We All Need to Repent
Tremendous resources for this lesson can be found in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: ... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Especially helpful will be the manuals for Joseph Smith, Chapter 5, Brigham Young, chapter 9, Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 7, David O. McKay, Chapter 21, and Harold B. Lee, pp. 29-30 (Chapter 4). Remember, these can all be found on “lds.org” by clicking on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” All of the manuals are listed at the bottom of this page. Following are some ideas on “What is the Priesthood?” from these sources:
The first question in this section is “What is Sin?” In the third paragraph the answer is given from James 4:17.
If you go onto “lds.org” and look across the top, there is a link named “A-Z Index.” These are gospel topics with quick answers as well as scriptural references. If you click on “S” and then click “Sin” you get the following:
To commit sin is to willfully disobey God's commandments or to fail to act righteously despite a knowledge of the truth (see James 4:17).
So according to James, sin is knowing what to do and not doing it. According to the above statement, sin is also knowing what not to do and doing it.
President David O. McKay related the following concerning sin:
John Wesley’s mother [John Wesley was a noted theologian] reputedly has given us this:
“Take this rule: Now note—whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 198).
It is interesting that although there is consensus in the Christian world about the scriptural fact that all men sin, there is very little understood or taught by other churches on the subject of repentance. President McKay had this to say:
It is inconceivable to think that anyone can even question the essentiality of repentance (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 198).
In a terrific quote, Joseph Smith also stated:
I shall speak with authority of the Priesthood in the name of the Lord God. … Notwithstanding this congregation profess to be Saints, yet I stand in the midst of all [kinds of] characters and classes of men. If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses, for if we are not drawing towards God in principle, we are going from Him and drawing towards the devil. Yes, I am standing in the midst of all kinds of people.
Search your hearts, and see if you are like God. I have searched mine, and feel to repent of all my sins (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 72).
Similarly, President Joseph F. Smith taught:
Who can say in his heart, in the presence of God and man, “I have truly repented of all my sins.” … I have many weaknesses and imperfections. I have as many weaknesses as many of you, and I do not know but what I have more than a great many of you. … I have not been able yet to live up to and honor this second principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and I would like to see the man who has. I would like to see the human preacher who has done it. But I am trying, I want you to understand, my brethren and sisters, I am still trying (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 61).
Becoming Free from Our Sins through Repentance
It may be important to understand what repentance is before continuing our study. Here are some scriptures and statements from prophets which help:
“Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezek. 14:6).
O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins… (2 Nephi 9:45).
And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God (Mosiah 11:23).
Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things (Alma 39:9).
From the Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 239:
The phrase, “cross yourself,” as used in Alma 39:9, is not familiar to us today. However, in Webster’s 1828 dictionary, we find the following helpful definitions that relate to Alma’s counsel to his son: “To erase, to cancel, to counteract, to stop, to preclude” (Noah Webster’s First Edition of an American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 ).
[Remember all of the Institute manuals are online at “institute.lds.org” then “Institute Courses & Manuals.”]
The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined (Bible Dictionary, under “repentance”).
True repentance only is acceptable to God, nothing short of it will answer the purpose. Then what is true repentance? True repentance is not only sorrow for sins, and humble penitence and contrition before God, but it involves the necessity of turning away from them, a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light.
No mouth profession of repentance is acceptable to God unless it is carried out in practice. We must have works as well as faith; we must do as well as pretend to do (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 61).
Repentance is the turning away from that which is low and the striving for that which is higher (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, p. 199).
In thus changing your life from those things which are on the animal plane, you repent of your sins. If you profane Deity, never do it again! Instead of profaning his name, worship him! And once that feeling of change comes to the soul, you desire to be born again, to have a new life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, p. 199).
Now, if you have made mistakes, make today the beginning of a change of your lives. Turn from the thing that you have been doing that is wrong. The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you are having the most difficulty keeping today (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 30).
The Lord made it very clear in the early years of this dispensation that we have no greater responsibility than to encourage people to repent. That simply means that we encourage them to forsake evil, to turn around, and to set their lives in harmony with the truths of the everlasting gospel (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Tambuli, May 1989, 2).
This is a day of repentance when you and I can turn around and face up to our responsibilities (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, July 1998, 74).
So, repentance must be simply turning away from sin and towards righteousness. All of these quotes supplement the statement made in the section “Seventh - - We Must Keep the Commandments of God” which states:
“When we repent, our life changes” (p. 111).
Perhaps the most important sentence to remember in this whole lesson is the following:
“The privilege of repenting is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ” (p. 109).
Repentance cannot be understood as a principle separated from the doctrine of the Atonement.
Elder Richard G. Scott declared:
Indeed, it is that very Atonement that makes repentance even possible (Ensign, Nov 2002, 86).
In a conference talk by Elder Richard G. Hinckley, he expressed gratitude for “…the magnificent principle of repentance and for the Atonement that makes it possible…” (Ensign, May 2006, 48).
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption (Alma 34:15-16).
Referring to this scripture, Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained:
What is meant by Alma 34:16 is that the person who repents does not need to suffer even as the Savior suffered for that sin. Sinners who are repenting will experience some suffering, but because of their repentance and the Atonement they will not experience the full, exquisite extent of eternal torment the Savior suffered for those sins (Ensign, Apr 2010, 30).
President Lee stated:
An all-wise Father, foreseeing that some would fall in sin and all would have need to repent, has provided in the teachings of his gospel and through his Church the plan of salvation that defines the clear-cut way to repentance (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 29).
A great scripture to supplement the quote in this section by President Joseph Fielding Smith is Mosiah 3:7
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people (bolded emphasis added).
Principles of Repentance
Like all principles, repentance is an eternal principle. President Joseph F. Smith proclaimed:
I want to say to you that the principles of the gospel are always true…
…principles are always true and are always absolutely necessary for the salvation of the children of men, no matter who they are or where they are. …
Repentance of a sin is an eternal principle (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 60).
It may be important to ask “What principles were taught on an earth trillions of years ago and what principles are going to be taught on an earth trillions of years from now?” Of course, the answer had better be the same as are in this manual.
In a talk given at the Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional on April 24, 2007, Byron Webster quoted an experience Robert Millet had when he served as a Bishop and later published in the forward of a book he wrote entitled “By Grace Are Ye Saved”:
Some years ago I sat in my office just before sacrament meeting was to start. A young woman from my ward knocked on the door and said she would like to visit with me for a moment. I told her we could chat for a bit but that sacrament meeting would be starting soon. She assured me that this would only take a minute or two.
After we had been seated she said: “Bishop, I need to confess a sin.”
I was startled with the suddenness of the statement and offered the
following: “Well, that could take some time, couldn’t it? Shall we meet after the block of meetings today?”
She quickly responded: “Oh no! This will just take a second.”
I asked her to go ahead and she proceeded to describe in some detail a very serious moral transgression in which she had been involved. It was now about one minute before the meetings were to start, so I tried again:
“Why don’t we meet together after Priesthood and Relief Society meetings?”
She then staggered me by saying, “Well, I don’t know why we would need to, unless it would be helpful to you, or something.”
I indicated that such a meeting might prove beneficial to both of us and she agreed to return.
Three hours later we sat in my office and I asked her, “How do you feel about what has happened?”
She responded, “Just fine.” I must have shown my perplexity, because she
added: “For a number of hours I felt bad about what happened, but it’s okay now because I’ve repented.”
I couldn’t ask her the question fast enough, “What do you mean when you say that you have repented?” (She had explained to me earlier that the transgression had taken place on Friday night, and it was now Sunday afternoon.)
She reached into her purse and pulled out a yellow sheet of paper.
Pointing one by one to various headings that began with R, she said, “I’ve done this, and this, and this and this, and finally I’ve confessed to you.
“It seems to me that you’ve skipped an R, that your list is missing something,” I said.
A startled but persistent look was in her eyes, and I noted a slight impatience with me as she said, “No, that can’t be. I have everything listed here!”
The R you’re missing,” I responded “is Redeemer. You have no place for Christ on your list. I mean, what does Jesus Christ have to do with your transgression? What does what happened in Gethsemane and on Calvary some two thousand years ago have to do with what happened to you two nights ago?”
She answered: “Jesus died for me. He died for my sins.”
To almost every question I asked thereafter about the Atonement she gave a perfect answer – at least, a perfectly correct answer. She had been well trained, and her answers reflected an awareness of the doctrines associated with repentance. But the answers were all totally cerebral, straight from memory and mind –not from the heart. She obviously saw not real tie between her own ungodly actions and the infinite actions of a God. We spent several hours that day and many days thereafter – searching the scriptures, praying together, and counseling over the way back to the straight and narrow path. She came, in time, to know the correct answers—this time by feeling, that is, from the heart (Robert L. Millet, By Grace Are Ye Saved, Bookcraft, Inc. SLC, 1989, introduction).
This story by Bishop Millet helps answer the question at the very end of this section which asks:
“How do the teachings in this section differ from the false idea that repentance is the performance of a list of simple steps or routine actions?” (p. 112)
This story could also be included if an eighth step were added to this section, which might be entitled “Eighth - - We Must Acknowledge Our Redeemer.”
First - - We Must Recognize Our Sins
Poignant is Joseph Smith’s letter to his brother William who had become angry with him:
“[I have spoken to you] for the express purpose of endeavoring to warn, exhort, admonish, and rescue you from falling into difficulties and sorrows, which I foresaw you plunging into, by giving way to that wicked spirit, which you call your passions, which you should curb and break down, and put under your feet; which if you do not, you never can be saved, in my view, in the Kingdom of God. God requires the will of His creatures to be swallowed up in His will (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 74).
Second - - We Must feel Sorrow for Our Sins
This section is wonderful for “sincere sorrow” necessary for repentance. It may be important for us to recognize that “sincere sorrow” must lie somewhere in between “too little sorrow” and “too much sorrow.” The last part of verse 29 of Alma 42 was quoted in the previous section. Here is the entire verse:
And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.
Alma counsels his son to “…let these things trouble you no more…” Too much “sorrow” may not be productive in the repentance process.
Elder Richard G. Scott explained both “too little” and “too much” in conference:
To feel sorrow and be motivated to confess is a proper beginning, but it is not sufficient. When confession is voluntary, the action required for repentance is greatly simplified. It does no good for an individual to stonewall efforts of a judge in Israel to encourage repentance by denying that a real transgression has occurred or by being otherwise unyielding.
To you who have sincerely repented yet continue to feel the burden of guilt, realize that to continue to suffer for sins when there has been proper repentance and forgiveness of the Lord is prompted by the master of deceit. Lucifer will encourage you to continue to relive the details of past mistakes, knowing that such thoughts can hamper your progress. Thus he attempts to tie strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate you like a puppet to discourage personal achievement (Ensign, Nov 2000, 25).
Sorrow for sin is certainly OPPOSITE from the mental state of the little boy who was overheard praying: “Lord, if you can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a good time like I am.”
Third - - We Must Forsake Our Sins
President Monson gave a wonderful example for this section in conference:
An inspiring lesson is learned from a “Viewpoint” article which appeared some time ago in the Church News. May I quote:
“To some it may seem strange to see ships of many nations loading and unloading cargo along the docks at Portland, Ore. That city is 100 miles from the ocean. Getting there involves a difficult, often turbulent passage over the bar guarding the Columbia River and a long trip up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.
“But ship captains like to tie up at Portland. They know that as their ships travel the seas, a curious saltwater shellfish called a barnacle fastens itself to the hull and stays there for the rest of its life, surrounding itself with a rocklike shell. As more and more [of these] barnacles attach themselves, they increase the ship’s drag, slow its progress, decrease its efficiency.
“Periodically, the ship must go into dry dock, where with great effort the barnacles are chiseled or scraped off. It’s a difficult, expensive process that ties up the ship for days.
“But not if the captain can get his ship to Portland. Barnacles can’t live in fresh water. There, in the sweet, fresh waters of the Willamette or Columbia, the barnacles die and some fall away, while those that remain are easily removed. Thus, the ship returns to its task lightened and renewed.
“Sins are like those barnacles. Hardly anyone goes through life without picking up some. They increase the drag, slow our progress, decrease our efficiency. Unrepented, building up one on another, they can eventually sink us.
“In His infinite love and mercy, our Lord has provided a harbor where, through repentance, our barnacles fall away and are forgotten. With our souls lightened and renewed, we can go efficiently about our work and His (Ensign, May 2000, 46).
Fourth - - We Must Confess Our Sins
Brigham Young had this to say about confession:
I believe in coming out and being plain and honest with that which should be made public, and in keeping to yourselves that which should be kept. … Tell to the public that which belongs to the public. If you have sinned against the people, confess to them. If you have sinned against a family or a neighborhood, go to them and confess. … If you have sinned against one individual, take that person by yourselves and make your confession to him (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 61).
President Joseph F. Smith taught:
I believe in the principle of repentance, because I have tested it and I know it to be good. If in an evil moment I have said or done anything that has given offense to my brother, I never could be satisfied or feel free from a certain degree of bondage until I went to that brother whom I had wronged, repented of my sin and made it right with him. Then the load would be lifted and I would at once feel the good effect of repentance of sin (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 59).
Fifth - - We Must Make Restitution
Two wonderful scriptures on restitution are:
Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed (Numbers 5:7).
If thou borrowest of thy neighbor, thou shalt restore that which thou hast borrowed; and if thou canst not repay then go straightway and tell thy neighbor, lest he condemn thee.
If thou shalt find that which thy neighbor has lost, thou shalt make diligent search till thou shalt deliver it to him again (D&C 136:25-26).
Elder Boyd K. Packer discussed restitution in a wonderful conference talk:
To earn forgiveness, one must make restitution. That means you give back what you have taken or ease the pain of those you have injured.
But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiled someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back.
There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to.
Your repentance cannot be accepted unless there is restitution. If you cannot undo what you have done, you are trapped. It is easy to understand how helpless and hopeless you then feel and why you might want to give up, just as Alma did.
The thought that rescued Alma, when he acted upon it, is this: Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the Atonement of Christ.
When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the “uttermost farthing” (Matt. 5:25-26), the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.
I repeat, save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the Atonement of Christ.
How all can be repaired, we do not know. It may not all be accomplished in this life. We know from visions and visitations that the servants of the Lord continue the work of redemption beyond the veil (see D&C 138) (New Era, Apr. 2005, 4).
Sixth - - We Must Forgive Others
President Heber J. Grant shares a marvelous experience concerning forgiveness:
Some years ago a prominent man was excommunicated from the Church. He, years later, pleaded for baptism. President John Taylor referred the question of his baptism to the apostles, stating [in a letter] that if they unanimously consented to his baptism, he could be baptized, but that if there was one dissenting vote, he should not be admitted into the Church. As I remember the vote, it was five for baptism and seven against. A year or so later the question came up again and it was eight for baptism and four against. Later it came up again and it was ten for baptism and two against. Finally all of the Council of the Apostles, with the exception of your humble servant, consented that this man be baptized and I was then next to the junior member of the quorum. Later I was in the office of the president and he said:
“Heber, I understand that eleven of the apostles have consented to the baptism of Brother So and So,” naming the man, “and that you alone are standing out. How will you feel when you get on the other side and you find that this man has pleaded for baptism and you find that you have perhaps kept him out from entering in with those who have repented of their sins and received some reward?”
I said, “President John Taylor, I can look the Lord squarely in the eye, if he asks me that question, and tell him that I did that which I thought was for the best good of the kingdom. … I can tell the Lord that [that man] had disgraced this Church enough, and that I did not propose to let any such a man come back into the Church.”
“Well,” said President Taylor, “my boy, that is all right, stay with your convictions, stay right with them.”
I said, “President Taylor, your letter said you wanted each one of the apostles to vote the convictions of his heart. If you desire me to surrender the convictions of my heart, I will gladly do it; I will gladly vote for this man to come back, but while I live I never expect to consent, if it is left to my judgment. That man was accused before the apostles several years ago and he stood up and lied and claimed that he was innocent, and the Lord gave to me a testimony that he lied, but I could not condemn him because of that. I got down on my knees that night and prayed God to give me the strength not to expose that man, seeing that he had lied but that we had no evidence, except only the testimony of the girl that he had seduced. And I prayed the Lord that some day additional testimony might come, and it did come, and we then excommunicated him. And when a man can lie to the apostles, and when he can be guilty while proclaiming repentance of sin, I think this Church has been disgraced enough without ever letting him come back into the Church.”
“Well,” repeated President Taylor, “my boy, don’t you vote as long as you live, while you hold those ideas, stay right with them.”
I left the president’s office. I went home. … I was reading the Doctrine and Covenants through for the third or fourth time systematically, and I had my bookmark in it, but as I picked it up, instead of opening where the bookmark was, it opened to:
“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men; but he that forgiveth not his brother standeth condemned before the Lord.” [See D&C 64:9-10.]
And I closed the book and said: “If the devil applies for baptism, and claims that he has repented, I will baptize him.”
After lunch I returned to the office of President Taylor and I said, “President Taylor, I have had a change of heart. One hour ago I said, never while I live, did I expect to ever consent that Brother So and So should be baptized, but I have come to tell you he can be baptized, so far as I am concerned.”
President Taylor had a habit, when he was particularly pleased, of sitting up and laughing and shaking his whole body, and he laughed and said, “My boy, the change is very sudden, very sudden. I want to ask you a question. How did you feel when you left here an hour ago? Did you feel like you wanted to hit that man right squarely between the eyes and knock him down?”
I said, “That is just the way I felt.”
He said, “How do you feel now?”
“Well, to tell you the truth, President Taylor, I hope the Lord will forgive the sinner.”
He said, “You feel happy, don’t you, in comparison. You had the spirit of anger, you had the spirit of bitterness in your heart toward that man, because of his sin and because of the disgrace he had brought upon the Church. And now you have the spirit of forgiveness and you really feel happy, don’t you?”
And I said, “Yes I do; I felt mean and hateful and now I feel happy.”
And he said: “Do you know why I wrote that letter?”
I said: “No, sir.”
“Well I wrote it, just so you and some of the younger members of the apostles would learn the lesson that forgiveness is in advance of justice, where there is repentance, and that to have in your heart the spirit of forgiveness and to eliminate from your hearts the spirit of hatred and bitterness, brings peace and joy; that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings joy, peace and happiness to every soul that lives it and follows its teachings.”
And so he went on. I cannot remember all of the teachings, but he continued in this way, telling me that he could never have given me that experience, that he could not give to me a testimony of the gospel; that I must receive that testimony for myself; that I must have the right spirit come into my heart and feel it—the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of long-suffering and charity—before there would any good come to me as an individual; that by simply surrendering my will to his, and voting to baptize this man, I would never have learned the lesson that the spirit of joy and peace comes in the hour of forgiveness, and when our hearts are full of charity and long-suffering to those who have made mistakes. From that day to this I have remembered those teachings.
The Prophet of the Lord [President Taylor] said:
“My boy, never forget that when you are in the line of your duty your heart will be full of love and forgiveness, even for the repentant sinner, and that when you get out of that straight line of duty and have the determination that what you think is justice and what you think is equity and right should prevail, you ofttimes are anything but happy. You can know the difference between the Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of the adversary, when you find that you are happy and contented, that you love your fellows, that you are anxious for their welfare; and you can tell that you do not have that Spirit when you are full of animosity and feel that you would like to knock somebody down” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 149-152)
That President Grant learned this lesson not only in his head and heart, but in his very soul seems to be born out by his daughter’s assessment of him:
He never seems to bear malice. He is bitter in his denouncement of sin, but to the sinner he is most merciful (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 147).
In the second sentence of this section it states, “The Lord will not forgive us unless our hearts are fully cleansed of all hate, bitterness, and bad feelings against other people” (p. 111).
President Grant also had this to say about forgiveness:
There is nothing that will bring more joy to us than to be ready and willing to forgive the trespasses of our neighbors against us, and there is nothing that will bring more condemnation to us than to harden our hearts and to be bitter and vindictive in our feelings towards those by whom we are surrounded (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 148).
Apparently these are our only two choices. Perhaps the commandment to forgive is like a spiritual Word of Wisdom for our soul. It appears to be for our good and really has not nearly as much to do with those who offend us.
Many examples can be found like the one President James E. Faust shared:
The Lord requires us “to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10) for our own good because “hatred retards spiritual growth.” (Orson F. Whitney, Gospel Themes, 144). Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts…
Here in Salt Lake City in 1985, Bishop Steven Christensen, through no fault of his own, was cruelly and senselessly killed by a bomb intended to take his life. He was the son of Mac and Joan Christensen, the husband of Terri, and the father of four children. With his parents’ consent, I share what they learned from this experience. After this terrible deed, the news media followed members of the Christensen family around relentlessly. On one occasion this media intrusion offended one of the family members to the point that Steven’s father, Mac, had to restrain him. Mac then thought, “This thing will destroy my family if we don’t forgive. Venom and hatred will never end if we do not get it out of our system.” Healing and peace came as the family cleansed their hearts from anger and were able to forgive the man who took their son’s life (Ensign, May 2007, 67).
Seventh - - We Must Keep the Commandments of God
From the Bible Dictionary, under “repentance”:
Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin, and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
A great scripture on this subject is:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts (D&C 1:31-33).
Elder Richard G. Scott commented on the above scripture:
That scripture emphasizes that the Lord cannot abide sin but He will forgive the repentant sinner because of His perfect love. It also teaches that not only is it important to keep a commandment you have broken, but by obeying all of the commandments you will obtain additional power and support in the process of repentance (Ensign, Nov 2002, 86).
This quote was found by using the “LDS Scripture Citation Index” found at “scriptures.byu.edu” in which you can pull up any scripture and find how general authorities used it in conference.
How Repentance Helps Us
In the last lesson on faith, we studied the wonderful instruction on “planting the seed” from Alma 32. President Lee gave this wonderful counsel to add repentance to the process with the following:
In order for good to blossom it must be cultivated and exercised by constant practice, and to be truly righteous there is required a daily pruning of the evil growth of our characters by a daily repentance from sin (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 29).
A terrific application of this principle is found in the translation of the Book of Mormon as given by David Whitmer:
“One morning when [Joseph Smith] was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; [he] was gone about an hour—came back to the house, and asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right.” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:131.)
Joseph Smith proclaimed the following:
There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 76).
The Dangers of Procrastinating Our Repentance
President Lee had this to say about Satan and procrastination:
Let’s face it. All of us have done something that we ought not to have done, or we have neglected to do things we should have done. All of us then have made mistakes, and every one of us needs to repent. The old devil would have you believe that if you have made one mistake, why don’t you just keep on making mistakes? That is Satan trying to tell you that there is no chance to come back. But you must turn your face towards the rising sun, and through repentance turn from the thing you have done that is wrong and never go back again thereto. The Lord said, “Go [thy way] and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 82:7) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 30).
One of the pernicious false doctrines Satan has introduced into other churches is “death bed repentance.” Similarly, Satan has introduced into some Latter-day Saints the idea that “I can have fun [do wickedly] now and repent before I go on a mission or get married in the temple.”
Here is what Joseph Smith had to say about the former:
We should take warning and not wait for the death-bed to repent; as we see the infant taken away by death, so may the youth and middle aged, as well as the infant be suddenly called into eternity. Let this, then, prove as a warning to all not to procrastinate repentance, or wait till a death-bed, for it is the will of God that man should repent and serve Him in health, and in the strength and power of his mind, in order to secure His blessing, and not wait until he is called to die (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 73).
Brigham Young also weighed in on the former:
Some of our old traditions teach us that a man guilty of atrocious and murderous acts may savingly repent when on the scaffold; and upon his execution will hear the expression, “Bless God! he has gone to heaven, to be crowned in glory, through the all-redeeming merits of Christ the Lord.” This is all nonsense. Such a character never will see heaven. Some will pray, “O that I had passed through the veil on the night of my conversion!” This proves the false ideas and vain notions entertained by the Christian world (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , p. 62).
Concerning the latter, there may be no better counsel that the following from For the Strength of Youth pamphlet:
Some people knowingly break God’s commandments, expecting to repent before they go to the temple or serve a mission. Such deliberate sin mocks the Savior’s Atonement and invites Satan to influence your life. Repentance for such behavior is difficult and can take a long time. If you sin in this way, you may lose years of blessings and spiritual guidance. You may become trapped in the sinful behavior, making it difficult to find your way back (p. 30).
In an Ensign article, Barbara Lockhart related the following about Elder M. Russell Ballard’s grandfather, also an apostle:
In his classic discourse, The Three Degrees of Glory, Elder Melvin J. Ballard admonishes us to overcome all things in this life. We will not lose the tendencies of the flesh when we die and go to the spirit world. “They will be with us,” he says. “It is my judgment that any man or woman can do more to conform to the laws of God in one year in this life than they could in ten years when they are dead. … It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both flesh and spirit are combined as one.” (Ensign, Feb 1985, 57)
Perhaps it should be taught that repentance is only one of two options we sinners have. In D&C 19:15-17 Jesus Christ, who suffered for all of our sins, declared:
Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
In a wonderful Ensign article entitled, “Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Bruce C. Hafen, before he was called to the quorum of seventy, stated:
Through his sinless life, his genetic nature as the Only Begotten of the Father, and his willingness to drink the bitter cup of justice, the Savior was able to atone unconditionally for Adam and Eve’s transgression and for physical death, and to atone conditionally for our personal sins. The unconditional part of the Atonement is a free gift of grace requiring no further action on our part. The conditional part, however, requires our repentance as the condition of applying mercy to our personal sins. If we do not repent, we must suffer even as the Lord did to satisfy the demands of justice. (See D&C 19:15-17.)
However, if we refuse to repent, and thereby must satisfy justice by suffering for our own sins, we will remain unprepared to enter the celestial kingdom. Unless we accept the Savior’s invitation to carry our sins, we will not experience the complete rehabilitation that occurs through a combination of divine assistance and genuine repentance (Ensign, Apr 1990, 7).