Sometimes the hardest part of repentance is facing the social consequences of what you have done.
I was thinking yesterday about the men who obeyed King Noah’s order to abandon their wives and children when the Lamanites attacked (Mosiah 19:11). The decision was instinctive, made under chaotic and confusing circumstances. It was a cowardly decision, and we rightly admire the courage of those who defied the king and remained with their families. But that act of rebellion was courageous, and it is not surprising that some of the men remained loyal and obedient to the king, at least initially, even under these horrific circumstances.
We can probably all relate to the experience of those men as they followed the king and his priests into the wilderness. As the immediate danger receded into the distance and the panic subsided, it began to dawn on them what they had done. They now wished that they had followed the example of those who had chosen to stay. Out of danger, they now recognized the foolishness of their actions, and they wanted to make things right (Mosiah 19:19). When the king refused to allow them to return, they took his life, and his priests fled (Mosiah 19:20-21). They no longer prioritized their lives over the safety of their families:
They had sworn in their hearts that they would return to the land of Nephi, and if their wives and their children were slain, and also those that had tarried with them, that they would seek revenge, and also perish with them.
Soon after, they learned that their wives and children were still alive, that the Lamanites had taken them captive, but that none of them had been killed.
Now comes the hardest part: How do you show your face to the people you have wronged, who might have lost their lives because you abandoned them when they needed your help? Mormon simply says that “they returned to the land of Nephi, rejoicing, because their wives and their children were not slain” (Mosiah 19:24). They had been given another chance to fulfill their duty to the people they loved most, and they all returned to do that duty.
These men subsequently had multiple opportunities to defend their families. Two years later, when they were attacked by the Lamanites, they fought bravely. They were badly outnumbered, but “they fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight” (Mosiah 20:11). They had firmly resolved in their hearts that they would defend their families, and they were now unwavering in fulfilling that commitment.
The Lord taught the prophet Joseph Smith how to recognize a repentant person:
By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.
(Doctrine and Covenants 58:43)
Today, I will have the courage to confess. When I make a mistake, I will own up to it. I will strive to correct it and to avoid similar mistakes in the future. I will choose to repent.