In the New Testament, the word sin in English is translated from the Greek ἁμαρτημα (hamartia). Ἁμαρτημα is derived from the verb ἁμαρτανω meaning to miss the mark. In Latin the verb peccare means to stumble, to trip, to falter. In Hebrew the verb חטא used for to sin which also has the basic meaning of “to miss the mark”.
The word sin in English is derived from the German ‘Sünde’, In Dutch the word is ‘zonde’. These words are much harder than missing the mark or to stumble. Here the intention is to do wrong; in the Greek and Latin the intention is good but unfortunately the mark was missed.
I see the need for both of these meanings in our lives. For most of our lives, we miss the mark, we stumble. Yet for a small class of people, the word sin derived from the German is the proper word. I don’t see any way that Hitler missed the mark or stumbled. The intention was to do wrong, and he sinned.
But what about all the other ways that a regular person (not a psychopath) “sins”? I think 99% of these “sins” can be classified with the “missing the mark” definition as ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament.
I was never taught in Church the difference in these two types of sins. When I drank a beer with my friends on graduation night, did I miss the mark, did I stumble (succumbing to peer pressure), or did I intentionally sin? When I slept in until 8 am on my mission, did I miss the mark, or did I sin?
If Jesus really did mean “miss the mark” in His teachings every time He used what is translated to sin in English, how does this new meaning change the way we look at our worthiness? If we take this missing the mark literally, does an archer feel shame or guilt when their arrow misses the bullseye (mark). Or do they realize they need to do better, and try again and again until they do hit it?
What if we emphasized in Church the “missing the mark” part of this equation? Could we as a Church get away from the shame and guilt associated with “sin”, and reframe it to stumbling, then getting up and trying it again?
Good morning to all !
I agree that the LDS church culture has missed the mark. The mark is missed in creating the purity culture, as explained by Bishop Bill. Also, it is missed with most its’ current programs. Going on a mission is supposed to be about service and helping others, but it turned into baseball baptisms, ego trips, and lying for the Lord. Giving tithing is supposed to be “for only a season” to get the church out of debt , to build chapels, temples and sustain the church; but it turned into attaining a $200+B accounts and building temples to maintain its’ tax free status. The church used to have activities to create friendships and community, but missed the mark by only having activities with a “spiritual purpose”, which is now a hollow shell. The church talked about helping the poor, but missed the mark by assuring that when a donation is made it is accompanied with a press release and guilting the poor to pay tithing prior to feeding their children. The church missed the mark, when stating that all are invited to be part of the organization, but then excommunicated intellectuals, black ball any one with a suggestion for improvement outside the accepted norm and excluding racial and sexual minorities. The church missed the mark when teaching its’ members about historical details, and then gaslighting them telling them it was in a 1973 ensign article, or splicing pages back into book as the church historian.
The church has strayed away from its’ potential. Even with all the historical and doctrinal issues, the church could be such a great force for good. But they pick fights that are unnecessary. https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/05/22/why-utah-developer-says/ This is about people who gave to the church in the 1970’s thinking helping the community, but the church sees it for only revenue and forget the neighborhood.
We all are just a number on their corporate stat sheet. The church loves its’ money more than Christ, they do not even follow their own teachings in the Book of Mormon or Doc & Cov. The church should read Uchtdorf talk of ” a difference of a few degrees” and look in the mirror. However, the members are the problems and never the institution its’ self.
What the church states it stands forth on paper and its’ slick marketing videos, is not even close to the actual church experience. Sorry for the criticism, but for those who think that all is well in Zion, must be playing darts blindfolded.
The idea of hitting the mark or missing the mark, the way it is a useful substitute in many cases for sin, made me think of the way Buddhists approach the same subject. Instead of looking at behavior as sinful or not sinful, Buddhists use a word that most closely translates into English as “skillful”. It goes a bit like this: Whenever you want to perform a bodily act, you should reflect on it: “This bodily act I want to perform -would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with harmful consequences or painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it would, then any bodily act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction…it would be a skillful bodily act with happy consequences, happy results, then any bodily act of that sort is fit for you to do.” This also applies to verbal acts and mental acts.
Growing up in the Church it seemed like most of the sins we worried about were actions against the Church, not actual decisions that were immoral or unethical or dishonest. The Word of Wisdom is the best example I can think of. There are so many others (modesty, porn, etc.). And I think this is one reason why today’s youth aren’t making it in the Church. They see rules and regulations meant to control their behavior and maintain their allegiance to the institution and they don’t see any real moral reasoning behind the code. In the meantime, they see leaders who treated women as property, blacks as second class citizens, and who continue to view LGBTQs as “other”, and they wonder why they should take marching orders from these leaders. One specific example: I have a daughter who can’t get over the fact that in 2022 the Church’s top 2 leaders are eternal polygamists (if you believe the doctrine). This will sound self-serving but my daughters (all in their 20s and out) believe they are more moral than the Church (see first sentence).
As for the immorality of sex outside of marriage, the LDS Church is not the only institution that believes this is immoral and I do indeed remember the obsession with this topic as a youth. We could debate this another time but I’m struck by the fact that none of our modern scriptures seem to give the youth the guidance they seek on this subject. All the scriptures I can think of deal with infidelity within marriage, not the seriousness of teenagers and pre-marital sex. Of course, we have Alma 39:10 which has been interpreted to mean that any sex outside of marriage is second only to murder. Again, this is what the “Church” believes but not what human nature teaches us. And don’t get me started on how we are supposed to view homosexual folks who love each other romantically.
The temple recommend questions are the best evidence I have for the Church’s focus on loyalty to the institution over basic morality or ethics or simple Christianity. What if they asked us about our Christian service, our efforts towards charity, and our overriding goal to be like Christ instead of whether or not we pay tithing and obey the Word of Wisdom? See first sentence.
I forgot to add the new favorite of the week. https://i.redd.it/eqoay8gzeiy81.jpg
Go to youth fireside and take a picture with a cardboard cutout of President Nelson. But we do not adore our leaders, only the Savior. Does Nelson have an ego ?
The church it appears has now scrubbed this from the official website, surprise !! .
“When you know better, you do better” – Maya Angelou
I’m the personality type that really let the notion of sin destroy my mental health. I used to torture myself as a missionary, feeling that my lack of bringing others to Christ was because of my impure thoughts and not because people’s agency was a factor. Compound that with a father that would tell me that Jesus wouldn’t have commanded us to be perfect if it were not achievable and I was really set up for massive failure. When I started to view mistakes as education 15 years later in my life, I was finally able to heal. Yes I make loads of mistakes, but I’m trying, and I’m not ashamed to apologize. The sad thing is that I didn’t learn this better view at church. I learned it from secular sources. And when I tried to share my new knowledge on the subject and how it helped me at church, it clearly made people uncomfortable. We as a people seem to really enjoy focusing on sin.
Josh h brings up a very important topic. Our focus at church is on all the wrong lists of making the world a better place. The church has amazing resources at its disposal, including money and talent, and I still long for the day that it can use them better, but with each passing day where nothing changes, I become less hopeful.
@Faith–Amen. And are you kidding me? (Nope–you’re not) It reminds me of that tacky photo of President Nelson taking the key from Peter’s statue in Rome–disgusting, gross, and self-promoting. I’m just so massively disappointed by the direction of the church I once loved.
Faith, OMG that image is so cringe.
Go right now to churchofjesuschrist.org. The banner picture taking up most of my screen is President and Sister Nelson.
That being said, Jesus also told Heavenly Father in the war in heaven that the glory would be the Father’s, yet here we are doing all sorts of Jesus worship. So there’s that.
What is fascinating is to read this in context with the Greek word for repentance.
Repent is a compound word formed from “meta”, which means “amid” or “with,” and “noeo,” which means “to exercise the mind.” Thus, the word literally means, “accompanied by an exercise of the mind,” or “with understanding.”
Any reputable Bible dictionary or Greek-English Lexicon will first define “repent” in this way.
Thayer: (1) To change one’s mind, (2) To change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.
Strong’s: to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): – repent.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary- “Metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.””
“Metanoia “… was used consistently in the literature of that time to express a fundamental change in thinking that leads to a fundamental change in behavior and/or way of living”.
In 2006, an ecumenical group of scholars published a study of repentance in the Bible and the Church.
After “a thorough examination of Hellenistic Jewish writings”, the study found that for Jews living at the time of Jesus, “repentance” meant “a fundamental change in thinking and living.”
For the New Testament, this change is a necessary ingredient in accomplishing God’s plan for salvation and community for everyone.”
And from the Church website:
The concept of shub is also found in the New Testament, which was written in Greek.
The Greek writers used the Greek word metanoeo to refer to repentance.
Metanoeo means a change of mind, thought, or thinking so powerful that it changes one’s very way of life.
I think the Greek word metanoeo is an excellent synonym for the Hebrew word shub. Both words mean thoroughly changing or turning from evil to God and righteousness.
Confusion came, however, when the New Testament was translated from Greek into Latin.
Here an unfortunate choice was made in translation; the Greek word metanoeo was translated into the Latin word poenitere.
This word is related to the words punish, penance, penitent, and repentance.
The beautiful meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words was thus changed in Latin to a meaning that involved hurting, punishing, whipping, cutting, mutilating, disfiguring, starving, or even torturing! It is no small wonder, then, that people have come to fear and dread the word repentance, which they understand to mean repeated or unending punishment.
I think that many thoughtful people will agree that turning one’s religion into pop culture or kitsch to the point that a devotional resembles a comicon does not advance that religion. Thankfully, some sensitive soul quashed it. Now if we can get the same sensitive soul to take a good hard look at Desert Book, our youth programs, the manuals and a general conference talk or two.
I think the church – along with other high demand religions – has no intention of us hitting the mark. If we’re getting too close or even hitting it on occasion, they simply redefine the mark or what success looks like or the proper method or even that the mark ever existed.
We are left in a perpetual state of failure. No success is ever enough.
We will never progress to the point that we don’t desperately need them.
To my mind, that is the problem. And the greater sin.
Bishop Bill, I really like the distinction you’re making here. We lack the ability to distinguish between sin and perhaps what Joseph Smith described as “foibles of human nature.”
I want to throw out a related word that the Church needs to take a close look at–worthy or worthiness. We believe that as Children of God we have infinite worth. Sin or missing the mark does not diminish that worth. We have tied to redefine the term worthy, but it still means: 1) having worth, merit or value; or 2) honorable or admirable; or 3) deserving, or having sufficient worth; or 4) suited; suitable; befitting. I know many people who are “worthy ” but many of their actions truly are not deserving of honor or praise.
The church not only makes sin all about itself, as Josh H explained, but it makes repentance all about itself. My father is a good example of this. He harmed his family, but all his “restitution” went to proving how much he loved the church.
My father might be what Bishop Bill would call someone who committed sin rather than just missed the mark. Me, I still love/hate the guy, and I would classify him as someone who missed the mark by a long shot, trying to show love and be loved, but leaving devastation in his wake.
His victims and the harm he did was just swept under the rug by the church. None of that mattered one bit to the church, but we were left to clean up his mess as best we could and blamed for “not being over it.” The emotional damage he did to five small children was just their problem, and the continuing abuse of his wife didn’t matter. I don’t think he ever confessed to the sexual abuse of my younger sister and I was the one to tell his bishop of his sexual abuse of me, and his forced “apology “ to me said that he really didn’t even understand that I was too young to understand what he was doing, so my lack of resistance was not consent. His “apology “ also showed that he had no clue that I trusted him as my father and he violated that trust. He had blocked all memory of my fighting him and his beating me into submission before the abuse stopped. So, just how can he fully repent when he didn’t comprehend that incest is WAY different than fornication. None of his counselors or bishops had ever talked to me, so they only had his twisted minimized version of things. How is that repentance?
It was as if he had hurt the church, not his family. His family didn’t matter. It was all about the church. The church didn’t care about the devastation of his family, only his loyalty to the church. So, all the rest of the family left the church, including me, and he was loved and coddled and then rebaptized with both myself and my mother saying that, no he hasn’t really changed. But he had proven loyalty to the church and that was good enough for the church. They declared him righteous and the rest of the family unforgiving wicked sinners.
And people wonder why I left. How to I say, “because this is not the church of Jesus Christ, but The Church of The Church.
Been There has it right. We are never “good enough” for the church. If we meet all the marks that the church has set out, it changes the goal post so that we still need the church. But maybe the whole problem is that we don’t need the church at all and they are terrified we all might figure that out.
This is an interesting discussion. I was familiar with hamartia as a literary term, but was unaware of the religious connotations of the word.
Metanoeo and hamartia don’t seem like a perfect match, imo. If one misses the mark but still aims for it, is a “fundamental change of thinking,” “change of one’s mind or purpose,” etc. actually required? Perhaps I’m just spelling out what Stephen was implying, but it seems that if we’re missing the mark, we ought to make amends, course correct if possible, and move on. Is prayer necessary in that calculus?
RE: BeenThere and Anna, it reminds me of a job of mine. I was working at a call center that had started a new project, and almost every morning we were briefed on new requirements (which typically contradicted earlier ones). After a while, we basically threw up our hands. How were we supposed to know how to improve?
‘Missing he mark’ is not a sin, it’s an experience from which we can learn, but it does not carry the weight of shame, or guilt, and nor should it. I place it the category of areas in need of improvement, moving forward. Sin occurs when acts are premeditated and deliberate, which primarily impact one’s own integrity of character, simply because we have knowingly acted contrary to our best judgement, and in doing so have caused either loss of self respect, hurt to others, or both. It is the struggle between the good and evil present in each of us, with evil being the deliberate choice of action. Even so there are categories of sin, meaning murder weighs more heavily upon conscience and one’s personal psyche than does theft, but they are close relatives, nevertheless. Best to avoid them both, rather than comparison of weight of seriousness. Both require repentance, which simply means realization of a breach of personal integrity, and never repeating the same.
Stephen Marsh, the word in Spanish for repentance is the same for changes ones mind, So in effect one says “I was going to buy the green sweater, but I repented and bought the red one”.
@Anna – my heart goes out to you and your family for what you all endured. The church leaders have been woefully I’ll equipped to understand and know how to deal with these situations appropriately and many such cases have been swept under the rug to the great harm of victims who are often being pressured to forgive as well. As if that were often the more important thing!? I would hope there is now better training and protocols but I am still wary of the effectiveness to handle what are serious legal and psychological matters. There’s a huge difference between taking a wrong path and sin, and yet the church involves legal firms to mitigate any mistakes that lay leaders through their personal bias or absolute inexperience might make. It’s a hard role being a bishop,and they give up so much time and commitment at often great personal cost. The church needs to make darn sure that bishops know their legal requirements to report and how to get appropriate funded care for their flock when needed.
BYU religion professor, Max Waters: “The lessor of two goods is evil”.
I carried that in my head for decades – not just tryin to what’s right, but trying to Jud get which right thing was better.
Auto correct: judge not “Jud get”
^^ Oof. Wow. That’s right up there on the shortlist of worst things I’ve ever heard to have come out of CES.
Just to clarify my story above, I waited until the statute of limitations ran out before I told anyone about the abuse. I just didn’t want my dad pretending to be a righteous Mormon. It kind of ruined the whole thing for me when he started going to the temple after I was grown and out of the house. So, there was never a case where a bishop should have reported it to law enforcement. All I really needed from the church was the recognition that I needed as much help healing as he got “repenting”. But as I said above, his bishops coddled him, and mine told me I was worse than he was because I was unforgiving. Forgiveness wasn’t the problem. Healing the damage was, and they didn’t understand that I needed any help at all, as if my father had just done some tiny harmless nothing.
See, child sexual abuse victims often “forgive” their more powerful offender by blaming themselves and actually protecting the offender. That was what I had done in waiting until he could not be legally prosecuted. So, forgiveness isn’t the problem, well, it is the problem, because the victim forgives the offender and blames themself. I didn’t understand that until several years of therapy. I needed to turn the forgiveness right side up and forgive myself for being a child and blame my father for the abuse, sort of Un-forgive him. But my bishops couldn’t see the self blame, all they saw was my screwed up life, and the church teaches a real warped view of forgiveness, that it sort of magically fixes the damage. Sort of like if someone gets hit by a drunk driver and paralyzed from the waiste down, and forgives the drunk driver and can magically walk again. They just can’t see that when the injury is emotional and not physical, that a doctor is needed. One bishop told me I was selfish because I got into therapy. Oh, and one of my bishops would tell the next, so there was no choice for me to just not confide in my bishop. But they kept my father’s reason he got excommunicated confidential. So, keeping things confidential only applied to protecting him.
Wow. Unbelievable. Just horrible.
So, one can’t go to the temple if they drink coffee or if they don’t pay a full tithe, but you can get back in after “repenting” for sexual abuse of your children?
Some people should not ever get their temple recommend back.
BeenThere: Loved your comment. Talk about “hitting the mark”. Beautifully narrated, my friend! Thank you.