Sin can be forgiven. But some sin can also have long-term effects. I was assigned to instruct the high priests in our ward on a conference talk given by Elder Scott about obtaining strength through the atonement. It reminded me about how although your sin may be as red as scarlet (really, really red), it can be made as white as snow.
In the talk, the story was retold about the Anti-Nephi-Lehi, that received a covenant from God, which included burying their weapons forever. They proved true to their covenant when their wicked counterparts attacked them, and many of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi were slaughtered. But they struggled when the Nephites, whom they had killed in the past, were dying, trying to protect them. That is the situation I want to address here. In the end I will address something I learned about the atonement and the way forgiveness is offered.
To begin, it is most important to understand the covenant received by the Anti-Nephi-Lehi. The received a covenant from the voice of God. When you receive a covenant from the mouth of God, it is not a covenant made symbolically, through men. The covenant made through men, although important, can be broken and be forgiven. However, a covenant made by the mouth of God, if it is broken and altogether is turned from, “…shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.” (D&C 84:41).
The covenant that the Anti-Nephi-Lehi received was accompanied by the grandest of blessings. They had been proven true and faithful in all things to receive it. It was not a conditional blessing, …like it currently is to me. The Anti-Nephi-Lehi were literally equal heirs to the kingdom, had their calling and elections made sure, their exaltation was sealed upon their foreheads. They had ascended. That is the covenant they received.
The first step in the process of the receiving of this covenant is that they’re sins, although red as scarlet, were forgiven, and made as white as snow. Helaman counseled them not to stain their swords after they were made white through the covenant.
But the Lords covenants are always a two-edged-fiery-sword. One edge is the blessings offered (awesome), …and the other edge is the penalty for breaking such covenants (some steep penalties). The tree of life is guarded by this flaming-two-edged-sword (blessings and penalties). Those who can partake of the tree of life receive this “flaming-sword” for themselves. Receiving this covenant from the voice of God is the bestowal of the fruit of your tree of life to you, and along with it a “flaming-sword.”
Side note: A King is always identified by crowns, robes, scepters, orbs, and a sword.
Helaman counseled the Anti-Nephi-Lehi not to break the covenant. He explained that the blessing of their covenant came with a promise to put all their trust in the maker of the covenant. By taking up their old swords, they would be denying God their promised trust, and substituting it with their trust in the arm of flesh. Since they were new to such great covenants, their tendencies were toward the arm of flesh, to help the Nephites. Those who obtain God’s promise, must learn to trust only in God.
Our greatest sin is trusting in the arm of flesh. We do so because we don’t know God. As we repent, are given the words of Christ, and receive a covenant, we still have tendencies to rely on the flesh. That is the long-term effects of sin. We tend to do what worked for us in the past. We go back to the arm of flesh.
We will continue to trust in the arm of flesh, until we know God. Knowing God is the determining factor in whom we trust. There are only two masters, the flesh (Satan) and God. The master we choose to follow is the one we know best. If most of our experience is in the ways of the world, then the flesh is our master. However, those who choose to seek to know God, they make God their master.
Until there can be a people who can prove themselves as wholly trusting in God, who know God, Zion will not be built. Those who will gain entry into Zion will grow line upon line. The lines of growth is founded upon their knowledge of the correct attributes, perfections, and characteristics of God. When we come to know these correct attributes, perfections, and characteristics of God, then we can act in accordance. Until then, we act out of ignorance, and often find ourselves trusting in the arm of flesh.
Those who act, with the correct knowledge of God, will prove true and faithful in all things, and will be offered a covenant similar to the Anti-Nephi-Lehi. Then, when you have received that covenant, your scarlet sins will be white as snow. That is the purification of the refiners fire. The impurities are burned off. That is the sanctification that the House of Israel, during the time of Moses, rejected. Those who have had their sins remitted this way, through the process of at-one-ment, those who have received this covenant from the voice of God, are redeemed from the fall, brought back into His presence, and see Him in the flesh (Ether 3:15).
When Nephi taught this principle of receiving a covenant of eternal life from God, his people wondered in their minds, “what do we do after that?” Nephi’s reply was a surprised reply. He told them, don’t you know that after you have entered in by the way you could speak with the tongue of angels? (2 Nephi 32:1-3). Joseph Smith clarified that the only qualifier of an angel is one who has been in the presence of Christ, receives a message and instruction, comes bearing the message Christ sent him to bear (no more or less), in the authority and power of God.
Those who have this covenant must always wait upon the Lord. Alma and Amulek had this covenant and waited on the Lord, even when innocent people were being burned before them. Abinidai had this covenant and gave his life as a sealed testimony against the wicked king Noah and his high priests. Joseph endured beatings, betrayal, torture, imprisonment, etc. as he waited on the Lord. Moses, when he acted outside the bounds of the covenant (out of his own frustration) to produce water from the rock, was not allowed into the promised land with the House of Israel. In that act, Moses did not wait upon the Lord (he did not lose his covenant though). Likewise, the Anti-Neph-Lehi were also required to wait upon the Lord, instead of breaking their covenant.
The Lord provided a great miracle in return. The Lord gave amazing strength to the young Lamanite sons. While thousands of grown men, trained with years in the art of fighting, were dying in battle, the army of Helaman was not only victorious, they did not lose one soul.
Conclusion: It was not the arm of men that preserved the army of Helaman. Their mothers knew the conditions of the covenant, and that the covenant extended to their sons. This is what the mothers taught them. The miracle of the two thousand stripling warriors was not founded in the arms of their mothers. The mothers were wise enough to direct their son’s attention to the covenant given from God. It was the covenant that was, and is, the provider of the sanctification from sin. The Anti-Nephi-Lehi were given the flaming two-edged sword. It was that sword that empowered and protected Helaman’s army.
As we study the words of Christ, we too can be offered a similar covenant. Without the knowledge of the words of Chris, we will not be able to receive communication from angels sent from the presence of God, thus we will not be offered a covenant from the voice of God. Those ancient prophets who have written these words are trying to tell us of the covenant they received, in hopes that we will rise up and receive our own, utilizing their words.
When we become recipients of this grand covenant, we too will have our sins, although they may be as red as scarlet, turned white as snow. Then will our will be swallowed up in the will of the Father.