Mosiah 3: 24

Words from God, delivered by someone who is authorized to speak them, “stand as a bright testimony against this people.” (Mosiah 3: 24.) It is a “bright testimony” because it illuminates the wickedness and hard hearts of the people when they reject it. Or, alternatively, it is “bright” because it opens the mind of those who will receive it, and they become enlightened by receiving truth from God. Either way, it is a “bright testimony” and will cut against all who fail to respond by repenting.

The purpose of the message is to make everyone aware of their duty to follow God. That purpose becomes most fully understood “in the judgment day” when the Lord’s messengers stand beside Him. (Moroni 10: 34; 2 Ne. 33: 11.) It will then be obvious who He sent and who pretended to be sent. (Deut. 18: 20.)

The angel then says “every man shall be judged according to his works.” (Mosiah 3: 24.) This means what you “do” in response to the warning to repent is what determines your final fate. Your “works” matter because if you respond by repenting, then you will “work out your salvation.” (Philippians. 2: 12.) If not, then you have procrastinated and will be damned for your failure to work. (Alma 34: 33.)

The symmetry and simplicity of the message is astonishing. Everyone can understand it, but that is never the challenge. The challenge is always whether or not to take it seriously enough to act on it.

Acting on it does not involve a public display. It only involves what goes on inside your heart. You repent before God, and come to Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit and beg for forgiveness. When the Lord forgives, then you change from the inside out. The only real change that matters comes from within. Outward display first is artificial. When a new heart is inside a man, then the outward behavior, and eventually even countenance, will change to reflect what lies within the man.

Given the seriousness of the message, you would think all who hear it would at least consult with God before turning away. However, it has always been the most religious who will not listen to a message of repentance.

Traditions and social reinforcement from others who think alike, all prevent the message to repent from getting through. Instead of a message of repentance, mankind prefers a prophet who tells them they are good. They are justified. They are righteous! They are chosen! God loves them in their sins! They need only pray, pay and obey and all will be well with them! Then people do pay, so that such characters become rich and powerful. (Helaman 13: 26-28.)

There is perhaps no greater revelation of the plan of salvation ever composed than the Book of Mormon. Beginning with Mosiah the text is abridged by Mormon. I think, however, this chapter from Mosiah was left as in the original. What Mormon did here was keep intact the transcript of the angel’s message. I can almost hear it echoing still. Can’t you?

3 Nephi 12: 30

“For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”
Each person’s cross is individual. Carrying “your cross” is not the same as carrying mine. Therefore, when you “deny yourself of these things” what you surrender and what you take up will be “your cross” and never mine.
It is odd how we are able to spot from a distance the weaknesses of others. We have highly acute sensitivities about others’ flaws. But we rarely appreciate the crosses they bear.
How hard a burden a man carries when he disciplines himself to rise daily, and work to sacrifice for his family, is not at all the same across the economic scale. Nor, for that matter, is the daily service carried on by mothers who have deprived themselves of other pursuits to raise sometimes ungrateful children.
But “hell” is where we are cast when we are pained by the regrets of having lived without discipline, having lived selfishly. (Mormon 9: 4-5.)  We will stand “naked” before God. All of what we want hidden will be before us, revealed and exposed to view.
The “hell” of it all will be our regret, for we are our own tormentor. The torment of a disappointed mind will be like fire and brimstone to the regretful. (TPJS p. 357.)
Christ is advising us in a kindly way how to prevent that moment of fear, regret and torment. He is telling us how to escape it. These teachings are not a threat addressed at us, but a caution about the future moment when these teachings apply to us all.
It is as if the Lord wants us to know clearly beforehand what we are going to wish we had done instead. Now, in mortality, while we can still change how things will turn out, He is telling us how to accomplish that. In an understatement, He advises: “it is better to deny yourself” than it will be to indulge. You may find it a “cross” as you do, but if you deny yourself now it will let you escape “hell” in the future. It is kindly advice, without a threat. It is a warning about the road you have taken, and guidance on how you can avoid the collision that is coming.
Whatever the “cross” is you take up in your daily effort to live inside the bounds prescribed by the Lord, it will be worth it. By heeding His counsel, you will become someone better and avoid becoming devilish.
The temptations each of us face are unique to the individual. What is universal, however, is the limit placed upon temptations. They are never too great to resist. There is always an escape provided by the Lord. (1 Cor. 10: 13.) Nor are you given any commandment you cannot obey. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) However, that is not to say temptation is easily overcome. Weakness is our lot. (Ether 12: 27.)
What then are you to make of your cross? If you’ve tried to deny yourself and failed, does it mean you are hopeless? Is the persistent failure to lift the cross you have been called to bear proof that you are just unable to merit salvation? Does the relentless return to temptation mean you are lost? Are you necessarily doomed because you have not found the escape promised by Paul’s writing to the Corinthians?
Life is filled with cycles. When we battle and fail one day, then join the battle again, but fail again; then another, and another and another, what is the use? What do we make of such persistent failure, such continuing weakness? Is the lesson that we are lost? Or is it that we are weak? Weaker than we had ever imagined. Weaker than you could ever suppose man to be. (Moses 1: 10.) Is this evidence that you are doomed? Or is it merely a patient God proving to your utter satisfaction that you are indeed in need of saving grace to rescue you from where you find yourself? Is this the moment when, while filling your belly with husks along with the swine you’ve descended to accompany, you wake up? (Luke 15: 11-17.) If you will finally surrender your pride, come forward with a broken heart and real intent, returning to your Father, He will joyfully receive you still. (Luke 15: 18-24.) There is joy in heaven over you when you awaken.
Weakness is nothing, for all are weak. It is a gift, given to break your heart. Your broken heart will qualify you for His company. Whether a leper, an adulteress, a tax collector or a blind man, He can heal it all.  But what He cannot do, and you must alone bring to Him, is that broken heart required for salvation.
William Ernest Henley wrote Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Orson F. Whitney penned the response in The Soul’s Captain:

Art thou in truth? Then what of him

Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear. –
The God who died that man might live,
And endless glory share?
Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light may pierce the gloom,
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree.
Thou, captain of thy soul, forsooth
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine — free agency
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.
_______________________________

We choose. We live with our choices. It is better to deny ourselves and take up our individual crosses.

3 Nephi 12: 19

 
“And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.”
 
This hearkens back to the doctrine of Christ given preliminarily to the audience. Repent. Be baptized.  Receive the Holy Ghost. These commandments are the foundation upon which all else is to be built.
 
To all that He explained before, He has added, “repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Repenting will be accompanied by a broken heart and contrite spirit. When you turn to Him and see clearly for the first time how dark your ways have been, it should break your heart. You should realize how desperately you stand in need of His grace to cover you, lift you, and heal you. You can then appreciate the great gulf between you and Him. (Moses 1: 10.)
If you had to bear your sins into His presence it would make you burn with regret and fear. (Mormon 9: 3-5.) Your own heart must break.
 
When you behold how little you have to offer Him, your spirit becomes contrite. He offers everything.  And we can contribute nothing but our cooperation. And we still reluctantly give that, or if we give a little of our own cooperation we think we have given something significant. We have not. Indeed, we cannot. (Mosiah 2: 20-21.) He honors us if He permits us to assist. We should proceed with alacrity when given the chance to serve.
 
How patiently He has proceeded with teaching us all. We have the law, we have the commandments.  Still we hesitate. Still He invites and reminds us: Repent. Come to Him. Do what was commanded. The law is fulfilled, and He is its fulfillment. Look to Him and be saved.
 
The heart that will not break does not understand the predicament we live in. The proud spirit is foolish and blind. Our perilous state is such that we can forfeit all that we have ever been by refusing Christ’s invitation to repent and turn again to Him.
 
But we still hesitate. We still hold back.

He really can save you. He has that power. He holds those keys. Even death and hell are conquered by Him. (Mosiah 15: 7-9.) But His victory cannot become ours unless we repent and turn again to Him.

 
Think of those you have lost to the grave.  All those living will likewise be lost unless we come to Christ.  We have hope only in Him.

It seems too simple a thing to achieve so great a result. It has always been like that. (1 Nephi 17: 41.) Look to Him and be saved. Keep His commandments. Repent. He can and will lead you from wherever you find yourself at present back into the light. It really does not matter what foolish traps you have surrounding you. So soon as you turn to face Him, He will direct you back safely. Repent and keep His commandments and they will bring you to Him.