5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.
6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.
Alma’s son Corianton had a misunderstanding about the grace of God. He apparently believed that even if people truly desired to do evil as evidenced by their actions, God could somehow change their natures and save them. In this chapter, Alma corrects this misconception by teaching two principles:
- “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
- “Restoration” means returning to our former state, not being changed to something contrary to our nature (Alma 41:3-4, 12-14).
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are empowered to repent and overcome our sins if we choose. (See 2 Nephi 2:26-27.) But the choice is ours. We can’t choose wickedness and assume that God will somehow compensate, in effect saving us against our will. In the words of the hymn:
Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heaven.
(“Know This, That Every Soul Is Free,” Hymns, 240)
All of this leads to a pretty astounding assertion in the passage above: we are our own judges. Because repentance is available to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it is entirely up to us whether we will receive the gift God has offered us or not. If we choose to repent, we will be “redeemed of the Lord,” but if we choose to remain in sin, then we will not be “delivered from that endless night of darkness.” Effectively, the Final Judgment is not a future decision that will be imposed upon us but is rather the natural result of the decisions we are each making right now.
Today, I will choose to repent and receive the grace of God in my life. I will remember that I can only receive eternal happiness if I have desired happiness, goodness, and righteousness, and that the true evidence of those desires is the decisions I make each day.