The Lord told Adam to “teach [repentance] unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:57).
One of the reasons we came to earth was to get experience, grow, and progress. As we get experience, we sometimes make mistakes or even sin. In order to grow and progress, we must recognize our sins and repent of them. This is a daily experience, not simply something we do on our death bed.
There are three basic reasons why we sin: (1) ignorance, (2) weaknesses, and (3) willful disobedience. No matter the reason for the sin, we are guilty of committing the sin; therefore, we need to repent in order to grow and progress. Jesus Christ is the only person who ever lived on the earth that was without sin, and He is the only person who does not need to repent.
Heavenly Father loves all of His children, but He knew we would sin. He provided a way for us to overcome our sins and become clean once again. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to provide a way for all of His children to return to His presence. He provided the principle of repentance. The privilege of repenting is possible only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ; the Atonement makes it possible for all mankind to repent and to become clean and worthy to enter the Kingdom of God.
When we sin, our progress slows or even stops. When we repent, we remove the obstacle standing in our way, and we can begin to move forward once again. Repentance is not easy and often requires great courage, strength, tears, sincere prayer, and obedience to God’s commandments.
President Spencer W. Kimball declared: “There is no royal road to repentance, no privileged path to forgiveness. Every man must follow the same course whether he be rich or poor, educated or untrained, tall or short, prince of pauper, king or commoner…. There is only one way. It is a long road spiked with thorns and briars and pitfalls and problems” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 149).
Repentance includes several very important steps. The first step is to recognize that we sinned. We have to admit to ourselves that we goofed up. We cannot repent until we complete this very important step.
The second step is to feel sorrow for our sins. We must feel sorrow for the sin, not simply for being caught in the sin. We must feel sincere sorrow as well as to feel the sins are disgusting and loathsome. We must want to overcome the sin.
The third step is to forsake the sin or to stop committing the sin. When we truly repent of sins, we will commit the sins no more. The Lord told Joseph Smith, “By this ye may know if a man repents of his sins – behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:43).
The fourth step is to confess our sins. This is a very important step because the Lord has commanded us to confess our sins. Confession removes a heavy burden from the sinner. We must confess all of our sins to God – even though He already knows about them. Any sins that affect our standing in the Church – such as adultery, fornication, robbery, etc. – must be confessed to the proper priesthood authority. In addition, if we sin against another person, we must confess our sin to the person we have hurt.
The fifth step is to make restitution. Restitution means to do everything possible to make all wrong right again. Examples: a thief returns the stolen items, a liar makes the truth known, and a gossip monger works to restore the character and good name of anyone he has hurt.
The sixth step is to forgive those who have sinned against us. We cannot be forgiven by God unless we forgive other people. We must cleanse our hearts of all hate, bitterness, and bad feelings toward other people.
The seventh step is to keep the commandments of God. President Kimball taught, “Repentance means not only to convict yourselves of the horror of the sin, but to confess it, abandon it, and restore to all who have been damaged to the total extent possible; then spend the balance of your lives trying to live the commandments of the Lord so he can eventually pardon you and cleanse you” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 200).
When we repent, we activate the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives and receive forgiveness for our sins. We are then able to put down the burden of carrying the sins and move forward to happiness and joy.
Repentance should be a day to day process. We should review our lives each morning to determine if the Holy Ghost is with us. If not, we should determine why. At night we should review our acts of the day and ask God to help us see any sins we committed. When we start the repentance process early, we can catch our sins when they are still small ones. By repenting daily, we can experience the cleansing effect daily.
Alma, an ancient American prophet, taught, “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 34:32).