One of our cultural concepts I have been reevaluating lately is the idea that the spirit of God leaves us when we sin. On the surface, this makes sense. We know that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. We also teach that He cannot dwell in unholy places. Sin is what makes us unholy. By logical extension, then, our sins disqualify us to host God’s spirit.
To be honest, this was a concept I advocated and taught for years. That was until I was placed in a position to counsel and guide great people and family members through the repentance process. This was an overpowering experience and one that forced me to rethink a concept of which I was once so sure.
At the heart of this journey is a familiar passage from the Book of Mormon which succinctly defines the Savior’s mission:
And he will take upon him death, that he may looseth the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Alma 7:12
Now there is nothing earth-shattering in this verse. Christ came to be tempted and endure all manner of sin so that He could atone for our transgressions. His suffering allowed us to be free from the eternal consequences of sin.
But the word succor is one I did not understand. Because I understood the concept explained in this verse, I saw no need to understand what succor meant. Well, my purposeful omission denied me the opportunity to grasp the hope of the atonement and the depth of God’s grace.
To succor means to run towards when someone is in distress. This image is best exemplified in that of a mother running towards a child who fell off a bike or who is crying out from a bad dream. In both cases her child has an immediate need for comfort.
Now, let’s use that same imagery when we think of one of God’s children in similar distress as a result of sin. Because Christ has an empathetic understanding of the hopelessness which accompanies sin, I can see the Savior running towards us when we sin — in the very moment of distress. This is, to me, the very definition of succor.
This scripture leads me to believe that when we are burdened with the awful weight of sin, we are never abandoned. In fact, quite the opposite. I feel that we need Christ the most when we are steeped in sin. He is there for us. The problem comes when we disallow the Savior to heal us because we feel unworthy to be in His presence.
To me, is a reversal of how I viewed the atonement. It is not Christ who leaves us when we sin; rather we are the ones who push the Savior away because we are too proud or too far gone to be healed. But nothing can be further from the truth. Christ will never abandon us. This is why he atoned.