"Mistakes are a fact of life," Elder Lynn G. Robbins, of the Presidency of the Seventy, said during the Saturday morning session of general conference on March 31.
And they are a fact with a purpose, Elder Robbins explained, adding, "Hopefully, each mistake we make becomes a lesson in wisdom, turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones."
Noting an experience from his days as a BYU student, Elder Robbins described how a wise professor allowed students multiple "second chances" to improve their performances on tests. He spoke of the professor's wisdom "to consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy, and to not fear failure, but to learn from it."
He said he telephoned the professor 47 years after he had been in his class and asked why he allowed students to re-take their tests. The professor's response: "I wanted to be on the same side as the students."
"No one is more on our side than the Savior," Elder Robbins said. "He allows us to take and keep retaking His exams."
To err is part of human nature and millions of "second chances" are required through the mercy of the Savior.
"The Savior paid an infinite price to give us as many chances as it would take to successfully pass our mortal probation," Elder Robbins said. "He doesn't leave us without hope."
Explaining the importance of the sacrament and the covenants members make at baptism and renew each week as they partake of the sacrament, Elder Robbins said, "Repentance is God's ever-accessible gift that allows and enables us to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Repentance isn't His backup plan in the event we might fail. Repentance is His plan knowing that we will."
But endless forgiveness and "second chances" isn't a license to sin, Elder Robbins said. Repentance requires real intent and effort to change.Comment on this story
"How many times will He forgive us?" Elder Robbins asked? "How long is His long-suffering? On one occasion Peter asked the Savior, 'Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?' (Matthew 18:21).
Elder Robbins said the Lord used the math of "seventy times seven as a metaphor of His Infinite Atonement, His boundless love, and His limitless grace."
Elder Robbins said "change" is the principal word the Guide to the Scriptures uses to define repentance: "A change of mind and heart that brings a fresh attitude toward God, oneself, and life in general."
That kind of change, Elder Robbins said, "results in spiritual growth."