Repentance is another word that is defined differently by Mormons. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, lists the following elements in the process of repentance: 1) Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; 2) Sorrow for sin; 3) Confession; 4) Abandonment of Sin; 5) Restitution; 6) Righteous Living. I would like to focus on the 4th element: the abandonment of sin.
This is what True to the Faith says under that heading. “Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold, he will confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:43).
“Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression. When you keep this commitment, you will never experience the pain of that sin again.”
Over the years, numerous Mormons have repeated this idea to me. For example, one member of the stake presidency explained it to me this way. He said that if he took the name of the Lord in vain when he was 16 and repented of it – but then took the Lord’s name in vain again when he was 17 – that would show that he truly wasn’t repentant when he was 16.
In striking contrast, the Bible talks realistically. It says that because we still have a sinful side, we won’t be able to perfectly fight off temptation or abandon the sin. Even St. Paul confessed that the good he wanted to do, he often could not do and the evil he didn’t want to do, that is what he did! In the Bible, repentance is not abandoning the sin. Rather it is a change of mind. (That’s the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance.) It’s the abandoning, not of sin, but of trust in ourselves precisely because we see the extent of our sins and the fact that we can’t perfectly abandon them. Repentance is abandoning trust in ourselves and instead placing all our trust in Jesus and the fact that he perfectly abandoned sin for us. Repentance is turning away from ourselves and turning to our Savior. It is not a “painful process” as True to the Faith describes it. It is joyous relief as exhibited by Zacchaeus in Luke 19.