Forgiveness of sin is possible because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures teach that to obtain this gift of the atonement you must make changes in your life. Whatever it is that you’re doing or have done that constitutes sin needs to be addressed.
Some sins are easily dealt with while others are more difficult. If, for example, you stole something of small value two years ago and realized that it was wrong and that you are guilty of breaking the Lords commandment, you can repent by asking in prayer to be forgiven. On the other hand, if you are guilty of sin that is addictive, like internet pornography, then you will probably need to seek out the help of your Bishop and maybe a qualified professional.
I think the most important part of repentance is to understand that the Savior is the ultimate source of forgiveness. The church and church leaders are there to help you, but the Savior is where your focus needs to be.
I know something about the process of repentance because I’ve utilized it many times and will continue to do so. With that said I would like to share with you a few things that I’ve learned along the way.
First, you haven’t done anything that the Savior hasn’t already helped others repent of. In others words, He won’t be surprised or shocked by your sins, no matter how you might feel about them.
Second, the Savior is perfect; He doesn’t make mistakes. Whatever He requires of you to complete your repentance is for your benefit. Have faith in your Savior and the wisdom He possesses.
Third, if you need to confess to your Bishop, do so even if you’re embarrassed. Don’t let your repentance become complicated because you’re afraid to tell your Bishop the details of your sin(s). And please, don’t fall into the trap of a partial confession. This happens when you hold back some important part of your confession. Later, after you leave the Bishops office, you realize you weren’t completely forthright. Now, you feel guilty for your sin(s) and a partial confession. What do you do now? My advice is to see the Bishop again, as soon as possible and finish what you started.
Fourth, spend time with the Savior, your advocate with the Father, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted (D&C 62:1). Spending time with the Lord is best accomplished in meaningful prayer, scripture reading, and journal writing.
I have found that I need to stay on my knees, usually for fifteen minutes or so, to feel the Lords presence. Often I don’t feel anything and wonder if my prayers even went above the ceiling. Other times, I know that I am being heard and feel His love and encouragement. And then there are those occasions when the veil becomes so thin that it becomes more of a conversation than a prayer.
Fifth, don’t allow discouragement to gain a hold on you. If you have set backs then just get right back up again and do what needs to be done. Talk with the Lord and remember His tender mercies. As for Bishops, the nice things about them, there are more than one, if this is needed, and the church doesn’t keep a record of your sins in a database for the average member.
But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven. Moroni 6:8