Question: Is it impossible to receive the grace of Jesus Christ so long as we are sinning?


Question: Is it impossible to receive the grace of Jesus Christ so long as we are sinning?

We can be cleansed of our sins through Jesus Christ, and thereby be capable of being saved

Critics interpret Alma 11:37 to mean that we cannot receive the grace of Jesus Christ so long as we are sinning. Since we are all sinners, according to their argument, this would mean that nobody can receive the grace of Jesus Christ.

Critics misuse this text by misinterpreting the word "saved" to mean something it does not. Amulek taught that we cannot be saved (enter into God's kingdom) in our sins. He then taught that we can be cleansed of our sins through Jesus Christ, and thereby be capable of being saved (entering into God's kingdom).

This passage comes in the context of a debate that Amulek, a Nephite minister and companion of Alma, is having with a lawyer named Zeezrom. Zeezrom first tempts Amulek with money if Amulek will deny the existence of a "Supreme Being". Amulek refuses, and Zeezrom continues with various questions about God and his purpose with mankind.

At one point in their discussion Zeezrom asks the following question to Alma (Alma 11:34):

34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.

Later, in verse 37 Amulek makes it clear that he interprets Zeezrom's question to be whether a person can enter into heaven if they still are burdened down by sin. Amulek equates "saved" with "inherit the kingdom of heaven" in this passage. So, a person cannot be "saved", or, enter into God's kingdom, if they have not somehow been cleansed from their sins.

Alma 11:37 reads:

37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

Critics misinterpret the word "saved" in this passage by reading it through their fundamentalistic Protestant lenses. They assume that "saved" refers to the cleansing act of Christ's atonement. Thus, when they read this passage they interpret it to mean that a person cannot be cleansed by Christ's atonement so long as they are committing sin.

But that is not what the term "saved" means in Alma 11:37, as Amulek makes clear. Amulek has in mind the entering into God's kingdom. Nobody can enter into God's kingdom if they are burdened by the effects of sin. Something must be done in order to remove that taint. Amulek explains how in verse 40 (Alma 11:40):

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

To enter into God's kingdom, or "eternal life", one must first be cleansed of transgression by believing on the name of Jesus Christ. That is the gospel of the LDS Church.

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