I have a friend that recently visited with the Bishop for sins she committed almost a year ago. I can tell she has felt very sorrowful for what she had done. It was hard for her to go to the Bishop but, with help she finally did. The Bishop told her she couldn’t take the Sacrament for 3 months and just last week he told her he need to consult with the Stake President on how long it would take for her to repent. He also said they couldn’t stick to a timeline. Please help!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. If I am understanding you correctly, it appears you are having some concerns regarding the role of a Bishop during the repentance process. To begin with, I would like to mention that nothing you have shared related to your friend or her Bishop appears to be out of the ordinary, rather it all seems perfectly normal. Your friend sought help from her Bishop in repenting from her sins. Part of her Bishop’s calling is to do exactly that, to “help” her. A Bishop does not forgive sin, but rather his role is to help lovingly guide an individual down the path of repentance.
Repentance is a very personal process, and as such, the time that it takes an individual to fully repent is unique to that specific person. Contrary to the belief of some, repentance is not achieved by simply changing our actions for a specified time.
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Repentance involves not just a change of actions, but a change of heart.”
The required time to effect a real in-depth change of heart is dependent upon an individual’s attitude and sincere desire to fully and completely repent. For some this process my take a while. For others this process may come quicker. Ultimately, it is the individual’s change of heart and mind that matters most, not the time period it takes for that process to occur.
President Benson also shared:
“When we have undergone this mighty change, which is brought about only through faith in Jesus Christ and through the operation of the Spirit upon us, it is as though we have become a new person. Thus, the change is likened to a new birth. Thousands of you have experienced this change. You have forsaken lives of sin, sometimes deep and offensive sin, and through applying the blood of Christ in your lives, have become clean. You have no more disposition to return to your old ways. You are in reality a new person. This is what is meant by a change of heart.” A Mighty Change of Heart
Since the time required to achieve this change in disposition varies by individual, it is easy to see why her Bishop said they were unable to put a timeline on this process. Your friend has made the right choice to seek counsel from her Bishop, her Priesthood leader. Her Bishop in turn is also making the right decision to seek counsel from his Priesthood leader, the Stake President. This should be welcome news to her as she now has the blessing of yet another Priesthood leader praying on her behalf and seeking direction from the Lord.
It is important to remember that true repentance only occurs when we have had an actual “change of heart” and mind. Going through the motions of repentance: not taking the sacrament, waiting “x” amount of time, and meeting with the Bishop are all for naught unless a sincere change of heart and mind takes place. Repentance is not necessarily quick or easy, in fact it can sometimes be a painful process. Though this may be painful at times, because of the real sorrow we feel for our sins, ultimately real change leads to forgiveness and lasting peace, both blessings that outweigh any short lived discomfort.
When we are truly sorry for what we have done, we become more willing to heed the guidance given to us by our Bishop, regardless if it takes 3 months, 6 months or even a year. I would encourage you to do your best to support your friend during this time and have continued faith in the Lord and in his faithful servants.
Warm regards Jake,