Repenting sounds awful and hard. No one else knows what I did. Why can’t I just forget about it and go on?
Certainly a very important part of repentance is to stop committing the sin. But the problem with trying just to forget about a sin or mistake is that it is like having a splinter in your foot. A splinter may be a small thing and easily overlooked, but if left unattended it can fester and will become a sore spot that will not get better until you do something about it.
Repentance is like pulling out the splinter. You need to clean up the thing that is bothering you because it won’t go away by itself. You can’t fool yourself by saying that no one knows. You know and so does your Heavenly Father.
All sins should be confessed to the Lord, and it is his forgiveness we must obtain. Through the power of the Savior’s Atonement, we can be forgiven. “I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” (D&C 61:2).
In addition, major sins must be confessed to the bishop. “These sins include adultery, fornication, other sexual transgressions, and other sins of comparable seriousness” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 179). If you have offended others by your words or actions, then your repentance must include trying to make things right with those you have offended.
Also, the ill effects of your sin will not just disappear if left alone. In the back of your mind, you may find yourself thinking things like, “If they knew what I was really like, they wouldn’t like me. Because of what I’ve done, I don’t deserve to have God love me.” These feelings become a burden, a huge heavy load that you carry around with you. The load is so unnecessary. The Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The rest or peace we get comes through repentance. Your bishop can help guide you through the steps to reach that sense of peace.
One of our readers wrote about an experience with repentance: “No one knew what I had done, except God. I tried to ignore God, and I tried to ignore my guilt. I was miserable and tormented and felt unworthy even to go to church and seminary. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die rather than tell my bishop what I had done. But I could not forget my Savior Jesus Christ who suffered for every sin, including mine. I knew that if I did not repent, he would have suffered in vain. So I went to my bishop.”
Confession is just the beginning. Then comes the hard work of change. But as our reader wrote, “I promise the happiness that comes after you have completed the repentance process is unlike any other. It is the greatest freedom. It is worth every moment of pain and sacrifice required.”
You must have faith and listen to the experience of others. President Gordon B. Hinckley says about repentance: “It is more than a word. It is an act that means sorrow, godly sorrow, and remorse and restitution and resolution. It involves pleading prayers for forgiveness, and promises, sincere and honest, to do better” (Ensign, Sept. 1994, 76).
Instead of being too hard and awful, repentance brings peace and lightens the burden. Yes, it would have been best if you had never sinned at all. Yes, you could have avoided the pain that sin brings by making better choices. But ignoring your mistake will not make it go away. You need to complete the process of repentance. When you do, you will feel the joy that comes from knowing that Jesus Christ atoned for all our sins, allowing us to change our lives and return to him.
Repentance is one of the most important principles we have in the Church. Even though it may seem hard, we must speak about it with our Father in Heaven, with our parents in some instances, and with our bishop if the problem is serious. You will be able to find help and comfort and to figure out what to do to solve the problem.
Matthieu Toulouse, 18 Torcy, France
Simply forgetting will never heal you. Only Jesus Christ has that power. If you ever want happiness and peace, then you must repent. Repentance may be hard, but the reward is worth all the effort.
Jody Richards, 18 Vernal, Utah
Repenting may sound awful to you, but in order for us to live with Heavenly Father again, we must first repent. After repenting you will feel the Spirit with you, and it will help you to choose right.
David Lazo, 14 Concord, California
We cannot forget what we have done wrong, thinking that nobody saw it. The angels record in heaven all of our actions, and our sins can only be canceled with sincere repentance. Thanks to Christ’s Atonement, we can all return to our Heavenly Father.
Elisa Guastella, 15 Ragusa, Italy
The consequences of committing a sin and not repenting of it are more awful and much harder to endure than repentance. Heavenly Father knows what you did. He does, after all, know everything. As a result, he wants you to repent and come back to him. If you do, you will receive peace and innumerable blessings and be able to move on.
Dustin Joyce, 15 Charlotte, North Carolina
Repentance isn’t done because you want people to forgive what you’ve done. You are repenting because you didn’t keep the Lord’s commandments. You are asking his forgiveness. Repenting of your sins, no matter what they may be, will help you feel better about yourself, and you will be able to have the Spirit with you again.
Melissa Baker, 18 Roy, Utah