Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Father in Heaven has provided the only way for us to be forgiven of our sins. Jesus Christ suffered the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven if we sincerely repent. As we repent and rely on His saving grace, we will be cleansed from sin.
Repentance is an essential part of the Plan of Salvation. Our kind, wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father knows that we need this earth life experience to progress and to start to be more like him. He knows it is not reasonable or even possible for most of us to live this life perfectly. We are here to learn how to be perfected. The plan anticipates this imperfection and our Savior was provided to help us get back on the right path. The plan provides for us the way to repent.
How many of you here have mastered the skill of tying up a shoe lace? Do you remember the first time you accomplished that task, ending up with the right shoe on the right foot! How old were you? This is not a skill we are born with. It is a hard thing at first, but it can be mastered. Has anyone forgotten how to tie up your shoes? No, we learn it, master it and move on. Now, how many of you have children? Where are they in learning to tie their own shoelaces? How many of you have a new baby brother or sister in your home? Does your baby brother or sister know how to tie up their shoes? Of course not! Not yet. That is why they need you to help them. One day, after a little time and some practice, they can and most likely will learn this essential skill.
We expect our own children to be good, but wise parents realize that they will not be perfect at first – they are children, they are still learning. Our Heavenly Father, in the same way, expects and commands us to be perfect, but knows we need a little more time and help to get there .. He sent His Son, our brother to help us.
Now I want to talk a little bit about some of Satan's lies. You may be struggling to get one of your shoe laces tied up. Satan will come along and whisper, “You can't do it.” or “You are not perfect, you should give up” or “You will never get this right, might as well stop trying”. These are lies. He knows we can succeed. He cannot stop us himself. The only way he can stop us is by getting us to give up. The only way we will not perfect this skill, is by him letting Satan convince us to give up. If those lies do not work, he may try this one. “You don't need to learn this” or “This is too hard” or “This is not important, right now” or “You can learn this another day” .. a much, much later day.
Elder Eyring said it this way: “Satan tempts with procrastination throughout our days of probation. Any choice to delay repentance gives him the chance to steal happiness from one of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father.
We have all been tempted with that delay. We know from our own experience that President Spencer W. Kimball was right when he wrote, “One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination,” and then he defined it: “an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility now” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 48; emphasis in original). And so Satan works on both our desire to think we have no cause to repent and our desire to push anything unpleasant into the future. He has tempted you and me, and those we love, with thoughts like this: “God is so loving; surely He won’t hold me personally responsible for mistakes which are simply the result of being human.” And then, if that fails, there is the thought that will almost surely come: “Well, I may be responsible to repent, but this is not a good time to start. If I wait, later will be better.”
There are some truths which expose those lies intended to tempt us to procrastinate repentance. Let’s start with the deception, which is so attractive, that we have no need to repent.
The truth is that we all need repentance. If we are capable of reason and past the age of eight, we all need the cleansing that comes through applying the full effects of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When that is clear, we cannot be tricked into delay by the subtle question: “Have I crossed the line of serious sin, or can I put off even thinking about repentance?” The question that really matters is this: “How can I learn to sense even the beginning of sin and so repent early?”
A second truth about our accountability is to know that we are not the helpless victims of our circumstances. The world tries to tell us that the opposite is true: imperfections in our parents or our faulty genetic inheritance are presented to us as absolving us of personal responsibility. But difficult as circumstances may be, they do not relieve us of accountability for our actions or our inactions. Nephi was right (1 Nephi 17:50). God gives no commandments to the children of men save He prepares a way for them to obey. However difficult our circumstances, we can repent.” “Do Not Delay” Henry B Eyring Oct 1999
Everyone can learn to tie their shoelaces. Just never give up trying and you will learn!
D&C 68:25 “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”
“The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to ‘re-turn’ toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.” “Repent … That I May Heal You” - Neil L. Andersen Oct 2009
If we, as Elder Andersen noted, find we are heading away from our Heavenly Father, we simply need to turn back toward him. Repenting is 're-turning' .. changing the direction of your life is a simple as stopping going the wrong way and resetting your course in life back toward Him. Not easy to do, but not repenting is harder in the long run.
“Those who come unto Christ, repent of their sins, and live in faith will reside forever in peace. Think of the worth of this eternal gift. Surrounded by those we love, we will know the meaning of ultimate joy as we progress in knowledge and in happiness. . . . ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).” “The Infinite Power of Hope” - Dieter F. Uchtdorf Oct 2008
Now, since our loving Heavenly Father has provided a way for us to repent at any age, why not just wait and repent when we are very old? This is just another one of Satans deceptions. Why not learn to tie our shoes when we are old, just before we plan to die? He is hoping to stop us again. First: There is a time in life when it is easy to learn things. There is a old saying, “You can't teach an old dog new tricks”. It is somewhat but not absolutely true. If we learn to do things right at an early age, it will be easier to learn and we will be better for it. Second: Why wait to be happy? Sinning does not and never can really make us happy. And Third: How can we teach others what we have not yet learned ourselves? Satan lies try to tell us we will be happier never learning these things. He also knows that there is much more at stake than just you or I. If he succeeds, he will stop both you and I, but also all our children and grandchildren, and all our friends and neighbors whom we could have helped.
The movie It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas drama film based on the short story "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939. The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others and who is about to give up himself on Christmas Eve. Through the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), George sees all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born.
Heavenly Father (and Satan) sees all the good that we can do, but also all the good we can be a part of. If we let Heavenly Father succeed, he will save both you and I, and also many of our children and grandchildren, and friends and neighbors whom we will be able to influence and teach by our example and efforts.
It is like a tree. You are a branch on the tree. If you are broken off, not just do you stop growing, but all the smaller branches and leaves that are or that would have been above you are stopped.
2 Nephi 2:21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
If you now feel you are broken off from the tree .. Repentance is the way to get back. There are ways for broken branches to get repaired or even put right back onto the tree and grow again. In the parable of the Tame and Wild Olive trees, branches from one tree were grafted back onto trees with good roots that were then able to produce good fruits ..
Jacob 5:17 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard looked and beheld the tree in the which the wild olive branches had been grafted; and it had sprung forth and begun to bear fruit. And he beheld that it was good; and the fruit thereof was like unto the natural fruit.
2 Nephi 2:24-25 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
We don't have to wait to repent. Do it now. What we should be waiting to not do is sinning .. We may not be able to live a sinless life, but we can certainly strive to 'sin less'. Satan whispers that Sin is Happiness when he knows that in reality it is Misery and Death. Being 'sin free' would be best, striving to 'sin less' would be wise, and by repenting quickly and completely we can keep on the path back to our Father.
Repent and Forgive, Forgive and Repent. The flip side of doctrine of Repentance is principal of Forgiveness. Do you ever feel anger at others, even with just cause? We still need to forgive others, even before they finish (if ever) repenting. Why? Unless we forgive others, we cannot recieve repentance ourselves.
3 Nephi 13: 14-15 For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
How do you know you have repented or just stopped sinning? Repentance is one of the first principles of the gospel and is essential to our temporal and eternal happiness. It is much more than just acknowledging wrongdoings. It is a change of mind and heart that gives us a fresh view about God, about ourselves, and about the world. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness. It is motivated by love for God and the sincere desire to obey His commandments.
You can know you have repented, if you now desire to 'do good continually' and have no desire to repeat former sins. If you feel the Spirit—when you pray, read the scriptures, teach, testify, or at any other time—then that is your witness that you have been forgiven or, alternatively, that the cleansing process is taking place, for the Spirit cannot dwell in an unholy tabernacle” (see Alma 7:21). In most cases the cleansing process takes time because our change of heart takes time, but in the interim, we can proceed with the confidence that God approves of our progress as manifested by the presence of His Spirit. https://www.lds.org/youth/article/how-do-i-know-when-i-am-forgiven?lang=eng
Isaiah 1: 16-19 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
D&C 95:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you--
Learning to repent is a simple skill, like tying your shoelaces, that we need to learn to be happy. My wish is that everyone will be able to learn to repent (and tie their shoelaces), that they will joyfully teach those around them this skill, and once you know what to do, and how to do it, to go out and do it! Amen.