Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.Ecclesiastes 4:13
When Alma organized the church at the waters of Mormon, he ordained priests to teach the people. But these priests weren’t given carte blanche, to speak on any topic they wanted. Alma instructed them to “preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people” (Mosiah 18:20).
Some time later, after immigrating to Zarahemla, Alma prayed to know how to respond to members of the church who failed to follow the commandments. He recognized that “those who committed sin, that were in the church, should be admonished by the church” (Mosiah 26:6). This wasn’t vindictive or punitive. It was the purpose of the church; it was the reason priests had been chosen in the first place—to preach repentance. Alma and the other priests worked with these individuals, urging them to repent and working with those who chose to repent and remain within the church. Mormon ends this story with an important clarification: these same priests who called on others to repent were themselves willing to receive corrective feedback:
They did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed.Mosiah 26:39
In April 1829, while Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were working on translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph received a revelation on Oliver’s behalf. In the revelation, God commanded Oliver to “say nothing but repentance unto this generation”—the same instruction Alma had given to the priests of the church (Doctrine and Covenants 6:9). Then the Lord told Oliver to apply this instruction specifically to his relationship with Joseph: “Admonish him in his faults, and also receive admonition of him” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:19).
The Greek word for repentance is metanoia (μετάνοια), which literally means “a change of mind.” The word for admonish is noutheteó (νουθετέω), which means “to place the mind” or “to set the mind.” Admonition is helping another person repent: correcting their thoughts so that they can change the way they think.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained that the Church helps us repent by providing correction:
One of the greatest blessings of being part of the body of Christ, though it may not seem like a blessing in the moment, is being reproved of sin and error. We are prone to excuse and rationalize our faults, and sometimes we simply do not know where we should improve or how to do it. Without those who can reprove us “betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” we might lack the courage to change and more perfectly follow the Master. Repentance is individual, but fellowship on that sometimes painful path is in the Church.“Why the Church?” General Conference, October 2015
The apostle Paul expressed confidence that the members of the church in Rome could provide correction to one another:
I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.Romans 15:14
Today, I will remember the complementary principles of admonition and repentance. I will receive feedback with less defensiveness and with more willingness to change. I will provide feedback to others, remembering that we can help one another progress if we are willing to admonish and to be admonished.