How does the Savior’s atonement change us? In the Come Follow Me lesson for the week of Easter, 2020, we are presented with four sets of verses out of the Book of Mormon. Each set presents a different example of how someone was changed through Christ’s atoning power. This is a discussion of those four sets of verses.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you each thing that can change in your life, but to help you think about our own experiences to see what changes might be possible for you. Each of these four experiences below are different, showing how individually we all differ in our needs, and how it doesn’t seem to matter what our needs are, the Savior’s atoning sacrifice is capable of doing what is needed to cure us of our ills and lift us up from any pit of despair we may find ourselves in.
King Benjamin’s people Mosiah 5:1-2
2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
The people believed King Benjamin’s words. Why? Because they softened their hearts, which in scripture speak means they choose to believe. And it wasn’t just an intellectual believing, but they believed with their whole heart and soul.
To achieve the kind of change of heart they experienced requires this kind of belief. This is what is meant by being born again. And lest you think this is a one-time event, any change of heart must be maintained in order to persist. Even the enlightened can fall into darkness again if the old ways of darkness are embraced once again.
Alma the Younger – Mosiah 27:8-28 (and 29)
Please open your scriptures as you read these verses, so you can read along.
(The next six paragraphs or so is an aside to give some perspective on Alma’s son, Alma.) Alma the Younger may have been the son of the prophet, but he had issues with his father and what his father taught. Keep in mind that Alma was not a teenager when this story took place, he was a mature man who was at least in his twenties, and possibly much older than that, was probably married, and most likely already had children of his own. Don’t let the “younger” designation throw you.
I say that Alma was a grown, mature man, because his father was 81 years old at this time. In two chapters, and only about one year later, his father Alma the Elder dies at the age of 82. And look in the first half of Mosiah 27:16.
16 Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.
The angel reminded Alma that he was fully aware of the miracles performed by the Lord in behalf of Alma’s people when they were trying to get away from wicked King Noah. Alma probably experienced their bondage in the land of Helam, as well as their deliverance by God. Yet for all this, he seems to have been more of a convert of King Noah’s thinking than of his father Alma.
My point here is that Alma the Younger was indeed a very wicked and idolatrous man. He not only was unwilling to obey God’s commandments, but he wasn’t willing to obey the King’s commandments either. And with the sons of King Mosiah he deliberately set out, in secret, to destroy all that his father (and the King) held dear. And what was it they held so dear to their hearts, but the very Church of God. He and the sons of Mosiah had some real daddy issues.
In verse 13 the angel makes a great point we should all remember. The Church of God cannot be destroyed by any one person, for God will not allow it. The only way for the Church to be destroyed is by the unbelief of all of its members.
13 … This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
This same truth applies to us today. We need never fear that any one person or movement may overthrow the Church. That can only happen if the whole church falls into apostasy, and we have already been promised that this will not happen in this dispensation.
In verses 27-30 Alma tells everyone what the process was by which he was saved. With the appearance of the angel, Alma finally recognized the truth of the state of his own soul before God. He saw in perfect clarity that he was about to be rejected by his God for the sins he had committed, and he feared for the safety of his soul.
More than anything Alma wanted to be forgiven, so the pain and suffering caused by the recognition of his sins could stop giving him such sorrow. What he was experiencing was what we call the pains of hell.
It was only when Alma turned to Christ and begged to be forgiven that he says:
29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.
This is the same process we have to go through. If we want that born again experience we have to recognize the perilous state our soul is in, allow ourselves to feel the sorrow for what we have done to offend our God, and finally, we need to turn to Christ and seek his forgiveness that our suffering might be wiped away.
It is important to note that every soul will go through this process. The question is, will I go through it willingly and have the Savior release me from that suffering and exalt me because of my obedience to his covenants I have promised to keep, or will I wait until I can no longer repent on my own and be made to see my awful state and suffer for it in hell until the day I am released and sent to a lower kingdom of glory, because I chose not to follow Christ when I had the opportunity in mortality?
Zeezrom – Alma 15:3-12
I feel like I am probably the only one to ever read verse three and not understand a single thing I read.
3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
I always assumed Zeezrom was actually physically sick. That is what was causing his burning fever. He exercised his faith in Alma and Amulek and was healed. Wrong!
Zeezrom was sick in his soul. He had come to believe in what Alma and Amulek had taught him, and he believed that he had been responsible for their deaths. That thought weighed so heavily on his soul, that two righteous men were dead because of his own sinful ways, that his mind fell into a state of sorrow that caused him to become bedridden with a burning fever. What he was experiencing was remorse for his sins.
Remorse does things like that. I once was feeling great remorse over something I did and had a spontaneous nose bleed. Remorse can be a powerful emotion.
Notice in verse 3 that it says that his mind was “harrowed up.” A harrow is a farm implement that is designed to tear up the ground for planting. This is a perfect analogy to what happens to us when we are torn up inside for sins we have committed. We may have once thought we stood on solid ground, but after recognition that we have offended our God, it feels like we have nothing solid to stand on any more. It is a frightening feeling.
In Alma 15:6-11 we read of Zeezrom’s amazing release. This wasn’t a priesthood healing. This was Zeezrom’s acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness. He completely believed in the words of Alma and Amulek. It was because he fully believed everything they taught that he was experiencing such agony when he thought he had caused their deaths.
Now here they were, and he wasn’t sure if they could forgive him for what he had done to them and to the others in the crowd. But when Alma asks him if he believed in the redemption of Christ, Zeezrom absolutely believed.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk;
Zeezrom was prayed for by the man he had wronged. He had been forgiven by Alma. He believed that Christ had also forgiven him. With his guilt swept away, he leapt to his feet and began to preach Christ’s redemption to everyone. He was not sick with an ailment of the flesh, but with an ailment of the heart. That is the kind of sickness the atoning sacrifice of Christ heals.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies – Alma 24:7-19
Alma 24:8 points out an eternal truth about repentance. We don’t intellectually choose to repent and then all is well. The Spirit has to show us the truth about where we stand with God. We must recognize that we are not happy, that Christ offers us forgiveness if we will promise to obey his commandments and keep his covenants. A “portion” of his Spirit is needed for forgiveness to occur.
Verse 10 has an important element of repentance in it.
10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
Only God can take away the guilt from our hearts, and that is done through the merits of Christ. That is an important relationship to understand. Only Christ deserves to be forgiven. It is because the only one who does deserve to be forgiven speaks for us and intercedes with God for us, that we are forgiven of our sins. We owe all of our forgiven sins to the merits of him who is mighty to save, our Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Being forgiven of our sins through the merits of Christ is just the beginning. We must stay forgiven. This is the lesson demonstrated by the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
They were so grateful that there was any way possible for them to be forgiven for the gross crimes they had committed that they were willing to do anything that their souls might never again be blighted by those same stains. They hid up their weapons of war in the earth as a testament to God that they would never commit those sins again. As much as anything they wanted to show God that they wanted to stay as far away from the enjoyment of that sin as they could get.
That example brings up the point about our own sins. No matter what it is that we need to repent of, once repented are we willing to do whatever it takes to stay as far away from those sins as we can possibly get? What are we willing to do to never go back to our old ways. The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi were willing to lay down and be butchered in cold blood, while praying to God for mercy on their butchers, rather than to take up arms against them. How far are we willing to go to not return to our own sins?
I once asked my priesthood leader how to stay away from sin, and his advice was to so fill my days with doing good that I no longer had time for the sins that were blocking my progress. I have found that this is sound advice. When my days are filled with scripture study, service, prayer, temple and Church attendance, and the reading of wholesome books, there is little time to be distracted by things of an unwholesome nature.
Each of these situations discussed in today’s lesson present a different set of circumstances by a different set of people. Yet for all their apparent differences, they were all able to find solace and forgiveness through Christ and his atoning sacrifice for us. He is the only one of the whole human race who is actually worthy of forgiveness, because he stands as the only one who has never violated God’s laws.
As we seek to be forgiven of our sins, as unworthy as we are, we need to keep in mind the following points gleaned from today’s reading. And these are just for starters.
- Be willing to believe. We may need to seek the Spirit to help us do that, but with His help we can have our hearts softened enough that we can believe what God has given us through His prophets.
- Alma demonstrates that we need to get to a place where we recognize that we have, in fact, offended our Father in Heaven, that we have broken His laws and are deserving of punishment. Why would we ever feel sorry for what we have done unless we recognize that we have actually done wrong?
- Recognizing our true position before God can cause physical pain and anguish. Zeezrom was brought down low in his sick bed because of the anguish this recognition caused him. We can’t always promise it won’t be that bad, but better to be that bad for a brief time, and be forgiven and relieved of that suffering, and receive instead an infusion of joy, than to suffer for eternity because we refuse to admit our mistakes and try to fix them.
- Finally, once we have recognized our errors and have repented of our sins, what are we willing to do to keep our sins as far away from us as possible? In the case of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi they were willing to suffer the most horrible deaths at the hands of their own countrymen rather than lift up the instruments of their sins to defend themselves. They valued their state of forgiveness over their own mortal lives. Now that is a fully repentant soul!
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