Repentance = Seeking God’s Mercy
March 25, 2015 2 Comments
It didn’t take long before I heard the groans of my students as I displayed, in bold, big letters, the word, “repent”. They were then asked to list other words that came to mind. Sin, embarrassment, bishop, confess, pain, mistake, unworthy, discouragement, hell, hopelessness were among the words most listed. There were a few who listed Atonement, Christ, joy, and change, but the overwhelmingly, most-picked words where negative and their comments certainly reflected that my students believed repenting was no fun.
What are your thoughts when you hear the lesson or talk is on repentance? Do some of those same words cross your mind? I have to admit that for me, the “r-word” has had a bit of a guilty, a kind-of, “oh no, not again” feel to it. Something like going to the dentist (Sorry Jill and the rest of my dental working family) or doctor. You know you have go. You know it’s good for you. But opening your mouth and saying “ah” is the last thing you want to do.
In a discussion with a group of seminary teachers, a wise brother reported that every time the word “repent” or “repentance” showed up in the scriptures, he would have his students write “repent = seeking God’s mercy” in the margins. Seeking God’s Mercy. What an inspired way to look at this poor maligned word. Like many other words, perhaps we have somehow forgotten or lost sight of its true meaning.
And in reality, I believe not understanding what repentance (seeking God’s mercy) really means and how much we really need it, has very serious and eternal consequences. Further, we have become so good at teaching our youth (and adults) what not to do that sometimes we forget to teach, I mean really teach (D&C 50:22), how to sincerely repent (seek God’s mercy).
The fact is we all need repentance (seeking God’s mercy). We all sin and fall short (Romans 3:23). One of our favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the history of the 2,000 Stripling Warriors. Since we were old enough to be told bed-time stories, we’ve heard of the miraculous protection of 2,060 young warriors against a fierce, blood-thirsty enemy. Not one of 2,060 were killed. Not one. But also included within those verses, are principles of repentance (seeking God’s mercy), faith and healing.
And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood;
So, 200 of these warriors were injured seriously enough that they needed help. They lay among the dead, unconscious, needing to be rescued.
…nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish;
Not one had died! Among the carnage of hand-to-hand combat, and though some had been seriously injured, not one had died.
Now here’s the line we sometimes miss.
…yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds. (Alma 57:25)
Did you catch it? Not one, no not even one, escaped being injured in one way or another. In fact, it says they ALL had received “many wounds.” So though they had been saved from death, they had to deal with numerous injuries; some very serious.
They did not go through the battle unscathed any more than we go through our life’s battles spiritually unharmed. No matter how much we try to protect our youth, no matter how much we try to protect ourselves, we will get injured. It is telling that Helaman, this army’s leader, reported that they “did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness”. (Alma 57:21) They did everything they were told to do, with exactness, yet, they all, every one, received wounds.
If the principle here is that we will all be wounded at one time or another -that it’s a matter of when, not if- we need to become very good at spiritual first-aid. First, in seeking for ourselves and then helping others (not judging others) to find and receive heavenly first-aid.
In discussing how to protect our youth and how to teach them the correct path, I have heard some be very hesitant to teach repentance (seeking God’s mercy) in fear that doing so “would give the youth the license to sin and then just repent later.” I understand this fear and it comes from a sincere desire to protect our youth from pain but I believe that leaving out some of the doctrine is a form of teaching false doctrine. We will sin. We will make mistakes. But that is part of the plan. To teach doctrines only related to not sinning, leaving out how to become healed, is like turning our backs on people who get seriously sick even though they have been inoculated. Not to mention that doing so, at the very least, forgets the Atonement and the sufferings of the Savior.
So here is my pledge. I will be like the scriptures and teach repentance (seeking God’s mercy) as much as the opportunity arises and more than I have in the past. I will not be overprotective and back away from helping others (and me) develop a reflex of repentance (seeking God’s mercy). I will balance the what-not-to-dos with the cleansing power of the Atonement. I will teach what is taught in the Doctrine and Covenants 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.
Repentance really is seeking God’s mercy.