After listing sixteen cities that had been destroyed over a three-hour period and explaining why they were destroyed, the Savior extended an invitation to those who remained:
O all ye that are spared…, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?3 Nephi 9:13
These people were severely traumatized. Many of them were probably physically injured. Many had lost loved ones, and many probably didn’t know the status of their loved ones. It’s hard to organize rescue activities when there is no light. (See 3 Nephi 8:20-21.) I can only imagine what was going through their minds, how they were painfully transitioning from the worries of the day to an awareness that everything had suddenly changed.
In that context, the Savior’s invitation encouraged them to look beyond themselves, to turn their hearts toward the only One who could provide the healing they so desperately needed.
President Russell M. Nelson has reminded us that repentance is not punitive:
Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” General Conference, April 2019
And in fact, as the Savior spoke to this frightened group of people, He repeatedly emphasized His willingness to help them all:
Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me….
And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name….
Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God…. Therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.3 Nephi 9:14, 17, 22
Today, as I think about the crises in the world and the challenges in my life, I will strive to hear the quiet voice of the Savior, inviting me to approach Him, to repent, and to be healed. I will remember that repentance is therapeutic, not punitive, in nature—it allows us to receive the healing and strengthening power of a loving God.
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