Monday, April 14, 2008

Notes from the Classroom: Repentance and Consequences

By Randal S. Chase
Last week we discussed the idea of consequences. This was done in connection with the story of the people of Alma who (although repentant and righteous by that time) were taken captive by the Lamanites and subjected to hard bondage for awhile (Mosiah 23:25-29).

Alma and his people had enjoyed safety in Helam for some time, but that suddenly came to an end when they discovered that "the Lamanites [were] in the borders of the land" (v. 25). Fleeing from their fields, Alma’s terrified people gathered themselves into the city of Helam (v. 26). Alma calmed their fears by urging them to "remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them," and they "began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children" (vv. 27–38). Alma and his brethren then "went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam" (v. 29).

It may seem surprising that Alma’s people, who were the most righteous of those who lived in the Land of Nephi and had responded to the preaching of Alma and been baptized, should now find themselves in the same kind of bondage as King Limhi’s people, who had not responded to Alma’s preaching. Yet we should remember that all of these people were complicit in Abinadi’s capture, torture, and death, and therefore subject to the woe that he pronounced upon all of them at that time. True enough, they had since repented and been forgiven in a spiritual sense, but the natural consequences of their choices still remained. Their wicked city and people had dissolved and they were all now at the mercy of the Lamanites who were intent on subjecting them.

Marvin J. Ashton said: "Our freedom to choose our course of conduct does not provide personal freedom from the consequences of our performances. God’s love for us is constant and will not diminish, but he cannot rescue us from the painful results that are caused by wrong choices" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 24; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 20).

This is a hard doctrine for some. When we truly repent, our sins are wholly and absolutely forgiven by the Lord. But at least part of that forgiveness depends upon our making restitution for the damage done. And in some cases, the consequences of our sins leave a long-lasting result that we must attend to long after the sin itself has been abandoned. The example of a young couple who create a child through immoral behavior comes to mind. Though they may repent and live their lives appropriately thereafter, and though the Lord will fully forgive them, that does not negate their obligation to the life they have created and doing the right thing for that child ever thereafter.

The people of Alma had been warned when they rebelled against Abinadi that they would suffer for their wickedness in rejecting his counsel and putting him to death. Though they repented thereafter, the consequences of their choices were not removed, and they had to prove themselves faithful through the difficult times that resulted. Only after that were they absolved of the consequences of their choice.

1 comment:

Kammi Rencher said...

Interesting. I'd never really thought about it, but it's true. We repent of our sins and then we expect not only forgiveness but freedom from the consequences of our actions. And when we don't get it, we often blame God. Thanks for the insight!