I ought to avoid making a mountain out of a molehill and derailing the current discussion (though one more argument about same-sex marriage is the last thing I’m interested in, so I don’t really mind if it gets derailed). Nevertheless, I think I should explain some of the cryptic remarks I made about lust more fully. Besides, I’m an academic. What else could I do but make mountains out of molehills.
Danithew said “it’s a disabled soul that has not lusted.” I responded “Would you submit that Jesus lusted or that he was disabled? I meant to leave it at that, questioning whether Danithew had thought through his claim enough, but the discussion has continued, so I’m moving it to its own post.
Here’s a fairly literal translation of Matthew 5:48: “But I say to you that each who looks at a woman with desire, he himself has already committed adultery in his heart.” The verse fairly straightforwardly says that if a man thinks of a woman as an object of sexual desire, he has already sinned. I see no other way of reading it, despite the many attempts in Sunday School and Priesthood classes to weaken the claim, such as “As long as you don’t continue thinking that way it isn’t a sin.” Jesus didn’t say what we say; he said that we sin when we have sexual desires for others (to whom we are not married—a proviso that I won’t keep repeating, but that should be remembered). In other words, he said, “Yes, even if you stop thinking that way very quickly, you have sinned.” Perhaps because it is obvious, he didn’t discuss degrees of possible sin. Isn’t it better to think about another briefly and then to turn one’s mind to something else? Of course, but I ought not to think that because I did that I didn’t sin.
I doubt that it is news that we all sin, and I think it is important to deny that Jesus Christ did. I know Margaret Barker’s take on Jesus’ mortality. I know John Murphy-O’Connor’s. I’m familiar with Raymond Brown’s. Etc., etc. Within the last year I’ve sat in seminars from both of the first two and I’ve read the work of a number of others. I have a great deal of respect for many of these people and I have learned a great deal from a number of them. But I don’t think that what New Testament scholars have to say on this issue is relevant. Indeed, on this issue, they have no more expertise than anyone else since the texts don’t talk about the question. On this question, the only experts we have are the prophets, who’ve said many times that Christ was a sinless human being. That is why he could work the Atonement: he was the only fully human being who did not sin.
It seems to me that means that if looking on another as an object of sexual desire outside of marriage is sin, then we ought not to assume that Jesus had that experience. Whatever it means to say that he grew in self-understanding (Luke 2:40; D&C 93:13), I don’t think that we can accept the idea that he moved from a state that we recognize, where we have to discipline our passions because we find ourselves sinning, to a state of perfection. To be the only sinless man is not to be a sinner and then to become sinless somehow.
I wasn’t trying to say that doesn’t Jesus understand my sins. Of course he does. But I found Danithew’s remark—”it’s a disabled soul that has not lusted”—troubling and I wanted to show why: because it suggests, I’m sure unintentionally, that Jesus Christ was not perfect.