In April 2022, President Russel M. Nelson advised us to “discover the joy of repentance” (The Power of Spiritual Momentum, General Conference, April 2022). What is repentance? Repentance is a process and as such has several steps one must follow in order to obtain it.
To repent means to “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin”. However, repentance goes beyond just feeling or expressing remorse. Repentance is a process that allows us to receive a forgiveness of our wrongdoings. The feeling of remorse is just one of several steps in the process.
The first step in the repentance process is to recognize that a mistake has been made. There can be no remorse or regret if there is no recognition of wrongdoing. This is one of the hardest steps in the repentance process. No one likes to feel as if they have made a mistake. If we dwell on the mistake, it can lead us into depression.
Recognition of a mistake leads to a desire to rectify what we have done. When we take the next steps in the repentance process we can relieve ourselves of the burden that the mistake places on us. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
The Savior has asked us to come unto Him when we are “heavy laden”. The remainder of the repentance process allows us to take His yoke upon us and find rest.
The second step in the process is to confess our wrongdoing. This confession must always be made to God. In some cases confession is also required to other people. For example, there are sins that require confession to one’s ecclesiastical leader. In the church that is normally the Bishop of the Ward one attends. In other instances, we may need to confess our wrongdoing to another person.
As a parent, I make mistakes with my children. I’ll say something harsh, or make accusations that are incorrect. When I make those mistakes, I must confess them to my children and seek their forgiveness. I firmly believe that by doing this, my children also learn the importance of confessing when they wrong others and to seek forgiveness.
Confessing our wrongdoings also begins to lift the burden of those wrongdoings from our shoulders. There is something about confession that eases the weight. Confession, however, does not remove the burden entirely.
The third step is to make restitution for the wrongdoing. Sometimes there is no physical restitution that can be made other than confessing the wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. Other times there is a need to physically recompense the wronged the party. When this occurs, it is our responsibility to make as much restitution as we can.
Think of having a car accident where it is your fault. You must make restitution to the other driver for damages sustained to the car and any people. You will also be responsible for any restitution with regards to the law. Once restitution has been made, you will be absolved of the accident.
Rinse, But Do Not Repeat
The final step in repentance is to do your best to not repeat the wrongdoing. “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins- behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42-43). Forsaking our sins means not repeating them and not having to repent of them again.
Having had an addiction I understand how hard it can be to forsake sin. There is always the chance of a relapse and part of forsaking one’s sins is to be on guard against the influences that could cause one to stumble again. The other piece is to not be so scared that all I do is guard against the influences. When one has been forgiven of sin and has them remembered no more, one must live life and continue on the path that leads back to Heavenly Father.
Repentance is a process, but one that will lift the burden of sin from our shoulders and allow us to share the yoke of Christ. When we recognize, confess, make restitution and not repeat the same mistakes, we receive forgiveness and can know of surety that our sins are no longer remembered.