More than 2,500 years ago the prophet Nephi expressed the common condition of all who have felt the sorrow of sin:
“O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities” (2 Ne. 4:17).
But Nephi also knew that there was hope. He knew that joy and peace were possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ:
“My heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. …
“Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Ne. 4:19, 30).
Heavenly Father knew we would sin, so he gave us the gift of repentance. The sorrow we feel when we recognize that we have broken God’s laws helps us begin to repent. This sorrow may include feelings of embarrassment, shame, remorse, or even agony. This kind of sorrow troubles us “with that trouble which shall bring [us] down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29), “for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10).
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that repentance “is an act that means sorrow, godly sorrow, and remorse and restitution and resolution. It involves pleading prayers for forgiveness, and promises, sincere and honest, to do better” (Ensign, September 1994, page 76).
The closer we are to our Heavenly Father, the more we are able to feel this kind of sorrow. As we seek the Holy Ghost and try to live the gospel, we see more clearly the consequence of sin, which includes the absence of the Holy Ghost. One sister learned this principle as she earnestly prayed for direction in her life. “As I prayed,” she said, “I began to feel sorry for many ‘little’ sins that I had overlooked or rationalized away. I saw that these little things were keeping me from being as close to my Heavenly Father as I wanted to be.”
When we repent, we not only forsake our sins, but we also turn to Jesus Christ, seeking his cleansing, healing power. President Howard W. Hunter invited all “who have transgressed or been offended [to] come back. The path of repentance, though hard at times, lifts one ever upward and leads to a perfect forgiveness” (Ensign, November 1994, page 8).
In the Book of Mormon, Alma’s repentance “lifted him upward” when he remembered his father’s teachings about the atonement of Christ. “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 36:20).
Peace, hope, and joy, such as Alma experienced, can be ours when we use the atoning and forgiving power of Christ.
• How does feeling godly sorrow for sin lead us to repentance?
• How can understanding and accepting the atonement of Jesus Christ bring us peace, joy, and hope?