“Book of Mormon Principles: Earthly Choices, Eternal Consequences,” Ensign, July 2004, 19–21
A wonderful line from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel proclaims, “Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.”1 Hope, a faithful companion, sustains us through life’s trials.
The Book of Mormon powerfully teaches about hope. Mormon, for example, taught that hope is related to our own resurrection: “Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal” (Moro. 7:41). Alma linked the hope of the Resurrection to the Judgment. He asked, “Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality … to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?” (Alma 5:15).
Our ability to have hope in the Resurrection depends upon the choices we make. According to Jacob, our resurrection will bring either joy and peace or misery and fear. If we are unrepentant, “we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness.” The righteous, in contrast, “shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (2 Ne. 9:14).
Alma personally experienced these two extremes during his own conversion. He explained, “The very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
“Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds” (Alma 36:14–15).
In anguish, he cried out to Jesus Christ, who rescued him. “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20).
Alma’s anguish lasted three days. Those who delay their repentance risk misery similar to his, but for a much longer time—perhaps the entire Millennium (see D&C 76:85, 106; D&C 88:100–106). Eventually, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess … that he is God” (Mosiah 27:31). Those who have procrastinated, however, will by then have lost the opportunity to believe by faith. In consequence, they will have forfeited priceless blessings. Procrastination invites disaster.
Amulek explained why: “This life is the time … to prepare to meet God. … Behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. … For that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:32–34; emphasis added).
What will we be like and what company will we keep in “that eternal world”? It all depends upon our choices. Alma escaped Satan’s captivity by choosing to come unto Christ. We can make the same choice. Christ took upon Himself our sins. He bore our temptations. He carried our infirmities and our sicknesses (see Alma 7:11). “He was bruised for our iniquities … and with his stripes we are healed” (Mosiah 14:5; Isa. 53:5). He offers to deliver us from temptations, cleanse our filthiness, and free us from addictions. He is our hope.
Though His grace is sufficient to save us, He requires that we do all we can (see 2 Ne. 25:23). This means we must follow His example (see 2 Ne. 31:12). In Gethsemane and again on the cross, He submitted to His Father’s will, keeping His flesh subject to the Spirit (see Mosiah 15:5). And throughout His life He was consistent in placing the love of God over worldly enticements (see, for example, Matthew 4:1–10). We can come unto Christ by choosing to follow His example in these two ways. Let’s briefly consider each.
We, like the Savior, are precious spirit sons and daughters of God. Our spirits have been clothed in mortal tabernacles. If we let desires of the flesh dominate our spirit, we become carnally minded. Jacob stated, “To be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Ne. 9:39). Abinadi taught that people who persist in their carnal nature rebel against God and give the devil power over them (see Mosiah 16:5). Sadly, we see this captivity today among those who indulge in drugs, pornography, immorality, rage, and other sins of the flesh.
Many of God’s commandments, including the commandments to be morally clean, to fast, to control our anger, and to obey the Word of Wisdom, help us break the power of Satan. As we willingly obey, we follow Christ in subjecting carnal desires to the will of the Spirit.
Lehi’s vision of the tree of life beautifully illustrated the second choice God’s children must make. The tree represented the love of God, while a great and spacious building symbolized the pride of the world. Lehi witnessed two groups who sought the tree and eventually tasted its fruit. Sadly, one group, after tasting the fruit, became embarrassed because richly dressed people in the great and spacious building ridiculed them. Lehi said, “They fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Ne. 8:28). What a tragedy! After finding God’s love, they lost it by caring too much about worldly opinion.
Today, the world increasingly ridicules the Church’s standards of morality, modesty, spirituality, honesty, missionary service, and family roles. Lehi said, “We heeded them not” (1 Ne. 8:33). We must do likewise. Church members who set carnal appetites and popularity with the world above gospel standards betray the love of God and give the devil power over them (see 2 Ne. 2:29).
Moroni beautifully concludes the Book of Mormon by inviting all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moro. 10:32). To do so, we must deny ourselves of all ungodliness, especially unchecked carnal appetites. We must love God with all our might, mind, and strength, putting Him above worldly approval. We will then be sanctified through the grace of Christ. If we continue faithful, Christ will declare at our resurrection that we are “holy, without spot” (Moro. 10:33; see also 3 Ne. 27:16). This is our hope. It becomes reality through good choices. If we choose Christ, we will always walk on with hope in our hearts. If we endure, we will never walk alone.
Discuss what family members think is the meaning of the title of this article. Ask them what eternal blessings they hope for. What earthly choices do we need to make to receive these blessings? Testify of the hope and joy we can have by following Christ.
As you read this article, make a list of the eternal principles referred to and their opposites. (For example, you could list hope and its opposite.) Discuss earthly choices that will naturally lead to each of the ideas on the list. (For example, what earthly choices lead us to hope? To its opposite?) Invite family members to tell of times when the consequences of their earthly choices led them to experience true happiness.
Read the “Choosing to Follow Him” section. Discuss Elder Richardson’s two ways for coming unto Christ. What choices do we often make that separate us from eternal happiness?