There is a difference between sinning and making mistakes, Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained at an Education Week devotional in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University Tuesday.
"Transgressing is different from being at fault," said Elder Oaks, a member of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.People need to realize that mistakes are just that and do not require chastisement but love and mercy. Most errors and disagreements in life result from mistakes, not sins, Elder Oaks said.
"We sin only when we know the law," he added, and few people knowingly and willingly betray what they know to be right.
Even mistakes carry consequences, sometimes grievous, but that is not a license to look down upon the one at fault.
"There are inherent penalties in errors or mistakes, but their perpetrators should not be labeled sinners," Elder Oaks said. "We should always seek to distinguish between sins and mistakes."
Despite the possibility of making mistakes, people should not fear trying new things and expanding their realms of experience.
"To avoid all possibility of error is to avoid all possibility of growth," Elder Oaks said.
Mistakes give parents and teachers the opportunity and responsibility to teach the law, or the truth, to those who don't understand it yet. Until people understand the law, they are not sinning when they break it, he said.
When someone truly does sin, that person should be chastened and loved, not in a judgmental way, but in an effort to rectify the problem and help the person avoid future sins.