We know that none of this would be possible but for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We know that our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ love us more intensely than we can understand, and that this love is what motivated them to create this world for us and give us agency to act, so that we could ultimately qualify for exalted kingdoms hereafter. That love is what motivated the God of this earth, the Savior of our souls to sacrifice his own mortal life, to pay the price of our sins and thereby satisfy justice. By doing this, He provided us an opportunity to overcome our mortal imperfections and thereby qualify for eternal life. As He opens the door for our willful repentance, he promises forgiveness of our willful sins. Through a lifetime of such focused repentance, we can learn to be one with Him and learn to love Him and others with that same degree of intensity He has for us.
p.s. An interesting aside about repentance: I was listening to financial guru, Dave Ramsey on the radio the other night. As you may know, Dave Ramsey, as a devout born-again Christian, often discusses his impressions of the gospel on-air. That night, he said something that exposed his and general Christianity's concept of repentance and its relative role in foregiveness. In addressing a caller's question about bankruptcy, Ramsey admitted that earlier in his life he had to file bankruptcy. Years later when he learned to apply more discipline and became financially independent, he felt God directing him to go back and reconcile principle and interest to all the creditors he had left hanging back then. He said this was a very onerous process, since many of the financial records from that far back had been destroyed, but ultimately he succeeded in repaying all of the old debt. As a creditor myself, who has had to write off substantial bankruptcy debt, I see his desire to reconcile as a very commendable and honest act.
In our financial system, risk is necessary, and bankruptsy happens. In that setting, although creditors may be hurt by it, they assume the risk in the beginning, and must accept it as a necessary outlet for financial failure. As such, our legal system does not require reconciliation. In his discussion however, Ramsey was treating bankruptsy as though it was at least an act of unfairness to others and therefore, wrong. We (Mormons) know that reconcilitation is part of repentance, and in such a circumastance, we would feel driven to reconcile as much as possible before turning it over to the Savior to atone for the rest. It appeared Ramsey had a similar sense about it for himself, because he felt directed by God to reconcile it when he became able. But then he said something to the caller that set up an obvious paradox for me. It exposed his true understanding of his "Christian" doctrine. He said, that even though he (Ramsey) had felt special direction to take that action, neither the caller nor anyone else with that problem need attempt reconciliation to be forgiven, because if we simply accept Christ, the mercy in His Atonement automatically forgives us, regardless of our actions. "Otherwise," he said, "why have mercy?" This statement was inconsistent with his own actions, but also with what I know. Immediately, in my mind, his words set up a contrast between grace and works. We (Mormons)know that both are necessary and must be balanced. This is a glaring dichotomy between general Christianity and Mormonism.
Anyone can say that they accept Christ, but how do they validate those words? How do they confirm to Him that they really mean it? I believe there is no better way than to repent and absolutely relinquish misdeeds. And, true repentance demands physical reconciliation to whatever degree is possible. As I considered this, I thought of Alma's discussion (Alma 42) but I also remembered a very interesting passage I had recently read in a Hugh Nibley book which helped me understand how this dichotomy developed.
Diversion between the Bible and recently discovered Apocryphal writings indicate that sometime during the dark ages, priests of the University of Alexandria (Egypt) became fixated on all things mystical. Not having the moderating affect of revelation, they abandoned any doctrines which were not sufficiently mysitcal or allogorical. They tried to spiritualize everything - to cut out anything that was material, real, tangible, or literal, regardless of common sense. If a doctrine from old writings was too plain, too literal or too tangible, it was thereby too juvenile, and not worthy of their consideration, and they gradually deleted such doctrines from any future copies of the text. By this process, they systematically denatured the Bible and robbed it of the things that otherwise made it familiar and interesting. This is essentially the process by which the plain and precious things, which had been present from the beginning, were gradually removed from the Bible. The physical nature of God was probably one of these. The priests wanted Him to be etherial and incomprehensible. The doctrine of balancing works with grace was also likely one of these simple and plain, though essential and precious doctrines that were removed. Nibley suggested that by this process Christianity became anemic, devoid of animation and life blood. Today, Christianity diminishes works and repentance by taking personal, physical accountability out of the equation. Members are no longer required to demonstrate their commitment, but only to proclaim it. Anyway, I believe this is how we got to where we are. Thank goodness for the restoration and ongoing revelation.