Repentance is a basic principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was made possible because of His Atoning Sacrifice. Sadly, it has become a hellfire and damnation portion of His Gospel, such as it was never intended to be.
The principle of repentance is one of loving forgiveness, both from God and of yourself. Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke of the Atonement:
The most transcendent event in His entire eternal existence, the most glorious single happening from creation’s dawn to eternity’s endless continuance, the crowning work of his infinite goodness — such took place in a garden called Gethsemane. (Elder Bruce R. McConkie as quoted by Tad R. Callister, “The Infinite Atonement,” Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 2000 3)
Can such a loving Gift be one of condemnation? No, I state that it is not. Repentance is the Gift given to us by our Savior Jesus Christ. It is the process by which we may recognize the wrongs we have done, cast them off, express our sorrow and regret, pay recompense if necessary, and then continue to live our lives free of that sin.
The sorrow which exists, not only comes from our sinful actions, but also comes from a Savior who paid that price that we might not have to.
President James E. Faust tells us of a conversion which aptly teaches this principle of repentance and forgiveness:
True conversion changes lives. One young woman wrote how unhappy her home life had been when she was a little girl. She wrote,
“I felt it keenly when my mother and younger brothers and sisters suffered from the savage temper of a drunken father.” When she was 14, someone told her that one of God’s commandments was to honor her parents. In pondering how she could do this, she was impressed to study, to become a good student, and to be the best daughter in town.
Nothing much changed in the home, but she still felt to continue with her objectives and at age 18 left home to undertake some special studies. Three weeks later she went home to visit, and she recalled:
“My mother met me crying. I thought something terrible had happened, but she hugged me and said, ‘Since you went away to study, your father hasn’t had anything to drink.’
“… My mother said that the night I left, some Mormon missionaries had come. …
“My father became like a little child. I could see repentance and humility in his eyes. He had changed completely. He had given up smoking and drinking all at once, and tried to keep the commandments the missionaries taught him. He treated me like a queen, and he treated my mother and my brothers and sisters like royalty.
“… Our whole family was baptized. … My father, at age 40, became the best father in the world.”
The power of the gospel can indeed change our lives and take us from sadness and despair to happiness and joy. (James E. Faust, “The Power to Change,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 122–24)
Indeed, even as I read of this account again, I see nothing but an act of love in the touching of the Spirit in this man so driven by alcohol and rage. Where was the pain? The pain was inside this husband and father when he recognized the incredible agony he visited upon his family. Only through turning that over to Jesus Christ was he ever free of this knowledge and pain. The repentance process is one of love and renewal.
Condemnation comes in the unwillingness to recognize one’s actions and to correct them. Damnation comes in the unwillingness to recognize that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that we must live our lives according to that divine spark which exists in each one of us. The very definition of damnation is the halting of your eternal progression. This very act brings more pain to our Savior then it ever will to you. It was His great love that has given you a path back to that renewal and happiness. But, it has been suggested:
. . . Just as the physical body weakens with the onslaught of disease, it seems that in the same way we weaken spiritually as we embrace each new sin. Perhaps we lose our capacity or will to absorb light and truth. (Tad R. Callistor, “The Infinite Atonement”, Salt Lake City, 2000 175)
I believe this to be true. However, contrary to what the world would have you believe, there is freedom from this bondage. You can, at any given time in your life, turn back to our Savior and avail yourself of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You will be free of those chains.
In Psalm 23:3 we read:
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Indeed, He will restore your soul. The burdens of your sins, sorrows, tragedies, illnesses and disease will be lifted off your shoulders. When He said to us, “Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden. . .“, He meant you. You were never intended to carry these burdens alone, and indeed repentance of your sins is a part of His willingness to carry that burden for you. You must only turn from that sin, permanently, to be given that light which will feed your soul again.
He has such an amazing love for you . . . and all He asks is that you live up to the divine potential within you. Be happy. Be worthy. Be righteous. Feel true joy and you will, every single day of your life, struggle to put one foot in front of another on that path back to Him. Every time you ask, He will visit hope and strength upon your soul . . . you can do it. You can do it because He walks with you, if you let Him.
Stop walking this path alone. Light awaits and that light is Jesus Christ.