Chapter two of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow deals with baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The following paragraph occurs towards the end of this chapter.
“To obtain religion that will save us in the presence of God, we must obtain the Holy Ghost, and in order to obtain the Holy Ghost, we must believe on the Lord Jesus, then repent of our sins, that is, forsake them, then go forward and be immersed in water for the remission of sins, then receive the laying on of hands.” (emphasis mine)
In Mormonism, as is clearly stated in this paragraph, repentance involves the forsaking of sins. In fact, as President Snow says above, it is the very essence of LDS repentance as he makes forsaking sin synonymous with repentance. Another word that is often used in Mormonism to express this idea is abandonment. Repentance means abandoning sin.
Forsaking and abandon are two very strong words. Most marriage vows include the idea of forsaking all others. We talk about abandoning ships when they are sinking. Even more serious is the idea of people abandoning their children. Whatever the context is that they are used in, forsake or abandon carry the idea of permanency. Woe to the spouse who interprets “forsaking all others” as doing that just most of the time.
That is also how repentance was explained to me a number of years ago by a member of the local stake presidency. He told me that if he repented of a sin, but then committed that sin a couple of years later – his repetition of the sin revealed that he wasn’t truly repentant the first time and thus was not forgiven for either sin.
Recently, however, some LDS members have weakened the meaning of abandon and forsake by saying that if they repeat the sin they just have to repent again. Whenever they say something like that I ask them how that jives both with official LDS teaching and the meaning of the words abandon and forsake.
I totally understand why they are weakening the meaning of these words. Abandoning sin is an impossible standard for anybody to keep. (Although I have had some LDS members tell me that they believe some LDS people have already achieved that.)
That is why the message of the Bible is so comforting. The Bible clearly acknowledges our inability to rid ourselves of sin. St. Paul’s confession: “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19) is one I so identify with. An honest evaluation of each day reveals many instances of sin on my part. No matter how much I try, I can’t keep myself clean.
That in itself is not comforting. But what is extremely comforting is the biblical message, that because we can’t do it, Jesus did it all for us. He obeyed each and every commandment perfectly and he did that for us. He paid the terrible price of each and every one of our sins. He has washed all our sins away and has clothed us in his perfect righteousness. The message that screams off the pages of Scripture is that it is not all about us – it’s all about Jesus. And thank God for that. Because of Jesus, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will live forever with Heavenly Father.
Because of Jesus, you can have that same confidence. Turn away from trusting in your works and turn to trusting in Jesus’ works for you. That, my friends, is what true repentance is all about.