I hope you’ll read, Repentance Made Easier-Part 1 (Justification), before reading part 2.
Repentance is a Window into our Souls
Once we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we need to repent. Otherwise, our faith will be in vain. Faith without repentance is of no use. What good are garden seeds without soil, eyes without light, or ears without sound? So it is with faith and repentance. They are both needed in order to activate the desired blessings that are available to us through the atonement.
Repentance is the soil that faith grows in. It is also the soil all other blessings are derived from. Until we repent nothing happens. Repentance is the key that opens the door to our divine possibilities, that of becoming a join-heir with Jesus Christ.
The Lord stating the importance of repentance said, ” Say nothing but repentance to this generation” (D&C 11:9).
The prophet Moroni taught the principle of repentance in language so clear I wonder how it could be misunderstood. He said:
But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven (Moroni 6:8).
When we repent of our sins with real intent the Lord forgives us. We are in a state of justification. We can even say we have clean hands. However, repentance means much more than just having clean hands. The book of Psalms contains two verses of scripture that help us understand the principle of repentance more fully:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart… Psalms 24:3 – 4
From these verses we learn that to be fully acceptable to the Lord we need to have both clean hands and a pure heart. This is where the scriptural terms justification and sanctification come in. As we’ve already discussed, justification is to have clean hands. But what is required to have a pure heart? Sanctification is the gospel term used to describe the change that takes place in the hearts of those who seek diligently to know and follow Christ.
How does this change in heart come? Is it ultimately accomplished through our will power?
Regarding sanctification the Savior said:
“Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost…” 3 Nephi 27:20.
How are we sanctified? Answer: by receiving the Holy Ghost.
Summary and Conclusion
The words “made easy” in the title of the two chapters on repentance were used to do just that; take something many complicate and make it easier to understand.
Elder Uchtdorf addressed our tendancy to complicate gospel principles, saying:
“Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles…complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda…And gradually, eternal principles can get lost…” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Love of God, Oct 2009 General Conference.
I don’t think the principle of repentance is as complicated as some portray it. I think it is useful to think of repentance in terms of justification and sanctification. These gospel terms are used in the scriptures and by church leaders to describe the essential doctrines of salvation. Having said that, I don’t think the rank and file members of the church are comfortable with them.
I’ve had enough experience with repentance to know that it is a true principle. I’ve learned by experience that when I sincerely repent the Lord forgives me, just like the Book of Mormon teaches.
When you or I repent with real intent, and partake of the sacrament worthily we can be in a perpetual state of justification. This allows us to be the recipients of all the blessing the Lord desires to extend to us in spite of our imperfections.
There is a verse in the Book of Mormon that provides insight into how sanctification is accomplished in the lives of those who follow Christ:
“…they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).
This verse helps us understand that sanctification is a process that occurs when we yield our hearts to God by waxing “stronger and stronger” in humility and “firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ”.
Sanctification occurs over time as a process, whereas justification can be thought of as a series of events—repentance events.
One writer concluded: “It could be said that the process of sanctification is found in a seemingly endless series of justification events.”
Church members are in a covenant relationship with God. Justification and sanctification are gifts from God because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is important that we don’t get the idea that justification and sanctification are a reward we earn when we change our behavior by exercising our will power (See note 1 below). That would be like a man thinking that by disciplined eating and exercising he could earn the resurrection. We’re not justified or sanctified through exercising will power. We’re justified and sanctified by “yielding [our] hearts unto God”.
I need to add a word of caution before finishing. In part 1, I indicated that I was writing for the average church member, the 90% plus who are honestly striving, not perfectly so, but with real intent to be true followers of Christ. The scripture clearly teach that repentance, the justification part, can be quick and easy—if we have real intent. If someone should twist this and think they can willfully sin and quickly repent, I feel sorry for them. God will not be mocked (Jacob 6:8-9).
My goal has been to help my readers see the basics of repentance through the doctrines of justification and sanctification. There are other gospel terms that need to be bought into the discussion. Terms that help us to have a more complete understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, remission of sins, born again, fire and the Holy Ghost, mighty change, and etc. Click here to read a three part essay on these doctrines.
Note 1: Click for chapter titled: Reformation or Repentance