- The word repent connotes “to perceive afterwards” and implies “change.” In Swedish, the word is omvänd, which simply means “to turn around.” The Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote about the need and the method for change. He noted that repentance involves “being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right,” he said, “but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.” Changing our behavior and returning to the “right road” are part of repentance, but only part. Real repentance also includes a turning of our heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin. As explained in Ezekiel, to repent is to “turn from … sin, … do that which is lawful and right; … restore the pledge, … [and] walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity.”
But the definition of respentance does not get to the heart of the issue. To truly repent, the Savior has to be included in the process. It is only through the Savior that repentance is possible.
- Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.
Elder Renlund talks about President Packers last conference talk before he passed away.
- President Packer said: “The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.” He continued: “The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, [the Savior] has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. … The Atonement … can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated.”
Repentance will never be forced upon us.
- The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us.
- Repentance is a choice.
We should not make excuses on why we will not sin. We should not assume that God is great and will forgive us without any effort on our part. We have to participate in the atonement with the Savior for it to be effective in our lives.
- God does love us. However, what we do matters to Him and to us. He has given clear directives about how we should behave. We call these commandments. His approbation and our eternal life depend on our behavior, including our willingness to humbly seek real repentance.
- Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance. Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable, and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.
Elder Renlund talks about giving away our eternal blessings for something of little importance. We need to focus on the ultimate prize and return to God and seek His forgiveness for pursuing a toy of no eternal value.
- If we have lost sight of eternity for the sake of a toy, we can choose to repent. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance. Metaphorically, we can exchange the toy we so ill-advisedly purchased in the first place and receive again the hope of eternity. As the Savior explained, “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”
Forgiveness is real and only provided by the Savior.
- Jesus Christ can forgive because He paid the price for our sins.
- Our Savior wants to forgive because this is one of His divine attributes.
- When we choose to repent, we immediately invite the Savior into our lives.
The atonement is the point of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can be forgiven and put on the path to return to our Father in Heaven time and time again. We should always remember that repentance is not a back up plan when we fail to be perfect in life. Repentance is the gospel of Jesus Christ and essential to our salvation.
- The fact that we can repent is the good news of the gospel! Guilt can be “swept away.” We can be filled with joy, receive a remission of our sins, and have “peace of conscience.” We can be freed from feelings of despair and the bondage of sin. We can be filled with the marvelous light of God and be “pained no more.” Repentance is not only possible but also joyful because of our Savior.
Elder Renlund presents the atonement in such an inspirational way. The reason we have the gospel is because of the Savior's atonement. In our premortal life, the atonement was the central point of the Father's plan. Without the atonement, all would be lost. There was never a way for anyone to be perfect, to not make mistakes, to not throw away their divine inheritance. God knew this. He provided the Savior to make us whole again and allow us the chance to return to His presence, clean, humble, and full of hope. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ and provides hope and joy in an otherwise miserable world.