All of us have made mistakes at different points in our lives. Some are small and some are huge. Depending on the magnitude of that sin, you may be saying to yourself, “I’m useless. There is no hope for me. I am not loved. God is ashamed of me. My family is ashamed of me. I can’t believe I made that mistake; there is no way back for me now.”
My friends, those are complete and utter lies. Satan is the master deceiver and you must not believe him. His only goal is to destroy and bind you completely so that you will never think to turn back from the darkness. Your Heavenly Father pleads with you to turn back to Him and let Him help you on that path to repentance. Our Savior Jesus Christ willingly paid the price of your mistakes — and because He did so, there is always a path back to Them.
There are two great examples in scriptural history of heinous crimes being committed and the complete transformation of body and spirit which occurred.
Saul of Tarsus
A dramatic change came to Saul when he was on his way to Damascus. Saul had been “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). As he was on his way to Damascus, a light from heaven shone about him.
“And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:4–5).
Perhaps Saul’s heart had been softened when the mob cast Stephen out of the city and stoned him and laid their clothes at Saul’s feet. But there was no doubt on the road to Damascus when he heard the voice of the Lord, which said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”
“And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6).
Saul was blind when he arose and had to be taken to Damascus, where his sight was restored to him and he was baptized. He immediately began to preach. “Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Saul, who later became known as Paul, experienced through repentance a change that was total, absolute, complete, and unwavering until his death.
Saul, who stoned Christians, became Paul the Apostle, a man who dedicated his life to God once he’d seen the error of his ways. Without question, I’m certain that once he realized the magnitude of what he’d done, he suffered a great harrowing of his soul as he sought forgiveness for the murders he’d taken part in. Yet his repentance was complete, and forgiveness was granted and redemption found. It could not have been an easy path, but the point is that at the end, our Savior stood waiting to welcome Paul into His arms.
Repentance seems like such a scary thing, when in reality it requires not only forsaking sinful behaviors and action, but loving yourself enough to accept the forgiveness your Savior is offering you. Your Father in Heaven loves you, as does Jesus Christ, far more than you could ever imagine or understand. Yes, Their hearts are saddened when sins are committed, for each sin committed draws you a little further from Them and little closer to the one who would have you drowning in an endless pool of misery — but They are joyful when you repent because it brings you one step closer to Them.
With that, we will move on to our second example of complete, life-changing repentance.
Alma the Younger
Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.
And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.
And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—
And as I said unto you, as they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood;
And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them.
Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.
And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you? And I am sent from God.
Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.
And now it came to pass that these were the last words which the angel spake unto Alma, and he departed. (Mosiah 27:8-17)
Now that’s a wakeup call! For two days and two nights Alma lay in a state of stupor, unable to speak or move. He was suffering the tortures of the damned as everything he had done played over and over in his mind. Satan did his best to make sure Alma stayed forever in a state of abject misery. But while this was happening, his father, along with the high priests of the Church, were fasting and praying.
At his darkest moment, Alma remembered his father’s teachings and cried out to Jesus Christ for rescue from this hell. He was freed from Satan’s grasp, regained his strength and ability to speak, and arose a new man. One of the greatest missionaries in the history of the world, Alma the Younger eventually proclaimed:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. (Alma 29:1-2)
So as you see, my friends, there is great hope. The Savior will respond to all who cry unto Him. You have only to recognize that you are worthy of forgiveness and then you must forgive yourself. You must shake off those behaviors, turning to the Savior for strength if you cannot accomplish that.
What I would have you remember, above all else, is that there is hope. You must never believe the lies being told to you or the ones running through your head. You made a mistake; now it is time to rectify it and receive that great peace of mind and heart through the repentance that our Savior made possible.
This article was originally published in July 2008. Minor changes have been made.