What’s the Difference Between a Saint and a Sinner?

What’s the difference between a saint and a sinner?

It’s really simple. Are you ready?

A saint repents. And then sins, and repents again. And then makes another mistake, and (you guessed it) repents again. I’m not talking about a person who laughs at sin and continues to do it, knowing that they can “just repent later”, but real people, with real addictive behaviors, working each day, hand-in-hand with God, to repent and try to be better.

You may think that I’m being trite, but I’m not.

A sinner either thinks that there is no need for repentance (is in denial that there is such a thing as sin) or thinks that he/she is so bad that they are incapable of God’s love, or is mad at God and doesn’t want anything to do with Him … right now.

All of it is a matter of the heart. Let’s go to the scriptures to see what the Lord has to say  –

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).

I love that one. I love that the Lord wants to sit down and “talk shop” with us, “let us reason together“.

Here’s another one I love. This is for when the devil tells me that there is a quota on repentance –

But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven (Moroni 6:8).

Here’s one for when the devil tries to tell me that I’ve gone beyond the point of repentance, that the Lord is so disgusted with me that He doesn’t want to be around me –

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). 

And if that doesn’t work, I like this one –

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

But perhaps, one of my favorite scriptures of all, and the reason that saints go on repenting, and trying to be better –

Behold … I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20).

A saint has felt the love of God in the most quiet reaches of the heart, in a place where no one else has access, and then desires always to have that love with them. Being a disciple of Christ is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work.  But the rewards are peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23).

And here is the best part of this whole discussion. You and I and everyone around us can change from a sinner to a saint at any moment. Right now in fact. It is a matter of the heart. Going to God and confessing (telling Him what we did wrong) and forsaking (promising to not do it again), and if we mess up, confessing and forsaking again until we get better and better at making the distance between the sin and the repentance smaller and smaller. Until, eventually, we decide that we love God more than the sin and so we choose to pray through the temptation instead of committing the sin and praying after. Then, we begin to change our lives … to not be where the temptation is so readily available, to replace the bad in our lives with good.

We can do it. The Lord believes in us. I know that is true.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand (How Firm a Foundation, Hymn # 85).

Yielding our Hearts to God

Today was Stake Conference, and I felt so edified by our Stake President, John McConkie’s talk, that I felt the need to share part of it here. He began by discussing the fact that we all needed to learn to balance our time so that we could enjoy the things that our Heavenly Father has given us to enjoy while we are here on earth. We are supposed to have entertainment and leisure time, and time to enjoy our own creative endeavors.

Then, he began to discuss the powerful principle of yielding. When we yield, (for example in driving) we slow down to allow other cars to go forward (or stop to let them pass) and then we can move ahead. When we yield, (in the gospel sense) we allow for other things to take a higher priority in our lives for the time being, knowing full well that we will be able to go back to what we were doing in time.

Perhaps we are ready to settle down into a good book, and something inside tells us to go and contact a neighbor or friend. The book will be there when we get back. A father puts down the remote and spends time teaching a child to ride a bicycle. The TV will be there, when he gets back. A mother decides to put college on hold for a season so that she can bear and nurture children. College will be available in the future. A couple holds off going to the movies to go to the temple. Movies aren’t going anywhere.

The amazing thing about yielding is that we don’t have to put off our desires forever. Father in Heaven wants us to have rich and abundant lives! Yielding, to the promptings of the Spirit, however, will help us align our desires with His own.

A scripture that discusses this principle is about the missionary sons of Mosiah:

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God, Helaman 3:35.

I recently listened to a talk by BYU professor, Douglas Brinley, on Strengthening Marriages, in which he began to talk about the matter of the heart. He said that good marriages are not based on counseling, but on soft hearts. Hearts that yield. Hearts that have learned not “who is right, but what is right.” For example, a spouse holds back an angry, cutting remark and prays to find a way to discuss the problem with respect and kindness for the other.

In fact, the heart is mentioned repeatedly in the scriptures, here are the number of references to the word heart per book –

  • Old Testament – 712
  • New Testament – 159
  • Book of Mormon – 394
  • Doctrine and Covenants – 183
  • Pearl of Great Price – 25

There are only two kinds of hearts to God, hard hearts and soft hearts.

Yielding softens hearts. It changes us from the inside out. It makes us men and women of Christ. It allows us to keep the great commandment, to love the Lord, God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), and coincidentally helps us keep the second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Remember the goal is to become like our Savior, who said;

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost … (3 Nephi (9:20).

Or, as Elder Neal A Maxwell put it;

The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. It is a hard doctrine, but it is true. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. And that hard doctrine lies at the center of discipleship. There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do. And when we submit to His will, then we’ve really given Him the one thing He asks of us.

This doesn’t make sense to the majority of people – all this talk about yielding, and proper hearts, and sacrifice – because the world teaches us to look out for #1, and to push and shove to be the first, and that whatever I do doesn’t matter, it’s my life, it’s my choice, don’t judge me. But no matter how much you push yourself forward, if you cross the wrong finish line, you won’t win the race.

What a hard heart will never understand is that we’re not in it for fame and fortune. We’re in it to become our best selves. To truly become Beings unbelievable in scope and power and majesty (see Doc. & Cov 121:45-46). Merely living and never yielding could never allow us to attain to this.

Besides that, in the words of the Pilgrim Song – (arranged by Ryan Murphy, 2000) –

My soul doth long to go where I may fully know the glory of my Savior.
And as I pass along I’ll sing the Christian song: I’m going to live forever.

(Special thanks to the Baylor University Acapella Choir, Dr. Alan Raines, Conductor, and youtube contributor, stephengoose, for this performance- )

It all begins with teaching our hearts to yield, and it ends in allowing us to live life more abundantly.

Happy Valentine’s Day!