26 And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed.
A consistent theme in the Book of Mormon is the assurance that salvation is available to everyone who chooses it. As the Savior instructs Alma on how to deal with rebellious members of the church in this passage, he reiterates this principle. “He that will hear my voice shall be my sheep,” He says, “and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive” (Mosiah 26:21).
Salvation is universal in the sense that it is available to all, but it is not universal in the sense that all will receive it. The Savior goes on to explain that, after this life is over, the people who “never knew” Him will stand before Him and acknowledge that He had offered them salvation, but they had been unwilling to accept the gift. “Then shall they know…that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed.”
Consider the following other passages in the Book of Mormon which teach the same principle:
- “Thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil” (Alma 41:7).
- “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27).
- “The Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name” (Alma 9:17).
- “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33).
I’m also impressed with Joseph Smith’s modification of Matthew 7:23. In the King James Version of this passage, the Savior indicates that He will say to hypocrites at the last day, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” But in Joseph Smith’s translation of this passage, the Savior says: “Ye never knew me…” The Savior knows us all. The question is whether we are willing to come to know Him and receive the gifts He offers to those who hear His voice and follow Him.
Why would anyone refuse to be saved? It seems preposterous, yet we see examples every day of people making decisions that are not in their own self interest. When we become proud or bitter or angry or afraid, our reason becomes clouded and we begin to do things that are not helpful. We rationalize decisions that lead us away from happiness and peace, and we fail to take the actions that would enable others to help us.
Elder Matthew L. Carpenter observed that people can suffer for a long time with spiritual maladies which the Savior would have been able to heal very quickly:
They would wrestle for months or even years, embarrassed or frightened of the consequences of their sins. Often they felt that they could never change or be forgiven. I have often heard them share their fear that if their loved ones knew what they had done, they would stop loving them or leave them. When they followed this line of thinking, they resolved to just keep quiet and delay their repentance.
Elder Carpenter went on to say:
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, if we choose to repent and turn our hearts fully to the Savior, He will heal us spiritually. That healing can begin immediately. The choice is ours. Will we be made whole? (“Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?” General Conference, October 2018).
Today, I will remember that the Savior can heal every spiritual wound, if I am willing to be healed. I will remember that salvation is available to everyone. I will choose to overcome any internal resistance I may feel to turn my heart fully to God and receive the redeeming power He has made freely available to me.