Mormon Article of Faith #2
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
Augsburg Confession Chief Article of Faith #2 – Original Sin
Likewise, [the churches among us] teach that since the fall of Adam all human beings who are propagated according to nature are born with sin, that is, without fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence. And [the churches among us] teach that this disease or original fault is truly sin, which even now damns and brings eternal death to those who are not born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit. [The churches among us] condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that the original fault is sin and who, in order to diminish the glory of Christ’s merits and benefits, argue that human beings can be justified before God by their own powers of reason (free will).
Certainly, the concept of original sin is not popular today, and I find myself in frequent discussions about it. In some ways, these two articles of faith agree. Nowhere does the Augsburg Confession suggest that we are punished for the sins of others, but rather says that human beings are in a “fallen state”. We are contaminated by sin. Part of one of our liturgies reads “We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” The problem with the Mormon Article of Faith above is that it invites the possibility that human beings can act their ways into God’s favor through their decisions and actions. Unstained by “original sin”, we have the ability, they say, to obey God. We will even see that in some of the other Articles of Faith.
Part of the problem ignored by the Mormon Article of Faith is that scripture says something different than they do. Consider, for instance, Exodus 20:5-6 (which is part of the 10 Commandments). “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Likewise, 1 Samuel 3:13: “For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” Granted, this is not “Adam’s Transgression” but likewise it is not punishment only for one’s own sins.
Concupiscence? From the dictionary: 1. sexual desire; lust. 2. ardent, usually sensuous longing. Remember, the church in the middle ages (and certainly at other times) had some trouble with human sexuality, especially sexual desire. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is presently discussing a draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality which in part states “We are all sexual creatures. The Bible makes clear that our sexual nature is both a blessing and a source of vulnerability.)
One of the important elements of classic Christian teaching (witnessed in the Augsburg Confession) about original sin is that if we are so thoroughly stained by sin, then we cannot accomplish our own “cleansing”. Even our good efforts are “contaminated”. We will see that the Mormon teaching lacks this significant element.