Lesson 24: Christ-Centered Repentance

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, (2002), 82–85


Objective

Each young man will apply the principle of repentance in his daily life.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  2. 2.

    Write the following phrases on wordstrips:

    1. a.

      Recognize our sins

    2. b.

      Feel sorrow for our sins

    3. c.

      Have faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ

    4. d.

      Confess our sins

    5. e.

      Abandon our sins

    6. f.

      Make restitution for our sins

    7. g.

      Keep His commandments and endure to the end

  3. 3.

    Review Alma 36:6–26 (Alma’s conversion).

  4. 4.

    If it is available, show “The Gift of Repentance,” on Family Home Evening Video Supplement (53276).

  5. 5.

    Review the counsel about repentance given on pages 29–30 of For the Strength of Youth.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Show the video presentation “The Gift of Repentance” (found on the Family Home Evening Video Supplement), if it is available.

Discussion

Write on the chalkboard: Repentance is …

Ask the young men to think of words or phrases that could help to define repentance. Write their responses on the chalkboard. Possible responses include a process, a commandment, a change of heart, improving one’s life, and feeling sorrow for our sins.

Repentance Is a Process

Scriptures, wordstrips, and discussion

Point out that repentance is a process that brings us closer to our Father in Heaven. Tell the young men that they are going to read about how Alma went through the process of repentance.

Ask a young man to read Alma 36:6–16.

  • How did Alma feel about the sins he had committed?

  • How should we feel about our sins?

Tell the young men that before we can repent, we must recognize that we are sinning. Then we must feel sorry that we have disobeyed God’s commandments. Post the first two wordstrips.

  • What kinds of things might we do wrong in our day-to-day living?

Help the young men to see that major transgressions such as murder, adultery, or theft are not the only sins that require us to repent. We also need to repent of small things we do every day. Such things as dishonest actions, losing our tempers, showing disrespect to our parents, gossiping, or failing to follow through on an assignment all weaken our characters and keep us from enjoying the companionship of the Holy Ghost and becoming like our Heavenly Father.

Ask a young man to read Alma 36:17–19. Post the wordstrip “Have faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ.”

  • What thought saved Alma from the torment of remembering his sins?

  • How do you feel when you think about the atonement of Jesus Christ?

Quotation and discussion

President Ezra Taft Benson has explained that if we truly want to repent, we must demonstrate faith in Jesus Christ:

“Repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. Many men and women in the world demonstrate great willpower and self-discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even if in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which sincere and meaningful repentance must be built. If we truly seek to put away sin, we must first look to Him who is the Author of our salvation” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, p. 2).

Scriptures and discussion

Explain that Alma confessed his sinful state to the Lord. Post the wordstrip “Confess our sins.”

  • To whom must we confess our sins?

After the young men have expressed their ideas, point out that we should confess to the person we have wronged. We must also confess to the Lord. In addition, the seriousness of the transgression may require that we go to the bishop. Remind the young men that the bishop is there to help and not to condemn. Bishops always keep such information confidential.

  • What kinds of sins must we confess to our bishop?

Elder Marion G. Romney explained, “Where one’s transgressions are of such a nature as would, unrepented of, put in jeopardy his right to membership or fellowship in the Church of Jesus Christ, full and effective confession would … require confession … to his bishop” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1955, p. 1251, italics added).

Such sins include sexual transgressions and any major violation of the law.

Ask a young man to read Alma 36:20–23.

  • How did Alma feel after he had confessed his sins?

  • How do you think Alma would have felt if, after feeling the Lord’s forgiveness, he had returned to his sinful ways?

Make sure the young men understand that repentance is not a quick or easy process. Like Alma, we will feel pain and suffering as we repent. We may be required to go through a long process of repentance before we receive the Lord’s forgiveness.

Put up the wordstrip, “Abandon our sins.” Ask the young men what it means to abandon our sins. Help the young men understand that a truly repentant person will not repeat his sin.

Put up the wordstrip “Make restitution for our sins.”

Explain that the word restitution means to make right the wrong that was done.

  • Have a young man read Alma 36:24–26.

  • How did Alma make restitution for his sins? (He preached the gospel to try to help people feel the joy he felt.)

Remind the quorum that there are some offenses that simply cannot be completely undone, as described in the following verse:

“Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds—
You can’t do that when you are flying words.
Thoughts unexpressed sometimes fall back dead,
But God himself can’t kill them once they are said.”

(Will Carlton)

Explain that swearing, gossiping, lying, and bearing false witness fall in this category. But many offenses can be repaired.

Quotation

Elder William J. Critchlow Jr., who was an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles many years ago, said the following:

“Three boys about to receive scouting awards were apprehended breaking street lights. And were they sorry for being caught. Later, but before they accepted their awards, they recognized their acts as unbecoming Eagle Scouts; and with true feelings of remorse they went to the company to relate other similar transgressions and offered to make restitution by paying for the lights” (“Spelling Repentance with Seven Big R’s,” Instructor, Mar. 1966, p. 93).

Story

Another example is told of a young man who had received a mission call. In preparing himself to serve that mission, he desired to wipe the slate clean of all his past misdeeds. Thinking back on an incident that had happened years before when he had cheated on an exam, he was filled with remorse and desired to make restitution as much as possible. Writing to that teacher of long ago, he confessed his sin and asked her forgiveness. He felt he could then go forth and serve the Lord with a clear conscience.

Put up the final wordstrip, “Keep His commandments and endure to the end.”

Explain that if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we can overcome our sins and receive the guidance and support of the Lord throughout our lives.

Scripture and discussion

Ask a young man to read Alma 36:27–28.

  • In whom did Alma place his trust and faith?

  • How did Alma’s faith help him endure trials throughout his life?

Point out that this step is perhaps the hardest. It means that to prove our sincerity we must be on guard every day so that we do not fall back into old habits. To earn God’s forgiveness we should go the extra mile, not only forsaking our sins, but doing good wherever we can. President David O. McKay said, “Happiness is righteousness” (as quoted by William J. Critchlow Jr., Instructor, Mar. 1966, p. 93).

The great prophet Lehi said, “If there be no righteousness there be no happiness” (2 Nephi 2:13).

Repentance Includes Forgiving Yourself

Scripture and discussion

  • What do you think is Satan’s greatest tool to keep us from repenting?

You may get a variety of answers. All of the answers might be acceptable, but for the purpose of this discussion, look for “discouragement.”

Explain that feelings of guilt can be a healthy sign; they remind us that we have sinned and need to repent. But feeling guilty after we have genuinely repented will make us become discouraged, leaving us vulnerable to temptation again.

Read and discuss Doctrine and Covenants 58:42.

Explain that if the young men continue to feel guilty after they have repented, they should ask themselves these questions:

  1. 1.

    Have I completed all the steps of repentance?

  2. 2.

    Have I asked Heavenly Father to forgive me?

  3. 3.

    Have I allowed the Lord to take my burden by trusting him?

  4. 4.

    Am I doing all that I can to keep the commandments?

Conclusion

Testimony

Bear testimony that Heavenly Father knows and loves each of us. He knows what we do, and he knows what is in our hearts. Our sins bring great sorrow to him and unhappiness to us. It is never too late to repent and start over, no matter how bad we may think we are. None of us is so good that we cannot improve in some way. When the Lord said, “Come unto me,” he was speaking to everyone.

Challenge

Review the counsel about repentance on pages 29–30 of For the Strength of Youth. Encourage the young men to take an inventory of their daily lives. For example, what do they need to improve on or to repent of? As an exercise to get them started, ask them to silently ask themselves the following question:

“What can I do to more fully enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost?”

Let them ponder the answers that come to them without making any comment.