Viewpoint: Repentance Is Small Price to Pay for Redemption
From the Church News
“Repentance requires a sincere and lasting change of thoughts, desires, habits, and actions. It is a positive experience that brings joy and peace.”
—Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service
A man stood before the congregation in a fast and testimony meeting. It was just over four years, he said, since he had accepted the gospel and received the ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins.
He reflected on his life prior to that. It had been necessary for him to forsake some habits, which had included an inclination for alcohol consumption.
“People congratulate me for the sacrifices I’ve made,” he said, and scoffed at the notion. “I haven’t made any sacrifices; it’s Christ who has sacrificed.”
The remark reflected a wise perspective shared by many: Though they’ve been called upon to make lifestyle changes consistent with the scriptural “broken heart and a contrite spirit,” when they consider the sweet peace they have received through the gospel, the promise of eternal life, and the unfathomable price paid by the Savior to bring those things about, they have scarcely made any sacrifice at all.
It is an attitude reminiscent of Lamoni’s father, the Lamanite king whose conversion is recounted in Alma 22 of the Book of Mormon. Persuaded through the teaching of Aaron and by the influence of the Holy Ghost, the king earnestly asked:
“What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:15).
Told by Aaron that he must bow down in humility before God and call on His name in faith, the king prayed: “If there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee” (verse 18).
Those who come to know God eventually discover that giving away all their sins is a small price indeed for that privilege.
It was an understanding possessed by the young prophet Nephi, whose behavior contrasted with that of his brothers while journeying to the promised land under the leadership of their father.
“Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father,” Nephi wrote. “And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Nephi 2:12).
Nephi, on the other hand, did understand “the dealings” of God, having obtained that wisdom through earnest prayer:
“I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (verse 16).
Obviously, Nephi had obtained the blessing that Lamoni’s father later sought in his prayer, to “be born of God.” Among other things, his experience teaches us that those who cry unto the Lord and thereby obtain an understanding of His dealings are less inclined to murmur against Him and His servants.
Having thus obtained wisdom, we may be less prone to what Elder A. Theodore Tuttle (1919–1986) of the Seventy once characterized as being “involved in the thick of thin things” (“The Things That Matter Most,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 90).
Some among us might be tempted on occasion to mutter about the length of our worship services, the dryness of the sermons, the shortcomings of the speakers. Contrast that with the attitude of a man who had devoted many years to Church leadership and, in the twilight of his life, would eagerly arrive a half-hour early each week for sacrament meeting. Reportedly, when a fellow ward member commented on that practice, he replied, “I want to be early for the most important thing I do all week.”
For him, partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper while he worshiped with his brothers and sisters in the gospel and thereby gained spiritual renewal was a delight to be relished and anticipated, not a chore to be endured.
He, like Nephi, understood the dealings of God. He knew the verity of the Savior’s invitation:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29–30).
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding,” we are admonished. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5–7).
For, as the Lord said through an ancient prophet, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).
“In fact,” observed Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the Seventy in April at the most recent general conference, “God has the way to live, to love, to help, to pray, to talk, to interact with each other, to lead, to marry, to raise children, to learn, to know the truth, to share the gospel, to choose wisely what we eat, etc.” (“The Lord’s Way,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 37).
As we acquire and apply such understanding, we find out that God knows better than we what is in our best interest. It boils down to repentance, a principle today’s missionaries are instructed to declare to all who will listen: “Repentance requires a sincere and lasting change of thoughts, desires, habits, and actions. It is a positive experience that brings joy and peace. Be bold and loving in helping people understand what they must do to repent. By inviting people to make commitments, you can effectively raise a voice of both warning and hope” (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, 8).
It was that voice of warning and hope that resonated with the man who addressed the congregation as recounted above; may it likewise do so with us all.