As repeated in the Book of Mormon countless times, prophets have long prophesied that Christ would come to earth to redeem His people. Abinadi taught that “God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth … that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead … and redeem his people.” Abinadi was murdered for preaching this, but Alma, Abinadi’s sole convert, continued to teach others about “the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ.”
What does God mean when He says that He will redeem His people? Alma’s son (also named Alma) described His experience with redemption:
I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Part of redemption is to be transformed and become new creatures. We cannot change our characters without Christ’s help. To come unto Christ is to allow him to transform us as people so that will will no longer have a desire to sin, as King Benjamin’s people experienced in their own transformation and redemption. I submit that we cannot build a free society unless we first become transformed through Jesus Christ. In our society, the burdens of government are the result of individuals exerting coercive power over their neighbors. Liberty cannot be found through revolution or resistance. Rather, it is found as each of our hearts are transformed by Christ.
Power to Change
Many people rightly see a contradiction between preaching strict obedience to the commandments, and then immediately following it up with, “But it’s OK if you mess up, Christ will take care of it.” The atonement isn’t just a safety net for when we fail to live the commandments—it is the energy that gives us the power to live the commandments. Amulek, a convert introduced to Christ by Alma the younger, powerfully taught that “Christ will not save his people in their sins,” but rather He will save them from their sins. We don’t strictly live the commandments so that we won’t need to rely on Christ—we need Christ in order to strictly live the commandments. He is the one that changes our hearts through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Everything that is fallen about us (the temptations we experience, the bad habits we’ve formed, the disconnect between our beliefs and our actions) can be redeemed and repaired through the atonement of Christ. To preach of Christ is to preach repentance, because that is the gift Christ gives to us. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said that in order to come unto Christ, “We must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance.”
Do you see yourself changing for the better on a daily basis? Do you see old habits giving way to newer and better ones? Do you see temptations that were once overwhelming becoming less enticing? Do you see yourself spending more time doing things that matter, and less time doing things that don’t? Do you see yourself becoming more compassionate with others, more inclined to generosity and service, more thoughtful about the needs of those around you? If so, there is a good chance the atonement of Christ is operating in your heart, leading you to redemption and making you a new creature.
If not—then let’s commit to inviting Christ into our hearts. Let’s pinpoint habits, small and large, that we’d like to change, and, Elder Holland puts it, exercise “just ‘a particle of faith,’ giving even a small place for the promises of God to find a home—that is enough to begin. Just believing, just having a ‘molecule’ of faith—simply hoping for things which are not yet seen in our lives, but which are nevertheless truly there to be bestowed.” Then, let’s watch miracles happen in our lives, and testify of those miracles to those around us. There’s no sin and no habit too inconsequential for us to practice with. Let’s let Christ save us from our sins.
Do you ever wish you would spend less time on Facebook? Through Christ and His atonement, you can. His grace isn’t just meant to make up for that fact that you spend too much time on Facebook; His grace is meant to change you so that you won’t do it anymore. Do you ever wish you didn’t have such a bad temper? Through Christ and His atonement, you can change. His grace isn’t just meant to make up for that fact that you sometimes get irritable and grouchy; His grace is meant to change you so that you are full of love and have no desire to take your bad mood out on somebody else. Do you ever wish that you weren’t so dogmatic and contentious? His grace isn’t just meant to compensate for that; His grace can change that.
I would love to hear stories about this—not stories of things that have happened long ago, or to someone else, but stories about how you are currently being changed for the better by Christ’s atonement. Nothing too personal—there’s no need to air our dirty laundry here. Besides, I think that we too often focus on the egregious sins and neglect the importance of repentance, change, and redemption from the simple, small, daily habits that keep us from being free and Zion people. But if, as a result of this post, you invite Christ to help you exchange some old habit for a newer and better one, or start doing something that you’ve always known you should, or change an attitude for the better—let us know!
Here’s two experiences of my own: Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself becoming less dogmatic in my conversations with others about liberty. In months past, I’ve had a bad habit of alienating others from the cause of liberty, because I would argue harshly and rudely. I prayed that Christ would help change my heart so that I can lovingly invite others to participate in the case of liberty, and be less dogmatic and argumentative. I’ve felt the Spirit soften my attitudes and help me create an inviting environment for others who might want to learn about liberty. Likewise, I’ve also found myself being less judgmental of my neighbors. Intrusive government regulations often arise when neighbors nitpick each other’s choices in yard decor, child raising, etc. I’ve prayed that I would be more tolerant, forgiving, and understanding of my neighbor’s choices. I’ve had many moments since then when I’ve been tempted to criticize my neighbors, but instead found reasons to embrace and love them.
Like Alma the younger, share with us your present experiences with the redeeming power of Christ. As you do, each of us will grow in our faith in the transformative power of the atonement—and this will help each of us take a step forward on the path to becoming new creatures in Christ.