|"Light of the World" by Howard Lyon|
While discussing sin and the need of repentance with a friend of mine, my friend said to me: "Too many people think of repenting of sins as a punishment from God. That is simply not true. That is not the way God sees repentance, and that is not how he wants us to see it. Repentance is a gift! It is a chance to be clean of sin and try again." At that moment my entire perspective of repentance changed, and with that change came a greater love for God and his Atonement.
The Need to Repent
The holy scriptures teach us that no unclean thing can dwell in the kingdom of God. When we commit sins we are no longer spiritually clean, and therefore are not fit to be saved in the kingdom of God, unless we rid ourselves of the sins committed.
When Jesus Christ performed the Atonement he took upon himself our sins. This means that he paid the price for all sins that we commit in our lives, making it possible to be free from them. The Lord, having paid the price even with his life, set the rules to follow to be forgiven of our sins. These rules are the things he has commanded us to do - faith, baptism, repentance, charity, etc. "In paying for your sins," teaching a manual of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Jesus did not eliminate your agency or personal responsibility - He will not make you clean against your will. To receive His help and strength, you need to exercise faith in Him, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and choose to follow His teachings for the rest of your life."
To further help us understand the need to repent of our sins, a prophet of the Book of Mormon explained: "the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins" (Helaman 5:10). That is, if we die without forsaking our sins we will not be saved, but if we have done our best to follow God's commandments and quit our sins, we will be saved through the grace of God - his Atonement making up for anything we could not do ourselves.
There is Always Hope
One may say to themselves that they have committed too many sins to be forgiven, that they are too far from God to be saved. Do not think this, as this is not true, as difficult as it may seem at the time. In a great address on the need of repentance, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave this message:
"I do not know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness ... but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don't have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines." ("The Laborers in the Vineyard," General Conference Address, April 2012.)
The path to being forgiven of our sins is not an easy one, and will lead us through much pain for the wrongs we have done. Perhaps that is why, as my friend said, "too many people think of repenting of sins as a punishment from God." But if we trust in the Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, we can not only get through our difficult times but can also be forgiven of them, bringing into our lives a new hope and love.