I know of no more beautiful story in all literature than that found in the 15th chapter of Luke. It is the story of a repentant son and a forgiving father. It is the story of a son who wasted his inheritance in riotous living, rejecting his father’s counsel, spurning those who loved him. When he had spent all, he was hungry and friendless, and “when he came to himself” (Luke 15:17), he turned back to his father, who, on seeing him afar off, “ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
I ask you to read that story. It is large enough to encompass every household, and enough larger than that to encompass all mankind, for are we not all prodigal sons and daughters who need to repent and partake of the forgiving mercy of our Heavenly Father and then follow His example?
His Beloved Son, our Redeemer, reaches out to us in forgiveness and mercy, but in so doing He commands repentance. A true and magnanimous spirit of forgiveness will become an expression of that required repentance. Said the Lord—and I quote from a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph:
“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit. …
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:15–18, 23) (from Ensign, June 1991).
Are you beset with doubts and fears? Has discouragement pulled you down? Do you need added wisdom and strength to go forward with your life?
I call to mind the words of Tennyson’s Sir Galahad, “My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Sir Galahad”).
Everything looks better when there is cleanliness (from Ensign, May 1996, 48).
You are so very important. This work is so much the stronger because of you. Whenever you step over the line in an immoral act or in doing any other evil thing, the Church is that much weaker because of what you have done. When you stand true and faithful, it is that much stronger. Each one of you counts.
If any of you has stepped over the line, please do not think all is lost. The Lord reaches out to help you, and there are many willing hands in the Church also who will help. Put evil behind you. Pray about the situation, talk with your parents if you can, and talk with your bishop. You will find that he will listen and do so with confidentiality. He will help you. We all stand ready to help you (from Ensign, May 1996, 94).
You constantly are faced with difficult choices. Your problems are not new, but they are intensified. You are subjected to temptations that are attractive and appealing. You represent the future of this Church, and the adversary of truth would like to injure you, would like to destroy your faith, would like to lead you down paths that are beguiling and interesting, but deadly.
I wish to talk with you about being true to the faith, about being true to yourselves and your associates, about being true to your parents and your heritage, about being true to the Church and to our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe in being true. How very important it is to be true to ourselves. Each of us has a thing we call conscience. We know the difference between right and wrong. We do not have to be instructed concerning what is good and what is evil. I think we know that. We know when we have done the wrong thing, and we suffer pangs of conscience. We know when we have done the right thing, and we experience a sense of happiness. To be true to ourselves means being an example of righteous living in all situations and circumstances (from Ensign, May 1996, 91–92).
Said the prophet Isaiah in another age, with words that fit our own:
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
“Learn to do well. …
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isa. 1:16–19).
This, my beloved friends, is what the gospel is all about—to make bad men good and good men better, as President David O. McKay was wont to say. There is a process of change, a procedure in the Church by which even those who have sinned seriously may come back.
Do not let pride stand in your way (from Ensign, Nov. 1976, 96).
Come back, my friends. There is more of peace to be found in the Church than you have known in a long while. There are many whose friendship you will come to enjoy. There is reading to be done, instruction to be received, discussions in which to participate that will stretch your minds and feed your spirits.
The quiet longings of your heart will be fulfilled. The emptiness you have known for so long will be replaced with a fulness of joy (from Ensign, Nov. 1976, 96–97).
Have I belabored the point? I hope not. If so, it is only because I feel so strongly concerning the obligations placed upon us by the Lord. He expects His people to be clean from the sins of the world.
If any here have been guilty of any of these, let us repent forthwith. Confess to the Lord, and if the sin is egregious, confess to your bishop. He will help you. There can be repentance and there can be forgiveness. The Lord has stated, “Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice” (D&C 110:5) (from Ensign, May 1996, 49).
Repentance is one of the first principles of the gospel. Forgiveness is a mark of divinity. There is hope for you. Your lives are ahead, and they can be filled with happiness, even though the past may have been marred by sin. This is a work of saving and assisting people with their problems. This is the purpose of the gospel.
This is the time, this is the very hour, to repent of any evil in the past, to ask for forgiveness, to stand a little taller and then to go forward with confidence and faith.
And, finally, in all of living have much of fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.
I leave my blessing upon you. Please know that we do love you. Please know that we have confidence in you. Live the gospel, be true to the faith, cling to the Church, honor your parents, love the Lord, and walk as a child of God (from Ensign, May 1996, 94).