It seems like I’ve been looking for excuses not to believe the Church, even though I know it’s true in my heart. I was baptized a year and a half ago (I’m 25) and have struggled with keeping all of the commandments. There is one recurring problem that I just can’t seem to shake, despite my very best efforts, and it’s preventing me from progressing to the Melchizedek Priesthood and hence the temple. I’ve been so miserable lately, and stopped going to church a few months ago because it was hard to face my friends, especially when they ask why I haven’t been to the temple yet. I guess my question is, is there any way to know we are forgiven? Does the Lord forgive us even if he, as well as we, know there is a good likelihood that we are going to repeat the sin? I don’t feel His love, I only feel His disgust with me. I don’t know what to do. I was wondering if you know of a scripture that might give strength to those considering leaving the church because of their own inadequacies and sin.
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me. There are some things that you might consider. Overcoming ourselves is never a one-shot exercise; some things take a lifetime. You might compare yourself to a running back in a football game. He is frequently given the ball, but it seems that every time he gets the ball, although he usually makes a few yards, but is often thrown for a loss, he always gets tackled. So here he is on the 20 yard line, and he says, “I’m never going to make it to the goal. Every time I get the ball I get tackled.” So he gives up and walks off the field. What would you think of a running back like that? And what kind of advice would you give him if you were his coach? Think about it for a minute and give that same advice to yourself.
Now this talk about leaving the church because you feel unworthy is nonsense! While in the church you have the support and fellowship of the those who love you and care for you, and you have the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you think it’s tough now to overcome the sins that beset us, just wait until you get outside the church. Then there will really be no hope. Leaving the church is simply not an option. What do you think that the Savior meant when he said, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13).
So we’re all sinners to one degree or another and in one aspect or another. Our commission is to dedicate ourselves, as you have done, to overcoming our sins and weaknesses. The process of repentance, as I said before, is not a one time experience. It includes an attitude, a determination, and a never-give-up approach. Repentance from some things is far from easy. In every case it requires a change of life, to the extent that we eliminate from our character the unwanted trait. That takes some doing, and, again as I mentioned before, in some cases it may take a long time. But the Lord understands all that. He knows our weaknesses and he knows our hearts. He is the epitome of love, patience and long suffering. He has not given up on you, so don’t give up on yourself.
The Lord has said in Isaiah 1:18-20,
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
And again in D&C 58:42-43,
Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.
As often as we truly repent we will be truly forgiven. The Lord already knew all about each of us. He knowingly took upon Himself all our sins, and presented Himself before the bar of justice to accept the punishment that the law of justice required to pay the price for each of the sins committed by all our Father’s children. He is anxious to help us to qualify for His forgiveness. Rest assured that the Lord is not disgusted with you. On the contrary, He may be disgusted with those evil, avaricious people, who are intent on doing wrong to others and who live only for their own self gratification; but He loves and helps those who struggle to do His will.
Please don’t be so hard on yourself; look more to your successes than to your failures, and never, never give up.