Spiritual Messages and Teachings for LDS Youth and Youth Leaders

How Do I Repent? Part 6

By: John Bytheway

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

Do the Will of the Father

The Lord in his preface to modern revelations gave us the fifth and one of the most difficult requirements to forgiveness. He says:

“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” (D&C 1:31-32; emphasis added.)

Under the humiliation of a guilty conscience, with the possibility of detection and consequent scandal and shame, with a striving spirit urging toward adjustment, the first steps of sorrow, abandonment, confession, and restitution must now be followed by the never-ending requirement of doing the commandments. Obviously this can hardly be done in a day, a week, a month, or a year. This is an effort extending through the balance of life. (Page 183)

So there’s the toughest part: Do the will of the Father, and live the gospel from now on! It reminds me of Jesus’ words to the woman taken in adultery: “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

We’ve managed to cover the five steps of repentance outlined by President Kimball. Does it all make sense? It’s a sobering subject, isn’t it. It would be a lot simpler to just avoid sinning. I like President Ezra Taft Benson’s comment, “It is better to prepare and prevent, than repair and repent.”

Let’s take some more questions from the field-trip group:

How do you know when you’re forgiven? How long does it take?

Well, that’s a good one. As you know, we live in a world of drive-through dining, instant cocoa, and microwave dinners. We want everything right now! But there are a few things that cannot be rushed, that will always take time. How much time? With repentance, it’s not possible to give a blanket answer. We cannot dictate our timetable to the Lord. He will answer our prayers in his own way and in his own time, but we have a few hints from the scriptures. Enos prayed all day and into the night to receive forgiveness of his sins. And Alma the Younger, in one of the most wonderful stories of repentance ever told, said that he was “racked . . . with the pains of a damned soul” for three days and three nights before he received forgiveness (Alma 36:16).

Elder Henry B. Eyring told of a young man who had gone through deep and painful repentance. This young man was scheduled to be married in the temple, but he wanted to know he was forgiven. He wanted to be the best he could be for his new bride. He asked Elder Eyring, who was his bishop at that time, how he could be sure the Lord had forgiven him. Bishop Eyring said he would try to find out. A few days later, the bishop was in the company of then Elder Spencer W. Kimball (whom we’ve quoted so much in this chapter). He explained the situation, and asked:

“How can he get that revelation? How can he know whether his sins are remitted?”

I thought Elder Kimball would talk to me about fasting or prayer or listening for the still small voice. But he surprised me. Instead he said, “Tell me something about the young man.”

I said, “What would you like to know?”

And then he began a series of the most simple questions. Some of the ones I remember were:

“Does he come to his priesthood meetings?”

I said, after a moment’s thought, “Yes.”

“Does he come early?”


“Does he sit down front?”

I thought for a moment and then realized, to my amazement, that he did.

“Does he home teach?”


“Does he go early in the month?”

“Yes, he does.”

“Does he go more than once?”


I can’t remember the other questions. But they were all like that—little things, simple acts of obedience, of submission. And for each question I was surprised that my answer was always yes. Yes, he wasn’t just at all his meetings: he was early; he was smiling; he was there not only with his whole heart, but the broken heart of a little child, as he was every time the Lord asked anything of him. And after I had said yes to each of his questions, Elder Kimball looked at me, paused, and then very quietly said, “There is your revelation.” 6

Isn’t that an interesting story? I love it. But let’s be careful. Is Elder Eyring saying that all you have to do to be forgiven is go early to meetings and smile a lot? Of course not! This is a perfect example of the “tip-of-the-iceberg” concept we talked about earlier. The simple acts of obedience by this young man were evidence that something much larger was going on beneath the surface. His heart was changed. He wanted to be valiant! He wouldn’t think of asking, “How bad can I be?” He wanted to be the best he could be.

If you want to learn more about repentance, go to the Book of Mormon. Alma teaches us so much about repentance in Alma 36. For example, we know that the Lord will not remember our sins when we sincerely repent: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). But what about us? Do we remember them? Let’s read from Alma:

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 was my pain! (Alma 36:18-20; emphasis added)

It sounds to me as if we will remember our sins, but the memory of them will not cause us pain anymore! Perhaps this is another way we can know we are forgiven. We’ll remember our sins, but we will know we have sincerely repented and put them behind us. We won’t be “harrowed up” by their memory anymore.

In another place in the Book of Mormon, we read that King Benjamin’s people knew they were forgiven because they felt peace:

And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come. (Mosiah 4:3; emphasis added)

A young friend of mine wrote, “I hope that through all I have experienced I may be able to influence others to steer clear of sin. It is not a happy path. It may seem fun, but one mistake leads to others, and it’s just a slippery slide that ends in the mud, and it’s so hard to climb out.”

She’s right. Sin is like mud. Elder Richard G. Scott gave a very beautiful and tender talk called “We Love You—Please Come Back.” He talked about mud too, and how we should deal with our memories of past mistakes:

If you, through poor judgment, were to cover your shoes with mud, would you leave them that way? Of course not. You would cleanse and restore them. Would you then gather the residue of mud and place it in an envelope to show others the mistake that you made? No. Neither should you continue to relive forgiven sin. Every time such thoughts come into your mind, turn your heart in gratitude to the Savior, who gave His life that we, through faith in Him and obedience to His teachings, can overcome transgression and conquer its depressing influence in our lives. 7

Nine years later, Elder Scott gave another beautiful talk about repentance.

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