For most of my Book of Mormon reading life, I took no real interest in the event immediately following King Benjamin’s address. When he completed the bulk of his speech, all the people, men, women, and children, “had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.” They viewed themselves as less that the dust of the earth and they were all begging to God for mercy.
While this had a great impact on the aged king, I failed to understand the reasons behind this group confessional. But my myopic view of things changed when I met Jane.
Jane was a member of our singles ward. Well, she was more then just a member. She was the lifeblood of the ward.
She was one of those people who naturally attracted people to her. She was kind, compassionate, empathetic, and always serving someone. In a BYU singles ward, where people can feel so lonely and isolated, members like Jane are extremely valuable.
One evening, as I looked at my interview list, I saw Jane’s name. That didn’t alarm me at all. I was in a position to have an open door policy when it came to interviews. So having someone’s name on my list rarely raised a concern. This was especially true with Jane. There was no way Jane could have a problem.
When she can came in my office, I did not need the spirit to discern that something was seriously wrong. Her body language clearly communicated that she was in distress. She sat in the chair and her body slowly slumped over as if a huge weight was pressing down on her shoulders. In a matter of minutes her head was resting on her hand on my desk. It was as if she was bearing the burdens of the world.
She soon explained that a few years back she had committed, what she felt to be, an unpardonable sin. She never confessed it to her parents or priesthood leaders not so much out of embarrassment but because she didn’t what to hear what she already knew to be true. She was convinced she had lost her chance to live with God again. She was a lost soul with no hope.
I have seen lots of people suffering from spiritual pain, but never to this extreme. This was no pity party. Jane was seriously suffering from severe spiritual pain.
At that moment, I could see in my mind’s eye the multitude of King Benjamin’s people laying on the ground. I now understood the source of their fear. Like Jane, these humble people felt that they were lost souls and had no hope.
So, here is my question. King Benjamin explained that the bulk of his talk came from an angel who stated the he was bringing glad tidings of great joy. If that message caused such a fearful reaction, what were those glad tidings?
Can the atonement really replace hopelessness with hope?