11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.
12 But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the second chapter of King Benjamin’s sermon, he teaches an important principle which he learned from an angel: We are only accountable of the things we can control. Therefore, people who sin in ignorance are not culpable for those actions. The atonement of Jesus Christ pays the price for those misdeeds, and they are washed clean of them.
Who are those people? Some of them are small children (Mosiah 3:16). Others may be disabled in some way and unable to fully comprehend the implications of their decisions. Some people may have grown up in a home or in a community where good was called evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20), and may not have been exposed to information which would prompt them to question the values they were taught. King Benjamin makes it clear in the passage above that people in these circumstances are blameless. Their misdeeds are not held against them, because they were committed without malevolence.
But what about the rest of us? I think these verses can both apply to us as well. As we mature, we are all learning to distinguish right from wrong more fully. We all make mistakes along the way, and we all make some decisions, with the best of intentions, which turn out to be wrong. When this happens, we have a choice. We can beat ourselves up and become discouraged. Or we can pick ourselves up, learn from our mistakes, and move forward with confidence that we will do better in the future. If we turn away from God and stop trying to do better, then, as King Benjamin teaches in the passage above, we cut ourselves off from the power we need to overcome those sins. But as long as we are sincerely trying to do what’s right, I believe that He is there to help us.
As Lynn G. Robbins taught in our most recent general conference:
Repentance is God’s ever-accessible gift that allows and enables us to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Repentance isn’t His backup plan in the event we might fail. Repentance is His plan, knowing that we will. This is the gospel of repentance, and as President Russell M. Nelson has observed, it will be “a lifetime curriculum” (“Until Seventy Times Seven,” General Conference, April 2018).
Today, I will remember that the Savior has paid the price for my mistakes. When I fall short, I will remember that He is willing to continue to work with me and help me grow “from failure to failure.” Today, I will be grateful that God is willing to help me overcome my faults.