Spiritual Messages and Teachings for LDS Youth and Youth Leaders

How Do I Repent? Part 1

By: John Bytheway

From the Book: What I Wish I’d Known in High School: The Second Semester

Every soul confined to a concentration camp of sin and guilt has a key to the gate. The adversary cannot hold them if they know how to use it. The key is labeled repentance.
—Boyd K. Packer

This chapter is going to be a challenge. I wonder if you would mind helping me with this one. Before I write much more, I need some input from you. I need to know if you’re understanding what I’m writing. How can we do that? Hey, I have an idea! Would you like to go on a field trip to my computer room in Provo, Utah? Wow, such excitement! Do you think you could somehow climb through this book and come out of my computer and sit here for a second and help me write this? Go ahead, just stick your face in the book, or close your eyes and say, “Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home,” or something. Are you ready? Go ahead, try it . . .

Wow—you did it! Are you okay? Little kink in your neck there? Oooh. Sorry about that. Here, here’s a Pop Tart. Feel better? Good. Thanks for joining me. Do you like my computer room? Yeah, I know, lots of books, huh? I love books. This will be so much fun, having you sit right here! Now, if I’m explaining something and you’re not getting it, just give me a confused look, okay? Great.

You see, I believe that teenagers like you who take the time to read Church books are the cream of the crop. They are wonderful. My guess is that a teenager like you is doing pretty well in keeping the commandments and everything, and might not think he or she needs to read a chapter on repentance. On the other hand, everyone needs to repent. And knowing what the steps are might help us . . .

Hey, did you hear that? I think the mail truck is here. Should we go outside and get the mail? I love getting the mail. Let’s go. You can leave that unlocked; we’re coming right back.

Wow, isn’t it nice out today? It’s hard to stay inside and work on the computer on a day like this, isn’t it. It’s lookin’ like barbecue and volleyball time to me . . . is that it? Did you get it all out? Looks like mostly junk mail, huh. Let’s see, sweepstakes entry, chuck that; do I need a credit card at only 9.9 percent interest? No, chuck that. Catalogs, no, I have everything I need, chuck that. My car is due for another oil change and filter, and—oh, there’s a personal letter. Another Dear John, no doubt. Let’s go back inside and read it. (Yes, this is an actual letter I received.)

Dear Brother Bytheway:

I cannot begin to tell you my failings, the list would be too long. I hate being wicked and un-Christlike. I want to be clean and Christlike. I wish I could feel comfortable talking to my bishop, but I cannot.

How can I be forgiven? How do I repent? These questions may sound stupid, but I do not know how to repent. I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with all my heart. I want to return to my eternal family so much. This Church is as true as true can be. I know the Book of Mormon is true because I have prayed about it and I know.

I have hated my life so much sometimes that I just cry and wish I was dead. I want to serve a mission, be married in the temple, and replenish the earth. I cannot do any of these things until I learn how to repent. I want to be clean and I want to feel loved every day of my life. Please, help me to repent.

Thank you for listening.


Nicole [not her real name]

I’m so proud of Nicole for asking, “How do I repent?” I wonder if she realizes how much progress she has made already. She’s not resisting repentance—she wants it. It sounds like she’s already working on the first step.

Let’s try to answer Nicole’s letter. First we’ll talk about the steps of repentance, then we’ll try to answer some commonly asked questions about repentance . . . what’s that? You say you brought some commonly asked questions with you? Oh, good! Hey, you know, you’re kind of representing everybody who’s out there reading this book. Kind of a “field trip by proxy.” That’s great. Hand me any of those questions as we go along, okay?

First off, could you reach over and grab that little paperback book, Faith Precedes the Miracle, by Spencer W. Kimball? It has a wonderful explanation of the steps of repentance. Let’s turn to page 180:

Repentance could well fall into five steps:

1. Conviction of and sorrow for sin

2. Abandonment of sin

3. Confession of sin

4. Restitution for sin

5. Doing the will of the Lord

President Kimball goes into more depth, but let’s stop here for a minute. I have a feeling that many people, adults and teens alike, stop right there and think that the “steps of repentance” are repentance. They’re not! The steps are just the tip of the iceberg. Have you heard that expression before? The tip of the iceberg, the visible part, is not the iceberg—it’s evidence that there’s something much larger beneath the surface. In the same way, the steps of repentance by themselves are not repentance. A superficial run-through of those steps is not repentance. True repentance is a deep, involved process. When someone is truly repenting, yes, they will go through the steps of repentance, but those steps are merely the visible evidence that something much larger is going on beneath the surface.

And what is that “something much larger” going on beneath the surface? Well, to use the words we’ve already used in this book, it’s the heart transplant, the “change of heart.” It’s going from the “How-bad-can-I-be” attitude, or the “How-good-am-I-post-to-be” attitude, to the “I-want-to-be-valiant” attitude. It’s when we begin to love righteousness more than sin.

Now, back to the steps of repentance. Elder Theodore M. Burton said this:

Many times a bishop will write: “I feel he has suffered enough!” But suffering is not repentance. Suffering comes from lack of complete repentance. A stake president will write: “I feel he has been punished enough!” But punishment is not repentance. Punishment follows disobedience and precedes repentance. A husband will write: “My wife has confessed everything!” But confession is not repentance. Confession is an admission of guilt that occurs as repentance begins. A wife will write: “My husband is filled with remorse!” But remorse is not repentance. Remorse and sorrow continue because a person has not yet fully repented. But if suffering, punishment, confession, remorse, and sorrow are not repentance, what is repentance? 1

Good question. What is repentance? Here, have another Pop Tart, and let’s go back to President Kimball. He said that the first step of repentance is conviction of and sorrow for sin.

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