(November 21, 2014)
It is easy to understand the behavior of the Nephites – after all, if in my lifetime I had heard a prophet tell the people that there would be a day and a night and a day with no darkness, then that had happened, then there were other miracles that occurred, and then we were spared – you would think diligence and belief would be the rational result. But that is what makes the Gaddianton Robbers so interesting in this chapter. Because they had experienced all of the same things as the Nephites, and yet we read that there were some who even then would not repent.
For a long time I believed that, ultimately, we each would come around and accept the Savior. This is the idea that we will all be Exalted eventually (or most of us), and that made sense to me. After all, what will an atheist say the moment that he gets to the other side of the Veil? But as time goes on, I find myself less and less believing that this is true – I think there is a reason why this philosophy is generally associated with Nehorism in the Book of Mormon.
When we turn from the Gospel, we turn from the process of repentance and forgiveness that empowers us to benefit from the Atonement. We close ourselves off to him. I think that we can only close our eyes and shut our ears to His message for so long before we lose the capacity to open our eyes and to listen. I don’t know that we can place any particular person from the scriptures or modern day in that camp (we certainly cannot judge), but I think that there are those who would be found there.
Of course, this is all well and good – but why even think about this subject. After all, we are not to judge others. But the thing about reading the Book of Mormon is that the war that played out within its pages continues within each of us today. Each of us, in some ways, are Nephites firmly believing in this element of the Gospel (say, tithing). And each of us, in some ways, are like the Gaddianton Robbers firmly rejecting some element of the Gospel (say, kindness). Only when we recognize and admit that we are both can we look at ourselves honestly enough to locate the evil that dwells within us. It is painful to look at, but it is necessary to clearly see before we can begin to apply the Atonement to that area of our lives.
I don’t think that we can cavalierly say that if we do not do what we can to repent of those deficiencies in our character in this life that we can with certainty repent of them in the next.