- Some profess that if there is a God, He makes no real demands upon us (see Alma 18:5 ). Others maintain that a loving God forgives all sin based on simple confession, or if there actually is a punishment for sin, “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” ( 2 Nephi 28:8 ). Others, with Korihor, deny the very existence of Christ and any such thing as sin. Their doctrine is that values, standards, and even truth are all relative. Thus, whatever one feels is right for him or her cannot be judged by others to be wrong or sinful. On the surface such philosophies seem appealing because they give us license to indulge any appetite or desire without concern for consequences.
Of repentance, Elder Christofferson notes:
- Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life.
- Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life. And, of course, only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.
He then gives us five aspects of this gospel principle to help us gain a better understanding.
The invitation to repent is an expression of love.
- If we do not invite others to change or if we do not demand repentance of ourselves, we fail in a fundamental duty we owe to one another and to ourselves.
- The call to repentance is at times regarded as intolerant or offensive and may even be resented, but guided by the Spirit, it is in reality an act of genuine caring.
Repentance means striving to change
- It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts
- Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” ( D&C 88:40 ).
Repentance means not only abandoning sin but also committing to obedience.
- For our turning to the Lord to be complete, it must include nothing less than a covenant of obedience to Him.
Repentance requires a seriousness of purpose and a willingness to persevere, even through pain.
- Confessing and forsaking are powerful concepts. They are much more than a casual “I admit it; I’m sorry.” Confession is a deep, sometimes agonizing acknowledgment of error and offense to God and man. Sorrow and regret and bitter tears often accompany one’s confession, especially when his or her actions have been the cause of pain to someone or, worse, have led another into sin.
- A resolve to abandon and forsake the sin and to repair, as fully as one possibly can, the damage he or she has caused now forms in that new heart. This resolve soon matures into a covenant of obedience to God. With that covenant in place, the Holy Ghost, the messenger of divine grace, will bring relief and forgiveness.
Whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness.
- I have seen some who have spent a long winter of guilt and spiritual starvation emerge into the morning of forgiveness. When morning came, they learned this: “‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no
more’ [ D&C 58:42 ].”
Finally Elder Christofferson concludes with these words:
- The divine gift of repentance is the key to happiness here and hereafter. In the Savior’s words and in deep humility and love, I invite all to “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” ( Matthew 4:17 ). I know that in accepting this invitation, you will find joy both now and forever.
I am grateful for this talk as it gives me hope that I can be forgiven and improve myself each day. The steps outlined are a guidepost along this path of repentance that act as check points for our progress. Repentance isn't a checkbox of things to complete, but a process of changing ourselves to be more of what Christ needs and wants us to be. I am grateful for the Saviors atonement that allows a sinner like me to be able to feel His love and know that I am cared about by Him.