An essay donated by Lane Delano
The biblical theme of transferring sins
to others: an alternate interpretation
[In] your essay [on the transferal of sin from the guilty to the innocent] ... the bishops' comments resonate with the principle of
individual responsibility. I would like to add some ideas and principles to the
Perhaps first is the idea that our progression toward God is most often
accomplished as a group, how we treat others, the golden rule etc. This idea
is attested to in scripture many times, perhaps no more clearly than when an
Israelite disobeyed and took plunder, in contravention of divine edict, and the
whole of Israel suffered setbacks militarily. At first this seems odd that
others would lose divine protection and die due to the actions of another. Yet
we take it as a given that one may bless the lives of others through virtuous
living, and even offer protection. King David prior to his fall was like a great
tree that offered shade to the subjects of his kingdom, and Solomon also.
Lastly, the doctrine of forgiveness that Christians hold is rooted in the
transference of sins to Jesus. And his willingness to accept our sins was what
exalted him. This is very interesting.
Perhaps individual responsibility is not the only or the pre-eminent law of the
heavens. Clearly sin, almost by definition, impacts others negatively. How is it
that one is allowed to harm an innocent within God's creation if individual
responsibility is the ultimate law? Such could not exist by definition since
based on individual responsibility one can only suffer or be blessed by their
own actions. For us to have any meaningful interaction we must be able to impact
each other and hence laws/principles to govern group dynamics must exist in
Are there group laws/principles in scripture? Yes, under the Sinai and Abrahamic
covenants Israel was promised land, protection and posterity. Further, Israel
was promised similar blessings under the covenant with David. Under the Davidic
covenant David answered to God for Israel, a clear transfer of the ownership of
Israel's conduct. How can it be that righteous forefathers or kings can bless
their posterity? The posterity did not merit the blessing. Further, it is the
desire of all the righteous to bless their posterity, again attested to in
scripture. We see the generational impact quite clearly in every day life as
well. The offspring of the virtuous are given a wonderful example that is
ingrained into their consciousness. The opposite is true of drug addicts'
offspring and others of little virtue. This impact on future generations is
natural on some levels -- we train our posterity. Perhaps God has taken this to
another level in the economy of heaven wherein the conduct of our lives may be
used to bless or curse our posterity. Perhaps this idea is more natural than
being taken to another level.
Another important principle is that of duality, good and evil, sin and virtue
and blessings and cursings. A Book of Mormon prophet delineates this very
well and connects choices with a blessing or and attendant cursing, the blessing
on one hand and the cursing on the other. Hence, the sin being visited on future
generations is opposition to blessing one's future generations.
Lastly, what are we to make of cursings in the scriptures? I take it as a given
that God is perfectly loving and perfectly just. This has been by experience.
Perhaps there is also a law that the sins of ignorant offspring from knowing
parents are answered on the heads of the parents? It is true in Mormonism. The
cursing is removed from the parents. Perhaps it was a loving action to allow
David's illegitimate offspring to die so as to not suffer from a curse imputed
from his father. Perhaps this is why God at times destroys the wicked, out of love
for their potential and innocent offspring. But, back to the point, a cursing
from God in my mind is meant to teach -- not destroy. It is meant to cause
suffering that leads to change. What if negative behavior was left alone or even
rewarded. That would be a disaster.