The Book of Mormon contains an amazing story about a missionary named Aaron. Aaron had the opportunity to teach a king. If you were given that opportunity, would you take it? He did and he was very bold in his teachings—no wasting time being vague so as not to offend. The king had questions, things that had been worrying him and Aaron gave him the answers he needed.
He asked Aaron about something another missionary, Ammon, had taught. Ammon had told the king’s son that if we repent, we can be saved, but if we don’t repent, we will be cast off at the last day. He was worried about this because he didn’t understand what it meant and he didn’t want to find himself cast off.
A Book of Mormon King Becomes a Christian
Aaron began by evaluating where the king was currently. He asked the king if he believed in God. The king answered cautiously that he knew the Amalekites, a people in his kingdom, said there was a God and that he had given them permission to build churches to worship that God. But so great was his trust in Aaron that he said that if Aaron said there was a God, he would believe him.
The king had heard about a Great Spirit who had brought his ancestors out of Jerusalem long ago. He asked if that Great Spirit was God. Aaron said that it was. It didn’t matter if they used different names for the same being. Accepting the king’s term, while introducing him to the correct term, put them on common ground. He explained that this Great Spirit had created everything.
The king said he believed that and asked Aaron to teach him more, again promising to believe what he was taught. Aaron then began to give him a religious history of the world, beginning with creation. He introduced him to the atonement of Jesus Christ, which had not happened yet, but which the prophets knew about. He said:
And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king. (Alma 22:14)
Repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ
The king was anxious to receive this gift. He said he would give up everything, even his kingdom, to receive the atonement. He wanted to know how to go about it. Aaron reassured him that this was not necessary.
But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest (Alma 22:16).
The king promptly lowered himself to the ground and began to pray. He asked God to make Himself known and vowed: “I will give away all my sins to know thee.”
So often, when people talk about being saved, they speak as though once they’ve said the prayer that acknowledges Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are finished. The king, though a new Christian, understood there was more to Christianity than merely making a one-time declaration. He needed to forsake his sins. This is his gift to God. He recognized that being a Christian was not a matter of words, but of lifestyle, passion, and love.
I was impressed by the term the king used. “Give away my sins” creates a concrete symbol of something that seems a little abstract. I picture wrapping them up and turning them over to Jesus Christ so I won’t be tempted to return to them. I picture Him opening them up and then helping me change my life until I don’t even miss what I’ve given away.
What sins are you willing to give up for Jesus Christ? Jesus taught that if we love Him we must keep the commandments. This is, essentially, the message the king was delivering. He was giving up his sins out of his newfound love for God and for Jesus. It isn’t working your way to Heaven or earning salvation—as the Book of Mormon says, salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. However, if we don’t give away our sins and change our lives and character, what is the point of accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior? It becomes nothing more than a meaningless gesture, and I don’t believe God is into meaningless gestures.
Look over the sins in your life—we all have them. Which ones mean less to you than your love for God? Are you ready to give those sins away?
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.