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Dear Gramps,

My question is on repentance. How does one go about it? My question arises because in a recent meeting of the stake priesthood (I attend a University student stake) the president advised those who had committed any form of fornicative sin to see his bishop. Also I am taking a celestial marriage course in institute and in the last lesson the teacher mentioned that many people have marriage problems and it comes out that when interviewing with the bishop they were not truthful about the intimate relations within their relationship. Could these people have realized the problems on their own and gone before the Lord in prayer and confessed there sins and be repentant?

Malik, from Utah

Dear Malik,

Regardless of feelings of remorse, there are certain sins of sufficient gravity that they must be confessed to the bishop. Sexual sin is among these. Repentance is not an easy process, and in the case of serious violations of God’s commandments, often needs the counsel and guidance of the servant of the Lord who represents the Lord to the members of his Ward.

It’s true, and indeed necessary, that people who have sinned realize the problem on their own, confess their sins to the Lord and appeal to him for his forgiveness. But this is not repentance; it is only the beginning step. The process of repentance is not complicated, but, again, it is not easy. The Lord has said,

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 (D&C 58:42-43).

You have addressed the confessing part. Let’s discuss the forsaking part. To forsake a sin does not mean just to not do it anymore. The sin is in the character of the person, which gives expression to the physical act. An incarcerated bank robber may be sorry that he robbed a bank, and may not be robbing more banks because he does not have the opportunity, but he would not have repented of his crime until he became an honest person. The test of his honesty would be, for example, that after he was released from prison and again incorporated into society, he met with a bank president in his office in dire need of a loan. On the desk in the office would be a pile of money that the person had understood from the bank president had not yet been counted. At this moment the president is called out of the office and remarks to the applicant the he will be gone for fifteen minutes. If this former bank robber sits in the presence of all that money for fifteen minutes and make no move to take any of it, he has repented from being a bank robber.

Repentance requires change in the inner man-a change of character, not just a change of routine. True repentance results in the spiritual strength to control the passions and appetites of the body, even in times of severe temptation.

-Gramps

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