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Why We Don’t Need to Be Guilty of Serious Sin to Appreciate the Atonement

We need not be guilty of serious sin in order to need, to appreciate, and to take advantage of a second chance. In fact, sometimes we may find ourselves hoping for a second chance that has nothing to do with sin at all. How many times have we made innocent mistakes—not out of rebellion but just out of ignorance or poor judgment—and wished we could try again? How often has a misunderstanding led to a strained relationship, and we wished we could go back in time to do things differently?

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Fractured Relationships

Recently, a good woman whom we will call Naomi shared how she was given a second chance to mend a relationship. Another woman in Naomi’s ward (whom we will call Cathy) had been unkind to her and ostracized her, claiming that her son had been mistreated by Naomi’s son. As much as Naomi and her son tried to patch things up and despite the fact that her accusations were false, Cathy continued to snub Naomi. Of course, apologies were offered and behavior was monitored, but to no avail. The offended woman remained offended. Naomi worried and prayed over the situation. She did not know how to make it better. She prayed for a second chance.

One day Naomi went to the temple with this problem weighing on her mind and heart. She put Cathy’s name on the temple prayer roll. Naomi felt that she had tried everything she could think of to make amends. Not 30 minutes after Naomi returned from the temple, she received a phone call from her ward Relief Society president, asking if she would be Cathy’s visiting teaching partner. Naomi explained the rift in their relationship to the Relief Society president and wondered if she should rethink her request.

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After some pondering, the wise Relief Society president recommended that Naomi proceed with the assignment as if nothing were wrong. Apprehensive, Naomi called Cathy, even though the two had not spoken to each other in quite some time. And then the miracle happened. As they talked about their assignment, the distance between them began to fade.

Naomi and Cathy never discussed the situation that had caused their estrangement. Somehow they did not need to. Their hearts were healed as they served together as representatives of Jesus Christ to other women in their ward. They knew there was no place for animosity or hurt feelings. They both received a second chance as they looked to the Lord and sought to do His will.

Sometime later, the Relief Society president followed up with Naomi and asked how her relationship with Cathy was progressing. Naomi thanked the Relief Society president for being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord and for affording her the opportunity for things to be made right with Cathy.

Life’s Random “Fallenness”

Naomi hadn’t done anything sinful that caused her to want a second chance with Cathy. In a sense, she had simply experienced some of what we could call life’s random “fallenness.” The fact is, we live in an imperfect world, where imperfect things happen to imperfect people. That’s part of what we signed up for when we chose to come into mortality—it’s part of the journey and test of life to see how we’ll handle life’s arbitrary ironies and difficulties.

Anyone who has lived even a few years knows that mortality is full of twists and turns, triumphs and letdowns, setbacks and successes. In our mind’s eye, we have a plan for our lives and the lives of our children. Then life happens. We mess up, make mistakes, fumble, and falter; they mess up, make mistakes, fumble, and falter. We face opposition, encounter difficulty and disappointment, and experience much of sorrow and heartache.

The great message of Jesus Christ and His redeeming grace is that things don’t have to stay that way. Through the Atonement, we can overcome all of it—yes, even random accidents and tribulations that are not violations of eternal law, though they may be violations of personal comfort. I’m speaking not of the cleansing power of the Atonement but rather of its strengthening, uplifting power.

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“The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us,” said Elder David A. Bednar. “There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, ‘No one understands. No one knows.’ No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power" (David A. Bednar, "The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality," Ensign, April 2012).

He who knows and understands all things will help us with all things.

Christ’s Atonement Covers It All

Because of the hope and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, tragedy can become triumph, and failure can be the prelude to success. In fact, sometimes the failure or setback serves as a stepping-stone to something even greater.

Grace—which is at the heart of all second chances—is a gift from God. It is unearned divine assistance, unmerited divine favor, divine enabling power to accomplish things that could never otherwise be accomplished. God’s grace is His tender mercy and goodwill, His continuous love and compassion, His condescension toward the children of men. Fortunately, the Lord’s saving grace can apply to all situations and all circumstances. All types of second chances come because of Christ. When He invites those who are “heavy laden” to come unto Him, He’s not just talking about those laden with sin (Matthew 11:28). The Lord will give us all the strength, all the courage, all the faith and hope we need to rebuild and go on with our lives, no matter what happened. That is the miracle of a second chance.

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The Gospel of Second ChancesRead more inspiring stories and insights on the second chances Christ offers us in The Gospel of Second Chances by Lloyd D. Newell, available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.

In The Gospel of Second Chances, best-selling author Lloyd D. Newell looks at what makes such second chances possible and what we can do to make a second chance successful. With his characteristic blend of inspiration, practicality, and gospel teaching, Brother Newell uses scriptural and contemporary examples to convey the hopeful message that our Savior Jesus Christ wants us to believe in second chances — for ourselves and others.

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