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The following is a follow-up to a previous article entitled, “Understanding Why We Sin”.
The Syntax of Repentance
The Garden of Eden was on a mountain. We know this because the rivers flowed down out of the garden, telling us that it was a high place. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that this was the “holy mountain of God”.[i] It has most appropriately been called by many “the first temple.” When Adam and Eve left the tree of life to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they were already symbolically walking away from the presence of God (The tree of Life). Then after much merciful tutelage and preparation they were cast out of the garden having become carnal; unable to abide the presence of the Lord.
“…He placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword …to keep the way of the tree of life.” Moses 4:31
When Adam and Eve were going away from the presence of God, what direction were they going? Does it make a difference? Well, they were going east. If the cherubim were on the east end of the garden and they were leaving, then they had to go eastward when they walked away from the garden.
The Need for Repentance
Sometime after Cain killed Abel he left and went to the city of Nod. Which direction was he going? Eastward.[ii] The metaphor of going eastward is to be cast out of God’s presence. This is the “sin direction”. When they were going east, they were leaving God’s presence.[iii] To go back towards God, what would they have to do? They would have had to turn around. God gives them an altar as an instrument by which they can reverse direction. In Hebrew, the word for turn back is shuwb (shoob) translated as to repent. The literal definition is to return or turn back. Our invitation to change and live the gospel is “shuwb” or to turn around. Literally, this means we turn around and begin to walk in a different direction. Each sin takes us in directions, mannerisms, habits, etc., away from godliness. Repentance is not just a manner of going through some steps, though using those steps is very helpful. Repentance is a question of “turning around” and developing godly attributes as we draw ever nearer to Him.
“The doctrine of repentance is much broader than a dictionary’s definition. When Jesus said, “repent,” His disciples recorded that command in the Greek language with the verb metanoeo. This powerful word has great significance. In this word, the prefix meta means “change”. The suffix relates to four important Greek terms: nous, meaning “the mind”; gnosis, meaning “knowledge”; pneuma, meaning “spirit”; and pnoe, meaning “breath”. (Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 2007.)
When we are repenting, what is changing within us? President Nelson’s explanation shows that it is our mind, knowledge, spirit, speech and whole person that must change. We have to start feasting on new knowledge, viewing and expressing things differently. In the process of reversing our direction, we are to become a new person. We have discussed in the last article, the Syntax of Sin. When we think about sin and the things that need to be reversed or changed, we see a pathway that reverses the downward-slope.
The Process of Shuwb
What will be the biggest challenge for people to repent? Why do people “turn around” and then lose their direction? Habits are not broken by just thought. Habits are broken by repeated action. We can change the ways we think, but to actually change the ways our bodies respond takes time. Miracles do occur in the timing and at the will of the Father. Other times, He chooses not to perform miracles and allows us to struggle and grow. He wants us to pay a price, so repentance can go deep into our hearts and cleanse the desire for sin. As we have discussed, when we are babies, our brains function at a slower rate. As a result, they are more open for the subconscious to be programmed. The traditions of the parents get transferred into the children’s reality. As opposed to just information perceived by our brains, early input actually becomes a part of our inner programming, defining our identity and how we are going to respond. Father wants to change that “traditions programming”. He wants us to get to the point where our disposition or the way we feel about things changes. That takes effort. It takes time. It takes not only repeated action; it takes the atonement of Jesus Christ. Without the atonement, the inner self cannot change. Consider the pathway that includes actions, daily habits, thoughts and feelings.
“Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner and he responded to the need and not the manifestation. He loved the sinner, but not the sin.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ens, Aug. 1979, 5)
In Moses 6 Enoch records that when God instructed Adam about his way back from the fall, baptism was included. Adam asked, “Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water?” Moses 6:53 Adam had sinned in the garden and wondered why being immersed in water would help? While the Lord teaches the power of instructing with symbols like baptism, he also allows us to see that He completely understands our mortal dilemma and its solutions.
“…Inasmuch as …children are conceived in sin…when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter…” Moses 6:55
Did Heavenly Father know we could sin in this mortal state? Was there purpose in that possibility? The verse says, “children are conceived in sin,” what is meant? It means that Adam and Eve were mortal, so they bore mortal children. Horses have horses. Giraffes birth giraffes. Mortal people bear mortal children. Adam’s and Eve’s choice caused mankind to fall into mortality, therefore, their children would have mortal appetites. So, Adam needed to understand that his children would struggle with the same fleshly appetites he did. Those natural-man appetites with which Adam now wrestled were also part of his children’s nature. The drive of appetite fulfillment in men will lead them to sin. There is purpose in this hazard, but what? As they sin they taste or experience the bitter consequences of their sin. With sufficient knowledge, experience can become the deepest source of learning.
One of Satan’s oft used ploys is to obscure the connection between sinful choices and the resultant bitter consequences experienced. Most do not understand either the syntax of sin or repentance. But God wanted more than to just control His children. He wanted them to control themselves. Everyone is born with the light of Christ. Written into the very physics of their creation are the codes for goodness; to know between right and wrong. Our agency allows us to ignore that divine nature within, but when we choose according to this inner nature, happiness results. Many don’t know why they are not happy, they feel an inconsistency in their very beings. The light of Christ is in and through every person on earth. Sin always has bitter long-term consequences and can thereby serve as a learning experience. What does Heavenly Father want his children to learn?
Let’s look at the scripture in Moses again.
“…Inasmuch as …children are conceived in sin…when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, that. . . ” Moses 6:55
The word that often signals a cause and effect link. “that they may know to prize the good.” Moses 6:55
It could have read, “to choose the good, or to do the good.” But, to prize means valued in the extreme. Thomas Paine once wrote, “That which you obtain too easily, you esteem too lightly. God knows how to extract a price from all of his goods.” Why else might He have used the word prize? If I know the good, is that sufficient? When we experience the bad and then experience the good, the desire for good becomes intrinsic. As our nature changes so do our appetites. We begin to think more in terms of long-term future results, rather than in short-term satiation, etc. Then we reach that level where we become self-governed and choose because we are good. Repeated good choices based on experiential values become habits so the Spirit can transform our natures until we are reborn. We become good and have no more disposition to sin.
Some Steps to Repentance
Elder Maxwell said, “Thus in letting go of the world and then passing through the gate of repentance and baptism, all is not done.” What more is required? It is only the beginning. Repentance is a process that takes time. Repentance is not a recipe. We do not just cookbook our way through repentance. Nonetheless, both of these Brethren, in two separate conferences seven years apart, list this process, not as a recipe, but so as to include the kind of changes needed to be made. We do all we can and then experience the effects of all He can.
“Repentance needs to be done one step at a time.” – Elder Richard G. Scott
“Each step of repentance must be fulfilled.” – Elder Russell M. Nelson [iv]
We start with RECOGNIZE. You must recognize that what you are doing is wrong and offends the Father.
REGRET is sorrow. We wish we hadn’t done it (not just sorrow over getting caught)
REMORSE is listed as a separate step. What is the difference? Remorse is like deep, godly sorrow. It is a gift of the spirit. Remorse is more binding.
“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…” (2 Cor. 7:9–10.)
Many individuals have deeply regretted their sin. However, they have not reached remorse. Perhaps when they spoke of things they did regret, expressing their anxiousness to move forward, it was the results they didn’t like. They still hadn’t felt sincere godly sorrow for what they had done. They were unable to see their sin as God sees their sin. Though there are real consequences that are very serious, the gift of seeing sin as repulsive as God sees it, brings a change that simple regret can’t provide. It would be important to pray for that gift of remorse, reading, listening and studying what the prophets have taught about specific sins.
The gift of remorse becomes a vital step in repentance that changes lives. Anciently, the law of sacrifice originally served to create this deep impact upon the heart. With time and apostasy, sacrifice just became a bloody ritual done with inexpensive lambs. What could we learn about true remorse from a closer look? The Law of Moses, though fulfilled and not practiced today, symbolized the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, vital to every person on this planet. It is the power by which all mankind will be cleansed from sin or sanctified.
How did the children of Israel approach the atonement and redemption? After they sinned or during their celebrations, they were always required to come to the altar of sacrifice. The procedure, given to Adam, was to raise sheep and bring an unblemished male lamb to the altar. These qualifications allowed it to be a fit and proper symbol portending the Atonement of Christ[v]. They would bring the perfect lamb to the altar and follow specific procedures.
What did the lamb represent?
The lamb eventually represented Jesus Christ. But the procedural requirements included that the lamb be purchased or raised by the offerer. [vi] It couldn’t be found as a stray. When the Israelites raised the lambs, they would often allow the young lambs into their homes. We have been in their homes in Egypt and have seen these little lambs; they are cute. They knew and loved each of the lambs. Each is even named. One of my colleagues asked a shepherd, “Do you really know your sheep?” The shepherd’s tone became soft and endearing as he said, “Oh, yes! Blindfold me. Bring them to me one at a time. I will tell you their name and their parentage.” My colleague hadn’t realized how much they really knew and loved their sheep. Can you imagine offering a sacrifice and taking little “Snuggles” to the altar? What would be your feelings as you took a lamb that you loved, knew its name, knew its parents, that you felt was your finest lamb, to the altar. It would definitely be difficult. Today, we don’t do that with lambs, but you can imagine taking your beloved pet from your home, to the altar to be sacrificed every time you wanted to repent.
Now with your chosen lamb cradled in your arms you approach the altar; what is your purpose? The primary reason you are at the altar is to repent. You want to make a Sin Offering. Laden with heavy thought you place your little cuddly lamb into the arms of the priest who then waits for you to place your hands on its head. You want to overcome your sins, so you now dedicate the lamb to God and transfer your sins to the lamb. That lamb now represents you….
It becomes a substitute for you. The consequence of all sin is spiritual death. In other words, when you bring the lamb to the altar, it represents you and when it dies, it represents Christ’s loving substitute for you, conditioned on your repentance.
You are then given a large very sharp knife which you would then draw quickly across the little lamb’s throat, deeply enough to then drain the blood into a bowl? Why would you have to do the killing? You conferred your sins onto the lamb and the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). You are given the knife to live graphically the consequences of your own sin. It is your sin that kills the lamb. You are the one who has sinned; therefore, the knife is placed in your hands.
What would this do for your repentance, if it were that graphic today? You would think twice or more times before you sinned! Somebody[vii] once said that at the time of temptation, we must have something in our minds, emotionally more powerful than the enticement of the sin. The Children of Israel were furnished with this graphic, and incredibly symbolic consequence. They could see physically what was happening to them spiritually. (Would that change your sacrament worship?) Since the lamb represented you and your spiritual death, the thought that repentance can transfer your sin and consequent death to the lamb of God, bonds your heart to Him in grateful covenant obedience.
This gives us a better feeling of what is meant by “a broken heart” [viii]. Experiencing these emotions and feelings is most painful; the sin, in your memory, is matched with pain of death; loss and consequence of what you had thought was so enticing. As noted this connection between the choice and its consequences is something that Satan works to obscure. He whispers to our soul to think about the immediate thrill, taste or other sense-stimulation, so as to distract us from the long-term consequence and eventual anguish. It isn’t until sometime later that you awaken to how much difference sin does make; the short, temporary reward never compensates for the long-term separation, anguish, and self-loathing the sin produces. But, the time we need that focus is at the moment of choice. If we are to really have agency, then we need to keep the consequence of any choices clearly in mind. Satan steals our agency by attempting to separate the consequence from the choice.
This graphic offering connects the eventual pain of the choice to our spiritual mind which has perhaps been numbed over time and repeated sin. As a sin-offering was made, and repentance facilitated, the ashes of the offering became the requisite base for all other offerings. That means when they wanted to thank Heavenly Father by doing a thank-offering on a Holy Day, the sin offering was done first. The ashes from the Sin Offering needed to be on the altar, for the other offerings to have any validity. These ancient yet powerful metaphors or symbols can still give meaning and power to our daily efforts to repent then love and obey.
In the process of repentance, we are trying to reach RECONCILIATION; repairing a relationship; our relationship with our Heavenly Father as well as those affected by our sin. It is gaining God’s mind, seeing things as He sees them. Once the knife is drawn painlessly across the throat of the tender lamb, and the blood gathered into a bowl the priest then uses the blood, now representing the blood of Christ in place of your own blood, to dab the altar-horns and then to pour the remainder at the foot of the altar. Blood represented life, the life of the Only Begotten, given freely so you wouldn’t, nor couldn’t pay this ultimate consequence of your sin and still be able to grow beyond its carnal magnetism. To accept of His sacrifice through repentance and obedience to Him, is to humbly accept of His infinite love, and in this life-changing way, return that love!
During our entire repentance experience we might ask, “Father, wilt Thou help me see my sin, as Thou sees it, not only as something that needs to be punished, but as something that has led me away from Thee. Wilt Thou help me to change that I might be with thee? Help me understand the anguish thou suffered because of my sinful separation from thee. Help me to understand, so that I see my sin in a new light and thereby never again yield to its enticements.”
REPENT can be a synonym for confess so as to maintain the R-memory-device. We need to confess to those we have offended including God. In the cases of serious sin, we also need to confess to the bishop as a judge in Israel. In strict confidence, he will instruct us in additional steps that may be needed to sanctify us from these sins and clear our names for service in the kingdom.
Elder Richard G. Scott added one more dimension.[ix] He compared peace of conscience with peace of mind that a certain sister was struggling to obtain. What is the difference? Both of them are very important. While repentance brings peace of conscience, he said, “Confession always allows us to have peace of mind.”
All of us have had moments when we have asked if we have really been forgiven. It can become a wrestle. The gift that confession brings is this mental assurance that you have done everything possible to be forgiven. You have paid the price. When the evil one whispers, “You will never be forgiven. All you said was that you were sorry. Yes, you think you have paid the price. Just remember how awful what you did was! You still carry the shame of it.” Satan speaks shame in an effort to imitate the guilt and remorse that comes from the Holy Ghost. Guilt motivates change, shame discourages change and leaves us miserable like unto himself.
Your sin came by following the evil one. Now, he wants you to wallow in shame. Isn’t he cunning? He continually whispers those doubts. You want peace of conscience (freedom from guilt; forgiveness), as well as peace of mind (freedom from shame; knowing you have been forgiven). You don’t want to recycle the sin through the paralysis of analysis. You want to be able to say, “Satan, be gone. I have done all that is needed. With confession there is nothing left undone.“ You have heard the voice of the Spirit tell you that you are forgiven, even though you may not feel it continually. Your confession allows you the peace of mind that only comes through confession to your Priesthood leader.
If your sin does not require confession, the Holy Ghost will bring a peace of conscience and a hopeful, peace of mind, as a result of your repentance. Peace of conscience is freedom from guilt. Peace of mind is freedom from shame. Compare this to Elder Packer’s description in “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness.”
“When an offense is minor, so simple a thing as an apology will satisfy the law. Most mistakes can be settled between the Lord, and us, and that should be done speedily. It requires a confession to Him, and whatever obvious repairs need to be made.
The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fullness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.
There are some transgressions, which require a discipline, which will bring about the relief that comes with the morning of forgiveness. If your mistakes have been grievous ones, go to your bishop…bishops can guide you through the steps required to obtain forgiveness insofar as the Church is concerned. Each one of us must work out individually, forgiveness from the Lord.
If your sin requires confession, the peace of conscience will come as you finish your repentance, which must include your confession to a Priesthood leader. You will receive a peace of conscience from the Holy Ghost; your guilt has been swept away. It is sometimes followed by those moments where memories and your new abhorrence for the sin or demeaning whisperings from Satan plague you with questions and wonderings.
Even that grace of God promised in the scriptures comes only ‘after all we can do.’” Boyd K. Packer, Conference Nov. 95, The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness
If your sin is of such a nature that the requirement for confession isn’t well defined, or nebulous, then at the end of your repentance process, even with a whispered forgiveness through the Holy Ghost, your mind may continue to trouble you. If peace of mind just will not come to you, visit with your Bishop.
We also want to reach the point where we forgive ourselves. Father in Heaven is quick to forgive and wants to help us repent and feel clean again.[x] We must understand two important and enabling doctrines that when seen separately may leave us spiritually handicapped, but seen together develop hope.
The first is DC 1:31 “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” It isn’t His tolerance for sin that is lacking. It is the full glory that is His nature that would consume us in our carnal state, that is the issue. We must be sanctified and perfected (justified) before dwelling with Him eternally. So, there is no allowance for any kind of sin – anything that is selfish, self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed, self-focused, self-willed, etc.
The second doctrine comes from Isaiah but needs to be contextualized:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Have you ever wondered how high the heavens are above you? To a four-year-old, they are just to the ceiling. The nearest star is four and a half light-years away. We cannot even imagine the number, 186,000 miles a second for four and a half years. That is how far the nearest star is outside of our solar system. How far above our ways are God’s ways in reality? To which of His ways and thoughts is He referring? Note the preceding verse for context:
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7
The Savior’s thoughts and ways about mercy are above ours, as high as the heavens are above the earth. His willingness and anxiousness to forgive are that far, that high, beyond our imagination. He is quick to forgive. A confession allows that possibility of true forgiveness and peace of mind. His whole existence is dedicated to exalting us not condemning us![xi]
The next step is probably the one most people think about when they think of repentance, which is to refrain. As we develop the mind of God, or study more of how He thinks, it is fairly natural to stop doing what we have done that is wrong. It is too often that the sins of commission bring us to repentance before we stop committing sin. But sins of commission originate in the vacuum of sins of omission. These black holes result from our negative thought and attitude sins about the things we should be doing but aren’t. Our disposition level needs to change. We need to become conscious of what thoughts are leading up to the behavior. We also need to think through what omissions exist. We begin to see the refrain step as an important area in the full syntax of repentance; “Watch your thoughts your words and your deeds.” [xii]
The next step is sometimes the most difficult part, which is to restore. Restore is to make new again or to restore what was offended or taken. In the Law of Moses, for example, if you stole a cow, you returned five cows. The incentive was to not take a cow in the first place, because you would ultimately lose five by taking one. Its purpose was restitution or restoring what was damaged. How difficult is this with some sins? Yes, impossible!
One favorite story comes from one of the Seventy, Elder Robert L. Backman. He was sitting one day in his office and in walked a FedEx deliveryman with a fancy box. It wasn’t Christmas–what was going on? When he opened the box, there was a brand new leather-bound quad set of scriptures. With it came a note, which read:
“Dear Brother, when you were teaching early morning seminary, many years ago, I really enjoyed it. One day, during high school, I realized that I had taken a set of scriptures from our class and I have meant for many years to somehow get it back. I realized the other day that I had never done that. In fact, I don’t know where that set even is anymore. I feel badly that I stole that set of scriptures from the seminary building. Please find enclosed a new set of scriptures. I am sure you don’t need them, but someone does. Would you, please, make sure these are given to someone who needs them?“[xiii] This was merely done to restore that which he had taken many years earlier. He was cleaning up the small areas of his life. This was something that had troubled his conscience through the years.
President Spencer W. Kimball served in the church all of his life in many important callings. When he received the call as an Apostle, it was extremely important to him that he go to any and all, whom he might have offended or that may think poorly of him in any way and ask their forgiveness. He wanted to be the cleanest vessel if he was going to serve with the power of the Lord. He even wrote letters to business people and others who might have had feelings, unknown to him. One of the men wrote back and told President Kimball that he felt he had been cheated out of some money many years before. President Kimball didn’t even hesitate to analyze the situation; he simply sent the money to him. He wanted to be sure there was no question about his integrity.[xiv] We can serve much more powerfully when we have swept the corners of our lives cleaner and purer, more like our Savior. You will find as you age, that things will come to your mind that you thought were long gone. The Lord helps us in that way. When they come to your mind, you can take the steps to make all things right with the Lord.
There are some sins that are nearly impossible to completely restore what has been taken or to repair the damages done. What then?
“To earn forgiveness, one must make restitution. That means you give back what you have taken or ease the pain of those you have injured.
But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiling someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back.
There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to.
Your repentance cannot be accepted, unless there is restitution. If you cannot undo what you have done, you are trapped. It is easy to understand how helpless and hopeless you then feel and why you might want to give up.
Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ.
When your desire is firm, and you are willing to pay the “uttermost farthing,” the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.”[xv]
The restoration phase is an essential part of full repentance and may seem like its capstone. But there is one more step; to reform.
“For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment—that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you.” D&C 84:61
Forgiveness comes with what? It comes with steadfastness in bearing your “testimony to all the world. “
All sin is selfishness, every bit of it. Every wrestle we have with it, every struggle we have with it, and every repetition, and every part of it is selfishness. Therefore, the last step in repentance is to turn from self, to others. Instead of tearing down the kingdom of God, we are now building it. We become a new person! Since we cannot restore each thing, and even with restoration, “sorry” isn’t enough. We then continue to do the kinds of things that reverse the effects of what we have done.
I watched one man who had done some awful things in his life. I watched him go through the priesthood excommunication phase in his repentance process. Then I watched him come back through that same council when he had met all of the conditions of repentance. As he passed through, he was definitely repentant and remorseful. For many years, he had been trying to reverse the kinds of things he had been doing in private. During some counseling, I shared D&C 84:61 with him. As he read it, he said, “Oh, my goodness! I have wondered how I could reverse my private sins. Thank you. Now I understand.” I watched him over the ensuing years; he began to take his huge fortunes and focus them on building the kingdom. Not just bearing testimony but blessing the lives of many and contributing in many other ways to the Kingdom of God on earth. He had become a new person. Reform is a powerful step in our repentance.
Since sin is selfish and opposes God, our turning around means to join Him in His work of salvation. As we change, it is then natural that we become missionaries bearing testimony of all we have received to the world. After completing the other steps of repentance, as we serve God and feel His spirit working through us, we can know for a surety that we are forgiven.
“Every time the Holy Ghost is present we can be confident that the Atonement is working in our lives.” Elder Henry B. Eyring 8/14/01
Returning to the ancient practice and symbols of sacrifice it is noteworthy to hydrate the spiritual concentrate of the symbol used in Revelation 6:9-11 juxtaposed with DC 138:12-13
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
“There were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name.”
Joseph Smith was taught that the fifth seal represented the fifth thousand years of earth history. This would have been the period beginning with the birth of Christ up through the end of that century. It was a period sometimes called the “age of the martyrs” when thousands were martyred for their testimonies of Christ. But what is sometimes not noted is that Christ was one of those martyrs. Surprisingly He doesn’t elevate the value of His offering over the offering of the other martyrs. In the Doctrine and Covenants He calls the sacrifices of all the faithful, “similitude” sacrifices. No one could suffer as He did or suffer as undeservedly as He did[xvi], but that doesn’t diminish our offerings done to our full, though lesser capacity, in His eyes. This reform step manifests a truly reborn life as the repentant becomes “a savior” on mount Zion[xvii] to his or her own capacity, enabled by His divine synergy.[xviii]
“Thus, in letting go of the world and then passing through the gate of repentance and baptism, all is not done. There is always time to be managed in order to obtain from our hours the highest and best use. There are still old reflexes to be mastered, familiar thoughts that must be turned away, and feelings to be tamed. Our personality must be both gentled and emboldened. There are caterpillar-like challenges waiting to be turned into butterfly-like blessings.”[xix]
[i] Ezekiel 28:13-14
[ii] Moses 5:4
[iii] There is some debate over whether this is an intended symbol or something some have derived on their own. The tabernacle and temple were constructed on an east-west orientation causing the priests to move westward as they moved from the entry towards the Holy of Holies. The purpose of using it here is simply to emphasize the power of the Hebrew word for repent indicating the need to turn around.
[iv] Here are two excellent General Conference addresses that bear reviewing:
- The Path to Peace and Joy, (Richard G. Scott, November 2000, General Conference)
- Repentance and Conversion, (M. Russell Nelson, April 2007, General Conference)
[v] Moses 5:6-8
[vi] Sacrifice pictures are stills taken from the video here https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-03-050-sacrifice-and-sacrament?lang=eng “ copyright 2011 Intellectual Reserve, Inc
[vii] I attribute this to Truman Madsen in one of my BYU classes
[viii] The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart…. Psalm 51:17; 3 Nephi 12:19
[ix] Ensign 11/04
[x] There are some sins that you cannot repent of on your own. When you have surrendered your agency, your physical body isn’t capable of making a promise and keeping it. Fortunately, the Church has some powerful programs in place, modeled after programs from other sources, which include an adapted Twelve Step Program which includes help with alcohol, drug, and sexual addictions, even child abuse of all kinds. These programs have very powerful means and methods to help individuals recapture their capabilities of making decisions and keeping them.
Sometimes the biggest problem is that there are other victims suffering from this person’s sins, such as a spouse or the children. The spouse or children sometimes need to enroll in the 12-step program as much as does the perpetrator. The family then begins to heal. The spouse cannot rescue the sinner. The children cannot rescue their parent. The parent cannot rescue the child. They can love their children, but they cannot save the each other by trying to be a ”policeman” or “guard,” like trying to prevent them from doing certain activities or protecting them from certain people.
[xi] John 3:16; Moses 1:39
[xii] Mosiah 3:30
[xiii] (Story told in the presence of the author.)
[xiv] Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (1977)
[xv] Boyd K. Packer, Conference, Oct. 95, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness
[xvi] Mosiah 3:7 “…more than man can suffer…”
[xvii] DC 103:9-10; Obadiah 1:21
[xviii] Matthew 11:29-30; see also Elder Neal A. Maxwell, quote book, “God does not begin by asking our ability, only our availability, and if we prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.”
[xix] Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, p. 18