In his second epistle to the Corinthian Saints, the Apostle Paul affirmed his devotion to them and said he rejoiced in knowing they had accepted his earlier counsel. He taught that godly sorrow for sin leads to repentance.
Invite a student to read aloud the following scenario:
In an interview for a temple recommend for marriage, a young woman confesses some past sins to her bishop. After further discussion, the bishop comes to understand that the young woman has not truly repented of her sins and that her sins are serious enough to make her unworthy of a temple recommend. The bishop explains that the young woman will have to wait to receive a recommend until she has fully repented. She is alarmed, claiming she has repented because she hasn’t repeated any of those sins for a long time. The bishop explains that merely stopping the sin is not complete repentance, and he invites her to sincerely begin the process of true repentance.
What do you think the young woman might be feeling at this point in the interview?
Invite the student to continue reading the scenario aloud:
The young woman explains to her bishop that she is very upset because the invitations to the wedding and reception have already been sent out. She says she could not face all the questions and the embarrassment of a delay in her wedding plans. She asks whether there is a way for her to be sealed in the temple as planned and then work through the repentance process later.
Based on the young woman’s response to the bishop, what does she seem to be most concerned about?
Invite students to look for a truth as they study 2 Corinthians 7:8–11 that the young woman in the scenario needs to understand before she can truly repent of her sins.
Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 7:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how one of Paul’s earlier letters had affected the Corinthian Saints.
How had the letter affected the Saints?
Why did Paul rejoice in their sorrow?
Ask students to read 2 Corinthians 7:10–11 silently. You may want to suggest that they mark the two types of sorrow Paul mentioned and what each leads to.
What are the two types of sorrow Paul mentioned?
Write the headings Godly Sorrow and Worldly Sorrow on the board. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson. Ask the class to listen for his description of worldly sorrow.
“It is not uncommon to find men and women in the world who feel remorse for the things they do wrong. Sometimes this is because their actions cause them or loved ones great sorrow and misery. Sometimes their sorrow is caused because they are caught and punished for their actions. Such worldly feelings do not constitute ‘godly sorrow’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson , 82).
How would you summarize what worldly sorrow is?
According to 2 Corinthians 7:10, what can worldly sorrow lead to? (Explain that the word death in verse 10 refers to spiritual death, meaning separation from God. Under the heading “Worldly Sorrow” on the board, write the following truth: Worldly sorrow can lead us to spiritual death, or separation from God.)
In what ways can worldly sorrow lead a person to spiritual death? (It can prevent a person from truly repenting and receiving Heavenly Father’s forgiveness.)
Based on verse 10, what does godly sorrow lead to? (Under the heading “Godly Sorrow” on the board, write the following truth: Godly sorrow leads us to repent of our sins and receive salvation.)
To help the students better understand why godly sorrow leads us to repent, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:
“Godly sorrow is a gift of the Spirit. It is a deep realization that our actions have offended our Father and our God. It is the sharp and keen awareness that our behavior caused the Savior, He who knew no sin, even the greatest of all, to endure agony and suffering. Our sins caused Him to bleed at every pore. This very real mental and spiritual anguish is what the scriptures refer to as having ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ … Such a spirit is the absolute prerequisite for true repentance” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 83).
Why do you think godly sorrow leads us to truly repent of our sins?
Invite students to reflect on the scenario concerning the young woman seeking a temple recommend.
During the young woman’s interview with the bishop, does it appear that she had experienced godly sorrow for her sin? Why not? (She was more concerned with the delay in her marriage plans and other people’s opinions of her than she was with truly repenting and receiving Heavenly Father’s forgiveness.)
What can we do to replace worldly sorrow with godly sorrow? (We can fast and pray, asking Heavenly Father to bless us with the gift of godly sorrow. We can also study about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and seek a deeper understanding of how our sins contributed to His suffering.)
Testify that as we feel godly sorrow rather than worldly sorrow for our sins, we will be able to truly repent, be cleansed from our sins, and ultimately receive salvation. Invite students to seek godly sorrow in their efforts to repent.
If there is time, briefly review the truths students identified as they studied the lessons in unit 23, and encourage them to follow any promptings they may have felt to apply these truths. You may want to review the scripture mastery passages in 1 Corinthians 15:20–22 and 1 Corinthians 15:40–42. Invite students to explain the doctrines in these passages and how they might use these verses to teach the plan of salvation to someone else.
Ask students to consider the following questions: How do you know when you are feeling the Spirit? What are the fruits or feelings of the Spirit? What are Saints foreordained to receive? What is our responsibility to those who lack some of the temporal necessities of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter? What if we ourselves have some of these same needs? Explain that during the next week they will study how Paul addressed these questions and others.