All of us are accountable before God for our own sins. (D&C 101: 78.) No one can escape responsibility based on their willful ignorance. If you have the scriptures, you know you cannot be saved in ignorance. (D&C 131: 6.) You also have been warned that the scriptures have information which is able to teach you about salvation. (2 Tim. 3: 15.) You also have the Lord’s warning to search into the scriptures if you expect eternal life. (John 5: 39.) When this is before you, it is impossible to sin ignorantly, even if you are ignorant as a result of your own neglect. (3 Ne. 6: 18.)
Once the sins of Alma and Younger and the sons of Mosiah were known, confessed and public, the sins no longer had any control over them. They felt no shame for these sins because confessing and admitting they were sinful robbed sin of its power. Similarly, the Apostle Paul’s admission of his sinful past allowed him to move on to accepting and celebrating God’s grace. (1 Tim. 1: 12-16.)
There is power in confessing. It puts the confessor above his sin. (James 5: 16.) We confess to celebrate God’s great deliverance of us. We are all weak. It is part of worshipping Him. (D&C 59: 12.) This is why the testimony of God’s redemption by Alma the Younger included confession of his own sins. (Alma 36: 6, 12-14.)
Those who claim they are holy men, without sin, and thereby cover their weaknesses while courting the praise and admiration of others, have no truth in them. (1 John 1: 8.) But if we confess we are sinful and weak, God is faithful to forgive us. (1 John 1: 9.)
Freedom from sin can only come through admitting your sinful nature. When we confess, He forgives. (D&C 64: 7.)
I received a question: “Knowing that the local church leaders sometimes misjudge the repentance process and sometimes struggle to know what the individual truly needs. Is it possible to properly repent for serious sins and have the repentance process be between just you and the Lord, without confessing your sins to your bishop? On many occasions, we read in the scriptures that repentance was done by confession to the Lord alone. If you truly had a change of heart and had abandon the sin, wouldn’t it be ok for you and I to do the same today, as recorded in the scriptures, without confessing to church authorities?”
This question is a reflection of just how “institutional” our orientation has become. The church is powerless to forgive sins. Christ forgave sins during His mortal ministry. (Mark 2: 5-12.) Christ forgives sins in His current ministry. (D&C 61: 2.)
Christ may allow men to possess the power to forgive sins as in the case of Joseph Smith (D&C 132: 46), but that has definite limits. Men are given such power because they will never use it independently of the Lord’s will. (Helaman 10: 5.) Even those who will be allowed to “judge” others in the final judgment, will not have independent reign, but must announce Christ’s judgment, not their own. (3 Ne. 27: 27.)
The only one who can forgive sin is Christ. He requires us to forgive one another, but will Himself determine whose sins He will forgive. (D&C 64: 10.) He is the only gatekeeper for forgiveness. (2 Ne. 9: 41.)
If you think the church leader is attuned to the Lord’s voice and can give you comfort, encouragement to come to Christ, and help guide you in the path, then counseling with such a man is very worthwhile, but he cannot forgive sins, for that you are required to look to the Lord.
Nephi may have gloried in plainness, but we glory in positive messages telling us we will be saved in our sins. Nephi may have gloried in Jesus, but we use His name to endorse our products and ratify our false teachings. Nephi may have urged the plainness of truth itself, but we market based on focus group tested and opinion polled results so our product line should get good market acceptance.
The third “wo” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord. The “cursing of the gentiles” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord.
Now I didn’t point that out as we went through the materials. It is significant enough that it requires additional attention.
Christ has divided judgment up into two separate functions. For those who will be blessed, He will delegate the honor of blessing to others, including His twelve at Jerusalem, (Matt. 19: 28, 1 Ne. 12: 9) and twelve Nephite disciples (3 Ne. 27: 27). Their judgment is honorary, however, because they are given no discretion in the matter. The Lord will decide the judgment. It is His alone, so as to insure it will be the right decision. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) For those who are to be cursed, however, Christ will be the one who pronounces the judgment. (D&C 29: 27-29.)
It is of terrible significance that these statements come from the Lord who alone holds the right to judge. He sacrificed His life for all, and is the Savior and Redeemer, seeking to save all who will come to Him. This is the same Lord who pronounces the words through Nephi: “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts!” (2 Ne. 28: 31-32.)
The message is delivered by Nephi. The words are the Lord’s. The merciful and loving Christ who suffered for all that they might not suffer if they would repent (D&C 19: 16), is announcing His pessimism about the latter-day gentile effort to obtain repentance. Why do we seem destined to fail? Why is repentance so difficult for us? What terrible “precepts of men” hold us bound in chains that we cannot break free.
In the chapter on the Atonement in Come, Let Us Adore Him there is an explanation given of what Christ suffered and what obligations are devolving on us as a result. We must do as He did, suffer in like manner, and forgive all offenses. His infinite suffering cannot be replicated in one sense, but in our own sphere and time we do suffer offenses and abuses. We are required to forgive as He forgave. It is our own forgiveness of others that qualifies us to receive forgiveness from Him. When we harbor grudges and resentments, we cut ourselves off from His Atonement. IF we are to be forgiven we must in turn FORGIVE others. In The Second Comforter it is shown how we must make intercession on behalf of others, even our enemies, if we are to have a hope in Christ. We must lay down the burden of sin to enter into His presence. Much of that “sin” in each of our lives has been the offenses against us, and the resentment and anger we hold from these abuses. There are people who have done you wrong. There are some who did so intentionally. When you forgive them, and plead on their behalf for the Lord to also forgive them in sincerity and love, you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Lord did this. You must do as He did to be like Him. It is the only way to understand your Lord. In this, you must suffer as He did, choosing to forgive offenses rather than to seek justice. When you show mercy, you merit mercy. The beginning of repentance is found in forgiving others.
Your just claims for retribution must be surrendered. Your worthy desire to have vindication must be abandoned. Your right to have judgment against the ones who abused you must be forfeited. And you must go on to pray for their forgiveness.
If you have read all I have written you already know this. I am disappointed to have those who have not read what I’ve written trying to make sense of this blog. It will make absolutely no sense if it is not seen as an extension of what I’ve already covered. Even this brief statement about the relationship between your own salvation and redemption through following Christ is a brief note, a cryptic signal, and altogether inadequate to explain the matter. The careful, patient and fulsome explanation has been laid out elsewhere in what I’ve written. You must go there to see why, along with the many places in scripture where the Lord has made the matter clear.
Nephi takes no delight in pronouncing these wo’s and writing the “cursing” the latter-day gentiles face. The Lord takes even less. He suffered and died to make salvation possible for these very same latter-day gentiles. He would save them all. But to do so it is absolutely necessary to bluntly warn those whom He loves. Enos recorded his own ministry and how it was affected by the audience he addressed: “And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” (Enos 1: 23.)
Why would a joyful Lord, who delights in our own happiness, speak in terms of “wo’s” and “cursing” to us? What is it about us as His audience that compels Him to rebuke us? Have you thought of the standard in Section 121 (“reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”) as part of this rebuke?
He so completely loves us that John equated Him with love. (1 John 4: 8.) Can you imagine the frustration it causes our Lord to have to speak in these terms to us?
Why do we not repent? Why do we harbor and protect our sins? Why do we worship men rather than God? Why do we cleave to the precepts of men rather than the Holy Ghost? Why do we resist the truth when it is declared to us. Why do we demand that the truth be conformed to our understanding of the precepts of men? Why do we measure the things of God against our own traditions? Why do we not abandon instantly our false notions, and stop arguing against the truth which is in Christ? Why do we think any institution, fellowship, association or man can lead us to salvation instead of Christ alone who can save? (2 Ne. 31: 19.)
How long will you harden your heart against your Lord, whose pleas are aimed only at saving your soul? Why turn away and say that you prefer membership in a great and spacious building, pointing an accusing finger at those who would lead you to eternal life? (1 Ne. 8: 26-31.) Your awards and honors are nothing. Your recognition and praise is corrosion. Everything here is doomed to decay, rot and fail. (Matt. 6: 19-20.) This is the Telestial Kingdom. Everything here, every institution, organization and order is Telestial. None of it will survive death. (D&C 132: 7.) Even the one association intended to endure (the family) will not endure unless it is through the Holy Spirit of Promise.
If you are going to be rescued from this Telestial Kingdom, it will be Christ who rescues you. His arm has been stretched out to you as long as you have been here, and it will remain stretched out until you depart here. If you are not saved, it will be because of your rejection of Him, not His rejection of you. He has done all He could. He has sent stern warnings, warm invitations, cheerful messengers, the dignified and the undignified, to show in all things He is willing to meet you more than half way. Those who reject these widely different invitations are accountable for their failure. (Matt. 11: 7-24.)
Apparently we will only accept the “precepts of men” and trust the “arm of flesh” and therefore merit the coming disappointments.
Come unto Christ and be saved.