Repentance, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, makes or breaks the soul of one who understands who Christ is and what He has done to prepare the way for each individual person spiritually and eternally.
“…Thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not.” (Helaman 13:11)
-Will everyone who ever lived have a chance to receive or reject Christ’s Atonement before the Last Judgment?
Alma teaches that one should view his or her sins as God sees them—with no degree of excuse or allowance. Only then is one brought to the level of deep humility that makes sincere repentance possible.
“…Let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance…Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his longsuffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” (Alma 42:29-30)
-In how many ways do people avoid looking their sins directly in the face?
-How does doing so cripple one spiritually and block the saving grace of Christ’s Atonement (the power of which He predicated upon repentance)?
Alma teaches his son that true repentance prevents one’s evil deeds from coming full circle to condemn him or her at the Last Judgment. Through His Atonement, Christ took upon Himself our punishments on condition of repentance, but without sincere repentance such mercy has no claim and the punishments will be fully applied.
“…Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved. What, do you suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery. Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.” (Alma 42:24-28)
-How many chances does God give a person to repent?
-Will those who did not have a knowledge of Jesus Christ in mortality have an opportunity to repent once that knowledge is given to them in the spirit world?
Alma teaches that transgressing God’s law, in the absence of repentance, demands punishment. But sincere repentance allows such sins to be forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“…Repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?” (Alma 42:16-21)
“But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored to his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” (Alma 42:22-23)
-Is person inevitably in the grasp of justice when he or she knows God’s law but does not humble himself or herself before God in sincere repentance on a regular basis?
Alma teaches his son that God never deviates from upholding justice. The greatest example of this is the unimaginable suffering of Jesus Christ in working out the Atonement in our behalf. In so doing He satisfied the demands of justice—He did not circumvent those demands. Alma also teaches that sincere repentance is required, based on the demands of justice, for Christ’s Atonement to have saving power in our lives.
“…As the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death. Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state. And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience; Therefore, according to justice the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:9-13)
-Why is the unwavering upholding of justice a characteristic of Godhood?
Alma teaches his son that no good action will go unrewarded by God.
“…See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored…” (Alma 41:14-15)
-What are the implications of the above principle for those who intentionally and maliciously hurt others?
-How much joy does it bring our Savior when we act in a way that accepts His example and His Atonement, which magnifies the good we do into the eternities?
Alma teaches his son that the restoration of the body to the spirit (Resurrection) is required as part of God’s perfect execution of justice in line with Christ’s Atonement.
“…The plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.” (Alma 41:2)
-How does the Resurrection stem from God’s justice?
Gratitude: I am grateful to know our Heavenly Father will always uphold what is just and right. Everything, sooner or later, will come full circle in the light of truth and justice because of His wisdom and power (including the restoration of the body).
During a large war between the Nephites and Lamanites, many souls departed from mortal life. In the context of these events, Mormon (the prophet-historian who abridged the Nephite record that was translated as the Book of Mormon), teaches about the great spiritual variance that exists when souls pass through the veil into the eternities.
“…Many thousand are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo. While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness. And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.” (Alma 28:11-13)
-How important is it to repent and reconcile oneself with God (through the Atonement of Jesus Christ) before passing into the eternities?
-How heavily will the unalterable justice, which God upholds, weigh on those in the afterlife who chose not to be reconciled with God through Christ’s merciful intervention during mortality?
-What is Paradise?
-What is Spirit Prison?
-Will those who never had God’s law in mortality be led to Paradise if they choose to follow Christ in the afterlife?
Aaron, a Nephite missionary, teaches the Lamanite king about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“…Since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance…and…[Christ] breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory…” (Alma 22:14)
-What can be merited through the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
-Can anything be merited without it?
-Is Christ’s Atonement an invitation to good works, since nothing can be merited without the Atonement, but much can be merited (your good works can be magnified by God) with it?
-Are you willing to accept the victory of the grave? Or, do you choose to believe in the testimony of Aaron that death isn’t the end, but has been conquered by Jesus Christ?
Aaron, a Nephite missionary, teaches that…
“…There could be no redemption for mankind save it were through the death and suffering of Christ, and the atonement of his blood.” (Alma 21:9)
-Does God redeem His children (mankind) outside of the demands of justice?
-Was there any other way to satisfy the demands of justice, while still showing mercy, without God providing an atoning Savior?
Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:
“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. … He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 613).