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MARC - Elder Scott said in a conference address, "....the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment,when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy." (Ensign Oct 2013) How do we differentiate, when we sin, what is a sin committed in weakness and what is in rebellion? Finally, how far does His mercy extend? Does it extend into the hereafter for weaknesses not completely overcome in this life?

JOEL - Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between the two, but I believe a rebellious person is characterized by having a willful desire to commit sin and disobey God with no remorse for having done so. Weaknesses, on the other hand reside in people who in their hearts are trying to do the will of god but slip up sometimes because of the naturual man within all of us. They will have a humble repentant attitude and immediately seek repentance and forgiveness from God for the sin. Of course only God and ourselves knows what's in our hearts.

His mercy does indeed extend into the hereafter, at least for those who never got the chance to hear his gospel, otherwise there would be no reason for God's righteous spirits to preach repentance and salvation to the dead (1 Pet. 3:18-20, 4:6). As for the rest of us who have had the opportunity, we have been told that this life is the time to prepare to meet God (Alma 34: 32). However, we of course cannot become completely perfect beings in this life; only Christ was that. But as long as we are trying and making progress each day towards that goal, God's mercy will definitely apply in the next life for those unconquered weaknesses.

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things, and receive all things, even the fullness of the Father’s glory." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954-56, 2:18)

And even the rebellious person can obtain mercy if they make a change in their hearts and repent of their sins in this life. If they don't their rebellious nature may go with them making it hard for them to change. (Alma 34: 34)

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