Sin Is An Inversion of God’s Attributes

“I wish you to understand that sin is not an attribute in the nature of man, but it is an inversion of the attributes God has placed in him. Righteousness tends to an eternal duration of organized intelligence, while sin bringeth to pass their dissolution” (Brigham Young Discourses of Brigham Young, 10:251).

Brigham Young’s statement caused me pause when I first read it.  I’d seen sin as an aberration from God’s path, or willful disobedience, but hadn’t ever thought of it as an inversion from His nature and attributes.

The truth’s so obvious in simple juxtapositions.

The Lord is a giver. In its inversion, a thief takes.  The Lord creates life. In its inversion, a murderer kills. Jesus gave glory to the Father. Inverted pride vaunts itself.

And more attributes and inversions: Peace-War, Love-Hate, Honor-Gossip, Abundance mindset-Victim/Lack mindset, Happiness-Anger, Built on a Rock-Tossed as a Wave, Forgiving-Bitter and Vengeful.  It’s pretty easy to see how each attribute is inverted to an opposite.

Righteousness tends to eternity, sin tends to destruction. Hence, the devil enjoys seeing others miserable like he is, while Jesus Christ suffered for all so we wouldn’t suffer if we repented.

Being Filled with the Holy Spirit’s Inversion

The scriptures readily teach the impacts of being filled with a spirit. The Spirit of God tends to life and eternity.  In that inversion, the spirit of devils tends to destruction. We can be filled with either spirit.

The New Testament Gospels discuss all sorts of demon and devil possessions of man. Examples of that destructive possession that leapt to mind included Mark 9’s story of a man who besought the Savior for his son’s release.

And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away…straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming…And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him.

Legion

Jesus casts Legion from the man into swine
Der liebende Jesus jagt Dämonen in unschuldige Schweine by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

The other story that really hit this principle home for me was the story of Legion in Mark 5.

[I]mmediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

In an instant, their possessed pig bodies were violently dead.

Other destructive possessions aren’t quite so obvious.  Alma discerned that charismatic, rational Korihor was possessed.

Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God.

Korihor experienced spiritual destruction. He’d had light, but he turned to darkness. He demanded a sign. God struck him deaf and dumb. A horse eventually trampled Korihor to death.

And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.

Blinded to Sight

Being blinded by an evil influence produces pronounced fruits and so does the Spirit of God.

Blinded by an incorrect judgment, Saul held coats while others stoned saints like Stephen. He rounded up and persecuted the righteous. But in a dramatic turn of events, Saul saw the light, repented of his erroneous ways, and corrected his life path. He devoted his life to the true God.

Filled with the Spirit of God

Rather than specific stories, two quotes demonstrating the principle of God’s spirit tending to life, creation, and eternity sprang to mind.

Joseph Smith sent the following in a letter to the Quorum of Twelve in 1840.

Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.

Possession of the love of God yields dramatic, beneficial results.

Joseph Smith's First Vision
Illustration of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, from T. B. H. Stenhouse’s The Rocky Mountain Saints.

Possession of the Holy Spirit

And this quote by Parley P. Pratt has changed the course of my life several times. It correlates with Brigham Young’s thought well—that we are designed with the Spirit of God, but because of the Fall are subject to inversions of these characteristics. I love it.

An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection, of will, wisdom, love, power and gift, which is possessed by God Himself.

But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo; and are to be gradually developed. They resemble a bud–a germ, which gradually develops into bloom, and then, by progress, produces the mature fruit, after its own kind.
The gift of the Holy Spirit adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity.

It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being. (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, pp 101-103).

My personal challenge is to expunge the inversions from my soul. My spirit is resilient and welcomes the change. For any shallow or deep-rooted aberrations, the Savior’s atonement promises relief and regeneration. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

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  • James McClymont

    Sin is a fictional disease invented to sell you a fake cure.