Repentance, a Precious Gift

I believe that often we look at repentance as a negative thing.  We know that it can be difficult and emotionally uncomfortable to admit our short comings and confess our sins before our Heavenly Father.  Too often we look at repentance as penance for misdeeds or serious transgressions.  We view it as a process, without recognizing the result and therefore shy away from and avoid discussion and private pondering about this necessary and joyful gift from our Heavenly Father.  Helaman taught his sons:

 “And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah: for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins. 

And He hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance: therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.”[1]

This is perhaps one of the simplest yet most important of all doctrines.  It is repentance that opens to us the power of the Redeemer, “unto the salvation of our souls”.  If one ponders our relationship with the father, it is easy to understand that the greatest gift given to us, as his children, is a Savior. 

In the simplest terms, without the gift of repentance, we cannot experience true joy in this life or in the life to come. 

Imagine that you are in a lovely room in a beautiful building.  Those whom you love surround you and you are happy.  You look around and see another room that beckons you to explore.   As you peak through the door of this room you are tempted to continue your inspection.  Upon entry the door shuts behind you, automatically locks, and the lights go out.   Now you know that you have made a mistake.  It is dark, without fresh air, and what seemed enticing now has become a prison.   Then you hear the door unlock, but it does not open.  You must open the door and step back into the beautiful room.  The Savior’s power, even the power of the Redeemer has unlocked the door but you must turn the handle and step back into the light.  This simple analogy teaches us a number of lessons.   First we learn that while sin may be enticing it will rob us of any true joy.   The result of sin is unhappiness.   Remember the uncomfortable feeling as you imagined the door locking and the lights going out. 

Second we learn that we need someone to intervene.  The door is locked.  There is nothing that we can do from our side of the door.  We are helpless and hopeless without someone on the other side who has the key.   The Savior is the key.  He is the only person who has the power to open the door and free us from the effects of sin. 

And finally we learn that while the door is now unlocked we must turn the handle and step across the threshold into the light.  Repentance requires our action.  It requires us to change.  Repentance is change.  Elder Renlund recently taught, “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.7 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.”8

Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. 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.[2]

We should recognize that it is only through the power of Christ the Redeemer that true repentance can occur.  Amulek teaches this doctrine as clearly as it has ever been taught:

“And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

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 over powereth 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,…”[3]

There is something so comforting in the phrase encircles them in the arms of safety.   There is great joy in repentance, both for the sinner and for the Savior.  As any parent, our Heavenly Father wants his children to be safe.  He has provided a way for us to be “encircled in the arms of safety” through repentance.

None will walk through this life without stumbling across the threshold that divides happiness from sin.  We will all know its pain but because of our Heavenly Father and his son’s intense love for us there is a path back to joy.  One of my favorite scriptures is found in Alma 36.  Alma is telling his son Helaman of a most sacred experience. 

“Now as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, “have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. 

And now, behold when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more: yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. 

And oh what joy and what marvelous light I did behold: yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as my pain.”[4]

I believe that Alma wants to help his son understand how intense the joy of repentance is.  It is almost as though Alma has difficulty describing the joy he felt.  Repentance is a key to joy.

Brothers and Sisters, I am intensely grateful for what the Savior has done and continues to do for me.  For me, repentance is a daily exercise.  I think daily of those things that are keeping me from knowing the Savior as perfectly as I can.  I am grateful that changing daily brings me closer to him.  It brings me joy to know him better through repentance.  It is my prayer that we accept this most precious given to us all.  In his Holy Name even Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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[1] Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:10-11

[2] Dale G. Renlund October, “Repentance: a Joyful Choice,”  Ensign or Liahona, April 2016

[3] Alma 34:14-16

[4] Alma 36:19-20