Jump to: navigation, search
Part of the series on the

Miracle of Forgiveness
1 Nephi 3:7
2 Nephi 25:23
Moroni 10:32
Merit, earning, and worthiness
Personal worthiness

"Our Father in heaven does not sin, and He does not allow people who sin to live with Him. To live with Him we must repent of our sins. To repent means to feel sorry for our sins and stop doing them." Gospel Fundamentals, p. 67
“…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” —2 Nephi 25:23

According to Mormonism, the only repentance (for any sin) which brings forgiveness, requires beforehand a successful, non-repeatable, perfected forsaking of sin, not only from one's outward behavior but also from the urges of the mind. The New Testament instead teaches a more realistic model of the repentance which brings forgiveness: the only repentance which brings forgiveness is a weak and imperfect repentance. Jesus forgives us seven times seventy.

The primary definition of repentance in Mormonism is "the process through which we are transformed from unworthiness to worthiness"[1], which is "part of the glorious climb toward godhood"[2]. "The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance."[3] This "repentance which merits forgiveness"[4] includes the following steps[5]:

  1. Faith in Heavenly Father and in Jesus Christ
  2. Sorrow over sin
  3. Confession to God, to those personally affected by the sin, and to one's bishop if necessary
  4. Successful forsaking and abandonment of sin; coming to a point where one will never repeat the sin again[6]
  5. Restitution to the fullest extent possible
  6. Righteous living, "keeping all the commandments"

If one can complete this process, one may then receive a special feeling indicating that one is forgiven. One's complete forgiveness depends on the absolute purity and perfection of the repentance. If the sin is repeated--even so much as favorably thought of in the mind--the "process of repentance" is considered incomplete, and the forgiveness (or at least what was thought to have been forgiveness) of previous acts of the sin is canceled.

Two other popular, less daunting adaptations of the definition of repentance are used by Mormons, each with their own set of associated doctrinal emphases and standard of worthiness: to demonstrate progressive personal righteousness (to simply be on the path of completing the above outlined process) or to demonstrate genuine effort (i.e. to try hard, with or without reference to demonstrable progression). Which standard of repentance a Mormon uses at a given time often has much to do with the particular sin in consideration, and how manageable the type of repentance seems. Many Mormons feel that objective standards (particularly steps 3 - 6 of the above outlined process) of repentance can be superseded if a special feeling of forgiveness is given.




  • Repentance (MP3), by Antoine R. Ivins - Speech given at BYU on December 10, 1952


[edit] Steps in process

Lists of repentance steps in Mormonism usually include the following.

[edit] Faith in Jesus Christ

[edit] Sorrow

"As repentance gets under way, there must be a deep consciousness of guilt, and in that consciousness of guilt may come suffering to the mind, the spirit, and sometimes even to the body." - Spencer W. Kimball [7]

[edit] Confession

"He must admit to himself that he has sinned, without the slightest minimization of the offense or rationalizing of its seriousness, or without soft-pedaling its gravity. He must admit that his sin is as big as it really is and not call a pound an ounce." - Spencer W. Kimball [8]
"Repentance includes confessing your sins to the Lord... Serious transgressions require confession to the Lord’s representatives in the Church (in most cases the bishop)."[9]

[edit] Restitution

"One seeks to restore insofar as possible that which was damaged. If he has stolen, he returns that which was stolen. If he has injured through lies or evil-speaking, he does all that is possible to establish the truth. Perhaps one of the reasons murder is so serious is that having taken a life, the murderer cannot restore it. Restitution in full is not possible. Similarly, it is not possible to give back robbed virtue. But as fully as he can, the truly repentant person will make restitution." - Spencer W. Kimball [10]
"Elder Kimball observed that sometimes making complete restitution is impossible. 'There are some sins for which no adequate restitution can be made, and others for which only partial restitution is possible... Perhaps the reason murder is an unforgivable sin is that, once having taken a life whether that life be innocent or reprobate-the life-taker cannot restore it... Those who lose their possessions may be able to recover their wealth. Those defamed may still be able to prove themselves above reproach. Even the loss of chastity leaves the soul in mortality with opportunity to recover and repent and to make amends to some degree. But to take a life... cuts off the victim's experiences of mortality and thus his opportunity to repent, to keep God's commandments in this earth life.' " - LDS Church News[11]
"As part of the restitution required for repentance, transgressors should do all they can to restore what their transgression has taken from others." - Church Handbook of Instructions[12]

[edit] Successful, permanent abandonment of sin

"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (D&C 58:43)

The only sins God saves us from are abandoned sins:

"The Lord teaches that he cannot forgive people in their sins; he can only save them from their abandoned sins." - Spencer W. Kimball [13]

[edit] Keep the commandments

[edit] Test of completion

"There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin. Desire is not sufficient. In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his ways and started on a new path… the saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life. Trying is not sufficient." - Spencer W. Kimball [16]
"If one neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, or fails in his prayers and other responsibilities, he is not completely repentant." - Spencer W. Kimball [17]

[edit] Full and complete repentance required for forgiveness

"Oh, but then there is the joy of experiencing the joyful heart and the peace of mind that come from feeling the Spirit and being granted the remission of our sins after attaining full repentance from our transgression because of our faith in Jesus Christ." - Robert D. Hales[18]
"Another type of comforting revelation is the assurance received that a sin has been forgiven. This revelation, which comes when a person has completed all the steps of repentance, gives assurance that the price has been paid, that God has heard the repentant sinner, and that his or her sins are forgiven." - Dallin H. Oaks[19]

[edit] There is no repeat repentance or repeat forgiveness

In Mormonism, repeat repentance shows that past repentance was not completed. Therefore, the sin was not truly forgiven, and will not be until the LDS-defined process of repentance is completed. In order for a sin to be forgiven, it must be completely conquered. This line of thinking is with clarity laid out in Spencer W. Kimball's Miracle of Forgiveness. It is worth noting that some modern Mormons are uncomfortable with Kimball's developed, overbearing view of repentance, and even reject it for a modified version.

"And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any asin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the bformer sins return, saith the Lord your God." - D&C 82:7
"Elder Kimball warns: 'Even though forgiveness is so abundantly promised, there is no promise nor indication of forgiveness to any soul who does not totally repent. . . . We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect forgiveness" (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 353, 360). Those who receive forgiveness and then repeat the sin are held accountable for their former sins (see D&C 82:7; Ether 2:15).' - Gospel Principles[20]

"Retaining a remission of sins depends on continuous love and service to God and man (see Mosiah 4:26; Moroni 8:25–26)." [1]

[edit] Repentance as repayment to God

Mormonism has within it various analogies and metaphors that describe one's relationship to God, many of which involve a type of repayment to God for debt. Jesus fulfills his role as savior by paying our debts but then becoming our new creditor, to whom we owe the debt, on his new terms and conditions, we accrued by allowing him to become our replacement creditor. Some of the steps of repentance are specifically seen as a partial repayment to God for the debt incurred upon sinning.

See also: Parable of the Bicycle

[edit] Repentance that is "inseparable from time" or the "merciful immediacy of justification"?

"Another mistaken idea is that the thief on the cross was forgiven of his sins when the dying Christ answered: "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43.) These men on the cross were thieves. How could the Lord forgive a malefactor? They had broken laws. There was no doubt of the guilt of the two men, for the one voluntarily confessed their guilt.

The Lord cannot save men in their sins but only from their sins, and that only when they have shown true repentance. The one thief did show some compassion, whether selfishly with hope we are not sure. He was confessing, but how could he abandon his evil practices when dungeon walls made evil deeds impossible? How could he restore the stolen goods when hanging on the cross? How could he, as John the Baptist required, "bring forth fruits meet for repentance?" How could he live the Lord's commands, attend his meetings, pay his tithing, serve his fellowmen? All these take time. Time was the one thing he was running out of very rapidly. "No unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven." This thought has been repeated throughout the scriptures numerous times and is a basic truth. We may be sure that the Savior's instructions to the thief on the cross were comparable to his instructions to the woman caught in adultery: "Go your way and transform yourself and repent."

As the hours passed, the thief's life would ebb out and his spirit would abandon the lifeless body and go into the spirit world, where Christ was going to orga nize his missionary program. (See 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4-6.) There he would live along with the antediluvians and all others who had died in their sins. All the Lord's statement promised the thief was that both of them would soon be in the spirit world. The thief's show of repentance on the cross was all to his advantage, but his few words did not nullify a life of sin. The world should know that since the Lord himself cannot save men in their sins, no man on earth can administer any sacrament which will do that impossible thing. Hence the mere display of death- bed faith or repentance is not sufficient." (Miracle of Forgiveness, 166-67)
"Repentance is inseparable from time. No on can repent on the cross, nor in prison, nor in custody." Ibid Miracle
“Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.324-325).

[edit] Deadline for completion

"Physical or mental addictions become doubly serious because, in time, they enslave both the body and the spirit. Full repentance from these shackles, or any other yokes to sin, must be accomplished in this life while we still have the aid of a mortal body to help us develop self-mastery." - Russell M. Nelson[21]

[edit] Popular adaptations in contemporary Mormonism

Mormons often fall back on less intimidating definitions of repentance: either that of doing better, or trying hard. In these models, language like "after all we can do" and "living all the commandments" takes on a new meaning. Proponents of these new models are careful not to express explicit disagreement with the proponents of above view (like Spencer W. Kimball).

"Repentance simply means changing your course and getting back on the path." - A. Theodore Tuttle[22]
"And repent you do. Scores of letters come to my office from students who realize they have committed some wrong involving the University and who desire to complete their repentance by making restitution and getting back on the road of growth and progress." - Dallin H. Oaks[23]

Cross.jpgThis article is a stub. Please edit it to add information.

[edit] Christian response

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

In Biblical Christianity repentance is a godly sorrow, confession to God, resolve to abandon sin, and an empty-handed desperation of faith toward God for forgiveness. The fruits of repentance (obedience, restitution to man, etc) necessarily follow genuine repentance (as John the Baptist said, "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance" [Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8]), but they are not to be mistaken with repentance itself. For the person who genuinely wants to be right with God, the LDS process of repentance adds an extra yoke and bondage that was never meant to be. In the Biblical model, one can repent in one setting, and receive immediate forgiveness, security, and absolution from God on the basis of the purity of Christ, being assured that God will work to "cleanse him from all unrighteousness" and produce in him the fruits of repentance. Even if one's repentance is not completely pure, when it is genuine God still forgives and gives a solid hope for a solid future. He gives an assurance of a secured eternal life. This puts the focus off one's own supposed worthiness and gives credit and praise to the purity of Christ and his sacrifice and his mediating work as an intercessor.

To forgive means to absolve one of the what restitution they owe. For Mormonism to require restitution as a prerequisite for forgiveness misses the entire point and meaning of free forgiveness.

"Forgiveness costs us nothing. All our costly obedience is the fruit, not the root, of being forgiven. That’s why we call it grace. But it cost Jesus His life. That is why we call it just. Oh, how precious is the news that God does not hold our sins against us! And how beautiful is Christ, whose blood made it right for God to do this." - John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, p. 37

[edit] Quotes

[edit] Baptism as an absolute prerequisite for forgiveness

[edit] Books

[edit] Notes

  1. Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, Chapter 14. Avaliable here:
  2. Spencer W. Kimball. Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 14.
  3. Boyd K. Packer, "The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 18
  4. Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 354. Extended quote: "[Alma 13:11-12] indicates an attitude which is basic to the sanctification we should all be seeking, and thus to the repentance which merits forgiveness. It is that the former transgressor must have reached a 'point of no return' to sin where there is not merely a renunciation but also a deep abhorrence of the sin -- where the sin becomes most distasteful to him and where the desire or urge to sin is cleared out of his life."
  5. Lists of the steps of repentance can be found in the following sources:
    • Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 180
    • "Chapter 4: The Miracle of Forgiveness," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 34–45. Available online here.
    • Chapter 14 of Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual. Available online here:
    • True to the Faith, pp. 133-135. Available here under "Additional Information".
    • "Lesson 12: Repentance Is a Blessing", Preparing for Exaltation: Teacher's Manual
  6. "[R]epentance is not repentance until sins are forsaken and repeated no more (see D&C 58:42­43)." - Russell M. Nelson, "Standards of Standard-Bearers of the Lord". Fireside address given at Brigham Young University on 6 January 1991.
  7. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Gospel of Repentance," Ensign, Oct. 1982, 2
  8. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Gospel of Repentance," Ensign, Oct. 1982, 2
  9. From "Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts". Available online here.
  10. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Gospel of Repentance," Ensign, Oct. 1982, p. 2
  11. "Restitution Part of Repentance", LDS Church News, 1994, 02/26/94
  13. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Gospel of Repentance," Ensign, Oct. 1982, 2
  16. Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 163
  17. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Gospel of Repentance," Ensign, Oct. 1982, p. 2
  18. Robert D. Hales, "That Ye May Be the Children of Light". Fireside address given at Brigham Young University on 3 November 1996.
  19. Dallin H. Oaks, “Eight Reasons for Revelation,” Liahona, Sep 2004, 8. Available online here. See also devotional address that was given at Brigham Young University on 29 September 1981. Available online here.
  20. Gospel Principles. End of Chapter 39. Available online here:,4945,11-1-13-49,00.html
  21. Russell M. Nelson, "The Magnificence of Man". Devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 29 March 1987.
  22. A. Theodore Tuttle, "Principles with a Promise". Devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 31 January 1978. Online
  23. Dallin H. Oaks, "The Student Body and the President". Devotional address given on 9 September 1975.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

Personal tools