I understand the steps to repentance, but how do I know if I’ve been forgiven?
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of truly repenting is being able to put it behind you and feel that you have been forgiven completely. But the Lord has promised that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
First of all, you need to be honest with yourself. Are you still feeling guilty because you have skipped over something necessary to your repentance? For example, did you apologize and try to make amends to those you have offended? If you need to, have you confessed your transgressions to the bishop and followed his guidance in your repentance? Are you sincere in wanting to change and forsake your sin or put it behind you?
As you complete all of the steps of repentance, studying the scriptures can help you to understand what it means to be forgiven. One of our readers, Russell Fugal, 13, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, had some excellent words of advice, referring to two incidents in the scriptures that help explain how repentant sinners will feel. Russell wrote, “We may not all be as privileged as Enos to have God tell us ‘thy sins are forgiven thee’ (Enos 1:5). More likely we will be as Alma the Younger, who said he was ‘harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. … my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!’ (Alma 36:19–20).”
Alma the Younger had committed serious sins. He was leading a wicked life and, worst of all, he was persuading others to ignore the Church’s teachings. After his conversion, Alma had a lot to make up for. It gave him great pain to remember the things he had said and done against his father and against the Church. So how did Alma the Younger know when he was forgiven? He said that after he repented, remembering what he had done no longer caused him such awful pain. He said his joy in coming back to the gospel teachings and working hard to repair the wrong he had done now caused greater joy that overpowered the pain.
When we repent, we will still remember the things that we have done wrong. That memory is not taken away from us. However, when we are forgiven, the memory of our sins will not cause us such distress. We may spend our whole lives wishing we had not made bad decisions, but when we have truly repented, we will feel grateful for the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, which offers us a way to rid ourselves, not only of sin, but also of guilt. The more we understand the Atonement, the more we will be able to feel relieved and even to rejoice that we have taken all the right steps of repentance. Then after fasting and prayer, we can feel the peace the Lord has promised us.
We will remember our mistakes so that we can learn from our experiences, but when we are forgiven, our past sins will no longer stand in our way. When the Lord says he will “remember them no more,” it means the sin we have repented of and have overcome is no longer a part of us. We are free from it. We may have to suffer some of the longlasting consequences, but we will no longer feel weighed down by guilt or regret.
Turn to the scriptures and use the Topical Guide to find references to forgiveness and to the Atonement. Counsel with your bishop if necessary. Then get on your knees and ask if you have done everything necessary to make your repentance complete. The Lord will help you to find the peace and joy that you seek.
When you truly have been forgiven, you don’t boast about your sin, and you don’t dwell on it. I feel that I will know when I have been forgiven because I will feel peace and rejoicing.
Natalie Hales, 13 Cheyenne, Wyoming
If you truly go about the steps of repentance with all your heart, seeking forgiveness, you will experience a change of heart. Then happiness and joy will fill your heart. It is an awesome feeling!
Danny Rytting, 17 West Valley City, Utah
When you get the feeling of purity and peace and you’re full of love after you have repented, that’s just our kind Heavenly Father’s way of saying, “I forgive you, my child.”
Audrey Hibbett, 13 Lexington, North Carolina
When we truly understand the steps of repentance, we realize that it is faith unto repentance. One of our Savior’s missions was to take upon him our sins, and I believe there is nothing he would more gladly do than to plead for our forgiveness above if we had done our part. We will be forgiven, and in doing so, we will feel a peace of which no earthy thing can afford, counterfeit, or exchange.
Lewis James Quinn, 17 Leeds, England
When you repent of your sins and forsake them and humble yourselves before God, then you ask in sincerity of heart that he will forgive you. Our Heavenly Father said that if you repent and don’t repeat your misdeed, you will be truly forgiven.
Billy-ann Chinapoo, 16 South Oropouche, Trinidad, West Indies
I know that I am forgiven when I feel my Heavenly Father’s arms around me, and I am filled with a warm spirit inside.
Jeff Nicholas, 15 Round Rock, Texas
It’s like carrying a bag full of rocks and all you look forward to is putting it down. I know I am forgiven when I feel relieved as if from a heavy burden.
Claudine Lampart, 19 Clarendon, Jamaica, West Indies