Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Elder Richard G Scott Dies at Age 86

Another beloved servant of God passes away in 2015.

You will be missed, Elder Scott, but not forgotten. Wisdom and great insight from you have touched our hearts. For instance:

"Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit."

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How to Manage Your Interaction(s) with Mormon Missionaries

How to Manage Mormon Missionaries

Mormon missionaries have become so much of a cultural joke that there is a Broadway musical about them. Everyone knows what Mormon missionaries look like: classic dark suits with white shirts and ties, and that iconic name badge with "Elder Last Name" or "Sister Last Name" and the full name of the Mormon church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mormon missionaries are always trying to get you to take a copy of The Book of Mormon and to tell you about their crazy cult, right? They just want to get you baptized so you count toward their points to heaven. And so the only thing to do is to close the door in their faces or run away and hide. If you don't, they're sure to bore you for the next three hours talking about Joseph Smith, their special bible, and getting married in their secret temple ceremonies.

I know all the clich├ęs. We Mormons sometimes make fun of them ourselves. But as a mother whose daughter recently returned from the Houston, Texas mission, I've found that I have new insights about what is the best thing to do in various situations.

A few facts about missionaries that might help you understand who they are and why they do what they do:

1. Male Mormon missionaries are usually between the ages of 18 and 20, sister missionaries between the ages of 19 and 21. That's pretty young. The older I get, the younger it seems. These are practically babies out there. They're barely out of high school.

2. Many Mormon missionaries fund their mission from their own savings, sometimes with the help of their parents, sometimes with the help of the church as a whole. They save their whole lives to go on a mission. When other teens are saving money to buy clothes, a car, or for college, many Mormon teens are instead saving to go on a mission.

3. Missionaries are supposed to live on a fairly strict budget during their mission. With this money, they buy their own clothing and food, have a limited number of miles they can use if they have access to a car, and often have no money/miles at the end of the month for food.

4. Mormon missionaries are only supposed to do work related to their mission except on "P-day" (once a week they have a preparation day where they can dress down a bit and do laundry, but they still have a lot of rules they're following). They really can't just sit down at a restaurant to go to lunch unless they're teaching the gospel. They can't go to movies or other entertainment.

5. Mormon missionaries aren't supposed to talk to family and friends basically for the course of their entire mission. For sisters, that's 18 months; for elders, it's two years. That's a long time for kids this age to go without family contact. They can email once a week only. And they get to Skype or make a phone call on Christmas and Mother's Day. That's it. They can be very lonely and crave some kind of positive human contact.

6. Mormon missionaries have VERY little training in theology or religion. Since they're only high school graduates, you can imagine. Sure, they've been in Sunday school all their lives and they've taken a four year course in high school called "Seminary" (most of them). They also spend a few weeks at a Missionary Training Center (MTC) where they are taught the basic lessons to offer investigators. They're not interested in sparring with people about religious history or doctrine.

7. Hundreds of Mormon missionaries are watched over by a Mission President and his wife, kind of a mission "Mom" and "Dad," who watch over them, call them to talk about problems, and enforce a lot of the strictest rules in hopes of preventing the biggest problems they see happening (the elders and sisters dating, for instance, is a big no-no).

8. No one physically forces someone to go on a mission, but there is a lot of cultural pressure to go, especially for young men. Not every Mormon missionary is gung-ho and some are suffering with real mental illnesses, diagnosed or undiagnosed. Young men who don't go or go home early suffer stigmas for the rest of their lives. This is real and not something I'm particularly proud of when it comes to Mormonism.

9. Mormon missionaries are supposed to be with their companions. All the time. Every day. They can't go anywhere without their companion. Yes, I'm serious about this. When my daughter came home, it took her weeks to get used to the idea that she could go places on her own.

10. Mormon missionaries often eat only at the homes of members or those who invite them over to teach. This means they are often at the whim of other people's tastes. It can be very difficult for picky eaters or for anyone who wants to eat healthy.

This may sound like a horrible situation to be in, but compare it to Boot Camp if you're joining the army. There are a lot of similarities. Mormon missionaries are doing something very difficult for an extended period of time. They have given up a lot of their choices and are told that they will be blessed by God for doing so.

Some missionaries come home and say it was "the best two years" of their life. Many don't. Some leave the church after a difficult mission. Some really grow up and go on to lead more productive lives. Missionaries are not all the same, despite the fact that they look the same to outsiders.

If you truly do NOT want to listen to any lessons about Mormonism, here are some suggestions:

1. Don't say that you're not available right now, but that you'd love to listen if they'd come back at a later time. This happens to all missionaries and you're probably just trying to avoid being rude, but missionaries are absurdly hopeful and they will keep coming back for quite a while.

2. Instead say that you're not interested. Say it kindly and politely, but be honest. Say you already have your own church you're happy with. Say you don't believe in God. Say you don't like organized religion. (I don't recommend saying that you know that Mormons are polygamous and you don't want to join a cult--the missionaries will feel obliged to correct you about this.)

3. Don't make an appointment with a missionary at a time when you know you will not be home. This may seem like an easy way to get out of having to tell them you're not interested, but it's rude. Missionaries always follow up on appointments and sometimes they will either walk or bike to your house and find you not there. Then they will have to call and hound you to find out why. It's just easier to say no to begin with.

4. If you're curious about Mormonism, but have no interest in joining, you can be honest and upfront about this as well. Missionaries can decide for themselves then if they have time just trying to build goodwill with non-members rather than trying to find someone who might be more genuinely interested in joining.

5. More and more, missionaries are encouraged to make appointments as much as possible and do less street "tracting," which has been proven statistically to be less effective. This means that if you have a Mormon friend who has asked if you'd like to hear more about the gospel, it's likely they will have you meet missionaries in their home rather than teaching you about it themselves. "Every member a missionary" is a common phrase in Mormonism. Some Mormons are more fervent in their attention to this duty than others.

6. If you've had lessons from the missionaries and are not interested in more, again, please be up front about this. The missionaries will be sad, but it's better than them spending hours over the next few months trying to follow up.

7. You may feel like it's best to confront missionaries with the "truth" about Mormonism, telling them about Joseph Smith's multiple wives, or other horrible things you've heard about the church. You may think that you're being kind to them by helping them get out of the "cult" they're caught in. I really don't think this is helpful. Most missionaries have grown a pretty thick skin about anti-Mormon stuff and won't listen to you at all. You can find members who are more willing and able to deal with walking you through some of the messy parts of the church's past.

Of course, you have no obligation to help out Mormon missionaries you see. But if you worry about them, here are some things you can do to show kindness without suggesting that you want to hear a spiritual message:

1. Offer a drink of water, especially in the summer time. (They can't have iced tea or coffee, however. Some will refuse a Coke because it has caffeine, but other soft drinks should be fine.)

2. Smile and give some words of encouragement.

3. Watch out for them or give them some words of warning if you feel that it is necessary and they are, for instance, going into a dangerous neighborhood.

4. Ask them about genealogy. Even if you're not interested in hearing about the "gospel," missionaries can and will show you how to use the Mormon church's genealogical resources, which are huge. It counts as missionary work even if you're just researching your family history.

5. You can offer to give them a ride somewhere if you see them walking. Especially if it's the end of the month and they're going a long distance, they may not be allowed to use their car if they've already gone too many miles in it.

I am so grateful for people who treated my daughter well and looked out for her on her mission, non-Mormon and Mormon alike. I don't particularly care how many people she converted to Mormonism. The experience was a wonderful one for her, and I think it made her more optimistic about humanity, more comfortable in her own skin, more confident talking to strangers, and it gave her a pool of friends who have shared the same experience and whom she will never forget. That's what I'd like for all Mormon missionaries out there. If you're a non-member, you don't have to spend hours with missionaries to be kind to them. And if you feel they are an annoyance, I hope I've given some useful hints about how to deal with them in a kind way without offering false hopes.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Food for Thought

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
"America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America." --Gov Jindal

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Three Things to Do about Religious Freedom

See others through a lens of fairness. Treat them with respect and kindness and expect the same treatment in return. Stand up for fairness.

3 Things to Do about Religious Freedom
Elder Ronald A Rasband
BYU 15 Sept 2015
http://ldsmag.com/elder-ronald-a-rasbands-landmark-talk-at-byu-3-things-to-do-about-religious-freedom/

Elder Ronald A. Rasband gave BYU students important perspective on religious freedom and fairness to all in a landmark devotional Tuesday, Sept. 15. He said that in preparing his remarks he had worked closely with the Public Affairs Committee of the Church which is headed by Elder D. Todd Christofferson.
He said, “Because you are a sophisticated and intelligent audience, I intend to speak to you with the candor your generation craves. I suspect that for some of you the phrase religious freedom feels more like freedom to discriminate. I want to talk to you about this view and help you understand what the Church means when it talks religious freedom and why it is so vitally important for your future and for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Some in your age group wonder why religious groups are involved in politics in the first place and are often skeptical of the motives of religious people when they do so. In recent years, the collective voice of groups who feel that religion should not play a role in political deliberation has grown louder.
“The opportunity to be involved in the political process is a privilege given to every citizen. Our laws and legislation play an important teaching role in shaping our social and moral culture. We need every individual in society to take an active role in engaging in civic dialogue that helps frame laws and legislation that are fair for everyone.”
To explain what Elder Rasband meant by religious freedom he told the hypothetical stories of two people, both in careers that were important to them and where they hoped to make a good impression.
The first is Ethan who had started his job in a career he longed for and wants to make a good impression. He comes early, stays late and does excellent work. Then one day at lunch he shares with some of his co-workers that he is gay. Awkwardness follows in this conservative environment and Ethan feels hurt and rejected. Things become increasingly more difficult at work for him and he finds himself excluded from large projects and social activities. His productivity suffers and soon his boss feels that he is not keeping up and fires him. “Despite all claims to the contrary, Ethan knows he has been fired for being gay.”
Then there’s Samantha who works in the administrative offices of a local university. She loves her job in a stimulating environment, full of diversity until one day a co-worker approaches her and asks if she is a Mormon. When Samantha cheerfully responds that she is, the co-worker asks, “Why do you hate gays?” Samantha is surprised by the question but tries to explain her belief in God and his commandments which includes guidelines on moral and sexual behavior. Soon other co-workers begin to confront her with questions and attacks and her boss cautions her against proselytizing at work or her job will be in jeopardy. Her work, like Ethan’s begins to suffer, and rather than risk being fired, Samantha starts to look for another job.
Elder Rasband said, “Now these are hypothetical stories and yet they are not. There are many Samantha’s and Ethan’s. However we choose to live and whatever choices we make, we share a common humanity and desire for fairness and kindness. Ethan should not have been fired for being gay and Samantha should not have been intimidated for being religious. Both were wrongly criticized, judged and retaliated against.
“Now in today’s society it is politically correct to empathize with Ethan’s situation but less so with Samantha’s. Ethan may find his case picked up by an advocacy group as yet another example of anti-gay discrimination and indeed he does deserve protection. But what about Samantha? Who will defend her right to religious conscience? What about her right to live authentically as a person of faith, committed to love and serving everyone, but also with the right to choose what is right and wrong and to live her life accordingly? Our society has become so blind by its quest to redress wrongful discrimination against one class of people that it is now in danger of creating another victimized class–people of faith like you and me.
“Already some religious schools are being questions because they require students and faculty to adhere to an honor code that requires fidelity and chastity,” Elder Rasband noted. “CEO’s of large companies have been marginalized or forced to resign because their personal religious views are no longer politically acceptable. And some businesses have been forced to close because their owners have spoken their conscience.
“Despite what you may have read or heard over the years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stood consistently for freedom of choice and conscience. Many years ago the prophet Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe that all men are created equal and that all have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience.” He went on to say, ‘If I have been willing to die for a Mormon I am just as willing to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.’”
Elder Rasband said that he can assure that Apostles and Prophets have given significant consideration to the position of the Church on religious freedom. He said, “We believe in following the commandments of God which are designed to secure our eternal happiness. However, God will force no man to heaven.
“We believe in creating a space for everyone to live their conscience without infringing on the rights and safety of others. When the rights of one group collide against the rights of another, we must follow the principle of being as fair and sensitive to as many people as possible. The Church believes and teaches in fairness for all. Protecting conscience is about safeguarding the way someone thinks and feels and their right to act on those beliefs.
“I am talking about someone telling you that the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs you have are not allowed, valued or acceptable because your views are not popular. A war in heaven was fought for agency. It is a gross violation of that agency to force someone to betray their conscience because their views do not align with the crowd.
He said not to misunderstand him on this. When he spoke of being authentic, “the Lord does not give us a free pass to live anyway we choose without consequences. We are still accountable to Him for our choices. He has said, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect. “The commandment to seek after perfection implies we start where we are and seek the Lord’s help to lift us to where he wants us to go. Being true to our authentic self requires continual effort to increase our light, knowledge and understanding.”
Elder Rasband said that “the Church favors a balanced approach that secures the rights of all people.” At the January press conference on “Religious Freedom and Fairness to All”, Elder Oaks had said, “We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for all individuals, families and churches and other faith groups, while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation, in hotels, restaurants and transportation, protections which are not available in many parts of the country.”
With the Church’s support within six weeks, Utah had passed a law that protected the LGBT community against eviction, housing discrimination or being fired from a job because of sexual orientation and at the same time protected religious people in the workplace and the public square.
Elder Rasband said, “No doctrinal or religious principles were sacrificed. No changes were made to God’s moral law and our belief that sexual relations should only occur within marriage between a man and a woman. The outcome was fair to all and reflects the consistency and moral teachings and respect for others.”
Elder Rasband made the following suggestions to negotiate the challenging times we live in regarding religious freedom.
First, try to view others through a lens of fairness. To do this requires you to first acknowledge that Heavenly Father loves each of his children equally. He has said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ There is no choice, sin or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change his love for you or for them.
“That does not mean he excuses or condones sinful conduct, nor do we in ourselves or in others, but it does mean that we reach out in love to persuade, to help and to rescue. When you feel completely and perfectly loved, it is much easier to love others and see them the way the Savior does.
“Please turn to our Savior in prayer and ask to receive his pure love, both for yourself and for others. He has promised that you will feel his love if you ask in faith. Being filled with this pure love will guide your thoughts and actions, especially in a political arena that at times can be very contentious.
“Tensions can flare easily when discussing politics and especially when discussing religious freedom. If we allow these moments to get the better of us, we will appear very unchristian to our family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances Remember how the Savior handled tough questions and challenging viewpoints. He remained calm. He showed respect. He taught truth, but never forced anyone to live the way he taught.
Second, let fairness guide your treatment of others. Jesus Christ looked past people’s ethnicity, race and circumstances in order to teach them simple truth. The Samaritan woman at the well, the Roman centurion, the unpopular publican.
“He has commanded us to follow his example, saying ‘Ye shall observe to do the things which you have seen me do. “Do not judge people or treat them differently because they sin differently than you or we do. Perhaps the greatest challenge in treating others fairly is in the balance required in supporting religious freedom when you have friends or family members who experience same-sex attraction or are firm supporters of their rights. Some of you worry that you will appear intolerant and unsupportive if you seek protections to exercise your faith publicly and freely.
“Again, study the life of our Savior and seek his guidance. The Savior demonstrated perfectly how to reach out in love and encouragement while also holding firm to what he knew to be true. Remember when the woman was caught in adultery? He asked for anyone without sin to step forward and to be the first to condemn her. When no one approached our Savior who was without sin, he commented, ‘Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.’
“The forgiveness and kindness he showed her did not contradict his teachings that sexual intimacy is meant for a husband and a wife who are legally and lawfully married. You too can be unyielding in right and truth yet still reach out in kindness. When Christ’s friends and followers ended their relationship with Him, He expressed sadness and pain. However when a relationship did end, it was because they were uncomfortable with his teachings, not because he was uncomfortable with them.
“As we seek to treat others fairly, we must remember the principle of agency. We must always respect the ability of others to make choices and ask that they extend to us the same courtesy. When talking with others about religious freedom we must always remember that we can disagree without becoming disagreeable. Please do not shy away from a dialogue regarding these important issues simply because you are worried that it might be difficult or uncomfortable. We can pray for help and we can expect that the Savior can help us act and speak in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Third, I would encourage you to stand up for fairness if you see another’s rights being impeded… From the time of Joseph Smith to our present day, our legacy is reaching out to heal breaches and hurt without compromising the doctrine. That is not ours to trade away.”
Elder Rasband concluded with an appeal to the rising generation.
I stand with the leaders of our Lord’s church when I say that we need your generation’s natural understanding of compassion, of respect and fairness. We need your optimism and your determination to work through these complex social issues.
“We have faith that you will turn to the Savior to understand how to live a Christ-like life when also showing fairness and love to others who do not share your beliefs. We know you want to be part of something meaningful and we know that you are resilient and collaborative.
“Most importantly, we need you to engage regarding the complexities of this issue and find solutions for how to best extend fairness to everyone including people of faith.
“These conversations need to be occurring in our schools, perhaps right here at Brigham Young University, in our homes, and in relationships with friends and co-workers. When you have these conversations, please remember the principle that we have discussed today which are simply these:
“See others through a lens of fairness. Treat them with respect and kindness and expect the same treatment in return.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Blessings of Repentance

from "The Infinite Atonement" by Tad R Callister

Ch 17 The Blessings of Repentance REPENTANCE OR RATIONALIZATION? How does this change of heart occur? First, there must be an honest, unqualified recognition, not a rationalization, of our sins. Alma gave this wonderful counsel to his son Corianton: “Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins” (Alma 42:30). What a contrast to Korihor’s philosophy that “whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17), or to the belief of the Lamanites “that whatsoever they did was right” (Alma 18:5). One must ultimately choose between these conflicting doctrines. There cannot simultaneously be repentance and rationalization. Rationalization is the world’s answer to sin: repentance is the Lord’s. They are two different roads with opposite destinations. Robert Frost tells of encountering a fork in the road he was traveling. He debated the road he should take, and then writes of his choice as follows: I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence:/Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.

            Every time we sin we find ourselves at a spiritual crossroad. We may rationalize the sin away or repent it away. The road “less traveled by” will make “all the difference.”

            In Book of Mormon times the moral laws closely paralleled the civil laws. That is not true today. The civil law does not punish many serious moral crimes, such as adultery and abortion. We hear excuses for such sins under the labels of “free agency” or “everyone does it” or “no one will know.” But there is no defense, no adequate excuse, no alibi for breaking the laws of God. That is what the Lord told Joseph Smith: “Thou art not excusable in thy transgressions” (D&C 24:2). When we honestly recognize that, we are on the road to repentance.

            The principal barrier to repentance is always self. Thomas Carlyle put it this way: “The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.” It was this warning that Alma was trying to give to his wayward son, Corianton: “Acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done” (Alma 39:13). Those who choose instead to live a life of denial, to defend themselves against God’s law, will discover the bitter truth: “Your sins have come up unto me, and are not pardoned, because you seek to counsel [rationalize] in your own ways” (D&C 56:14).

            Rationalization is the intellectual drug that anesthetizes the sting of conscience. Mormon witnessed this deadly overdose at the time his people were “without principle, and past feeling” (Moroni 9:20). Nephi saw the danger signals in the lives of Laman and Lemuel when he noted, “[God] hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling” (1 Nephi 17:45). Contrast that with Nephi’s lamentation: “O wretched man that I am!...My heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:17, 19). It is hard to imagine those worlds from a prophet of God. Nephi’s life was one of devotion and obedience, yet he was ever more conscious of the distance still to be traveled for perfection. The more spiritual an individual becomes, the more sensitive he becomes to his imperfections. The better he becomes, the worse he realizes he was.

            Since all of us, like Nephi, have sinned, the issue is not just whether we have done wrong, but whether having done wrong we are now willing to repent. John Donne spoke of the efficacy of repenting: Teach me how to repent; for that’s as good/As if thou’hadst seal’d my pardon, with thy [Christ’s] blood.

            The purpose of this earth life is to serve as a probationary estate, to see if we will repent and follow Christ. The Lord appointed “unto man the days of his probation” (D&C 29:43). In fact, the Lord provided that Adam’s seed “should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption” (D&C 29:42). That is what Lehi clearly taught: “The days of the children of men were prolonged…that they might repent while in the flesh” (2 Nephi 2:21). Alma likewise taught that if there had been no “space for repentance…the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated” (Alma 42:5).

            Wickedness alone seldom, if ever, has been the cause of man’s destruction: the greater tragedy is wickedness coupled with an unwillingness to repent. The predicted destruction of the wicked people of Nineveh was waived because they were willing to turn to God. The people of Melchizedek “waxed strong in iniquity” (Alma 13:17) but were spared because “they did repent” (Alma 13:18). Alma the Elder “did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord” (Mosiah 23:9), and the sons of Mosiah were called the “vilest of sinners” (Mosiah 28:4), yet each found the impetus to reverse his course. In each of these, the embers of repentance still glowed. For those who have let the embers die the Lord pronounced the consequence, “He that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man” (D&C 1:33). It was the same message the Lord sent to the wicked people of Ammonihah: “If ye persist in your wickedness” and “repent not” then “your days shall not be prolonged in the land” (Alma 9:18). IT was simple logic. The reason for this earth life was to provide a probationary period to repent; if a man refused to do so after every reasonable opportunity was offered, he forfeited his right to remain. At that point he was, as the scriptures term, “ripe for destruction” (Helaman 13:14).

            At one point Oliver Cowdery had disassociated himself from the Church. Joseph was anxious that he repent and return. He instructed his clerk, “I wish you would write to Oliver Cowdery and ask him if he hasn’t eaten husks long enough.” Rationalization and procrastination bring the husks of life—repentance, the kernels.

GODLY SORROW

            Those who experience a change of heart will manifest sorrow, not just any sorrow, but godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow and godly sorrow are a chasm apart. Paul distinguishes between the two: “I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner….For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Not all sorrows are twins. There is worldly sorrow, which is an intellectual recognition of our error. It is the sorrow of the criminal that he is caught. It is the sorrow of the immoral youth that she is pregnant. It is the sorrow of the wrongdoer that his evil designs did not come to fruition. The prophet Mormon was a witness of this sorrow. He was the leader of the Nephite armies. Due to their wickedness, many had been slaughtered in battle. His heart momentarily rejoiced when he saw their lamentation and mourning before the Lord. But the scriptures then add, “But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, …but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin” (Mormon 2:13). To the contrary, Alma pled with his son, “Let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).

            Godly sorrow is of an infinitely transcending quality. There is no need for outside pressure. The transformation will come from within. The stream of tears may flow. There will be soul-wrenching, sometimes even exquisite pain. It may take us “down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30). Even the righteous, on occasion, may cry out, “O wretched man that I am!” (2 Nephi 4:17). The sons of Mosiah knew the process: “They suffered much anguish of soul…, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever” (Mosiah 28:4). Alma acknowledged that his past history of misdeeds “caused me sore repentance” (Mosiah 23:9). There will be newfound reservoirs of compassion for those who may have been hurt, perhaps sore embarrassment, and finally and always a willingness to submit to whatever is necessary—be it apology, confession, disciplinary action, or any other divine requirement—in order to make amends with God. There will be an absence of excuses, alibis, and blaming of others. There will be a complete acceptance of responsibility for our attitudes and actions, and an unyielding commitment to be right with God. In essence, repentance brings us to a moment of total intellectual, emotional, and spiritual integrity—when we can say we have mastered the counsel of Polonius, “To thine own self be true.”

            The Savior taught that if we do not repent, we must suffer even as he suffered. This does not mean, however, that there is no suffering if we do repent. In fact, President Kimball taught that personal suffering “is a very important part of repentance. One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins.” President Kimball then added: “If a person hasn’t suffered, he hasn’t repented….He has got to go through a change in his system whereby he suffers and then forgiveness is a possibility.” This suffering, intense as it may be, is nevertheless substantially less for the repentant soul than the unrepentant. The Savior “picks up” part of the burden for those who do repent. This principle is illustrated by a story B H Roberts loved to share:

            “It is related of Lord Byron that when he was a lad attending school, a companion of his fell under the displeasure of a cruel, overbearing bully, who unmercifully beat him. Byron happened to be present, but knowing the uselessness of undertaking a fight with the bully, he stepped up to him and asked him how much longer he intended to beat his friend. ‘What’s that to you?’ gruffly demanded the bully. ‘Because,’ replied young Byron, the tears standing in his eyes, ‘I will take the rest of the beating if you will let him go.’”

            The Savior takes “the rest of the beating” for those who submit their will to his. Isaiah prophesied that he would be “bruised for our iniquities” and then promised that “with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; see also 1 Peter 2:24). Such a healing sprang from the medicinal roots of Gethsemane.

            Elder Vaughn J Featherstone tells of a young man who came to him for a mission interview. Elder Featherstone inquired as to the young man’s transgressions. In a haughty manner the young man replied, “There isn’t anything I haven’t done.” Elder Featherstone inquired as to specifics—morals, drugs, and so on. Again he replied, “I told you I have done everything.” Elder Featherstone asked, “What makes you think you’re going on a mission?” “Because I have repented,” came the reply. “I haven’t done any of these things for a year.” Elder Featherstone then looked at the young man across the table—21 years of age—sarcastic, haughty, with an attitude far removed from sincere repentance. “My dear young friend,” he said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you are not going on a mission….You shouldn’t have been ordained an elder and you really should have been tried for your membership in the Church. What you have committed is a series of monumental transgression. You haven’t repented; you’ve just stopped doing something. Someday, after you have been to Gethsemane and back, you will understand what true repentance is.” At this, the young man started to cry. It lasted for about five minutes. There was no exchange of words, only silence. Then he left Elder Featherstone’s office.

            About six months later Elder Featherstone was speaking to an institute group in Arizona. Following the meeting he saw this same young man walking up the aisle towards him, and the details of their interview flashed through his mind. Elder Featherstone could see that something wonderful had taken place in his life. Tears streamed down the young man’s cheeks and an almost holy glow came from his countenance. “You’ve been there, haven’t you?” asked Elder Featherstone. Through the tears he said, “Yes, Bishop Featherstone, I’ve been to Gethsemane and back.” “I know,” Elder Featherstone replied. “It shows in your face. I believe now that the Lord has forgiven you.”

            A godly sorrow involves joining with the Savior in the sorrow of Gethsemane. It is a sorrow that fosters a new heart and a new spirit.

AN ABSOLUTE FORSAKING
 
            But repentance requires more than sorrow. True repentance requires an absolute forsaking. Dante speaks of a soul who feigned repentance, who was long on promises but short on deeds. Believing that vows alone would save him, he argued for a celestial crown. Just before his hoped-for ascension, however, a “black cherubim” appeared on the scene. Dante’s tragic figure, now in hell, recalled the encounter and the damning words of the infernal intruder:
            “You shall not take him: cheat me not!
            For down among my minions he must come,…
            He who repents not, cannot be absolved:
            No more can he repent and act at once,
            Because the contradiction won’t permit it!”
            Alas for me! How violently I shuddered
            When he laid hold on me and said: “Perhaps
            You did not think that I was a logician!”’  

Even the minions of the underworld knew there could be no forgiveness without forsaking.

            Elder Matthew Cowley gives us the comforting assurance that the forsaking of any sin is possible: “There is not one of us here upon the earth that is not greater than his sins, is not greater than his weaknesses and his faults.” That is true. “But for how long must I forsake?” comes the oft-repeated inquiry. “How long before my membership can be reinstated or I can be rebaptized?” The answer is always the same—when there is a mighty change of heart and a new mind to make the Lord’s will supreme in our lives, regardless of our own passionate desires—when there is an unequivocal resolve to put behind us our former ways. There is a measuring rod, but it is one primarily of attitude, not time. 

            Bjorn Borg, considered to be the finest tennis player of his era, was, as Time magazine reported, “unflappable on the court, a mannerly competitor who rarely disputed a linesman’s calls, unleashed grimaces, tossed racquets, or bashed balls. ‘Iceborg’ they called him.” The article continues: “He rules his emotions so completely that so much as an on-court frown leaves fans and fellow players awe-struck.” But it was not always so. Time reveals a darker side before a remarkable change took place:

            “At eleven young Bjorn cursed like a navy, hurled his racquet, hectored officials and bellyached over every close call. ‘I was crazy, a madman on the court. It was awful. Then the club I belonged to suspended me for five months, and my mother, she took my racquet and locked it in the closet. For five months, she locked up my racquet. After that I never opened my mouth again on the tennis court. Since the day I came back from that suspension, no matter what happened, I have behaved on the court.’”

            When we have the resolve to refrain from a certain course of conduct, no matter what happens, then repentance is in the works. We have forsaken when we have mastered the habit under any set of circumstances that may be thrown at us. It is not the passage of time, but a change of heart that is the key.

RESTITUTION

            Repentance requires a full restitution in the spirit of Zacchaeus, who said, “If I have taken any thing from any man….I restore him fourfold (Luke 19:8; see also Leviticus 6:4). Such a spirit exuded from Elder Spencer W Kimball when he was called to the apostleship. What about people he might have offended? Would they resent him? He visited each man with whom he did business to explain the situation. “’I”ve been called to a high position in my Church. I cannot serve in good conscience unless I know my life has been honorable….If there was any injustice I want to make it right, and I’ve brought my checkbook.’ Most shook hands and refused to hear any more. A couple of men [,however,] fancied that in fairness they should have got a few hundred dollars more on certain sales. [Elder Kimball] wrote the checks.”

            Restitution comes in many forms. It may involve a return of funds, an apology, prayers offered on behalf of the injured party, making up for years of lost service by redoubling our efforts, or making up for negativism with positive deeds and words. The spirit of repentance demands a restoration of all that is possible, within our power.

            The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi understood this principle. Before they heard the gospel, in their unenlightened state, they had committed numerous murders and transgressions against the Nephites. In an honest attempt at restitution, the repentant king of the Lamanites made this offer to Ammon: “We will be [the Nephites’] slaves until we repair unto them the many murders and sins which we have committed against them” (Alma 27:8; see also Helaman 5:17). This humble king knew that his people could not restore to life those Nephites whom they had killed, but there burned within his heart a desire to do all he could do to make repairs. He and his people would serve those whom they had wronged and, if necessary, even be their slaves. This was the spirit of restitution. This was the spirit that burned in the hearts of the repentant sons of Mosiah, for they went about “zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church” (Mosiah 27:35).

CONFESSION

            True repentance, however, is a hard taskmaster. It requires yet more than the foregoing. Moses taught, “When he shall be guilty in one of these things,…he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing” (Leviticus 5:5; see also Numbers 5:6-7; Nehemiah 9:3). David promised, “I will declare mine iniquity” (Psalm 38:18). Those who sought John in baptism came “confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). To the Prophet Joseph the Lord declared, “I command you again to repent…and …confess your sins” (D&C 19:20). Later he advised, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43). Samuel Taylor Coleridge, speaking through the ancient mariner, well knew the pangs of nondisclosure:
            Forthwith this frame of mind was wrench’d
            With a woeful agony,
            Which forced me to begin my tale;
            And then it left me free.

            Since then, at an uncertain hour,
            That agony returns:
            And till my ghastly tale is told,
            This heart within me burns.

            Fortunately the truly repentant, unlike the ancient mariner, need not confess his sins over and over again once an honest confession has been made to the appropriate priesthood leader—but until such a confession occurs, oh, how the heart can burn. The Lord made it abundantly clear that “he that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). When Alma inquired of the Lord about how he should treat certain transgressors in the Church, the Lord responded, “If he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also” (Mosiah 26:29; see also D&C 64:7). But if they did not confess, “their names were blotted out” (Mosiah 26:36), meaning they were excommunicated from the Church.

            When should we confess? When the sin is of such serious magnitude that it may trigger a disciplinary proceeding or continues to linger in our mind so that we cannot have peace. David understood this latter condition, as evidenced by his admission, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). If we then fail to confess, our spiritual horizons become limited. It is like being surrounded by a circular, impenetrable wall. In such a circumstance, we have some limited room in which to move, but we are trapped. We will look in vain for a slit through which we can squeeze, an opening through which we can pass, an end around which we can travel. There are no end runs, no secret openings, no hidden passages. Years of service do not obviate confession; years of abstinence do not erase its needs; one-on-one pleading with the Lord is not a substitute. Somewhere, sometime, somehow we must face the wall square up and climb it. That is confession. When we do this, our spiritual horizons are broadened.

            Oscar Wilde knew this truth as he unfolded the story of Dorian Gray. One day Dorian exchanged his soul for the promise of eternal youth. Wilde traces Dorian’s downward plunge from an innocent young man to a passionless killer—until there was nothing left of him but the sordid visage of a wrecked wretch. Even in this state of seemingly moral hopelessness, Dorian’s conscience flickered with one last hope: “Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and to make public atonement. There was a God who called upon men to tell their sins to earth as well as to heaven. Nothing that he could do would cleanse him till he had told his own sin.”

            And likewise, when necessary there is nothing that can bring us to the desired cleansing except an honest confession to the Lord’s appointed on earth.

            In what spirit do we render such a confession? The Lord gave the key: “For I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” (D&C 61:2). That is the spirit. There is no room for pretense or deceit, no coloring of the facts, not a divulgence of 99 percent and a withholding of one percent. It is a disclosure of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The father of Lamoni had the proper spirit: “I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:18; emphasis added). Confession and repentance involve an unqualified baring of the soul, an unconditional surrender of self. The outpouring comes voluntarily; it is not compelled by outside circumstance. One of Dante’s damned souls discovered the hard way that deathbed confession would never invoke the cleansing process:
            When I perceived that I had reached the age
            When every man of prudence takes in sail
            And gathers in his tackle for the storm,
            What I once reveled in now caused me shame:
            In penance I confessed, surrendering all.
            Ah, hapless me—for still I was not saved!

            Resistance to confession comes, even from good saints. They may be ashamed or embarrassed. Perhaps they believe their priesthood leaders will think less of them once the sin is aired. We need to remember that bishops and other priesthood leaders are friends who desperately want to help and lift burdens. They are humans who have made mistakes but who want to be better. They are fathers to their flocks. I can honestly say that as a priesthood leader, I never thought less of a man or a woman who voluntarily, humbly confessed. To the contrary, I rejoiced that they were trying to put their lives in order. In each case I believe the bonds of brotherhood were strengthened, not weakened.

            When Mahatma Gandhi was fifteen he stole from his brother. His brother carried a chunk of solid gold on his arm. Gandhi found it easy to clip off a little portion for himself. He said he felt the pangs of guilt so severely that he resolved never again to steal. Having cleared the debt with his brother, he said he also made up his mind to confess to his father—but he was afraid, not that his father would beat him, but for the pain it might cause him. Finally, he said, “I felt that the risk should be taken; that there could not be a cleansing without a clean confession.” Gandhi resolved to write out his confession. He did so, confessing his guilt, pledging never to steal again, and asking for adequate punishment. He then closed by asking his father not to punish himself for what Gandhi had done. At the time, Gandhi’s father was ill and confined to a bed that consisted of nothing more than a wood plank. Gandhi, trembling, handed the confession to his father, then sat opposite his father and anxiously waited for a response. In his own worlds he tells of the encounter:

            “He read it though, and pearl-drops trickled down his cheeks, wetting the paper. For a moment he closed his eyes in thought and then tore up the note….I could see my father’s agony. If I were a painter I could draw a picture of the whole scene today. It is still so vivid in my mind.

            “Those pearl-drops of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. Only he who has experienced such love can know what it is….It transforms everything it touches. There is no limit to its power.

            “This sort of sublime forgiveness was not natural to my father. I had thought that he would be angry, say hard things, and strike his forehead. But he was so wonderfully peaceful, and I believe this was due to my clean confession. A clean confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance. I know that my confession made my father feel absolutely safe about me, and increased his affection for me.”

            What a beautiful observation. Honest confession increases, not decreases, a priesthood leader’s affection for the repentant soul.

            Elder Marion G Romney observed, “My brothers and sisters, there are many among us whose distress and suffering are unnecessarily prolonged because they do not complete their repentance by confessing their sins.” Naaman the leper went to the prophet Elisha seeking to be healed. Elisha told Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the River Jordan. We might wonder what would have happened if Naaman the Syrian had dipped himself three times in the River Jordan and then abandoned the cause. Would he be three-sevenths clean? Or what if he had dipped himself six times and given up—would he be six-sevenths clean? We know the answer. The cleansing came only after the seventh dipping, after total submission to the word of God. And then what a cleansing followed! The scriptures record: “His flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child” (2 Kings 5:14). So it is with the sinner, the spiritual leper. There must be a total submissiveness to the will of the Lord, a broken heart and a contrite spirit, even confession if necessary, to complete the seventh dipping, and then the spirit is made clean “like unto the spirit of a little child.”

            Why does the Lord require confession? It is so very hard. Perhaps because that one act more than any other drives us to our knees in the depths of humility. Speaking of the repentance process Alma declared, “Let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30). But, oh, the promise to those who do: “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). On the other hand, the Lord has warned, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13). What a man really is will always surface. Any disguise, any charade, any subterfuge may last for days, weeks, months, perhaps even years, but eventually a man’s true character will be expressed by his words, betrayed by his actions, and manifested in his countenance. How much better to voluntarily disclose one’s true character than to be involuntarily discovered. Confession is a means of bridging that gap.

A CLEANSING POWER

            The fruits of repentance make us clean. Isaiah declared, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). In ancient Israel the Day of Atonement was symbolic of the consequences that would flow from the real day of atonement. The scriptures read: “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30; see also Leviticus 23:27-28). Such was possible only because of the Savior’s future day of redemption. Through that Atonement, the Lord has promised that the righteous will have their “garments [made] white through the blood of the Lamb” (Ether 13:10; see also Alma 13:11).

            David pled with the Lord, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Then he described the miracle: “Purge me…and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:2, 7). There is no such thing as a spotted, cream-colored repenter. There is no black mark that emerges from the waters of baptism, no stain that survives the rigors of repentance. The repentant soul becomes as white as the driven snow. For such a saint, it is as though the act were never even committed. That is the miracle of repentance. As Elder Matthew Cowley said, “I believe when we repent there is some erasing going on up there so that when we get there we will be judged as we are for what we are and maybe not for what we have been.” He also commented, “That’s what I like about it—the erasing.” But for the unrepentant there is no such erasing. The Lord warned, “Behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not” (D&C 29:17).

            The Lord loves and longs to forgive each of his children. If we will but repent, “He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Peter explained that the Lord was “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Even Ahab, the reprobate king of Israel, had a transitory moment of repentance that was rewarded by the Lord: “Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days” (1 Kings 21:29). It is as though the Lord wants to bless every attempt, however small or feeble it may be, to put our life in his hands. To those who sincerely repent the Lord has promised, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). Ezekiel reassured us of this same great truth: “None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him” (Ezekiel 33:16; see also Ezekiel 18:22). It is a glorious thought—the Lord will judge us by what we have become, not by what we were. If we repent he will judge the new man, not the old man. This was David’s plea: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake” (Psalm 25:7).

            The Lord’s forgiveness is total and unconditional once we have repented. Samuel the Lamanite told the Nephites that the Savior, through his Atonement, made possible “the condition of repentance” (Helaman 14:18). The Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph his feelings concerning this divine principle: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16-17). Elder Neal A Maxwell summarized it well: “We will end up either choosing Christ’s manner of living or His manner of suffering!” As we choose his manner of living we overcome spiritual death through the miraculous cleansing powers of the Atonement.