Alright guys, so repentance and forgiveness are HUUUGE themes in both the Bible and The Book of Mormon. And it’s Jesus Christ who makes it possible for us to repent and be forgiven for our sins. But the scriptures also talk about one sin in particular that is so serious that there simply is no coming back from it: an unpardonable sin.
So let’s talk about it—what the unpardonable sin is, what it is not, and who is even eligible to commit it.
In Matthew 12 we read:
I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Mark 3 says, “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:”
We read similar verses in Luke 12, Hebrews 6, Hebrews 10, and in The Book of Mormon in Alma 39, 3 Nephi 29, And Mosiah 16.
So what does it mean to blaspheme against, or deny, the Holy Ghost? Here’s what Joseph Smith said about it:
“What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it.”
President Spencer W. Kimball also added that,
“The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin.”
In other words, you really cannot commit this sin by accident. You can’t be tricked into it. You have to have a perfect knowledge of Christ and his mission, and then purposefully choose to throw that knowledge in the trash. What does it mean to have perfect knowledge? Well, in the case of the Brother of Jared from The Book of Mormon, he isn’t described as having “perfect knowledge” until he literally saw Jesus. And because very few people have that kind of witness of Jesus Christ, very few people could commit the unpardonable sin even if they wanted to.
In Latter-day Saint jargon, Satan and his angels, along with those who commit the unpardonable sin are known as Sons of Perdition, hailing back (I think) to John 17:12. I briefly mentioned Sons of Perdition back in an episode about life after death, and now we’ve come full circle. After the Final Judgment, the Sons of Perdition are cast out into Outer Darkness forever. As far as we know, they will never have the opportunity to inherit a heavenly Kingdom of Glory, but we don’t know what Outer Darkness is, where it is, or what it’s like. We just know that it’s not Heaven, and it’s not a pleasant place to be. It’s like Walmart on a Saturday. During a toddler convention.
Now, there are some people who speculate on who qualifies as a Son of Perdition and who does not. A lot of people say Cain is a good example of a Son of Perdition, many people throw Judas in that pool as well. But ultimately, God will be the judge. It’s probably not a good idea to go around calling people Sons of Perdition. That’s kind of rude and probably not anywhere close to the truth.
If you’re worried you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, remember this: The fact that you’re worried you’ve committed the unpardonable sin is a pretty good indicator that you have not committed the unpardonable sin. I don’t think those individuals who have sinned against the Holy Ghost are particularly remorseful about it—they preferred it.
Anyway, I know that “denying the Holy Ghost” might still seem like a pretty vague concept. I wish I could define it in more specific terms for you. I wish I could give you a whole list of sins that qualify as denying the Holy Ghost, but I can’t, cuz we just don’t have that much information about it. Just keep doing your best to follow Christ and you’ll have nothing to worry about. In fact, you could probably do your worst and you still wouldn’t have to worry about it. But that’s terrible advice. So do your best.