I recently engaged some Mormon missionaries, and one of the many topics covered was the topic of original sin. Original sin is and always has been a universally accepted orthodox Christian doctrine. The extent of original sin is debated. For example, brothers in Christ who fall into the Arminian camp do not perceive original sin to be as damaging and controlling as other brothers in Christ who fall into the Reformed tradition (total depravity). However, the doctrine at its basic level has never been disputed by orthodox believers. Mormons, however, do deny original sin. They believe everyone is born perfect and good. However, context is the killer of heresy. One of the many passages I turned to was Psalm 51:
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
I quote from the KJV, as that is the accepted version among Mormons. I turned specifically to verse 5. As evidenced by other verses, the word “shapened” means to be brought forth. This verse clearly demonstrates that David certainly believed himself to be a sinner from the moment he was conceived. He was a sinner before he was born. That’s original sin. When pressed, the Mormon interpretation was that this verse isn’t referring to David, but David’s mother.
Mormons argue that this verse refers to the sin of David’s mother, rather than of David. The Mormon claim is that David’s mother was an adulterer, and conceived him by means of her sinful, adulterous relationship.
Grammatically, this is possible. If David’s mother was an adulterer, then it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say the fruit of that relationship was formed in sin or conceived in sin. However, words are defined by their context. Before we even exegetically look at the context, let’s at least point out what this is: an argument from silence. There is no reference in any Old Testament Scripture of David’s Father committing adultery. We know that David’s Father was Jesse (Ruth 4:22). Being a Jew in the lineage of Kings, It’s very unlikely that he did. And if he did, it is likely that it would’ve been recorded as such. In other words, David was not conceived in sin in that way.
Turning to the context, verses 1-4 are only about David’s sin, no one else is brought up. He is asking for forgiveness for his sins and his iniquities. David uses 10 personal pronouns in those verses preceding verse 5 alone. Then after verse 5 he continues this trend! Never in any other verse is anyone’s sins mentioned other than David’s. The entire passage is David admitting his guilt and his need for forgiveness. To throw one verse in the middle of that of his father’s guilt is a non-sequitur.
Context kills heresy.