Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Repentance

A few weeks ago I posted a blog on Faith in Jesus Christ. This week’s post on repentance is part two of my five part post. The faith that we have in Jesus Christ, if it be true faith, will lead us to sincerely repent of our sins.

On my mission in North Carolina, I saw many people who repented wholly and sincerely. I also saw those who repented, but went right back into their old habits. What was the difference? True repentance is instantly turning from darkness and sin and returning to Jesus Christ. It means having a change of heart. A Book of Mormon prophet named Alma spoke of the change of heart that came to his father: “. . . according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart . . . he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves, and put their trust in the true and living God.” (see Alma 5:12-13) Repentance takes humility.

One example of true repentance from my mission is a young man named Stuart. He was attending a university and had a friend there who was a member. She introduced him to the missionaries, but his heart and mind were closed, and he rejected what they taught, going as far as hating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and really anything that had to do with religion. He liked his way of life and wasn’t about to change. Then some things happened in his life which caused him to be humble. He opened his heart and decided to change. One of the commandments of God is the Word of Wisdom. Stuart loved sweet tea, and sweet tea is against the Word of Wisdom. In order to be fully repentant he had to give up drinking sweet tea for good. That’s a hard thing to do, especially for someone who grew up in the South. He decided to give it up, and he hasn’t had any since. That’s repentance. Turning from something you know is wrong and turning with full heart to the Lord. It wasn’t easy for Stuart, though he eventually did join the Church of Jesus Christ. He continues to turn his life to Heavenly Father each day.

The Savior commanded us to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (see Matthew 5:48) That doesn’t happen overnight. Repentance takes recognizing sin, feeling godly sorrow for that sin, confessing to the Lord, stopping the sin completely, and the lifelong process of keeping the commandments of God. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the quorum of the twelve apostles once said:

You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality. (Born Again, Ensign, May 2008, 76–79)

The only way to feel the full power of the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is to repent of our sins.

Forgiveness

Elder Richard G. Scott once said, ”Repentance is a process of cleansing. It is difficult, but it has an end, a glorious end with peace and refreshing forgiveness and the miracle of a new beginning.” (To Be Free of Heavy Burdens, Ensign, Nov 2002, 86) We can be forgiven of our sins and feel like Alma when he said “. . . oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy . . .” (see Alma 36:17-21) But can we really expect the Lord to forgive us of our many sins if we are not willing to forgive those around us? I was blessed with knowing a wonderful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints named Christine. About six years before I met her, she had quit going to church. Some of the members had said some things to her that really bothered her, so she was offended and stopped attending. When I met her I could tell that there was something missing, the Holy Ghost was not in her home. We taught her about forgiving others, about the Savior. Over time she came back, she brought her family, and the blessings of the gospel were once again hers. She had been forgiven of her sins because she had forgiven those that may have wronged her.

Repentance is possible, it requires faith and hard work, but I know the Lord will forgive us if we let Him change our heart. Repentance is essential for us if we want to return and live with our Father in Heaven. “Behold he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord, remember them no more.” (see D&C 58:42-43)

Zachary