One of the themes of this past conference washed over me like a waterfall. It seemed talk after talk, session after session preached the beauty of repentance.
Not the “Repent of the evil you are doing!” repentance, but the “Repentance is part of our regular process as Latter-day Saints” repentance.
Not the “Love others who are repenting” repentance, but the “You, repent; it’s ok; really” repentance.
- Elder Cook’s re-asking of Alma’s question, “Can ye feel so now?” suggests the possibility of repentance. In fact, he said repentance is the only panacea for the world’s problems. He reminded us what Elder Packer has repeatedly taught: through repentance we can overcome all sin.
- Sister Dibb also reminded us that we all sin, and that we all can be clean again. I did not hear her say we all sin except lifelong members who serve on general boards or in high callings in the church. Or we all sin but those who go to the temple every week. We all sin. And we can all repent.
- President Monson spoke beautifully in the Priesthood session about the reality that people can change. Both he and President Eyring taught us to look at people not as they are but as they could become. Elder Uchtdorf taught that the blessings of the priesthood are available even if we stumble on our way, because we can repent.
- Elder Clarke spoke about the blessing of the sacrament, and one of the blessings that he outlined was the opportunity to feel forgiven, if we had repented. We can do that every week (well, except for General Conference weekend, I suppose).
- Elder Bednar spoke of the role of repentance in our becoming truly converted – after believing and exercising faith in Jesus Christ, we will repent.
- Elder Packer spoke on Sunday of how we can help others in the repentance process by lighting the lower lamps to guide them safely into the harbor in a storm.
- Elder Holland taught one of my favorite scripture stories of the reconversion of Peter to his calling as he turned once again to the Savior and His work. Elder Nash continued the discussion of Peter, reminding us that even Peter needed to learn to overcome fear through repentance.
- Even Elder Whiting’s extended metaphor on temple standards suggests the possibility of repentance, as the contractor was able to go back and repair the shortcomings in the temple construction he described. Similarly, we can seek the Lord’s merciful help in repairing our shortcomings.
I’m thrilled by this emphasis on the second principle of the gospel. Once we confess and recognize our faith in Jesus Christ, of course we begin to recognize ways in which we do not reflect Him in our own lives, and that recognition brings us to the sweet process of repentance. As my lovely wife and I discussed the many references to repentance, she observed that it seems like it’s ok to have been wrong. And she’s right: It’s ok to repent. Repentance is what we do. It’s part of who we are as Latter-day Saints.
I know this is not a seismic shift in the real teachings of the gospel, but it is a shift for those of us of a certain generation who were taught never to sin, never to err, never to do wrong but always to choose the right. In that world of Like Unto Us and Tom Trails, we learned to live the ideal and felt guilt when we fell short, not understanding that we all fall short.
The call to repent is not new; it is at the core of the doctrine missionaries have taught since the restoration. But for too many years for me it was reserved for others who committed serious sin. I was grateful in this conference to be reminded again that it is also for those like me who try to do our best, but who do not always succeed at being the best we can be. It is for those of us who need to align ourselves with God again (and again).
Indeed, we will assuredly not always choose the right. And when we don’t, we can exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, and we can repent.
- What did you learn about repentance at this conference?
- Are there other basic truths that touched you in new ways?