Darth Vader is in heaven, Alma the Younger too

If they ever think about it, Mormons typically would not approve of Return of the Jedi. It’s not the Ewoks, nor really Princess Leia’s skimpy slave-outfit, nor even the fact that compared with Empire, it’s rubbish. It’s the fact that Anakin “Darth Vader” Skywalker — destroyer of worlds, murderer of younglings — gets such an easy ride into Jedi heaven. I mean there he is all evil and wicked when suddenly, and only because he pities his own son, he decides to do one good thing in his life and kill his tormentor. Big deal. But this is evidently enough both to earn the love of his son — whose hand he once cut off and whose mother he left for dead — and end up as a shimmering, happy, celestial ghost with his old pals, Yoda and Obi Wan.

Clearly, Lil’ Ani did not read The Miracle of Forgiveness. We can be redeemed, yes, but it’s a long, hard road. Such is the Mormon attitude to repentance I am most familiar with: laying claim to the atonement is tricky business and does not lend itself to Vader-style easy mercies.

Not for the first time in Mormon theology, this is an idea that seems at odds with the Book of Mormon. The problem lies, perhaps, in the twinning of God’s forgiveness and the “fruits” (in Mormon-speak) of our own repentance. Take Alma the younger, naughty boy turned good. Consider what he tells to his own son (Alma 36):

I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell…And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

From this passage it appears that Alma’s intense guilt-fueled torment lasted three days, but as soon he cried to Jesus he felt forgiven. In other words, his “repentance” was pretty instantaneous once his faith was sufficient. This was not a “godly sorrow” that lasted weeks and months; he had not confessed his sins to his bishop; he had not earned his repentance by magnifying his callings; he had not endured to the end. Instead, one (sincere, earnest) prayer was all it took and abracadabra!, Saul becomes Paul.

I think this is consistent with the idea of God’s mercy. I believe that God is quick to forgive; indeed, any belief to the contrary seems to make God into exactly what we are encouraged not to be. Forgiveness, then, is never earned, and does not need to be beaten out of us with a spiritual rod.

Forgiveness for Alma did not come after he had reformed his life, it came before. His reformation — his repentance — came as a natural product of God’s mercy towards him. Born again through his faith in Jesus, Alma’s good deeds were the product of a soul that had been saved.

Sounds evangelical, but what can you do? It’s right there in our book.

Comments

  1. cj douglass says:

    I’ve had many a baptist whip this out as proof that baptism is not essential. I would always argue that Alma and the boys were simply “re-activated”. Of course I didn’t have any proof – just the idea that a son of the prophet and sons of a righteous king would surely be baptised as young primary children!

    The problem with the Book of Mormon (and Bible ofcourse) is that there are a lot of things we just don’t know. Like the guy (was it Alma the elder) who baptized himself? And where did he get authority to baptize in the first place? (I would always say even though he was a wicked priest, he still was a priest – who knows?)

    If anything, the spots of ambiguity in the Book of Mormon support the argument that we shouldn’t be so literal in our interpretatin of much of the scriptures. I happen to agree with Ronan’s interpretation of the Alma conversion (forgiveness is never earned) but there are a lot of other stories and passages that, if followed to the T, would have us contradicting ourselves.

  2. I think you may need to place greater emphasis on the first verse you quote. It doesn’t sound like Alma had a bout with the usual guilt from looking at p@rn on the internet. Racked with eternal torment doesn’t sound fun.

    And Saul/Paul was blinded for a good time.

    Thus, I don’t think either of these represent run-of-the-mill repentings.

    However, I tend to agree that we over-compensate in our repentance thus leading many saints to be unable to forgive themselves because they don’t think they’ve suffered enough.

  3. cj douglass says:

    Ofcourse the irony of a baptist trying to argue that baptism is not essential was never lost on me.

  4. Of course, Mormon conceptions of what heaven is and the likely beliefs of Book of Mormon folks are quite different. The idea that one can have a “born again” experience really isn’t that foreign to at least early Mormon accounts. Joseph himself received a remission of his sins in his earliest account of the First Vision. What does that experience get you though?

  5. cj,

    I think the general apologetic approach to the Alma issue is that, as a High Priest, he was given the priesthood perhaps under the reign of King Zeniff. His auto-baptism was symbolic of him being reborn and renewing his covenants he had already made.

    -end threadjack-

  6. Tim,
    I’m not suggesting that Alma’s forgiveness was a simple thing, on the contrary. And cj, perhaps the point here is that salvation is an individual thing: for Alma, the intensity of his faith in Jesus was the key. But I really think it’s important to note that Alma did nothing at this point that we would typically call a “work.” It’s consistent with James, really: my faith is proved by my works. As a new creature, Alma’s goodness was simply natural to him.

  7. I think that forgiveness does come rather instantaniously and not step by step but the soul has to be in a condition ready for this to happen. With Alma it only took a 3 days and the pain that he felt I think put him on the fast track for that. Having been involved in many Disciplinary councils. Many souls are resisting what it takes to be in that position and it unfortunately takes much longer for them, sometimes years.

    Contrary to popular opinion our religion does believe in being saved.

  8. Mike Parker says:

    …nor even the fact that compared with Empire, it’s rubbish.

    George Lucas has publicly stated that Empire was the worst film in the series.

    This explains why the last three films were so awful.

  9. Ganz wunderbar, Ronan.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that people only repent when they sense that God’s grace is already at work in their lives. 1 John 4:19 – “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

  10. What is haaachw-paaahhh?

  11. ..haaachw-paaahh…
    You do not KNOW the PO-WER of the haaachw-paaahhh?
    …haaachw-paaahh…

  12. I like your analysis here. I was just in a EQ lesson where we were being taught how to earn mercy. It seemed ironic, because in the same lesson we were taught that mercy is something you are given without deserving it. It almost seems like a pointless cyclical discussion until you realize that there is an awful lot of mormon angst over when one is actually forgiven. If we are flawed beings and can never perfectly meet the requirements for repentance/forgiveness, than how can we ever feel at peace with ourselves?

  13. cj douglass says:

    What is haaachw-paaahhh?

    The sound that Vader makes?

  14. I’ve always thought of “works” as repentence. Alma’s suffering for three days and Enos praying, wrestling in the spirit, both examples seem like an awful lot of work to me. What is considered works? ordinances? service projects?
    I agree with Ronan. Becoming a new creature through faith simply makes us better. So are we continually becoming new creatures until we are perfect?

    I think there are times in our lives when the forgiveness can be instant, if we are ready to accept it like #7 pointed out, but sometimes does come step by step as we change our hearts, or rather allow Christ to change them.

    #12 Earning mercy? Expound please.

  15. cj douglass says:

    It’s a mystery to me why so many LDS are confused (if not in word then in deed) about the role of grace and mercy in our everyday repentance process. Isn’t repentance the most important message of the Gospel? Am I missing the conference talks that address this or are we just taking it for granted?

  16. cantinflas says:

    Tim in comment #2:

    I always wondered how you would type that word to reflect the pronunciation of L. Tom Perry. Now, I think that you have found it!

  17. God will forgive whom he will forgive.

    So are you saying that everyone will be forgiven? D&C 19 seems to suggest otherwise.

    So if some get forgiven, and others do not, what makes the difference? Is God arbitrary in this? I don’t think so. When we obtain forgiveness there is something of merit on our part.

    I am beginning to think that a willingly broken heart and contrite spirts, a willing commitment to reform, etc., are very valuable things to God. Our willingness to repent is something great. isn’t it? He will judge the heart in a perfect way, and those who obtain His forgiveness have done their part to gain it.

  18. Broken heart and a contrite spirit are required sacrifices the forgiveness is conditioned upon.

  19. There can be no doubt about Darth Vader in heaven. The question is, Is it the original darth vader? Or the whiny Hayden Christensen darth vader?

  20. <em>So are you saying that everyone will be forgiven?</em>

    Perhaps we should parse this further.

    I do not think we repent in order to satisfy God’s demands, as if God is an angry, demanding man, constantly offended and in need of satiation; we repent in order to become like God. In that schema, “repentance” is our effort to better ourself; the “forgiveness” is free and does not have to be earned (see: Alma).

    And the problem with D&C 19 is that God himself admits that his rhetoric is sometimes, well, rhetorical.

  21. Jeff,
    Yes.

    Ronito,
    Sebastian Shaw, all the way.

  22. In my meager understanding–it has always appeared to me that D&C 19 is a case in point that everyone will be forgiven.

  23. Ronan,

    Perhaps you are thinking of passages such as:

    “True repentance is not only sorrow for sins, and humble penitence and contrition before God, but it involves the necessity of turning away from them, a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light. Not only so, but to make restitution, so far as it is possible, for all the wrongs we have done, to pay our debts, and restore to God and man their rights-that which is due them from us. This is true repentance, and the exercise of the Bill and all the powers of body and mind is demanded, to complete this glorious work of repentance”

    But that describes exactly what Alma did. The same Alma, I think, who said this life is the time to prepare to meet God. So what was the inconsistency? That you think Alma would have been saved had he died at that moment? Well sure, because, having been wracked with torment for three days, he would have died having done all the restitution possible.

    Would a Darth Vader-style repentance suffice? Not if it was not backed by true sorrow and a re-making of the inner man. If you think full restitution is always necessary, I am not sure what gospel that is, but it ain’t Mormon.

  24. Don’t forget that while we don’t actually earn forgiveness it is conditioned upon us repenting. Which is what I think D&C 19 is talking about. Mercy cannot rob justice.

    and no I don’t think God is an angry demanding god but it is justice itself that must be satisfied in certain instances. It’s our willingness to change and be lead by God our broken heart and contrite spirit that allows mercy to become operable.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    I would submit that Vader most definitely had a broken heart, especially after Luke kicked the hell out of the Dark Lord’s robotic heart-ass.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    …….more to the point, do wookiees have souls? If so, all that legendary arms-rippings-off will require blood atonement.

  27. Jeff and Frank,

    I don’t doubt what you’re saying. It’s just that I often hear that to be forgiven we have to do a, b, c, and d. In this case, Alma had only done a. I assume he was willing to do b, c, and d, which may be the point. So, no controversy here, just another way of thinking about it.

    And Frank,

    What is “the exercise of the Bill”?

  28. Steve,
    Chewie will burn for making the SW Holiday Special.

  29. Ronan,

    Ask Joseph F Smith about the Bill (who SWK was quoting there).

    I imagine that had Alma not done b, c, d, he’d have found that his forgiveness was lost and all his former sins returned to him– since he would then have not truly changed. If so, it seems appropriate to say that one must do a-d to be forgiven. There are probably scriptures about this sort of thing.

  30. It’s just that I often hear that to be forgiven we have to do a, b, c, and d.

    Are you talking about the five R’s?

    Recognition
    Remorse
    Restitution
    Reformation
    Resolution

    I guess the question would be, did Alma not do any of these before he was forgiven?

  31. Steve and Ronan, you are both failing to take Darth Vader’s actions in context of Lucas’ brand of soteriology. The Star Wars universe most definitely espouses the view of Predestination, as Ani was created by the mitichlorians to bring the force back into balance by subverting both the Jedi Council and Darth Sidious, effectively returning the universe back to a scratch state with respect to the Force. As Ani had fulfilled the measure of his creation, in bringing about the demise of Darth Sidious, he was redeemed for doing so, and was therefore granted his effervescent spirit body by the Force. As far as him being in “heaven”, that doesnt exist in the Star Wars universe. Ronan, for one so clearly immersed in all things SW, I am surprised you are unaware of the Doctrine of Lucas. Effervescent spirit bodies can be destroyed and transmigration of souls is possible in Stick of Lucas.

    As far as Alma Jr. goes, we are justified when we ask for forgiveness, but the ultimate point of Justification is at the Resurrection.

  32. Actually, Darth Vader went through quite a bit of mental anguish before the encounter with Luke in the throne room of the Death Star. Since their encounter in Cloud City, Darth suffered for his choices as a Sith Lord and by the time he tossed ol’ bag-o-bones he had gone through quite a lengthy recognition/remorse process.

  33. The Millennium Falcon, er, I mean the Millennial Star dealt with this issue at one point:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/06/04/p781

    If I missed a previous link to the same post, my bad.

  34. Christopher Smith says:

    Alma’s conversion, in which he is guilt-ridden for a period of time followed by a looking to Jesus and a breaking-in of forgiveness and joy on his experience, is very typical of the standard 19th century model of conversion. I just finished reading Nonconformity’s Romantic Generation: Evangelical and Liberal Theologies in Victorian England by Mark Hopkins. In it he discusses four ministers, including Charles Spurgeon and John Clifford. Both Spurgeon and Clifford had conversion experiences that follow the Alma pattern. While these two ministers were British, the Puritans (to whom Spurgeon at least was strongly indebted) had imported this conversion model to America.

    If te Book of Mormon is a 19th c. product or a 19th c. expansion of an ancient source (vis a vis Blake Ostler) we can perhaps attribute most or all of Alma’s account to mind of the translator.

  35. I still think that Vader’s deathbed repentance just doesn’t fly, both as fiction and as a parable of repentance. Not that we of ourselves earn our forgiveness or acquire it through our own work. But it does take work, of a different sort, to obtain forgiveness from the Lord. That work is the work of aligning our hearts to be in line with God’s will. It is not that we work to obtain forgiveness, but we work to put the evil out of our hearts and obtain a new view of God so that Christ’s power can forgive us and make us pure. That is the way that I see it. When our hearts are ready, forgiveness is instantaneous and freely given, but for one who is stuck in the rut of sin, it is extremely difficult to align one’s heart in that way. That is where the work comes in, IMO

  36. Or we could say that Alma’s conversion process is indicative of true conversion that ministers from other time periods also happened to recognize and preach about.

    By the same logic you could say that Paul’s conversion was a 19th century product.

  37. Nice post, Ronan, I totally agree. Forgiveness comes quickly when we first turn to God. He is merciful. However, let’s not make a classic blunder and equate forgiveness with exaltation. Forgiveness is a matter of relationship; when God forgives us our relationship with him is restored. Exaltation is a matter of becoming and people don’t generally become celestial in a moment. Certainly we are not celestial simply by virtue of having been forgiven. Conflating the two leads to no end of bad theological conclusions.

  38. ED,
    I don’t know what you’re talking about. As every good Mormon knows, the church helped fund Lucasfilm in the early days. Oh, and Plo Koon was modelled on Harold B. Lee.

  39. The framing of this question is really getting to me! I am amazed that nobody has even pointed out that heaven and forgiveness are completely separate issues for Mormons than for evangelicals.

    Alma’s forgiveness was real and immediate. If he had died at that moment, would he have gone to the Celestial Kingdom? No! He would have gone to the spirit world where he would continue to progress to the point where his glory and relationship with God would determine his resurrected state.

    Forgiveness and repentance is just the beginning of a change into becoming Christ-like. God doesn’t wave a magic wand and change our natures just like that and usher us into our mansion when we die. It is not about JUDGEMENT as much as it is about BECOMING. Really, why accept the evangelical paradigm to discuss this?

  40. Jacob,
    I agree 100%. The problem for Mormons is that we have been conflating New York/Ohio with Nauvoo for nigh-on 200 years. Mormonism offers two consecutive gospels but we are trained to look for one from the very beginning.

  41. You know, the metaphysics of SW are pretty freaking weird — as far as we can tell after the prequels, it was only Qui-Gon who first found this “heaven” state (in which they retain a kind of spirit connection to the physical world, and can be observed by at least those Force-sensitive individuals with whom they were close, emotionally) and he had to *teach* it to both Yoda and Obi-Wan. It’s a total mystery, given this, that Anakin Skywalker was able to figure it out. Unless you can learn the nifty ghost trick without knowing who you’re learning it from or that you’re learning it.

    Anyway, that ghost state seems remarkably un-Spirit-World-like to me. They’re stuck worrying about relatively mundane who-lives, who-dies, who-gets-to-be-Chancellor worldly matters, and don’t have any place to go next (that we’re shown in the films, anyway.) It almost seems more like a Purgatory, or maybe a just punishment for those who’ve screwed things up in the world badly enough that they’re not allowed to leave it behind when they die. See, also, at least two Harry Potter characters.

    And yeah, forgiveness (and realization of God’s love for you) doesn’t mean exaltation. Alma the Younger had a long way to go, and presumably some more ordinances to go through, before getting to the Celestial stuff. And after all, even the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms are more glorious than we can possibly imagine, right?

  42. I’m of the opinion that it’s the final result that matters most, not what steps we take to reach that result. For some matters of faith it has taken me years to achieve a certain level of maturity and proficiency. For other matters, that same level has come in relatively short moments of clarity in my life, brought on by different circumstances.
    In the case of Anakin, what mattered was the fact that at the end of his life, he had achieved a certain level of goodness. It didn’t matter how he had come to that state, only that he had arrived there.
    One difference between the Star Wars universe and the Mormon universe is that Mormons believe in continued living and growing after our physical deaths, at least until ‘Judgement Day’, whenever that may come. I tend to believe that when Judgement Day arrives for each person, it will matter what they have become, not necessarily what path they took to arrive at their destination.
    I liken it to the Savior’s parable of the workers (not sure what exactly to call it). Some workers worked the whole day, some came later, but they all received the same pay.
    The point is for us to become like God. Whether that takes 3 days, like in the story of Alma, or 3 millenia, like it’s likely to take for me, the end result is what counts.

  43. I think the Miracle of Forgiveness suggests that “forgiveness”–the relief from or the lifting of the guilt and shame from sin–comes only after the long period of reformation. In Alma’s case, that was not so. In Joseph Smith’s case, that was not so (see 1832 First Vision account and D&C 20:5).

    I suppose that if, by “forgiveness” one means achieving exaltation (recall LeGrand Richards’ advice that, for a Mormon, “salvation without exaltation is damnation”), neither Joseph nor Alma (nor Enos nor those in the New Testament whose sins Jesus purported to forgive) were in that state upon receiving a remission or forgiveness of sin. But the title of the book is the “Miracle of Forgiveness”, not the “Miracle of Exaltation.” I do not think that even Elder Kimball claimed that forgiveness only came upon achieving exaltation.

  44. The laborers who work all day get paid the exact same as those that only work the final hour.

    Kent, in #39, makes a vital point. If we were evangelical, it would be appropriate to equate a moment of full forgiveness through a spiritual experience with ultimate salvation. For us, that moment is baptism. It’s what follows that initial experience of full forgiveness that counts in Mormonism – the renewing of full forgiveness each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament and our effort to witness our acceptance of that grace by aligning our actions to His will. That effort is the fruits of our repentance and shows the degree of our sincerity – if we truly are repentant or if we simply have been pricked momentarily by our conscience.

    I’m running late to the meetings that are a part of my witness of my dedication, so I’ll be back later.

  45. I’ve been reading the scriptures for many years. I love the feelings that come to me each day in my scripture reading.

    One thing I’ve learned is to be careful about reading a verse of scripture in isolation. For example consider the following verse:

    41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. Mosiah 2:41

    If this scripture is read in isolation an incomplete understanding is created in the mind of the reader.
    It needs to be considered in the presence of other scriptures to gain a more complete understanding. The following verses for example:

    20 And it came to pass that they did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam; and they built a city, which they called the city of Helam.
    21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
    22 Nevertheless–whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.
    23 For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.

    If Mosiah 2:41 is read in isolation one would think that if you keep the commandments you’ll never have a problem. But Mosiah 23:20-23 reveals the doctrine of trials and testing and deliverance.

    If you reverse things and read Mosiah 23:20-23 in isolation one might conclude that life is made up of endless trials and testing.

    I was excited to find the following the other day:

    Theodore M. Burton, “‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers’,” Ensign, Nov 1974, 54

    …I am reminded of a concept President Lee taught the General Authorities. He warned us not to place our trust nor build our sermons on one single verse of scripture. He said that God is the greatest of all teachers and understands the value of repetition. If an idea is true, we will find that concept repeated again and again throughout the scriptures…

    If anyone knows of other quotes like the one above please share.

  46. Christopher Smith says:

    Jeff,

    Alma’s conversion is more closely analogous to Spurgeon’s and Clifford’s than to Paul’s. Yes, Paul had a sudden visionary experience, but the obligatory guilt-racked anguish that appears in Alma and in these 19th-c. conversion narratives is I think a crucial feature. The preaching of the era was designed to instill a deep sense of guilt and sinfulness (and thereby a deep sense of the grace and forgiveness of God). The result was that this type of conversion narrative was fairly typical of the era. This model is probably largely traceable back to the model we find in Martin Luther’s conversion.

    Not definitive, I know, but I only said that given a 19th-century-product model or a 19th-century-expansion model we can probably trace all or part of this narrative to the mind of the translator. (In my opinion it is unavoidable that at least one of these models must be adopted, but I recognize that not all will agree. I also recognize that if these models are not a given then my comparison here is only moderately persuasive).

    Best,

    -Chris

  47. Chris, I agree the conversion narratives evoke an evangelical canon for such occurrences, but the imagery of abrupt dying to a heavenly vision, often termed “ascent” or “ascension,” is broadly conserved across a variety of cultures, including the one from which the Book of Mormon purports to arise. Smith himself was quite wary of evangelical revivalism, both in his response to the excesses of the heavily charismatic Rigdonite converts and in more sustained attempts over many years to separate himself from revivalism and Protestantism per se. Hard to be dogmatic about the implications of these accounts either for modern or ancient hypotheses about the Book of Mormon.

    Incidentally, I am not opposed to deathbed epiphanies and repentance. The problem, though, is how best to counsel those who are not approaching their deathbeds, which is what has worried even Evangelicals for a very long time. How do you keep the young on a straight and narrow path if they believe they have an escape pod (bending to Ronan’s obsession with science fiction kitsch) they can activate at any time?

    Tricky issues all around, thank heavens God gets to sort out salvation for every individual and none of us are invited to be on postmortal juries.

  48. There is a path, which is straight and narrow–an iron rod, if you will–which leads to exaltation.

    I think that Mormons (myself included) get it wrong when teach that we must return to the path that we have left through our own works, i.e. Recognition, Remorse, Restitution, Reformation, Resolution (The 5 R’s) in order to obtain forgiveness.

    I believe that when we repent, as Alma did in his prayer, the power of Christ’s atonement moves the path to where we are. The 5 R’s are then steps (directly in front of us) along this new path which leads to exaltation. Because of repentance, there is no need to return to the path from where we left it. This would be sideways movement–Christ wants us to move forward and progress. Heavenly Father works with us from where we are–not where we were or where we think we should be.

    Alma’s prayer seeking forgiveness resulted in a new path towards exaltation and was instantaneous.

  49. smb, I think you hit it squarely on the head, and it addresses a central issue of being a prophet that many don’t understand very well.

    If you look at the role of a prophet, particularly in the OT and BofM, one of the central roles (perhaps *the* central role) is to read the signs of the times and phrase God’s will in such a way that it will resonate with the people and motivate them to change specific actions that are leading them away from God. IOW, it is to find a way to motivate them to repent. The manner in which that occurs is a direct result of the condition of the hearts of the people – hence, Jacob’s recognition that only threats of hellfire and damnation worked for his people, while Nephi had focused more on teaching and enlightening and uplifting and inspiring. Each prophet addressed a specific situation he saw and tailored his admonitions to that spiritual threat.

    I look at SWK’s description of gaining forgiveness as a process; I juxtapose it against the “free and easy”, “all is well . . . God will beat us with a few stripes” morals of the time (the spiritual threat that was forefront to him); I think I understand fairly clearly why he chose to focus on the process of perfect (“complete”) forgiveness – rather than focusing on the immediate forgiveness available to all as they initially accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, as a prophet would whose people had been beaten over the head for years by hellfire and damnation sermons that told them they were unredeemable and had to grovel as worthless subjects. Different manifestations of apostasy require different presentations of forgiveness and repentance.

  50. Thomas Parkin says:

    #49.

    Le entiendo. Nosotros pudamos verlo, mire para mirar. De acuerdo.

    ~

  51. Forgiveness for Alma did not come after he had reformed his life, it came before.

    No, it didn’t. Forgiveness by itself is of no value. It is simply the culmination of the repentance process.

    The point at which a body builder completes a lift of weight does nothing for him. The important changes that occur in his mind and in his body happen as he works to lift the weight (Alma’s three days of torment). It is the same with repentance.

    Heavenly Father is not in the business of forgiving sin (lifting weight). He is in the business of exalting souls (growing the spirit/mind/body).

  52. “In the case of Anakin, what mattered was the fact that at the end of his life, he had achieved a certain level of goodness.”

    As Hugh Nibley has put it, what we are going to be judged on, ultimately, is the desire of our heart, our ability to forgive, and our ability to repent. I suspect, assuming that Darth Vader really does get to go to heaven (in the form of Anakin Skywalker, no less — but I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us restoration-of-the-body believing Mormons), that ol’ Darthie went through a period of suffering for years and years, having been led to believe by the Emperor (Satan) that his fate was sealed, it was too late, there was no going back, no hope for him to ever regain his humanity (and his divinity) again. Darth may have been evil, but I think it was the Emperor who directed him (Darth comes across much more as a lapdog to the Emperor in movie 2 than he does in movie 1) in his evil possibly more than it being a case of Vader choosing that path for himself.

    Nibley likened repentence to the direction one is facing at any given moment, so the guy at the bottom of the hill, but who is repentant and is facing the upward slope, is much better off than the guy at the top of the hill, but who isn’t repentant and who is now facing the downhill slope, and who will be (unless he repents) headed back downhill in short order.

    For Vader to break free of his hopelessness and summon the will to toss the Emperor down the power shaft is an expression of the desire of his heart: he wants his freedom from slavery and sin back again, even if he’s not altogether convinced he can have it.

    I used to be on the “Darth Vader got an easy pass into heaven” side of the fence, but I guess I changed my mind somewhere along the way.

    Who knows: maybe Hitler is preaching the gospel to others in the Spirit World, having repented so far as he is able to do where he’s at…

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