The Book of Mormon, which Mormons consider a companion volume to the Bible, contains an amazing story of how conversion can change lives. The people in this story learned that God can forgive us of even serious sins and take away the pain of knowing we made bad choices. Mormon is a nickname sometimes used to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The story concerns a group of people known as Lamanites. They were a warlike and bloodthirsty people. However, some of them, after being taught about the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ by a missionary, converted. Once they understood what was morally right, they were horrified by the many murders they’d committed in unjust wars and simply for entertainment or petty disagreements.
Repentance Allows Us to Forgive Ourselves
The missionary, Ammon, taught them how to repent. They did so, following the proper procedures. First, they understood that they had sinned. Second, they felt deep sorrow for that sin. Next, they confessed their sins and then asked forgiveness. Then they needed to forsake their sins and move on with their new lives. If possible, they had to try to undo the damage they caused. (They could not undo the deaths, but by aligning themselves with the people they had harmed, they were able to bring peace and comfort to them.) They were so worried that fighting, even in a just war, would cause them to revert to their old habits and attitudes that they buried their swords and made a covenant (promise) with God that they would never fight again.
Unfortunately, the unconverted Lamanites were still out there and quite eager to fight their former brethren. The new converts, known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehis or the People of Ammon, refused to fight when the enemy descended, even though many were killed. This unexpected reaction caused more Lamanites to be converted. However, there were still many who did not and so the danger was great.
Ammon’s people, known as the Nephites, invited them to come and live in their lands. They worked out an agreement. Ammon’s converts would provide food and clothing to the Nephite army in exchange for protection.
It had been difficult for the newly converted Christians to face the enormity of their sins once they knew what they were and why they were wrong. The king told his people later:
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” (Alma 24:10).
The Atonement Brings Joy
It was the atonement that made it possible for these people to let go of the sins they had committed. When we talk about the atonement, we often think of it in terms of how it impacts us after death, but the atonement actually affects us every day of our lives. It can make a joyful life possible and give us peace of mind. A Mormon leader, Boyd K. Packer, in a May 2001 Ensign magazine article titled “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” spoke on this subject.
Elder Packer noted that many people just keep piling one guilty feeling on another and spend their lives suffering guilt and shame even though it is entirely unnecessary. Many people think the atonement exists only to redeem us from the fall of Adam and Eve and miss out on the other wonderful gifts it brings.
“It is an ever-present power to call upon in everyday life. When we are racked or harrowed up or tormented by guilt or burdened with grief, He can heal us. While we do not fully understand how the Atonement of Christ was made, we can experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”
In our everyday lives, we are going to make mistakes; it is the nature of mortality. However, once we have gone through a sincere and complete repentance, God forgets the sin and we need to move forward ourselves. We have the right to live with our hearts at peace after we have paid the price for our actions and when we completely believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can do just that. Don’t wait until you’re dead to enjoy the blessings of the atonement. Activate its life-changing principles today and find the peace that God has promised us.
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.