When a church member has been excommunicated, Bishops, Stakes Presidents, and family members can write a letter to the First Presidency giving their reasons why a former members blessings should be restored.
Elder Theodore M. Burton’s assignment was to prepare information for the First Presidency so repentant transgressors could have their priesthood and temple blessings restored. He said: “the most basic principles of the gospel are sometimes those least understood”. He said this because of the letters he read from church leaders and family members in his assignment. He explains:
“Many times a bishop will write, ‘I feel he has suffered enough!’ But suffering is not repentance. Suffering comes from lack of complete repentance. A stake president will write, ‘I feel he has been punished enough!’ But punishment is not repentance. Punishment follows disobedience and precedes repentance. A husband will write, ‘My wife has confessed everything!’ But confession is not repentance. Confession is an admission of guilt that occurs as repentance begins. A wife will write, ‘My husband is filled with remorse!’ But remorse is not repentance. Remorse and sorrow continue because a person has not yet fully repented. Suffering, punishment, confession, remorse, and sorrow may sometimes accompany repentance, but they are not repentance… In our repentance, we should remember that the Lord does not punish us for our sins; he simply withholds his blessings. We punish ourselves.” Theodore M. Burton, “The Meaning of Repentance”, Ensign, Aug. 1988, 6–9
Are you surprised? I think most members of the church are confused about the real meaning of repentance. What then constitutes true repentance?
Elder Burton answers the two questions I asked above:
“The meaning of repentance is not that people be punished, but rather that they change their lives so that God can help them escape eternal punishment and enter into his rest with joy and rejoicing.”
Repentance means to change! Change our way of life. This way, Heavenly Father can provide the blessings he desires to give us (D&C 130:20-21). Heavenly Father desire to bless us with all that he has but can only do so as we repent (D&C 84:38-39, 44).