect to persons. The Miracle of Forgiveness teaches many little caveats of truth and paints the larger picture of the Plan of Salvation throught the atonement in such an honest and straight forward way. It illuminates human behaviour, the scriptures, and our true relationship with God and each other. How can anyone deny this without lying to God and themselves? The prophets of all ages have taught the people what their sins were and that they needed to repent and how to receive Christ into their lives– and the people of the world/children of Satan have always reacted the same way… burn the books, kill the prophets and those that believe their words. Whether you look at Noah’s day or Christ’s day or Alma and Amulek’s day or Joseph Smith’s day or our day it is the same reaction to truth from the wicked. The degree of their wickedness equates directly to the degree of the lengths they will go to to destroy truth. The truth is the truth and anyone who fights against it or censures it will suffer the natural consequences of such: diminishing faith, light, spirit, hope, happiness until they are left to kick against the pricks and fight against God Himself. Please just stop fighting truth as taught by the prophets and apostles of God. Just realize that your reactions are the clear indication of your standing with God and can help you to realize your state in relation to Him and that He has set His Son as a Light to give you direction to find your way out of darkness back to Him, even God the Father of us all. What more can be said that would persuade you to believe and trust in your Creator and Savior and those who are His watchmen on the tower giving true warning of dangers and pointing us to the path of salvation and safety?

  14. ... says:

    Ok…this is just sad…sad.
    Jesus the Christ, Talmage
    Our Search for Happiness, Ballard
    Miracle of Forgiveness, Kimball
    Preach My Gospel, Latter Day Prophets and Apostles of God
    What do they have in common? They are ALL accepted by the church as relevant and inspired. Why are we asked to read Preach My Gospel as members when it is not necesarily considered a standard work…maybe because God isnpired the people who put it together and it contains something usefull for us that we NEED to find. Why are Jesus the Christ and Our Search for Happiness considered part of the required missionary library? Maybe becausethey contain something important that missionaries and members alike can’t find on their own in the scriptures. You might say that they are interpretations of men but who inspired these men?? It was God and we all know it.
    Read the scriptures…read them…that is the best thing you can do. But who here can tell me that they understand them all completely? NO ONE! Nobody here has avoided forming their own personal “interpretation” of the Gospel and that is why we all have these arguments. God is perfect and His Gospel is perfect. If a prophet of that perfect God, whom we all worship, makes a statement about the Gospel in any form (spoken or literary) and it is officially accepted by the Church as truth than it must mean that it is, God would not let false interpretations become part of what the Church of the Most High. That is why there are so many works that the Church doesnt promote. Mormon Doctrine, McKonkie. Great source of knowledge, but not accepted by the church as official doctrine…because it contains personal interpretation. Does that make the book bad? no…just read it and pray about the parts you dont understand.
    The Miracle of Forgiveness is accpeted by the Church as official. As a missionary I went through some hard times. Before my mission I had failed my God. During the mission I decided that it was time to decide who to serve. Late, yes but it changed my life. My mission president (who was called of God and set apart by an Apostle) gave me the Miracle of Forgiveness and told me to read it. Hard to read…yeah…but why. Read Alma 36…Alma was scared to death…he wanted to just not exist…THAT is why the Miracle of Forgiveness is so blunt. We need to realize what we have done. That is called Godly Sorrow. Yeah it might have stuff we dont understand…BUT…that does NOT mean that we can just thrust it aside as false. What happened to Christ’s clear doctrine of prayer. Pray about Spencer W. Kimball, pray about the book, pray about the Church. I know it is true…i have read it, i have prayed about it and i know it is a work of God…is there anything i dont understand about it? YES. But maybed its because i’m stuck in my own “comfortable” interpretation of the Gospel. IT will be revealed in due time by the Lord. TRUST in the Lord…He will NEVER lead you astray.
    I testify of this with all my heart.

  15. Okay, my two cents. Don’t read it. Read the standard works. A bishop that gives a copy of the MoF to a confessed sinner is a bishop that should be released. Bishops should encourage people to read their scriptures, not to read other’s interpretation of those scriptures. SWK was a prophet of God, and I know it, having received the manifestation of the Holy Ghost concerning him, but the MoF is nothing but one man’s interpretation. If you must read it, take a black marker and blacken every word that isn’t a direct quote from the scriptures, then read the unmarked portion. You’ll be better able to arrive at the real truth, without any of the false assumptions and speculations contained within the text.

  16. Struggling with faith says:

    Although I have some great downfalls, and skeletons in my closet I came to a realization early on in my 20′s. I was struggling with gospel principles and my faith in the gospel. Through much prayer and scripture reading I had a personal revelation. I knew that suddenly my oppinions didnt matter. The leaders of the church were appointed for a reason and the reason is to share with us what the Lord wants us to know. The gosel is flawless and build steadfast on the strongest foundation possible. That is the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was given this book as a teenager by my bishop and found nothing horrible with it even at that age. It amazes me how much people think that their oppinions are more important and count for more than what God has requested. I am by no means anywhere near perfect. I do acknowledge my downfalls and struggle to come out on top. I know that God will help me to do so and that the Standard works, The Miracle of Forgiveness, and one of my favorites, Jesus the Christ are indeed flawless because they were written by holy prophets inspired by God. Thanks for listening.

  17. Agnes says:

    “Also far-reaching is the effect of the loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” This passage haunted my youth–I was taught it as gospel; to wit, that if, heaven forbid, I was raped, if I didn’t struggle to the death, or close, I was a sinner.

    Do you all believe this? I don’t think so. Take the passage out, reprint. Easy.

  18. truth seeker says:

    I’ll admit, Spencer W. Kimball had some ideas about the Gospel that I don’t agree with. However he was ONE of the MOST CHRIST-like men ever. He was so kind and had such a good heart. He was very sweet and very quick to forgive. He wasn’t racist in the least bit, loved the Native Americans, was kind to people like Leonard Arrington and D. Michael Quinn, and just overall a very kind Christ-like man. I have no doubt that he is up in the Celestial Kingdom. Sure I beleive their is some of his own intepretation in Miracle of Forgivess, and interpreation that I don’t find always right, but who knows maybe he’s right and I’m wrong. I could easily be wrong. Nonetheless he was one of my favoritre prophtes of all time, along with Joseph Smith, David O. McKay, and Gordon B. Hicnkley.

  19. Randy says:

    SWK lost me with his suggestion that women who are raped don’t need to repent as much as do their attackers. The notion that victims of sexual abuse need to repent at all is simply wrong. As for SWK’s theory about masturbation leading to homosexuality–well, that’s just funny.

  20. Eric R Wilde says:

    The over riding principle in all matters is that everthing spoken or written is the lesser portion of the word. Recieve it, Judge it and do with it what you will. The Greater portion is that which finds confirmation by the spirit. With that confirmation all questions and doubt cease, ones mind and soul is enlightened. One can debate, argue and even find fault, also you may quote authority or so called facts. There is no absolute proof that one can give of anything. Remember everything is ultimately interpretated and translated with varying degrees of intelligence. The pure doctirne of Chirst is only conveyed by the spirit to those who truly repent. Everything else is shadow boxing.

  21. Area Authority says:

    Dear Brother Redelfs,

    Elder McConkie made statements to the effect that a living prophet is more important than the ones/those who preceded him. The Correlation Committee has several drafts of new and expanded tomes regarding sin, and how future behavior is shaped by it. The Church/President Hinkley has not proceeded with the publishing of one or more of these works, as it is the presiding/present day (not past) belief that Elder Kimball’s work remains the “state of the art” on the subject. You and your readers are well encourged to have it in your homes. The Brethren are well aware of the sensitive wording of the work. Perhaps one day the Church will proceed with a new publication on this subject matter. Regarding change: consider the length of time it took England’s Labour Party to modify/eliminate the wording of their platform. Prior to and post WWII, it aligned itself with Marxist principles of wealth distribution. Such wording was only rejected in view of the West’s opposition to Marxism/Leninism, and the declining popularity of the Party itself.

  22. Tony M says:

    “But to be fair to SWK, we still have apostles today claiming special knowledge on a subjects they don’t really seem to grasp. They’re people like us.”

    How can you say that? These men have a personal relationship with God. Can you say that God does not know everything? I think they understand it far more than you do.

    Remember D&C 1:38 Which reads: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

    The churches standards don’t change due to the times. They stand as they are, and shall forever.

    “There’s really no foundation for claims such as the one that masturbation leads to homosexuality.”

    Was there proof in Joseph Smith’s day that smoking and chewing tobacco caused cancer? But yet now we know the truth about the benefits of the word of wisdom. Maybe you should take the word of your prophet (and thereby the word of God) instead of relying on worldly wisdom.

    Maybe you should read 2 Nephi 9:28 which read: “For when they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside supposing they know of themselves, wherefore their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not.”

  23. Jim Cobabe says:

    It seems bizarre to me, this thinking that ignoring the commandments of God will somehow bring blissful happiness and peaceful coexistence. Or the idea that Spencer W. Kimball was old-fashined in his approach to sin and repentance.

    “Wickedness never was happiness” is also a very old idea. Is it also outdated?

    President Kimball aquired the background for his book in the most painful manner, spending countless hours counseling with the pathetic miserable byproducts of human sin. I am certain that he saw dramatic evidence of most of the connections he asserts between sinful acts and abject unhappiness. While his illustrations may be unsophisticated, they are nonetheless drawn from wisdom and experience, and divine inspiration.

    If any are made uncomfortable by the first part of the book, they should just skip back to the prescriptive counsel that gives the greatest value to us as sinful imperfect individuals. We can seek and obtain forgiveness, through Jesus Christ. Do not let anything stand in the way of getting that vital counsel. The rest of the book is just a preface to the real subject.

  24. Hhhhh says:

    “I’m glad I didn’t read it in my sexually active youth, or I wouldn’t have served a mission and likely wouldn’t be LDS today.”

    I’m sorry Steve EM, this is honestly not meant to be a personal attack, but rather a criticism of what you’re trying to convey about the book:

    I don’t think what you shared is a problem with the book.

    “From family planning to masturbation to sex beyond vaginal intercourse to causes of homosexuality, there’s a lot of stuff we’ve moved on from, and makes people cringe today.”

    Moved on from? I don’t think so, these concepts are pretty on-topic in our current day.

    “Perhaps the MoF contributes to the high suicide rate amoung LDS youth?”

    This is an interesting idea: that guilt makes people unhappy (and thus they commit suicide), thus it is bad and it should be avoided. I think that idea is contrary to some very basic LDS doctrines, and the fact that many people in the LDS community support it is very interesting. Probably it would be good to dedicate a whole posting and/or thread somewhere to discuss this idea more thoroughly.

  25. Steve M. says:

    How can the scriptures be dated?

    Should we talk about menstruation making a woman unclean, or should we talk about Jacob’s method for breeding striped sheep in Genesis 30? The scriptures are wonderful, but I think our understanding of their utility and application can be illuminated as modern knowledge and science advances.

    As for MoF, I think it would be beneficial to print an updated edition. There’s really no foundation for claims such as the one that masturbation leads to homosexuality.

  26. Connor says:

    The book is only dangerous for those whom truth would cut “to the center”. Why do you think prophets were stoned in days past and ignored and belittled in our world today? People don’t like what they say. Some would rather be flattered and told that the sins they’re committing aren’t anything worth fretting over.

  27. The book is not dated. Most of it is straight from the scriptures. How can the scriptures be dated? Does it have an attitude towards sin that has fallen out of vogue in today’s world, especially sexual sin? Yes. Does that make it dated? Not in my opinion. Most of the people who don’t like it simply disagree with the prophets of God on such topics as homosexuality, masturbation, pornography and other sexual sin. A lot of people today do not like the way Spencer W. Kimball uses the word “pervert.” Well, I don’t like the way our culture has altered the language and its usage to lend dignity and normalcy to common sin which is neither dignified or normal.

  28. Steve EM says:

    Come-on, the book is dated, and without a revised edition, is somewhat dangerous. I’m glad I didn’t read it in my sexually active youth, or I wouldn’t have served a mission and likely wouldn’t be LDS today. From family planning to masturbation to sex beyond vaginal intercourse to causes of homosexuality, there’s a lot of stuff we’ve moved on from, and makes people cringe today. Perhaps the MoF contributes to the high suicide rate amoung LDS youth? SWK did much good and I honor him, but the MoF is hardly a timeless classic. But to be fair to SWK, we still have apostles today claiming special knowledge on a subjects they don’t really seem to grasp. They’re people like us.

  29. Clark says:

    I think some of the problems in the book are things like the whole Cain story that was related (that is probably more than a bit questionable) and then some claims as to what makes people gay and so forth. We were actually discussing this somewhere today. There’s a lot good in it but I think the problem is that he focuses so much on sin that he sometimes doesn’t express grace enough. Of course he believes in it, but I think that sometimes the book can be counterproductive. But it all depends upon the person you are trying to help. For a lot of people it’s great. I do think we tend to excuse our sins far too much.

  30. Gary says:

    In a First Presidency Message, Church President Ezra Taft Benson said: “We would admonish all of you to read and reread President Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness. The sooner you can read it, the greater blessing it will be for you.” (Ensign, Sept. 1988, 6.)

    No wonder the faithful have been using it.

    President Kimball’s newest biography quotes him saying to a neighbor, “Sometimes I think I might have been a little too strong about some of the things I wrote in this book.” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, SLC: Deseret Book, 2005, 80.)

    Evidently, he didn’t feel all that bad about the book. According to Edward Kimball, he personally purchased and gave away more than 1,500 copies during the first six years after its publication. (Ibid., 80.)

    The same biography also points out that “the book filled a need, as evidenced by the printing of half a million copies in English and sixteen other languages between its publication in 1969 and his death in 1985…. By 1998 the total in all languages was roughly estimated at 1.6 million copies.” (Ibid., 79.)

  31. Doc says:

    I guess the problem I can see arising from the book is that those who need it the most are those least likely to actuially read it. Presumably anyone who would read this book is an active member of the Church, with a siincere desire to live a Christlike life. They are usually all to aware of their shortcomings. A book that is written with intent to stir the unrepentance toward a Godly sorrow can create an entirely different effect in those already carrying a heavy load of guilt.

    I am sure there are a subset of individuals who go in to the Bishop confessing there sins just to get them out of the way, because they always knew they could just repent anyway. These are the subset of individuals I think the book was meant for.

    For others who have already had to humble themselves into the dust, putting on sackcloth and ashes for their mistakes prior to arrival to the Bishop’s office, a strongly worded lecture about their behavior just isn’t what they need. They need to know they can change, not how wrong and filthy they are. They need the miracle of the atonement and the hope and light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think the message people need most varies according to circumstance.

  32. JKS says:

    I knew that the book was recommended reading by bishops for sexual sin. I have never bothered reading it.
    I am now 35 years old and have learned a lot in life. I no longer view the gospel as a checklist of things to do. I see the atonement as necessary in my daily life, not just as something to access if I happen to screw up really badly. The atonement is complex and requires us to give much of ourselves. I think having a change of heart requires constant work for me, and it is easy to drift into more self-centered concerns.
    From what your post and the comments say, I think I would learn a lot from the book. I’ll try to get a copy and read it.

  33. D. Golden Shizzle says:

    I only have one thing to say about the miracle of forgiveness – Make sure you read the whole book. If you only read the first half, you will be left with a certainty you are going straight to hell. The “Miracle” of Forgiveness is only explained in the second half of the book.

  34. When our stake was organized and I was called to the high council, I noticed that our stake president had about 40 hardback copies of The Miracle of Forgiveness on a bookshelf behind his desk. I have never met a Bishop or a stake president that was offended by that book as so many online saints seem to be. That stake president is no longer my stake president. He was released and called as an Area Authority.

  35. Zerin Hood says:

    I know of at least one bishop who would assign the reading of and reporting on that book as part of the repentance process for some of those whose repentance required meeting with the bishop. We ordered a whole box.

  36. B. D. says:

    I don’t think that it’s a *large* group (numerically) who find it questionable. I think it’s more of a vocal minority. The same type of vocal mintory that loudy proclaims women “deserve” the priestood, or those that say that we should accept homosexuality.

  37. HP says:

    Is there really a large group in the church who find this book questionable? I honestly find that hard to believe.

  38. Gilgamesh says:

    “it is because there are people who do not like to repent of their sins…”

    This seems a little (okay) a lot judgemental to me. I like the book and I think it is a good tool for repenting. I also realize that it can make one feel guilty for everything. When I was in the MTC, it was not uncommon for missionaries to second guess their previous repentance process after reading MOF.

  39. Ben says:

    ““Before he died he regretted ever having written that book,” I have been told by others. ”

    According to the new biography by his son, President Kimball did think he had been too harsh. I recall reading it there, but I don’t have the book in front of me for a page number or a quotation.

  40. Connor says:

    “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.” (1 Ne. 16:2)

    How quick we are to apply this scripture to others instead of applying it to ourselves.

  41. B. D. says:

    I’ve been reading it recently as well. There are several things in that book that are difficulty for many to hear. It’s not intended to be a book that’s easy to read as Kimball recognizes that we are all sinners. In there he calls those who get married and wait until they finish school to have kids to repentance for their lack of faith. As one who did not wish to try to raise children at the same time my wife and I got our engineering degrees, I suppose that I am among those he called to repentance. And I suppose I did lack faith and must needs improve. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good book.

    I think many people nowadays (as in times before) struggle with being told they must repent. I think the style the Brethren use to call to repentance has changed in the last 100 years. Recalling the recent conference, calls to repentance were there, but they seem to expect that the member listen to the Spirit which will do the actual admonishing. It would be quite unpopular the Brethren today to say some of the things that were said in General Conference in the past, but the message is the same.

    In that vein, the “Miracle of Forgiveness” calls directly to repentance. It points out your sins by naming all of the big ones and then lets you know that you are impure and unable to return to God in your state. That’s uncomfortable. But it’s central to the Gospel. Those who criticise the book can read “Stand a Little Taller” without feeling their hearts pricked, I expect, because they may not be listen to the invitations to repent (be better people) that are worded softer than the invitations in “Miracle of Forgiveness”.

    In conclusion (to try and make this scatterbrained post make sense), enjoying Miracle of Forgiveness requires a certain level of understanding of the gospel. In other words, being comfortable with the fact that we are sinners and must repent. If you’re painting a pretty picture of the Gospel not demanding you to change down to your very core, then you’re not going to enjoy Miracle of Forgiveness.

  42. Eric Nielson says:

    Well said. Repent ye, repent ye is often an unpopular stand to take.

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