Spiritual Messages and Teachings for LDS Youth and Youth Leaders

How Do I Repent? Part 3

By: John Bytheway

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

Abandonment of Sin

One discontinues his error when he has a full realization of the gravity of his sin and when he is willing to comply with the laws of God. The thief may abandon his evil in prison, but true repentance would have him forsake it before his arrest and return his booty without enforcement. The sex offender as well as any other transgressor who voluntarily ceases his unholy practices is headed toward forgiveness. (Page 180)

Let’s look at that last phrase again: “any . . . transgressor who voluntarily ceases his unholy practices is headed toward forgiveness.” President Kimball touches on two important concepts there. First, if you go voluntarily to confess, it’s much better than if you had no intention of confessing and you just got caught. The second idea is that a person who ceases sinning “is headed toward forgiveness.” In other words, repentance isn’t over yet, but the person is on the path.

Let me explain with a little math problem. You see—uh-oh, you’ve got that confused look. What does math have to do with abandoning a sin? You’ll see what I’m doing in a minute. Let’s say you have a math problem. You’re supposed to take a number, and add and subtract some other numbers. We’ll start with the number 5. Now watch this carefully, okay?

Start with five: 5

1. Now add twelve to it: 5 + 12 =17

2. Subtract four from it: 17 – 4 =13

3. Add six to it: 13 + 6 =18

4. Subtract five from it: 18 – 5 =13

5. Add ten to it: 13 + 10 =23

6. Now subtract four from it: 23 – 4 =19

7. Add ten to it: 19 + 10 =29

Have you noticed anything? Look closely. Right! We made a mistake back there on step 3. Thirteen plus six equals nineteen, not eighteen. We can continue with step 4 and keep going as long as we want to, adding and subtracting more numbers, but it won’t come out right, because we made a mistake on step 3.

The point is, some people believe that if they simply stop doing the sin, that’s repentance. “Well, I haven’t done that for a long time, so I’m probably forgiven.” It doesn’t work that way. You have to go back and correct the mistake. Like in our math problem, if you don’t go back and correct the mistake, you’ll never come out right in the end. Forsaking the sin is not enough. You have to completely correct it by repentance. Get it?

It is important to forsake our sins, though. The Lord said, “Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return” (D&C 82:7).

That idea scares a lot of people. They don’t want to sin anymore, but they’re afraid that they might, somewhere down the road. This is one of those instances where I believe the Lord looks on our hearts. He knows we can’t become perfect overnight. But if we’re fully committed in our heart not to sin again, I believe the Lord accepts that kind of repentance. On the other hand, if our heart is saying, “I just want to get through these steps and see what happens,” then perhaps we’re not really sorry.

What’s that? Oh, good, you have a question from one of your classmates. Let’s read it:

The part about forsaking the sin and never doing it again always scares me. For example, if I get mad at my sister, and I repent, how can I know I will never get mad at her again? How can I be sure? It makes it so I don’t want to repent because I can’t promise it won’t happen again.

Hmmm, that’s an excellent question. I think we can answer it from the scriptures. In Mosiah 26:30, the Lord told Alma, “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.” Let’s read that again slowly: “As often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.”

Does this seem a little confusing? On the one hand we’re saying, “If you sin and repent, you can’t do it again,” and on the other hand we’re saying, “but if you do, you can repent.” I have had this question myself, but I found the answer in my Book of Mormon Student Manual. Let’s read what it says about Mosiah 26:30:

How Long-suffering Is the Lord?

Even though a mighty change occurs at rebirth, no one becomes perfect overnight. So the principle of repentance is needed as one endeavors to go on unto perfection (Hebrews 6:1) and as he endures to the end. Satan would have him believe that, once forgiven, any misstep is fatal and irreparable. But this passage shows that Satan is a liar. Every young person should have this passage memorized as a source of hope. But he should understand that it is not a license to commit willful sin or try to take unrighteous advantage of the Lord’s mercy, for the Lord has also said, “but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return.” (D&C 82:7.) Though at first these two scriptures (Mosiah 26:30; D&C 82:7) may seem contradictory, together they teach the true mercy and justice of the Lord. 2

Does that help? So you repent with all your heart, and you don’t plan on repeating that sin. But if you do, you start the repentance process again. The main question becomes, what’s in your heart? Did you approach it with a lazy, “I’ll-probably-do-it-again” attitude, or was it a serious, “I’m-really-going-to-try-to-forsake-that-sin” attitude? The Lord doesn’t require you to be perfect right now, but he wants you to be trying. Make sense?

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