Wouldn't it be nice to have explicit, exact words here? We don't have that luxury. I would like to suggest two distinct meanings that are among the bucket of those employed by the translators:
Misguided: One who acts in opposition to God under the false assumption of obedience to God.
Reprobate: One who acts opposition to God knowingly. Synonyms include apostate (the true sense of the word, total rejection of God's word).
Here is an example of being misguided:
"And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people, insomuch that they were wicked even like unto the Lamanites." (Helaman 4:22)
Their laws had fallen away from the ideal. This does not mean they did not have serious lawyers, or no law at all. It meant the law they did have deviated from what they had before. Their ideas of the commandments had deviated from the ideal. And the Lamanites? You would be hard pressed to find Native American tribes who did not have religion. Yet, which among them preserved the fullness of the Nephi's gospel?
Consider the Pharisees as another example. I cannot say but that some were reprobate. However, the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees indicate that they were zealous for keeping their understanding of the law. This is why Paul could say:
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
This is a classic case of being misguided. I love the movie "Son of God" for how well it portrays the misguided piety of the leaders of the church in Jesus' day (whether or not it is factual, who knows). If you haven't watched that movie, I recommend it. There is a scene where they cut back and forth between Jesus being whipped, marched to Calvary, and crucified while the church leaders perform the sacrifices and rites associated with the Passover. The irony is not lost on the viewer: the priests were raised to believe that they would prepare an offering for the atonement of mankind, and they did. However, it was a human offering in the form of Jesus, and not an animal sacrifice. At least some of this men were very religious, indeed. As were most of those who stoned the prophets.
It turns out that examples of reprobate characters are actually kind of rare in scripture. This is probably because Satan more often tends to deceive us by bending or twisting the truth and our native dispositions rather than convince us to outright rebel against God. Almost all of the examples of sin I can think of in the scriptures are examples of individuals being misguided. Sure, David was in open opposition to God when he ordered Uriah killed. Sexual deviants were as well. But what about King Noah? He had bona fides in the priesthood, and probably had some really good reasons to build those towers and palaces and have those harlots. His priests agreed.
13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?
14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain.
What about Laman and Lemuel? They really thought that the Jews were good people who kept the law and that there was no reason to destroy them.
22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us. (1 Nephi 17:22)
Sincerity, piousness, sacrifice and ritual are not hallmarks of the righteous. They are at least as popular among the misguided as they are among the righteous.
We should be very concerned about our own status before God. We should revisit the scriptures, particularly the prophecies for our time. We should ask ourselves, "Lord, is it I?"
"For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire." (2 Nephi 30:10)
"And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked." (1 Nephi 17:37)
"O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled." (Mormon 8:33)
"I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man;" (D&C 63:33)
"And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire." (D&C 63:54)
"I, the Lord, am angry with the wicked; I am holding my Spirit from the inhabitants of the earth." (D&C 63:32)
"Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn." (D&C 98:9)
"Wherefore gird up your loins lest ye be found among the wicked." (D&C 49:3)
"Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings." (D&C 88:121)
"And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers;" (D&C 101:90)
"That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God." (D&C 101:95)
"But before that great day shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood; and the stars shall refuse their shining, and some shall fall, and great destructions await the wicked." (D&C 34:9)
"Yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure—" (D&C 1:9)
...and many more!
So how do we discern whether our motivation to do good is informed by truth, hence we are righteous, or is informed by false tradition or error, making us misguided?
By their fruits! (next post)