Friday, November 5, 2010

We All Experience Repentance and Forgiveness Differently

When it comes to repentance, I believe people simply experience it in varying ways - for three reasons:

1) People simply experience things differently.

Members tend to over-generalize the most common examples onto everyone (like Oliver Cowdery's burning and stupor), but we are taught that the gifts and fruits of the Spirit are various and diverse. Some experience a unique calm; others a flash of insight ("pure intelligence"); others a cessation of worry or doubt (a "settling of the issue" feeling); others a sudden burst of joy; others, like me, a sense of peace. Whatever the specific manifestation, the person generally recognizes that they feel differently about it - that they no longer feel racked or tormented or pained by it. The "suffering" has been removed. That's enough for me.

2) I also believe the intensity of the feeling of forgiveness generally is commensurate with the level or degree of unrighteousness inherent in the actual sin. ("Your joy will be as sweet as your anguish was bitter.")

Alma, for example, felt he had been involved in the spiritual murder of people; of course, his suffering was INTENSE - as was the subsequent release from that suffering. His forgiveness was distinct and intense, because his repentance ("change") was meteoric and immediate. (If you can call three days of intense suffering immediate.)

3) Most of us, however, don't go from sinning in a vile manner to sudden and full repentance. Most of us change gradually from one stage to another (line-upon-line, precept upon precept), so our recognition of the change (repentance) and the subsequent forgiveness is not nearly as intense as someone like Alma - or Zeezrom. Think about it: How many times in the entire scriptural canon do we read of experiences similar to Alma's? Very, very rarely. You almost have to start at one extreme to experience the other in a sudden and dramatic way. Otherwise, it's incremental and subtle - and, again, I'm fine with that.

I really would rather not descend to the point where such a conversion and intense forgiveness would be possible, since I don't want to risk not being able to change. God had a specific mission for Alma that required he be raked over the coals in that manner; I kind of hope he doesn't have that in store for me.


Jared said...


Your post caught my eye. As I was reading I thought of two things that relate.

First, a quote from a book written by Blaine Yorgason, and Second, a verse from the Book of Mormon. I'll look forward to your comment.

“Forgiveness Not Always a Remission of Sins…there can be a difference between being forgiven of a sin and obtaining a remission of sins.

If a person commits a particular sin and then feels bad enough about it to confess it in humility and ask forgiveness of the Lord, he or she is freely forgiven of that sin…In our day the Lord has said, “I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness” (D&C 64:7).

Interestingly, this forgiveness seems to be granted even though the person may be committing other sins at the time. Thus, one who enjoys lusting may at the same time repent of and obtain forgiveness for stealing or lying. Or one who gossips may repent of and obtain forgiveness for immorality.

Unfortunately, such a person, while blessed with forgiveness for all the sins he chooses to repent of, nevertheless “persists in his own carnal nature” because he is intentionally going “on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God.” Because he has not repented of all his sins, he “remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him” (Mosiah 16:5)… That is why forgiveness of some or even most of our sins is not, never has been, and never will be sufficient to bring us to Christ. Even though we are blessed for having repented of some things, we are not granted peace and joy through a complete remission of our sins…” I Need Thee Every Hour, by Blaine M. Yorgason, p. 113-115.

Brother Yorgason’s book was published in 2003 by Deseret Book. This means it passed the rigorous reviews of the church owned publishing company.

2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

(Book of Mormon | Mosiah 4:2 - 3)

Papa D said...


1) I agree completely that someone can repent of one thing and receive a forgiveness of that sin while not repenting of other things and receiving forgiveness for those things. I think that is crystal clear, since someone has to be aware of something and forsake it to repent.

2) I respect Bro. Yorgason, but I don't believe everything published by Deseret Book is doctrine and can be accepted simply because of its publication. I simply do not agree with the following - or, at least, with the clear implication of the following:

"That is why forgiveness of some or even most of our sins is not, never has been, and never will be sufficient to bring us to Christ."

Christ does not require perfect (complete, whole, fully developed) repentance in order to "come unto me". He goes unto all who will accept His offer to comfort those who stand in need of comfort - especially those whom nobody else will approach because of their real conditions (including sins) and perceived unworthiness because of those conditions (and sins).

To even imply that someone must be totally repentant in order to "come unto Christ" - honestly and bluntly - is abhorrent to me, since it contradicts nearly everything we have recorded in our canonized scriptures. It also just feels wrong to my heart. It is the "desire" (true desire) that qualifies one for the work and for the comfort and for the companionship, not perfection in any particular aspect of life. If that were not true, nobody would be able to come unto Christ in this life. Period. If we believed such perfection was necessary, we would be nothing but strict Protestants - since we also would believe in an unbridgable chasm between God and His chlidren.

3) I do believe that someone can repent completely of all sin, but it has to be accompanied by a true and complete change of heart that literally changes the person into someone who no longer desires to commit sin - and I don't believe it must be lasting simply because it was powerful and complete in the moment. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis are a great example of a comprehensive AND lasting conversion, but the people referenced in Mosiah 4:2-3 didn't all have lasting repentance and conversion. It actually didn't take all that long for some of them to begin to return to their previous sins.

Jared said...


I agree with everything you wrote. Well put.

I would add that what happened to the people of King Benjamin (and others in the Book of Mormon) is more than being forgiven of some of their sins.

The people of king Benjamin had established the church and built a temple many years prior to receiving a remission of their sins as recorded in Mosiah 4:3. They followed Christ by living the same gospel principles we do today. They had faith in Jesus Christ, repented, received baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Book of Mormon says they had prophets and holy men and “…they did speak the word of God with power and with authority…” However, with all this they had never fully completed their baptism covenant by receiving a remission of their sins (baptism of the Spirit) until the day king Benjamin gathered them together. They had repented and had experiences with the Holy Ghost but they had never received a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost.

With that said, the question then follows: how were they different after this experience?