Lesson 9: Repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 29–32


Each young man will understand the meaning of repentance and the necessity of exercising this precious gift.


  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  2. 2.

    (Optional) Obtain a bag or suitcase, and load it with travel items and rocks.

  3. 3.

    Review the counsel about repentance on pages 17 and 18 of For the Strength of Youth.


This lesson provides you an opportunity to impress upon the young men that we are cleansed from our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Isaiah wrote:

“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings. …

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:16, 18).

This great blessing is made possible only through the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. Help the young men to understand and appreciate the great blessing of repentance.

Suggested Lesson Development


Scripture and discussion

  • If you had the attention of everyone in the world at once, what would you say?

Allow the young men to respond briefly. Compare their answers to what Alma would have said by reading Alma 29:1–2.

  • Why does Alma think that repentance is such an important message? (If all people repented of their sins, there would not be any more sorrow on the earth.)

  • How does repentance eliminate sorrow?

Chalkboard and discussion

Write Omission and Commission on the chalkboard.

  • What do these words mean? (Omission refers to something neglected or left undone. Commission, in one of its meanings, refers to something that has been done.)

  • What are some examples of sins of omission and commission?

Write the responses in abbreviated form on the chalkboard. Some possible responses are listed in the following chart.

Sins of Omission

  1. 1.

    Failing to pay tithing

  2. 2.

    Staying home from church

  3. 3.

    Shirking priesthood duties

  4. 4.

    Failing to pray

  5. 5.

    Failing to love

  6. 6.

    Failing to forgive

Sins of Commission

  1. 1.


  2. 2.

    Being dishonest

  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    Sexual sins

Scriptures and discussion

  • How do people often feel when they have done something they should not have done or have not done something they know they should have done? (Guilty.)

  • How can guilt feelings be bad? How can they be good?

Explain that many people today say that feelings of guilt are not good. However, Alma told his son Corianton something very important about guilt feelings. Have the young men read and mark Alma 42:29–30.

  • Why did Alma tell Corianton to let his sins trouble him? (Feeling guilty should lead him to repent.)

  • When should we have guilt feelings? (When we have done something wrong and need to repent.)

  • What good should come from our guilt feelings? (We should recognize our sins and then repent of them.)

  • Why did Alma caution Corianton not to excuse himself for his sins?

  • How might we persuade ourselves to overlook or excuse our sins?

Have the young men read and mark 2 Nephi 25:26.

  • Who made it possible for us to repent? (Jesus Christ.)

  • How did he do this? (Through his atonement and suffering.)

  • What does the word atonement mean to you? How can you better understand the Atonement?

Help the young men understand that through study, prayer, and repentance they can really appreciate how important the atonement of Christ is to each of them.

  • How has an understanding of the Savior’s atonement helped you?

  • How can you show your appreciation for his atoning sacrifice?

Repentance Leads to Progress and Happiness


Repentance is, … following faith, the most encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” New Era, Oct. 1980, p. 11).

  • How could repentance be “encouraging”?

During the discussion, help the young men understand that repentance is an invitation to growth, improvement, and progress. The results of true repentance are peace, well-being, and happiness.

Explain that although repentance is a positive principle and is encouraging and uplifting, it is not painless. In fact, sometimes repentance hurts very much.

Read the following statement from President Spencer W. Kimball:

“Repentance … is not laughing at sin. … It is not the minimizing of the seriousness of the error. …

“This is important: do let yourself be troubled; let the tears flow; let your heart be chastened. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sin” (“What Is True Repentance?” New Era, May 1974, pp. 4–5).

Scripture and discussion

  • What does it mean to repent?

Have the young men read Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43. Suggest that they mark these verses.

  • What does it mean to forsake your sins and confess them?

You may wish to read and discuss the counsel about repentance on pages 17 and 18 of For the Strength of Youth.

Object lesson (optional)

  • In the eternal perspective, why is it easier to repent than not to repent?

Explain that life is like taking a long journey carrying a bag or suitcase. (If you have prepared a bag or suitcase as suggested in “Preparation,” show it to the young men.) Explain that the bag is heavy because you must carry all your necessities in it: food, clothing, and bedding. No one would want rocks or other unnecessary weight in his bag. That would take up space and create an extra burden.

  • In the journey of life, what are some extra burdens we sometimes try to take along? (Sins.)

  • How can we get rid of these burdens? (Through repentance. If we repent of our sins, Christ will carry our burdens for us.)

Take out a few rocks from the bag.

  • What difference will this make in our journey? (The journey could still be long and difficult, but not nearly as difficult as with the rocks.)

Story and discussion

Explain that one effect of not repenting of our sins is shown in the following story:

“The ice storm wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. Walking out of doors became unpleasant and difficult. It was disagreeable weather, but it was not serious. Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.

“The story of the iron wedge began years ago when the white-haired farmer was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about. …

“On this particular day, it was a faller’s wedge—wide, flat, and heavy, a foot or more long, and splayed from mighty poundings. The path from the south pasture did not pass the woodshed; and, because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge … between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner, or sometime when he was going that way.

“He truly meant to, but he never did. It was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. … Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winter the ice storm came.

“In the chill silence of that wintry night, with the mist like rain sifting down and freezing where it fell, one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.

“Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss. ‘Wouldn’t have had that happen for a thousand dollars,’ he said. ‘Prettiest tree in the valley, that was.’

“Then, his eyes caught sight of something in the splintered ruin. ‘The wedge,’ he muttered reproachfully. ‘The wedge I found in the south pasture.’ A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should” (Samuel T. Whitman, “Forgotten Wedges,” quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, pp. 70–71; or Improvement Era, June 1966, pp. 523–24).

  • What kind of “wedge” might we have in our lives? (Unrepented sins.)

  • What are some pressures in our lives that could be compared to the ice storm? (Temptations to be dishonest or otherwise immoral, and so forth.)

  • What could easily happen to us if we carry with us unrepented sins? (Like the tree, we might be weakened and give in to temptation.)

  • How can such sins prevent us from progressing and developing the way we should? (One serious consequence is that we will not have the companionship of the Holy Ghost to help us make wise decisions and lead us to do good. This could eventually keep us out of the celestial kingdom.)

Scripture story and discussion

Explain that there are some wonderful examples from the scriptures of young men who made serious mistakes but who, through the power of repentance, were able to change their lives and become great servants of the Lord, which brought them great joy and happiness. One of these was Alma the Younger. Because he was the son of a great leader and prophet, Alma had great influence. Unfortunately, he did not use this influence for good but secretly went about with his friends trying to destroy the Church and undo all the good work his father had done. Finally, they became such a great hindrance to the progress of the Church that it was necessary for the Lord to intervene and stop them. The Lord sent an angel to tell them to repent or they would be destroyed.

Read Alma 36:6–21 with the young men.

  • What was the cause of Alma’s torment? (The fear that he would have to stand before God in his wickedness.)

  • What was the source of Alma’s great joy? (Jesus Christ.)

  • How great was his happiness? (As sweet as his pains had been bitter.)

  • How do you suppose Alma’s life changed after that experience? (He was “born again” and became a great prophet.)



Read the following statement from Elder A. Theodore Tuttle:

“Repentance is like soap. It is the soap of life. Like soap, it washes away the sins of life. It is to be used as frequently as necessary. One must keep in mind, however, that misuse—lack of thorough cleansing and half-hearted effort—may result in ‘tattletale gray.’ Properly used, however, the soap of life cleanses thoroughly, completely and permanently. …

“One day we … will be ushered before the judgment bar of the Lord. There we shall stand either besmirched, dirty, and unclean, or by acceptance and application of the great and marvelous gift of cleansing—by the soap of life—we may stand clean, forgiven, and pure before the Lord. The next time you use soap, you might also want to think of cleansing your spirit by applying the soap of life, the universal law of repentance” (“Repentance,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1968, pp. 64, 67).


Challenge the young men to study the scriptures that teach of Christ’s atonement and to pray for a better understanding of repentance. Ask them to review their lives seriously and to repent of their sins immediately.