The second principle of the gospel, according to the 4th Article of Faith, is repentance.
Why is repentance so important?
We all make mistakes and commit sins. If we do not repent of these, we will not be able to return to live with our Heavenly Father because no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God. We must all repent, each and every day. Spencer W. Kimball said, “There is never a day in any man’s life when repentance is not essential to his well-being and eternal progress.”
We may think that unless we commit a serious sin, we do not need repentance. Not true. Most of us will never murder someone, rob a bank, or perjure ourselves in court. Yet, as President Kimball said, we all need to repent.
Because any sin, small or large, will keep us out of the celestial kingdom.
Obviously, we need to repent when we break the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, or a temple covenant. But, we also need to repent when we gossip, are impatient with our kids, say something unkind to our spouse, disrespect a parent, fail to fulfill a calling, tell a white lie, keep the extra change from the grocery store, rebel against counsel from a priesthood leader or forget to pray. Each one of us needs the power of the atonement in our lives, even if our sins seem to be small and insignificant.
True repentance follows certain steps. The first step is to recognize that we’ve done something wrong. When I was a kid we didn’t keep the Sabbath Day holy. We went to the beach, swam, shopped, and watched TV. It wasn’t until I got married that I recognized that what I was doing on Sunday was wrong and I needed to repent.
The next step is to feel sorry about what we’ve done. It isn’t enough to just give the mistake a simple nod, but to feel Godly sorrow, to feel so bad that we won’t repeat it again. We should truly regret what we’ve done or said.
Next, we need to confess what we’ve done. Some sins require that we visit with our bishop. For those mistakes or things we do that don’t require a bishop’s interview, we still need to confess to the person we’ve wronged and then confess it to Heavenly Father. Of course, Heavenly Father already knows what we’ve done, but we must still confess it to him
After we’ve confessed the wrong, we must attempt to restore that which we’ve taken or destroyed. If we’ve taken a candy bar from the grocery store we can pay for it. If we’ve said something unkind to someone we can apologize. Some things, though, aren’t so easily replaced. Just as we cannot gather all the feathers blown about by a gust of wind, we can’t recall the words we’ve said when we’ve passed a rumor. It’s impossible to restore virtue and, sometimes, almost as difficult to regain trust, but we must do all in our power to right the wrong.
The last step is to forsake the sin and never do it again. This can be a difficult step, especially if what we’ve been doing is a habit. With the Lord’s help, though, nothing is impossible and he can give us the strength to overcome our weaknesses.
As we seek to repent, we will become closer to our Heavenly Father and we will be motivated to make our lives right before him. This is why repentance is such a fundamental part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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