Wednesday, July 1, 2015

True Repentance Is Not Always Complete Repentance

In general, we don't handle addictions very well in the Church.

First, it is stigmatized so much that it is hard for many members to admit - and it is easy for those not addicted to over-react.  Second, "true repentance" ("true" as in "pointed in the right direction, like "true north") and "complete repentance" ("complete" as in "finished") are two very different things.

True repentance is a condition of the heart and spirit - a deep desire to be the best "me" possible and faith (hope in the unseen) that I can continue to grow and be better over time, with an acceptance of grace that makes up the difference between what I want to be and what I am - and might always be in this life, like Paul's reference to the thorn of his flesh.

Complete repentance is a condition of the body, where we have stopped doing certain things that keep us from being who we want to be. True repentance can exist "fully" even when complete repentance is not possible (like an addict who tries valiantly to change all his life but stumbles occasionally) - and, I would argue, complete repentance (in terms of Mormon theology) doesn't occur until we are perfected as gods. True repentance, justified by the grace of the Atonement, allows for thorns of the flesh to continue to exist without guilt and punishment in the end.

We teach complete repentance in most cases where we should be teaching true repentance, and the failure to distinguish between the two causes real harm to many people - especially those struggling with an addiction.

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