Repentance is a basic principle of the gospel, and being basic one would think the majority of church members would be well versed and comfortable with it. However, I don’t think that is the case, I think many members are uptight about the principle of repentance.
If a church member feels unworthy much of the time, then they probably qualify for the title of an uptight Mormon. The gospel is designed to bring joy and happiness into our lives. If we find joy and happiness a rarity and feel perpetually unacceptable (in any degree) to the Lord because of our sins of omission and commission, then it may be due to a lack of understanding about the basic principle of repentance.
Following is a two-part discussion on repentance. It is my goal to make repentance more attractive and easier to understand. It is written for the average church members, the 90% plus who haven’t sinned to the extent their church membership is in question. But even for that small percentage whose membership is in jeopardy, who have or might lose their membership, the principles discussed are still vital and applicable.
What are my qualification for writing about repentance? That is an easy question to answer, I’ve had lots of experience. And along the way I’ve learned some things I’d like to pass on to others.
My experience with repentance has taught me that Heavenly Father is quick to forgive sins. Repentance doesn’t have to be difficult. Repentance for many of the things that trouble us can be repented of speedily; even easily.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland taught the following:
You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. That’s another satanic suckerpunch—that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change”—and mean it. BYU Devotional on 18 March 1980.
Unfortunately, I believe many church members have come to think of repentance as an arduous, unrewarding, never-ending, impossible task. Repenting of some sins can be as easy as calling upon Heavenly Father in prayer.
For example, I know of a man who was caught stealing. He was a teenager at the time. The owner of the store made him promise never to come back to his place of business. He agreed. He went home and told his parents what he did. When he related this story, he was nearing eighty years of age. He told how his parents reviewed the scriptures with him and taught him that Heavenly Father would forgive him instantly if he sincerely asked. He did, and added that he never stole another thing in his life.
This example illustrates the principle of repentance in its most basic form. Some of the sins we experience can be dealt with this quickly.
Some who read this story will say, “I wish my sins were so easily dealt with, the guy in the story never stole again. What about me, I keep committing the same sins over and over again? I sincerely repent and before long I’m back doing the same thing. Repentance doesn’t work for me, I guess I’m not celestial material.”
Those who feel this way don’t understand or don’t believe what the Lord teaches about repentance. There isn’t a man or woman who hasn’t struggled with repetitive sin. Some sins take longer to repent of than others.
The Lord clearly teaches us how to deal with repetitive sins. Should we choose not to believe Him, then disbelief is another sin we need to work on.
The Savior teaches:
Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. Mosiah 26:30
But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven. Moroni 6:8
The Lord will forgive us as long as we have “real intent”. In my opinion, we possess real intent as long as we keep trying. Even when we lapse, and sin intentionally, then feel remorse and a determination to do better, I believe the Lord will be quick to forgive. Many of those who love and desire to serve the Lord have deeply ingrained habits and possibly genetic tendencies that take time to overcome. The Lord will be patient, but cannot be deceived or manipulated.
Why is the Lord so forgiving? I think the answer is obvious, until we reach perfection we will need to have the blessing of repentance and the promise of forgiveness available on request.
Latter-Day Saints have been taught that repentance is not to be trifled with. I certainly agree with this, trifling with repentance is just plain wrong. I think trifling with repentance occurs when real intent is absent or lacking. I’d like to suggest that we can’t repent with real intent too often. The Lord doesn’t mention frequency of repentance being a problem, however, lack of needed repentance is frequently mentioned as a problem (D&C 19:15-21).
As aforementioned, I am writing to the average church member who is seeking to repent of average sins, the kind of sin that doesn’t put their church membership into question.
Sin is a barrier to obtaining the blessings the Lord intends for us to receive. When we call upon the Lord repenting with real intent that barrier can be removed. The scripture refer to this as “justification”. Justification can be thought of as an event. When we repent with real intent we’re pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless. This is what the Lord taught when He declared: “as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven”. We can have access to justification, even in a matter of minutes. In addition, we can renew our covenants as we partake of the sacrament each week. The key is “real intent”.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote:
It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes. (Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 325).
Brigham Young said:
Let us do the best we can, and if we make a mistake once, seven times, or seventy times seven in a day, and are honest in our confessions, we shall be forgiven freely. JD 2:136
Question: do you believe the Lord forgives sins? Have you ever been forgiven of a sin you’ve sincerely repented of? If so, did you repeat the sincerely repented of sin again, maybe many times? Do you believe the Lord forgives sins we repeat? For example, anger, pride, and lust are sins that many struggle with, even their entire life. Do you believe the Lord will forgive us as oft as we repent sincerely of these sins? He says he will, do you believe Him?
I’ll close with a thought on sin that teaches an important point about the need and availability of repentance for all who follow Christ:
“That all men commit sin, before and after baptism, and for that matter, before and after their calling and election is made sure, is self-evident. There has been only one Sinless One—the Lord Jesus who was God’s own Son.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:342.)
This chapter covers the basics of repentance and justification. One thing we need to understand is that justification allows us to have clean hands but doesn’t change our hearts. A pure heart comes through the process of sanctification. Note the use of the word “process”. Sanctification is a process whereas justification is an event. Sanctification takes time and effort.
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Repentance Made Easy-Part 2 (Sanctification) Click Here