Recently when I was in Salt Lake City, I stopped by the LDS Church’s Distribution Center. It has a bookstore where you can purchase all the latest church manuals and materials. I was somewhat surprised to see a tract, first printed in 1984, still on sale. It is entitled “Repentance Brings Forgiveness”.
The setting for the tract is a visit by a young couple to their bishop to confess having pre-marital sex. After confessing their sin, they ask: “Can we ever be forgiven?” The bishop replies: “Yes, the Lord and his church can forgive, but not easily.” The rest of the tract expands on the difficult and painful path to forgiveness. Following are some excerpts that emphasize that point:
“When we say that the sexual sins are forgivable, this does not mean it is easy to gain forgiveness. Even though it is hard to gain forgiveness, it is something that must be done.”
“The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again.”
“It is unthinkable that God forgives sins which are serious after just a few prayers. He is likely to wait until there has been a long, sustained repentance as shown by a willingness to live all his commandments.”
“The Lord, in his preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, gave us the fifth and one of the most difficult requirements to forgiveness. He says, ‘For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with least degree of allowance. Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.’ (D&C 1:31-32). The repenting person must start on the never-ending task of keeping the commandments of the Lord. Obviously this can hardly be done in a day, a week, a month, or a year, but must go on all one’s life.”
“Now the phrase ‘with all his heart’ is vital. There can be no holding back. If the sinner neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, or fails in his prayers and other responsibilities, he is not completely repentant. The Lord knows, as does the individual, the degree of sorrowful repentance, and his forgiveness will be as great or as little as the person deserves.”
“James indicated that each good deed, each testimony, each missionary effort, each help given to others is like a blanket over one’s own sins, or like a deposit against an overdraft in the bank.”
I don’t know about you, but all I can say is “Wow”. As this tract not only states, but also emphasizes over and over, LDS forgiveness does not come easily.
The Bible talks about forgiveness so differently! Yes it also often connects forgiveness with repentance but biblical repentance is not this long painful process. Rather it is changing our mindset (the Greek word for repentance literally means a change of mind). It is the switching from trusting in our own goodness and works to be accepted by God to trusting in Jesus’ goodness and works as the basis for being accepted by God. And when that happens, forgiveness comes instantaneously as David experienced. “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13). Instead of pain, that brings great joy as David said in Psalm 32: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Ps. 32:1)
It’s all about God’s grace and what Jesus has done for us. “”In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity? (Micah 7:18) It’s all about God’s pardoning us, not our works becoming “a blanket over one’s own sins”. Not our works, but Jesus’ blood – that is what blankets our sins. To Jesus be all praise and glory!