“I Fear Lest I Have Committed the Unpardonable Sin”

Brant Gardner

Sherem is not confident that he has fully repented. He confesses his fear that he has committed the unpardonable sin by claiming to believe the scriptures, yet denying the Atoning Messiah. By modern definitions of the unpardonable sin, Sherem would not qualify. Joseph Smith describes the sin as follows:

All sins shall be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy.

There is no indication that Sherem has been baptized or received the Holy Ghost. Indeed, he would no doubt have denied the efficacy of baptism, since he denied the Messiah. Why, then, did he fear that he had committed the unpardonable sin? Sherem believed in the power of the law and the power of one’s oath. By stating that he believed the scriptures, Sherem had contradicted their true interpretation. We may be more lenient on Sherem than he was on himself; but it is instructive that Sherem accepted responsibility for his actions. He did not blame someone else for teaching him incorrectly or blame society for misleading beliefs. Sherem accepted that he had committed himself to an incorrect belief and taught it to others.

It seems likely, however, that the ministering of angels signals that Yahweh still thought Sherem’s soul capable of salvation.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2