Blood on our clothing is a metaphor for unresolved sins at the Final Judgment. Alma asked the people of Zarahemla, “How will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?” (Alma 5:22). He urged them to turn to the Savior, so that their garments could be pure and white, and so that they would not be ashamed to stand before God.
We can be ashamed of our own sins, but we will also be ashamed of the sins of others if we knew that we could have done more to help them. Three prophets in the Book of Mormon make this point to explain why they are being so direct in warning their people against sin:
- Jacob: “O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood.
“O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation” (2 Nephi 9:44-45). (See also Jacob 1:19, Jacob 2:2.)
- King Benjamin: “I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you.
“I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace” (Mosiah 2:27-28).
- Moroni: “And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief” (Mormon 9:35). (See also Ether 12:38.)
The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon also included similar terminology in their testimony, to explain why they were so anxious to declare their witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
On the surface, this might sound like an expression of self-interest. But taken in context, it is clear that each of these prophets cared deeply about the people they were responsible to teach and wanted them to be prepared to meet God as well. They understood that each individual must ultimately be accountable to God for his or her actions, but they wanted to make sure that they had done everything they could to help their people prepare.
President Henry B. Eyring spoke about an experience he had as a church leader, in which he recognized the need to intervene on behalf of a member of his congregation:
I remember as a bishop looking out at the face and the posture of a young man of the priesthood and having the thought come to my mind so clearly that it seemed audible: “I need to see him—and soon. Something is happening. He needs help.”
I would never put off such an impression because I had learned that the wounds of sin are often not felt at first by the one being hurt. Satan seems sometimes to inject something to deaden the spiritual pain while inflicting the wound. Unless something happens soon to begin repentance, the wound can worsen and widen.
President Eyring went on to say, “You are under covenant to go to a spiritually wounded child of God. You are responsible to be brave enough and bold enough not to turn away.” Then, after quoting the words of the prophet Jacob about ridding his garments of the sins of his people, President Eyring clarified Jacob’s meaning:
As Jacob believed, the woe of any fallen man or woman he could have helped and did not would become his own sorrow. Your happiness and that of those you are called to serve…are bound together.
(“Man Down,” General Conference, April 2009)
Today, I will remember that I am responsible not only to repent of my own sins but to help the people I love overcome their sins as well. I will teach the gospel with clarity and provide loving support to those I lead, recognizing that their sorrow is my sorrow, and that my happiness is bound to theirs.