A discussion on the forum I frequent has reminded me of the fact that there are basically three types of Mormons/Christians.
What non-believers often focus on are the “hellfire and damnation” type. Nothing and no one is ever good enough, so you should constantly feel really guilty, or hopeless, or both. While it is true that no one is perfect, the important thing is that we are trying, and repenting. To focus on shortcomings is to deny the Atonement of Christ. The biggest way I’ve seen this destroy lives is through children who grow up feeling hopeless and/or unloved because the love they are shown is conditional on their obedience, so they feel that God’s love for them is conditional as well and they will never ‘earn’ it.
What I see increasingly, though, is the “feel good” type. As 2nd Nephi 28:8 says, “And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” I see this attitude way too much lately. “oh that commandment is too hard to keep, so I won’t be held accountable for it,”or “we’ll just do the work for Uncle Jim after he dies, then all will be well.” God will not be mocked. We are supposed to keep the commandments, that’s why they are there. God’s love for us cannot be changed — He ALWAYS loves us — but there are laws in place that must be kept before we can live with Him again. That’s why the atonement is there…but we have to USE it. It doesn’t just magically take care of everything by itself. We have to repent.
Then there is the third type — those few who battle on to keep the commandments, repent, and have faith and hope in the Savior and His redeeming sacrifice for us. I think most of us struggle and slip into the first or second categories on occasion. I know I do. Boy howdy. But the Lord is always there for us, waiting for us to repent and come unto Him. He even helps us do it.