Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Sin Next to Murder

It's commonly taught in the church that the "sin next to murder" is having sex outside marriage. This view comes from a misreading of Alma 39.

However, the sin next to murder isn't non-marital sex. The sin next to murder is using one's power and position to draw people away from God.

Alma speaks to his son Corianton beginning in chapter 39. He rebukes Corianton sharply, listing his wrongs. Alma's chief complaint against Corianton was that he forsook the ministry. While he was forsaking the ministry, he visited a prostitute, which is what most people latch onto, but from the text, Alma is much more worked up over Corianton setting a bad example and leading people away from the word of God by his behavior.

Alma goes on to say: "[T]herefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities; That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly." (Alma 39:12-13, emphasis added)

The view that Alma sees leading people away from God as the sin next to murder is further strengthened in his counsel to his son Helaman in chapter 36. In this chapter, Alma recounts the story of his youthful activities with the sons of Mosiah as they went about trying to destroy the church. "Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror." (Alma 36:13-14, emphasis added)

The Book of Mormon was written as a warning for our day. What we're being warned against in this passage is setting a bad example, and by that bad example, drawing people away from Christ. Anyone who professes to preach the word of God but then by word or action draws people away, either explicitly by pushing them away and telling them they're unwelcome, or implicitly by setting a bad example of what a Christian should be, from the healing power of Christ and the ordinances of the gospel is committing spiritual murder and will have to answer before God for that one day.

However, all is not lost. Alma, while counseling Corianton, shows the way to right the wrong of drawing people away from Christ. "[R]eturn unto them, and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done." (Alma 39:13)

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