I think that growing up I understood what sin was. I learned about the commandments and I understood when I chose not to follow them, that it was a sin. However, even though I had heard the word “Atonement”, I didn’t really understand what it meant and how it related to my sins and to forgiveness.
I think many may think that after committing some sin, or a lot of sin, or maybe even really really bad sins, that they’ve kind of crossed a bridge and can never come back. It is hard to picture how some people could change their ways, repent, and live a different life after they’ve been living in a way that is not pleasing to God.
Today I read Mosiah 27. This to me is the best lesson that God has given us on how forgiveness and the atonement actually works. Let’s try to put it into today’s context.
Today there are those who are trying to destroy God’s Church. I am referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I believe is God’s Church on earth. They go about trying to lead away others away from the Church by bashing its doctrine, its practices, its culture, and pretty much anything the Prophet or Apostles say. Could any of these people who have anger and bitterness towards the Church ever change? Could someone who is spewing vileness and hatred towards God or His prophet be humbled and turn their life around and once again preach and teach about God’s love? Could they one day stand and testify of the truthfulness of the Church and the reality of our Savior Jesus Christ? It’s hard to imagine sometimes. But it’s not impossible. What sin is so bad that God’s “Atonement”, the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, cannot overcome? I would say it’s a pretty serious sin to try to lead followers of Jesus Christ away, to fight against God and His Church, and to lead people towards sin and a reckless life. This goes beyond just sinning themselves, but actually leading others away from truth and light. This is becoming a hinderment to the growth of the Church. Creating dissension among the followers and giving power to Satan to rule over them. Now that sounds pretty bad. If your goal is to destroy God’s Church, I think that is an incredibly serious a sin. At that point, you are working with Satan. So, can this be forgiven?
In Mosiah 27 we read of this group of guys who were just plain bad. They were doing horrible things. They were sinners trying to get everyone they could to leave the Church and follow them. They wanted people to sin, to turn away from God, and to follow Satan. But then this miracle happens. They see an angel who comes down from heaven in a cloud and the earth shakes as he speaks. They are terrified. He asks them, “Why are you persecuting the Church of God?” Can you imagine being in their shoes at this point? One of them is named Alma, after his father. Who was his father? Not just anyone. He was the prophet! Can you imagine the prayers that Alma the father/prophet prayed as his son, named after him, was going around leading people away on purpose, into sin and away from God’s Church? The angel said that God had heard the prayers. Then he says that nothing will overthrow God’s Church. The angel then commands them to stop all of this evil which they were doing.
I don’t know how long they were chastised by the angel. I can imagine they were stuck with incredible fear. Alma, the son of the prophet, could no longer speak and could not walk. He was brought before his father, seeming to be almost in a coma. The others told the prophet Alma of what had happened. After two days and nights of fasting and prayer, the younger Alma receives his strength and can speak. He says that he had repented of his sins, and was born of the Spirit. He said that we all must be born again. To be born of God and become a new creature. His repentance was not easy. He said that he repented nigh unto death! I think he was pleading. He knew just how serious his sins were. He was snatched from the darkest abyss and now saw the marvelous light of God.
So how bad are your sins? If the Atonement of Jesus Christ can save Alma the younger from his evil ways, and he can be forgiven and his sins are remembered no more, I think that none of us is too far gone.
“Every knee shall bow, and every tongue (will) confess before Him. … and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.” We do not need to wait until we are standing before God to bow and confess before him. Our repentance can be now. It can and should be every day. He loves us. He wants us to repent. Our Heavenly Father will be happy for us to repent. Just like Alma’s father was glad when he heard of what had happened to his son, because he knew that it was of God and that Alma the younger now knew of God’s power, of His reality, and of His greatness. Alma the younger later speaks of his experience to his own son saying, “I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. (before repenting) Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (after repenting) That sweetness is the Atonement of Jesus Christ working on our soul, making us a new creature. The sweetness is being born again and leaving that former person, who was a sinner, behind forever.
God is good. Our Heavenly Father is real. His Son Jesus Christ, suffered and atoned for our sins. He wants us all to return and live with him. Satan would tell us that our sins are too serious, that we’ve gone too far, that there is no return, that we are broken and no good. The atonement of Jesus Christ can heal and cure and make it all as new again. Born again. A new creature. We can change. Kneel. Bow. Pray. Confess. Speak to Heavenly Father. Our sins will be remembered no more.
Here is a little video which talks about Alma the Younger.