Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve began his talk Sunday afternoon with a first-hand experience he had with repentance as a young deacon living in southern Sweden.
One Sunday, he and a fellow deacon decided to light the fuse of a firecracker in the overflow area of the branch chapel prior to the sacrament service. Young Dale tried to snuff out the fuse before the firecracker blew up — but he dropped it on the floor. The firecracker exploded and filled the chapel with sulfurous fumes.
No damage was done, but the overpowering smell distracted from the sacred nature of the sacrament meeting. Elder Renlund remembered feeling embarrassed and did not partake of the sacrament. After the meeting, he spoke to his branch president and apologized for what he had done. Utilizing the scriptures, the wise branch president taught the young deacon about repentance. He reassured him that he was forgiven.
“As I left his office, I felt indescribable joy,” he said. “Such joy is one of the inherent results of repentance.”
Real repentance includes changing one's behavior, returning to the “right road,” turning one's heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin.
“Yet even this is an incomplete description,” taught Elder Renlund. “It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the Atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives.”
Without the hope and joy of the Redeemer, repentance is merely behavior modification. “But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.”
The reach of the Savior's Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth. But it is never imposed. Repentance is a choice.
“We can — and sometimes do — make different choices,” he said. “Such choices may not seem intrinsically wrong, but they prevent us from becoming truly penitent and thus preclude our pursuit of real repentance.”
Some choose to blame others for their mistakes. But blaming others, even if justified, allows one to excuse his or her behavior. “By so doing, we shift responsibility for our actions to others. When the responsibility is shifted, we diminish both the need and our ability to act. We turn ourselves into hapless victims, rather than agents capable of independent action.”
Another choice that impedes repentance is minimizing mistakes.
“But, minimizing our mistakes, even if no immediate consequences are apparent, removes the motivation to change,” he said. “This thinking prevents us from seeing that our mistakes and sins have eternal consequences.”
Additionally, some may forego real repentance by choosing to separate God from His commandments.
“We should be wary of discounting sinful behavior by undermining or dismissing God’s authorship of His commandments. Real repentance requires recognizing the Savior’s divinity and the truthfulness of His latter-day work.”
Instead of making excuses, choose repentance. “Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable, and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.”
Sinful actions result in godly sorrow. But by choosing to repent, a person invites the Savior's into his or her life.
“The fact that we can repent is the good news of the gospel,” said Elder Renlund. “Guilt can be swept away. We can be filled with joy, receive a remission of our sins, and have peace of conscience. We can be freed from feelings of despair and the bondage of sin. We can be filled with the marvelous light of God and be pained no more.”
He concluded with an invitation to members to feel more joy in life.
“Joy in the knowledge that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real; joy in the Savior’s ability, willingness, and desire to forgive; and joy in choosing to repent.”
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