The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand and use the principle of repentance.
What Does It Mean to Repent?
Each of us is on a journey through life, headed toward an eternal destination. As we travel, we hear voices calling to us. One is the voice of the Lord, prompting us to do good; another is the voice of Satan, enticing us to do evil. We are free to choose between the two and to act for ourselves.
Read 2 Nephi 2:16, 27–29.
It is sometimes easy to confuse these voices. We may think we are acting correctly when in reality we have been deceived. As we learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, we realize that we have not always chosen correctly. We realize that we may not be on the right course. If we continue on the wrong course, we will arrive at the end of our journey, but we will find that we are not in the celestial kingdom. Going off our true course is called sin. Correcting our course so that we are once again headed toward the celestial kingdom is called repentance.
Jesus Christ promised us:
“It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;
“And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:1–2).
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
What is meant by walking “in darkness”? by having “the light of life”?
Display visual 2-a, “Like a lighthouse in the darkness, Jesus Christ shows us the way to happiness and eternal life.”
Jesus Christ showed us the way to get to the celestial kingdom and be with our Father in Heaven. He is like our lighthouse in the darkness. When we are on the right course, we travel in the light (see John 8:12). We can see the true path to follow. When we stray off the right course, we wander in darkness. Like a boat that has strayed from the course set by a lighthouse and sails near dangerous rocks and in treacherous waters, we expose ourselves to the traps of sin Satan has set for us. He wants to prevent us from reaching our destination. But a life of sin will not lead us to happiness at the end of our journey. The further we are drawn into sin, the greater power Satan has over us. That is why Jesus told us, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).
Satan is glad when we commit sin. He wants to keep us in his power. His voice tells us that the wrong we did was right. He tells us that we had good reasons for doing it, that we are justified in committing sin. (See 2 Nephi 28:8, 21–22.) He wants us to tell ourselves that the sin is not as serious as it really is. He knows that as long as we make excuses for our sin, we will not repent completely.
Jesus Christ knows that Satan works in this way. That is why He has blessed us with the light of Christ, sometimes called our conscience. The light of Christ will help us know the difference between good and evil (see Moroni 7:15–16). The voice of the Spirit prompts us, warning us to repent and return to the true course.
Jacob, speaking with the power of God, sought to awaken the people. He warned them about their sins with these words:
“O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation.
“Prepare your souls for … the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery.
“But behold, my brethren, is it expedient that I should awake you to an awful reality of these things? Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if ye were freed from sin?
“Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin” (2 Nephi 9:45–48).
When we feel the awfulness of our sin, we choose either to continue it or decide to courageously admit our mistake and correct it. If we choose to continue in our sin, Satan will bind us further and further until eventually we may lose all desire to repent. When we choose to repent, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will help us overcome our sins, and we will experience blessings of joy and peace.
Read Alma 34:32–35. Why is it unwise to put off our repentance?
We All Need to Repent
Read Romans 3:23.
We all need to repent of the things that we should not have done, such as telling a lie, gossiping, or taking the name of the Lord in vain. We also need to repent of not doing the things we should do, such as paying our tithing, praying often, keeping the Sabbath day holy, befriending a neighbor, or completing an assignment. We need to recognize the Spirit of the Lord prompting us to overcome our errors and follow those promptings.
“A young man bore this testimony: ‘I think of all the pain I caused my parents—and myself—by not realizing that sin does not bring happiness. After high school I moved out and started drinking, smoking, and using drugs. I thought I was having a good time, but now I know I was really quite miserable.
“‘Then one day I stopped and thought, “What if my parents could see me now? What would they think?”
“‘It was then that I started to turn my life around. … I would never have made it without some good new friends and an understanding bishop—and without the help of the Holy Ghost. But with their help I was able to repent. And now I see how unhappy I was. I testify that repentance and righteous living bring happiness. And I know from experience that the Lord is always there to help us change our lives, if we only let him’” (quoted by Jay A. Parry in “Miracles Today?” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 56).
As we repent of our sins, we come closer to the true path. When we are on the true course leading to the celestial kingdom, we understand that all the laws of God are important. We become more like Jesus Christ and view sin as He does. We cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (see D&C 1:31). In other words, we cannot stand any form of sin. This is our goal. Although we are not perfect, we must remember our goal and work to attain it.
Read Ether 12:27.
If we are humble in prayer, asking the Lord to show us our weaknesses and sins, He will do so. He will also help us overcome our weaknesses through repentance.
True Repentance Brings Forgiveness
When we realize that all of our sins are awful before the Lord, we feel “godly sorrow” for them (2 Corinthians 7:10). We cannot remember them without feeling pangs of guilt and regret. They weigh us down and become a heavy burden. We begin to feel a small amount of the great sorrow that Jesus Christ felt when He suffered and died for us. (See Alma 36:12–13.)
Display visual 2-b, “Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.”
How grateful we should be that we do not always have to carry this burden. Through repentance we can become free from the burden of sin. Because of the great love Jesus Christ has for us, He suffered, bled, and died for our sins so that we will not have to suffer fully ourselves if we repent. (See Gospel Principles chapter 12, “The Atonement.”)
Display visual 2-c, “Christ atoned for our sins on the condition that we will repent.”
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble … and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:16–18).
In order to repent, we must follow a certain process. This process is explained in Gospel Principles chapter 19, pages 123–26.
Display visual 2-d, “The steps of repentance take us from godly sorrow to the joy of keeping the commandments.”
Discuss the seven parts of repentance discussed in Gospel Principles chapter 19. If possible, let several sisters take part. Display a poster of the following list or refer to the information on the chalkboard:
Feeling sorrow for sin
Keeping the commandments of God
Because Jesus Christ paid for our sins, He has the power to forgive us. When we follow the process of repentance, the Savior promises that He will forgive us of our sins and remember them no more.
Through repentance we become clean and pure again. We are able to look back on our former selves and recall our sins, but without pain. Instead, we feel at peace. A missionary told a story that illustrates the forgiveness each of us can receive when we truly repent.
A young lady who was about to be baptized doubted that her repentance for sins committed in her youth was acceptable to the Lord. She continued to pray for confirmation that she had been forgiven. Just after her baptism, she was given the gift of the Holy Ghost. The elder said:
“While my hands were upon her, and as I told her to receive the Holy Ghost, I felt almost an electrical shock or jolt go through her body. I was startled for a few moments, and then I regained my composure and finished the prayer. And, as is the custom in the Church, I then reached down to congratulate her and found that she was almost in a state of shock or a trance. Her eyes were closed, and tears were streaming down her face. She was in this condition for about five minutes when, all of a sudden, she just shook her head, got up, and went and sat down in her seat.
“I was naturally very curious about her unusual reaction while being confirmed, so I later inquired about this. She told me that the most beautiful, clean, sweet feeling came through her body—a beautiful, refreshing, cleansing Spirit that she had never experienced before in her entire life.”
The results of this experience were astounding. Within three days’ time, her facial expression had changed. Even her features became more refined and smooth, and her eyes became softer. The elder said: “It was a great testimony to my companion and me to see how the Spirit of the Lord can change a truly repentant person, both spiritually and physically, into a much more lovely and beautiful human being. The cleansing power of the Holy Ghost at baptism is very real.” (See “Cleansed at Baptism,” Margie Calhoun Jensen, comp., When Faith Writes the Story , 18–19.)
This is a dramatic story about the power of the Spirit of the Lord to cleanse us. Although few of us will have such an experience, we can all receive the same sweet, clean feeling.
We use the principle of repentance throughout our lives to rid ourselves of sin and direct our course toward the celestial kingdom. It is a great blessing to know that when we have truly repented the Lord forgives us and remembers our sins no more.
Before presenting this lesson:
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