D&C 19 Repent or Suffer

Doctrine and Covenants 19

The context of this section has to do with Martin Harris’ desire to hold on to his property.  As of March of 1830, he has already seen the angel Moroni and the plates.  Martin knows that the Book of Mormon is true and that the work is of God, however, he is a bit nervous to lose some or all of his property if the Book of Mormon does not sell.  Martin did end up having to sell 151 acres of land to pay the cost ($3,000) for the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. 

Understanding the context of this revelation gives more meaning to the text.  How are we like Martin?  Do we sometimes have things that we want to hold on to in our lives that keep us from giving ourselves over completely to God?  Do we hold back part in our relationships with others?  Holding back and not fully committing to the Kingdom of God will only retard our spiritual growth, and unrepentant sinning will eventually cause us great suffering (see verse 11-20)

This life is a multiple choice test

You can choose A or B.

If you choose A- if you choose to repent- see verse 16

If you are dumb enough to choose B- D&C 19:17 – then you suffer even as the Savior suffered.  No human being can EVER escape.  In the end you can repent, or you will suffer what the Savior suffered.

This is the only time the Savior ever describes what He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Verse 18

This suffering caused a God to tremble, caused a God to cry and wish that it would end.

The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible… Groaning beneath this concentrated load, this intense, incomprehensible pressure, this terrible exaction of Divine justice, from which feeble humanity shrank, and through the agony thus experienced sweating great drops of blood, He was led to exclaim, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” He had wrestled with the superincumbent load in the wilderness, He had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there; placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in his agony the blood oozed from His pores… And again, not only did His agony affect the mind and body of Jesus, causing Him to sweat great drops of blood, but by reason of some principle, to us unfathomable, His suffering affected universal nature…Thus, such was the torturing pressure of this intense, this indescribable agony, that it burst forth abroad beyond the confines of His body, convulsed all nature and spread throughout all space.  (John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1882], 152.) 

If you want a taste of this horrible cup?  Read verse 20

Martin, if you are really honest with yourself you will remember the time when you lost the Holy Ghost, you tasted it a little bit.  Ask the students to remember a time when they felt divine guilt for their sins, and they will know how serious this is.  Martin, remember the time when you felt divine guilt – we all know what that tastes like. 

This does not taste good.  This is NOT something that we want to carry with us in mortality or into the next life. 

Why does God do this to us?  Why do we need to suffer for our sins? 

Let’s talk about God and suffering.

Why is it that a Heavenly Father would cause His children to suffer? 

Eternal punishment is God’s punishment- it doesn’t mean it lasts forever. 

There is a legitimate reason for God to punish… but what are some wrong reasons for society or parents or teachers to punish children? 

1.  Sometimes parents will punish their children so that they can get their anger out on the child.  It just “feels good” to punish my child, as if I can “get even” with them for the trauma/suffering that they have caused me

2.  Some parents are “out of control” and need to punish their child to feel as if they are more powerful than the child.  It is a way to exert control over the child to show the child “who’s boss”

3.  Teachers give bad grades as a punishment- so that they can get even – did you teacher ever give you punishment to get even?  For some teachers, this is a way to, like the parent, show the child “who is really in control”.

4.  Men punish to seek revenge – cite examples… How many movies use the revenge model to drive the story along?  Have the youth cite examples of movies that they have seen that use this theme to make the point.  One of my favorite movies of all time does this: The Count of Monte Cristo. 

This is not why God punishes.  God doesn’t want to “get even” with us or exert control over us to dominate us.  His purpose in our suffering serves to benefit us in order that we may change our nature. 

D&C 19:4 Repent or suffer- this paints a pretty negative picture of Heavenly Father unless we understand its purpose. 

Ezekiel 18:20-23 

Does God take any pleasure when we suffer?  NO! 

We tend to like it in our criminal system when criminals get punished.  Does God? 

Does God punish to get revenge?  

What is the purpose of the suffering?  Why does He do this? 

Answer: to help us change.  When we change, He will stop punishing us. 

What happens if you receive a 30 year sentence and you change after 5 years?  If God was running the system, what would happen to those who change early?  What if they do the time and don’t change after their appointed time? 

Does God run a prison system? 

Earth is a real prison system- when we act badly, we suffer- for as long as it takes to change. 

Spirit World- same thing applies.  When we need to change, we have to suffer in Hell in the Spirit Prison portion of the Spirit World. 

Who goes to Hell?  Those who choose plan B. 


During this hundred years many other great truths not known before, have been declared to the people, and one of the greatest is that to hell there is an exit as well as an entrance. Hell is no place to which a vindictive judge sends prisoners to suffer and to be punished principally for his glory; but it is a place prepared for the teaching, the disciplining of those who failed to learn here upon the earth what they should have learned. True, we read of everlasting punishment, unending suffering, eternal damnation. That is a direful expression; but in his mercy the Lord has made plain what those words mean. “Eternal punishment,” he says, is God’s punishment, for he is eternal; and that condition or state or possibility will ever exist for the sinner who deserves and really needs such condemnation; but this does not mean that the individual sufferer or sinner is to be eternally and everlastingly made to endure and suffer. No man will be kept in hell longer than is necessary to bring him to a fitness for something better. When he reaches that stage the prison doors will open and there will be rejoicing among the hosts who welcome him into a better state. The Lord has not abated in the least what he has said in earlier dispensations concerning the operation of his law and his gospel, but he has made clear unto us his goodness and mercy through it all, for it is his glory and his work to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man. (Elder James E. Talmage, CR April 1930, 97) 

D&C 88:29 who gets resurrected?


88:31 –telestial get resurrected

88:32- why are SOP’s going to outer darkness?  To enjoy that which they were willing to receive.  They had a chance to change, but they wouldn’t take their chance.  These individuals actually choose B and desire this option.  God cannot force you to love Him and to change.  With all the power that God has, he cannot force you in your use of your agency. 

Murderers and robbers go to hell to suffer, because they chose B in earth life.  What happens in hell?  If they change, if they start suffering for their sins, and they change, then what happens? 

This is where Mormons are different from other Christians- if they suffer, and begin to change… they get out of hell.  The Lord sends people to hell to scare the “hell” out of them. 

God has no intention of punishing… it isn’t in His nature.  He allows us to suffer in order that we might change. 

Is anyone permanently barred from the Celestial Kingdom? 

When do Celestial people choose to repent?  

Student question: What about those who can sin their whole life and then repent later?  

The people who go to the Celestial Kingdom are those who want to go there.  Everyone gets what they want. 

Alma 41:3-5 addresses this issue, an issue every teenager asks at some point in their lives.  Why not sin and repent later?  Why not live a life filled with whatever MY desires happen to be, only to later, in the Spirit World after death, or much later in life, change and come to Christ?  Alma says that we are raised to happiness or misery – according to our desires.  You get good if you want good in your life.  In the end you get what you really desired the entire time. 

If you sin your whole life, then your real desire is wickedness.  If your true desire is the Celestial Kingdom, then you will act according to your desires.  This makes sense especially once we are taught the options that are on the table.  This might not apply as well for folks who don’t know what is at stake.  But once we are convicted of the truthfulness of the message of Jesus Christ and what He has to offer us, and then we choose B- we are really choosing what we desire and we will get what we want. 

A balancing truth to this is the idea that many people who sin are really just going about things the wrong way.  They are seeking a good thing (happiness, relationships, to feel “good”, etc) in a way that is against the will of their Heavenly Father. 

Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings.   (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, August 1979 pp. 5‑7.) 

God does not punish to get even or to get revenge.  He doesn’t take away the Holy Ghost when you sin or do something stupid because He is mad at you.  He wants it to hurt a little, so that you will change.  As soon as you change, what does He do?  He brings the Holy Ghost back into your life.  Will God let you hurt?  For what purpose? 

The irony of holding back is that all of our good desires will be met when we accept them on His terms.  A parable teaches this truth so well-

The Pearls

The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five.   Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

“Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!”

Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face.   “A dollar ninety-five.   That’s almost $2.00.   If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself.   Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”  As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies.   After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents.   On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.  Jenny loved her pearls.   They made her feel dressed up and grown up.   She wore them everywhere ~ Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed.   The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath.   Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.  Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story.   One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?”

“Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls.   But you can have Princess ~ the white horse from my collection.   The one with the pink tail.   Remember, Daddy?   The one you gave me.   She’s my favorite.”

“That’s okay, Honey.   Daddy loves you.   Good night.”   And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.   About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?”

“Daddy, you know I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh Daddy, not my pearls.   But you can have my babydoll.   The brand new one I got for my birthday.   She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.”

“That’s okay.   Sleep well.   God bless you, little one.   Daddy loves you.”   And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style.   As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.   “What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?”

Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy.   And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace.   With a little quiver,she finally said, “Here, Daddy.   It’s for you.”  With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny.   He had them all the time.   He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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