The Lord commands us repeatedly to repent and not only that but to teach nothing but repentance. After baptizing 204 souls in the waters of Mormon, the prophet Alma: “…having authority from God, ordained priests…to preach unto them (the 204 souls) and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were…repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.” (Mosiah 9:9 RE, Mosiah 18:18-20 LE) In a revelation given to Joseph in Kirtland: “Behold, thus says the Lord unto you my servants: It is expedient in me that the elders of my church should be called to gather from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south…And it shall come to pass that they shall go forth unto the regions round about and preach repentance unto this people.” (T&C 30:1-2 RE, D&C 44:1-3 LE) The Lord has commanded us to preach repentance, furthermore, He has commanded us individually to repent. “Yea, open your mouth and it shall be filled, saying, repent, repent and prepare the way of the Lord, and make his path straight, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Yea, repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins. Yea, be baptized even by water, and then comes the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.” (T&C 16:2 RE, D&C 33:10-11 LE)
It seems we individually know so little about repentance. Let’s see if we can get a better handle on what the Lord requires of us.
We are required to be obedient to the Lord’s commandments and repentance is a requirement. The Lord told Joseph Smith: “Keep my commandments and assist to bring forth my work according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.” (JSH 14:10 RE, D&C 11:9 LE) The commandments He is talking about are the Sermon on the Mount/Sermon in Bountiful, but also those commandments the Lord gave to Joseph personally. The same is true for each of us, we are to live the commandments from the sermons stated above in addition to those He gives to us personally. The Lord has given me a commandment to share a message with each person I meet. That message is “THE LORD LOVES YOU! HE WANTS YOU TO REPENT! WE ARE TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” As I pondered on those words the Lord allowed me to soften the “REPENT!” command to “he wants you to turn towards Him”. So that is a personal command the Lord has given to me. Have you asked the Lord what He requires of you? That is not a rhetorical question. You may want to give that some considerable thought. But, let’s continue our conversation on repentance.
Repentance has claim on so much more than just sin. In the Bible Dictionary (LE) we find a definition of “Repentance”, it says: “…denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” In the “Glossary of Gospel Terms” (RE, it is found in the appendix of the Teachings and Commandments) it describes repentance as “A “change” requiring believers to turn away from the world and toward God. It is the change in life that follows from seeing things in a better, truer light. Repentance is abandoning a foolish error, a vain tradition, or a false belief and replacing it with truth. Penitence is another way to describe repentance (or the process of change and growing beyond sins that limit your happiness). It comes as you allow Christ to “succor” you through the power of the atonement. Through penitence, people do away with the darkness in their lives and add light instead. Repentance is turning away from all other distractions to face God.” True repentance means we must change our actions, attitudes, and perceptions to bring us into alignment with the Lord, or “turn towards Him”.
The pathway to God is through repentance, as we identify actions, thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, traditions, beliefs, fears, emotions, etc. that are not in alignment with Him, and leave those behind us (literally they are now in our past) we turn towards The Lord with new actions, thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, emotions, etc., that are in alignment with Him. The scriptures refer to it as a Change in Heart”. Alma asked “…have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your own countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?” (Alma 3:3 RE, Alma 5:14-15 LE) All too often as we repent and change we are like Lot’s wife who turned back toward Sodom and Gomorrah with longing and was turned to a pillar of salt. We are not familiar with the new us and we allow the old to come back instead of turning toward Christ and forsaking the past which caused us pain.
In Proverbs, Solomon the King of Israel, said “He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” (Prov. 4:82 RE, Prov. 28:13 LE) W.W. Phelps was instructed by the Lord: “Behold, he that has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord remember them no more. By this you may know if a man repents of his sins: behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (T&C 45:9 RE, D&C 58:42-43 LE) Let’s see if we can bring this a little closer to home. It seems easy to repent of stealing and then forsaking that sin by never stealing again. However, when we are talking about emotions, hurts, betrayals, abuse, etc. it takes on a little different light. You may say “I didn’t do those things they were done to me!” “Yes but I was/am the victim!” Those thoughts may be warranted but what part do you play in accepting, internalizing, or hanging on to the pain and anger associated with those feelings? Or perhaps you were the perpetrator; do you still hang onto the guilt and regret? When the Lord says when you repent by confessing then forsaking, that He will remember it no more, shouldn’t you do the same? Do you continue to bring it up in conversation? Do you rehash it in your thought trying to justify your behavior? When something happens that triggers those memories do you wallow in that pain and misery for a while? When you have repented of and forsaken your meanness, or judgment toward someone do you continue to beat yourself up for being mean and judgmental? When we choose to repent, to TURN TOWARD CHRIST not only do we turn and face Him or the path that He has shown but we must turn our back on all of the things of the world including past pain, suffering, hurts, attitudes, behaviors, traumas, etc. and remember them no more.
Alma in the Book of Mormon, and a number of his cohorts including Amulek, travel to the land of the Zoramites to preach. At one point Alma and Amulek are together teaching a group, Amulek gets up and is preaching about Christ, the Atonement, faith, repentance, all the important stuff. He says: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. Yea, behold, the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end. For after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say when ye are brought to that awful crisis that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this, for the same spirit you hearken to obey while living in the flesh shall, upon your death, have the same power to influence you to hearken unto that spirit in the next life.” (Alma 16:37 RE, Alma 34:32-34 LE) So profound, however, I would like you to look closely at the phrase “…for the same spirit you hearken to obey while living in the flesh shall, upon your death, have the same power to influence you to hearken unto that spirit in the next life.” I’m going to give that spirit a name, “the Spirit of Past Pain and Regrets”. The idea of course is that we need to move forward not dwell in the past.
Part of repentance is to turn away from the lies of the adversary as to who we are and to turn away from our past that continues to plague us and leave all of the lies behind, never bring it up again. Too often we turn back to those things that have caused us pain in the past. We continue to dwell on them which brings all of the pain, confusion and energy of those hurts right back into our mind and heart and the “Spirit of Past Pain and Regrets” has a hold on us again.
In meditation I asked the Lord how we bring the full power of the atonement into our lives for healing (repenting) from past hurts, He said that we should ask what we needed to learn from the experience. Once we have ascertained what we needed to learn, then we can ask for the pain to be taken away through the atonement. All of our experiences in this life are for our learning, to understand God and to “come unto Him”.
Something else we have learned recently is that when we give up our stuff to the Lord, (all that we are currently repenting of) He then has a gift to give us in exchange. We recently had an experience helping a friend through a guided visualization. The idea is that we visualize, putting our stuff (whatever aspect of repentance we are currently working on) and placing it in a box and giving the box to the Lord. The Lord takes it in His hands then absorbs the box and its contents into Himself through the power of His atonement. We went through this visualization with this friend and although it seemed beneficial it didn’t feel complete. A while later we were working with this person again and it was impressed upon me that the Lord wanted to give a gift in return, so we walked through the visualization again and this time as the box was given to the Lord, we waited, and He then gave a box in return. That box the Lord gave was brought to the chest and absorbed it into the heart. His box was full to overflowing with His love and light and healing. The resulting feeling was profound for our friend. The Lord loves us more than we can imagine. He wants to give us all that He has.