Consequences: Part 1

forgiveness2One of the most difficult parts of the repentance process is for each of us to accept the miracle of forgiveness. Of course, from God’s stand point the repentance process is quite simple.

We sin.

We repent.

God forgives.

God forgets.

That’s it.

Simple, right?

forgetThe problem we have is that while God forgets, we don’t. Whether we are the sinner or the victim of someone’s sin, we almost always struggle to forget.  Perhaps our inability to forget is a vital part of the repentance process. I have failed to find any scriptures that explain we will forget our sins. All I know is that God said He will forget our sins.

The purpose behind our need to remember past sins is an issue the Book of Mormon helps us to explore.

consequencesOne reason why we struggle to forget is that sins brings with them consequences. Unfortunately, too often these consequences work as nagging reminders that perhaps we have not been forgiven. I feel we err if we think that way.

A new look at the story of Alma and Amulek on the edge of the fiery pit in Ammonihah can shows us that most, if not all, consequences should be separated from the miracle of forgiveness.

But first, here is a personal example that took me on this journey to better understanding the relationship between forgiveness and consequences.

A few years ago my step-mother died from complications due to lung cancer. She was a member of the church all of her live. But when she was younger, she strayed for a while and during her time of open rebellion she took up smoking.

To be clear, she knew what she was doing was wrong. She knew she was violating the Word of Wisdom. But during this time of her life, she didn’t care. In fact, thumbing her nose at such commandments was at the heart of her rebellion.

After a few years, she made the courageous decision to repent and realign herself with God. She was completely forgiven of all past sins and lived a life of personal, missionary, and temple service until she died.

cancer2But the poisons she inhaled decades ago festered in her lungs. Cells mutated. The resulting cancer grew until the tumors had to be removed. The delicate surgery went poorly and she died soon after.

So, here are the questions I struggled with:

  1. Was her death a punishment for past sins?
  2. Was the cancer a sign from God that she was not totally forgiven?
  3. Shouldn’t a lifetime of dedicated service offset the effects of smoking?

While these issues can be hotly debated, I feel that a closer look at Alma and Amulek’s horrific experience in Ammonihah can end that debate. This exploration can help bring peace to each of us who worry if we have truly repented and been forgiven.

In my next post I will take a very different look at why God required Alma witness the massacre at Ammonihah.

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