In the last chapter, we left off with the survivors of the terrible storm mourning in darkness. This is an awful place to be. Have you ever felt that you were in utter darkness, and there was no light? These chapters reveal that Christ is the light of the world. At His death, darkness covered the land for three days. When He resurrected, light returned. As we study this chapter, ponder what you can do to have Christ’s light in your life more frequently and more brightly.
A voice speaks to the people. It tells them once more to repent because “the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people.” (2) Satan wants us to be miserable. He loves when we are in darkness. That’s why following him never brings long-lasting happiness or any light into our lives.
The voice tells them what has happened throughout the land. They would only know how the storm affected their tiny spot of the world. The voice lists all the cities that have been destroyed, and by what method—flooding, earthquakes, whirlwinds, fire. They were destroyed to “hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face.” (8)
One phrase that repeats verse after verse after telling what destruction has fallen upon what city is this:
…that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.”3 Nephi 9:5,7,8,9,11
To me, this shows that God is always aware and always just. For a season, the wicked might revel in sin and despise or put down or even kill the prophets and saints of God. But this repeating verse reveals that God’s justice will catch up to them in the end. He will reward His faithful followers, even if it’s not until the next life, and He will mete out punishment to the sinners who rejected Him. None of us can escape the consequences of our actions and choices here on earth, for good or bad.
The city of Jacobugath, where the Gadianton robbers went, was “burned by fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land.” (9)
Fire seems to be the worst or most thorough way to die or to cleanse something from sin.
Many cities are destroyed because “they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them.” (11) Often in the Book of Mormon, the stories show that even if there is a small group of Christians among a wicked people, the Lord blesses the city for the righteous’ sake. But as soon as they cast the prophets and saints out, or persecute them to the point of death or captivity, God’s blessings stop. He punishes the wicked when the righteous are cast out from among them.
The Nephite/Lamanite civilization had reached this point, and the voice tells the survivors why all these things have happened to their land.
And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.”3 Nephi 9:12
Imagine how you would have felt if you had been there. The land is covered in thick darkness that weighs down on you. Everyone around you is howling and mourning the destruction and loss. A voice is speaking from above, telling you that the destruction is even greater than you witnessed—so many cities and their peoples gone. One day, your life was going along all fine and normal, and then in one three-hour storm, civilization as you know it is destroyed completely. Days have passed in hopeless darkness, and you wonder if you will ever see light again. You wonder if this is the end—the point where you will die, like the others. But then you hear the voice speak comfort and hope to your soul. These words exactly:
O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.3 Nephi 9:13-14
Already, the voice has stirred hope within your breast. He’s talked about healing you, having eternal life, mercy. And then the voice identifies Himself. Imagine how your outlook would change with these next words:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.3 Nephi 9:15
This is the Christ who these people had been told would come to earth to bring salvation for hundreds of years. And now He is here, speaking to them. All the prophesies, they now realize, were true! Imagine the joy that must have filled their hearts in the darkness. This is the Creator of heaven and earth! This is their God!
I came unto my own and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.”3 Nephi 9:16
He tells them that whosoever receives Him is “given to become the sons of God…for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.” (17)
Now, imagine the overwhelming peace and joy you would feel there as Jesus Christ said these words to you next.
I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”3 Nephi 9:18
After being helpless and lost for three days in the worst kind of darkness imaginable, think how these people had to feel hearing Him declare that He is Light. He is Life.
Jesus Christ is still the Light and the Life of our worlds. He is the Creator and our Redeemer. And He loves us. He wants us to share in His light. He wants us to have life eternal. He wants us to become new men and women through His atoning power. He wants us to have all the blessings He has as the Only Begotten Son of God and Heir of Eternal Life. And the way is so simple. Repentance of our sins and faith on His name. Over and over again He told the Book of Mormon people by His own mouth and by the mouth of His prophets to repent and re-turn unto Him.
The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to “re-turn” toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.”
What a marvelous privilege for each of us to turn away from our sins and to come unto Christ. Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience.Neil L. Andersen, Repent, That I May Heal You, Ensign, Nov 2009, 40
- Am I using this precious gift Christ has made available to me—the sacred gift of repentance?
- Am I willing to turn away from the world and re-turn myself to God, so He can heal me and enable me, line upon line, to become as He is?
For most, repentance is more a journey than a one-time event. It is not easy. To change is difficult. It requires running into the wind, swimming upstream. Jesus said “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Repentance is turning away from some things, such as dishonesty, pride, anger, and impure thoughts, and turning toward other things, such as kindness, unselfishness, patience, and spirituality. It is “re-turning” toward God.”ibid, Andersen.
He tells them very clearly that the law of Moses is done away in Him “and ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (20)
Hardened hearts are no good to our Savior.
Think of a real broken heart. A patient becomes utterly dependent on the surgeon to fix and heal him. Then, after surgery, he must be obedient and take the prescribed medications to keep his heart working properly. The patient has to exercise and eat right, as the surgeon says. If a patient is lazy and doesn’t obey the surgeons orders, his heart can become damaged quite fast again.
With a spiritually broken heart, we become reliant upon our Heavenly Surgeon, to fix what is broken inside us. We take the prescribed regimen of medicine—faith, repentance, keeping covenants and commandments and exercise to keep our faith healthy and strong, so our heart works properly after the needed surgery.
Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me, as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”3 Nephi 9:22
If I were to choose one theme of the Book of Mormon, it would be repentance, for the purpose of coming unto Christ. Repeatedly, prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself tell the people to repent and return to Him. Repentance aligns us with God’s will and brings peace, hope, change, and joy to our lives.
Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we were climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don’t see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don’t be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting.
As we improve, we see life more clearly and feel the Holy Ghost working more strongly within us.”
Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead.”Neil L. Andersen, Repent, That I May Heal You, Ensign, Nov 2009, 40
Choose to have faith in Jesus Christ and repent of everything that is keeping you from returning to Him wholeheartedly. Offer Him your broken heart, that He may heal it. Offer Him your whole self, that He may make you mighty and great, in Him.
We don’t have to reach a certain level of righteousness to kneel before the Creator and ask for His mercy and grace. The survivors in Nephite days were just “more righteous” than the sinners who had killed the prophets. Maybe some of them had horrible addictions or habits, selfishness or pride. Maybe some of them were dishonest or immoral or lazy before everything crumbled around them. Some were saints, who’d made and kept covenants with God before the great storm. But not all of them were.
Yet, Christ didn’t just speak to His saints. He’d punished and wiped out the most evil people, who had outright rejected Him and killed His prophets and saints. But now, He speaks to everyone remaining, the saints and the sinners. He asks each of them to come unto Him and repent and be saved.
Drop to your knees now, wherever you are on your spiritual journey—whether you are far off the straight and narrow path, or on it—humble yourself enough to ask God to help you today. Humble yourself enough to beg His forgiveness for the sins you can think of, and ask Him to show you the sins you are not aware of. He will show you what you cannot see, which will humble you even more.
That is when He can do His best work, when we finally submit and give Him our broken hearts and contrite spirits as a sacrifice to show we are done with the world and all its pettiness.
You will never regret offering up this sacrifice unto God.