Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Ensign, May 2007, 99–101
What Does True Repentance Consist Of?
We need a strong faith in Christ to be able to repent. Our faith has to include a “correct idea of [God’s] character, perfections, and attributes” (Lectures on Faith , 38). If we believe that God knows all things, is loving, and is merciful, we will be able to put our trust in Him for our salvation without wavering. Faith in Christ will change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with God’s will.
True repentance brings us back to doing what is right. To truly repent we must recognize our sins and feel remorse, or godly sorrow, and confess those sins to God. If our sins are serious, we must also confess them to our authorized priesthood leader. We need to ask God for forgiveness and do all we can to correct whatever harm our actions may have caused. Repentance means a change of mind and heart—we stop doing things that are wrong, and we start doing things that are right. It brings us a fresh attitude toward God, oneself, and life in general.
What Are the Fruits of Forgiveness?
True repentance blesses our lives with the effects of the Atonement: we feel God’s forgiveness and His peace, and our guilt and sorrow are lifted away; we enjoy the influence of the Spirit in greater abundance; and we are better prepared to live with our Heavenly Father.
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “The essence of the miracle of forgiveness is that it brings peace to the previously anxious, restless, frustrated, perhaps tormented soul. … God will wipe away … the tears of anguish, and remorse, … and fear, and guilt” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 363, 368).
Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
The prophet Alma, who was reclaimed from sin to happiness by God’s forgiveness, declared, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). He had witnessed the bitter pains of sin, but he also spoke with excitement about the happiness that accompanies true repentance and forgiveness: “Yea, I say unto you, … there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy” (Alma 36:21). Alma concluded with powerful and wise counsel to all who seek forgiveness: “And now, … I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).
How Can We Know That God Has Forgiven Us?
President Harold B. Lee said, “When you have done all within your power to overcome your mistakes, and have determined in your heart that you will never repeat them again, then … peace of conscience [can come to you] by which you will know that your sins have been forgiven” (in “Law of Chastity Vital, Girls Told,” Church News, Sept. 2, 1972, 7).
Once we have truly repented, Christ will take away the burden of guilt for our sins. We can know for ourselves that we have been forgiven and made clean. The Holy Ghost will verify this to us; He is the Sanctifier. No other testimony of forgiveness can be greater.
The Lord said, “He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (D&C 1:32; emphasis added). And He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Be faithful and diligent … and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love” (D&C 6:20).
And He declared, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
Satan will try to make us believe that our sins are not forgiven because we can remember them. Satan is a liar; he tries to blur our vision and lead us away from the path of repentance and forgiveness. God did not promise that we would not remember our sins. Remembering will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. But if we stay true and faithful, the memory of our sins will be softened over time. This will be part of the needed healing and sanctification process. Alma testified that after he cried out to Jesus for mercy, he could still remember his sins, but the memory of his sins no longer distressed and tortured him, because he knew he had been forgiven (see Alma 36:17–19).
It is our responsibility to avoid anything that would bring back old sinful memories. When we continue to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 12:19), we may trust that God will “remember [our sins] no more.”