“Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.” (Moroni 8:24).
As I read this scripture recently it really stood out to me. “For repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.” When we sin we go against our Father; we choose to disobey Him and follow ourselves, someone else, the world, or the devil. In sinning we are placed under condemnation. Condemnation is related to damnation but is often used euphemistically and temporarily. For example, we use the word condemned to refer to people who have been found guilty of committing a crime whereas we use the word damned more often in religious contexts. Condemnation thus usually refers to a temporary state of existence whereas damnation is long-term or even permanent (damnation could be short-term but most people tend to view it as chronic and not acute).
By sinning we are condemned; we broke a law and are made to wear cursed shackles. By sinning we turn away from the Lord and become a law unto ourselves. We reject our Father’s plan; however, we can correct these errors through repentance. We can turn again unto the Lord. It is only in repentance that we break free of the curse and remove the shackles. Through repentance we no longer are condemned because we show our willingness to keep the commandments, which includes repenting of our sins. Through repentance we invite the Spirit back into our lives; by the Spirit we are justified – we are brought back into alignment with God (see Moses 6:60). Then through the blood of Christ – His Atonement – we are able to become pure and holy, losing even the desire to sin. We can pray for this purity; like Nephi of old we can plead that we might “shake at the appearance of sin” and have “the gates of hell be shut continually before [us].” (2 Nephi 4:31-32). What qualifies us for these blessings? Having a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 2 Nephi 4:32).
Through repentance we can sing with Nephi, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (2 Nephi 4:28). We have great reason to rejoice in the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ and in repentance of our sins.
We came to earth to see if we would be faithful to the truths we accepted in the pre-earth life even though we do not remember that life. Heavenly Father knew we would sin and fall short. He prepared a way through His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. It was agreed that the Savior would provide the way to return to our Father in Heaven provided we repent in this life. “And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God” (Alma 42:4). We are all on probation to see if we are faithful to all we are commanded to do. “Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state” (Alma 42:13)
For what do we need to prepare? We need to prepare to live with Heavenly Father again. Even more than that though, we need to prepare to live the type of life God lives. In order to do so we need to be spotless and pure. We need to be sanctified and holy. I’ll rephrase what I wrote earlier because it is important. Repentance puts us in a position to be purified by the Holy Ghost and sanctified through the blood and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Moses 6:60). That’s the wonder of the Atonement – it allows us to become pure and holy like Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father are pure and holy. We can be perfect as They are perfect (see 3 Nephi 12:48).
Perfection seems such a lofty and unreachable goal for us, imperfect people. Perfection is just that though – a lofty goal. It is a process of becoming as our Lord Jesus Christ is. It is important to understand that although Jesus, when living as a mortal on earth, was sinless and divine, He was not perfect – not yet. He only became perfect after His death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven. While we should strive for perfection we need to realize that we will not and cannot be perfect in this life. Perfection is a holy goal to be achieved in the next life through the grace of Christ. As we repent, we can move out from under the curse of a broken law into the blessing of freedom and fullness that comes in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.