Q: Shall [the Son of God] save his people in their sins?
A: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.
10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
As Helaman counsels his sons, he reminds them of the words of Amulek 50 years earlier to the people of Ammonihah. The lawyer Zeezrom had asked Amulek a number of questions, seeking to trap him. Here is one of Zeezrom’s questions, together with the answer Amulek gave:
Zeezrom then accused Amulek of attempting to command God, implying that Amulek’s response placed unreasonable limitations on God’s power. But Amulek pointed out that God has said that no unclean thing can enter His kingdom. Therefore, to enter His kingdom, we must be cleansed from our sins (Alma 11:37). Helaman summarizes the principle concisely: Christ does not redeem us in our sins; He redeems us from our sins.
What a difference a single preposition makes in our understanding of the Atonement! For Christ to redeem us in our sins would imply that we are not capable of changing, that we receive His forgiveness, but we don’t do anything differently, that we don’t become something more than we are today. For Christ to save us from our sins implies that we progress, that with His help we become the sort of people who don’t commit those sins any more. This true understanding of the Atonement places demands on us: if we are capable of changing with God’s help, then we need to trust Him and make the effort to change. In other words, we need to exercise “faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:16).
I’m grateful for the clarifications in the Book of Mormon about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the confidence God has in our potential to overcome our sins and by His grace return to His presence, pure and holy, “without spot” (Moroni 10:33).