I am reading the Book of Mormon in 90 days. My oldest got his call about a month and a half ago. He was challenged to read or re-read the Book of Mormon again before the start of his mission. My wife challenged me to read with her and him.
In the last few weeks, I have gotten behind in my daily goal. I spent a couple of hours waiting for my car to be serviced yesterday and decided I might catch up. An interesting thing happened. I was reading more critically than I normally do. I looked for a reason to see Korihor's side. I stopped at one point and made a list of the good, salt of the earth atheists I know (I know a few) and compared that list to the good, salt of the earth Mormons I know.
Then today, in church, we talked about Naaman and how his story started because a hand-maiden of his wife said that there is a prophet in Israel. The point was made that it is sometimes just a simple testimony that can cause much good. I raised my hand and said that it probably wasn't just the few words that made the most difference. I imagine this hand-maiden as a salt of the earth kind. One that is trustworthy and faithful. When she said that there is a prophet in Israel, the wife knew she could trust her. It is our examples that are the testimonials that matter.
For me, the greatest testimonies are the lives of the salt of the earth Mormons I know. My father and mother, my mother in-law and father in-law. Several others that I have known personally. I don't have any illusions that these good people don't have their faults. I see them, or at least I see what I think is them through my own dark glass. But they are good. I admire them. I see the fruits of years and decades of dedication. Of forgiveness between parent and child. Wounds that might have festered and torn the family apart, became whole again.
How do I reconcile that with the good, salt of the earth atheists I know? Only that God judges based on what we know to be true. That no honest person will be denied any chance of progress later. And that even the dishonest ones will be given every chance to repent.
As I was driving home from the mechanic yesterday, I went through my mind again, of the things that I know for sure. One thing I came to that did not seem disputable.
"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation" D&C 6:9
"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation" D&C 11:9
"preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord" Mosiah 18:20
"preach naught but repentance" D&C 19:21
"And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost" D&C 19:31
If I were to do nothing but practice repentance the rest of my days, it would be well for me. What is repentance? To turn away from evil and towards God. To separate myself from my worst habits. To incrementally be better. To fight against the entropy of my soul. To reach for the light that gives life to plants and all life.