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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Elders Quorum Pre-Lesson: Faith and Repentance 3/9/14

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith
Chapter 5: Faith and Repentance

This week's Elder's Quorum lesson is on faith and repentance. I appreciate this lesson because faith and repentance are two things we can all benefit from understanding better.

I want to preface my comments by saying that repentance is more complicated than it looks. Sure, it's easy to say, "stop that!" But it's not always easy to "stop that." Anyone who's ever truly repented of serious sin knows it's not easy. Repentance involves tough emotions, faith, hope, willingness, vulnerability, humility, and a number of other "things", for lack of a more creative word. So, as you read, examine your own emotions, faith, hope, and willingness.

Faith

I love that we are studying faith and repentance together for this lesson. Why? Because faith gives us reason to repent. Paul of Tarsus truly stated, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1Corinthians 15:19) Look at all the commandments we have in the church: Don't drink, don't smoke, don't drink coffee, keep the Law of Chastity. If we didn't have faith, then what reason would we have to do any of these things. Heck, we'd be missing out on the party!

But the truth is, we have reason to keep God's commandments. We have faith that if we keep God's commandments we will be blessed in this life, as well as the next.

Faith 2.0

Faith isn't only about being blessed for our efforts. Faith is also about having trust in the atoning power of Jesus Christ. Christ's power isn't only the power to forgive, it is the power to teach, and heal us. We learn from Alma 7 11:13:

1. He suffered pains, afflictions, and temptations so that he could understand us in our trials, and afflictions.
2, He takes our punishment upon himself that we don't have to do it ourselves. (See also D&C 19:16-17)
3. He took upon himself death so that he could loose the bands of death
4. He took upon him our infirmities so that he could have mercy, and know how to succor us according to the flesh
5. He took upon him our sins so that he could blot them out, and deliver us.

So, if we turn to Christ and rely on him, trust on him, and put our faith in him then he will help us in our efforts to repent. And if we have faith in Christ then we must also be thankful, and this piece is requisite to faith. Being thankful means that we appreciate his hand in our repentance, appreciate his willingness to forgive us our sins, and recognize his power to change our hearts. (Read D&C 59:21)

Repentance

The Dictionary.com entry for repentance reads:

Repentance
noun
1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.
2. regret for any past action.

Sometimes repentance, thanks to those complicated emotions mentioned earlier, can have a bad connotation. If you have need of repentance then you've sinned, if you've sinned then maybe you're not as good a person as you pretend to be, and have to fix yourself. So the call to repentance becomes an insult of sorts, because the sinner is a bad, and broken person. That is not a welcome feeling. If you doubt me, then look into your heart and think how you felt last you were called to repentance.

When I was younger I used to feel this way. I also had some serious iniquities to repent of, and didn't know how to repent of them. I would ask how to repent. The simple definitions just weren't enough. So, I prayed, and studied.

At first I asked, "What would Jesus do?", and God responded, "He wouldn't get himself into this situation!" That didn't help much at the time, but over the years I've thought on that answer as I've studied, pondered, and prayed. I've since created for myself a different definition of repentance that is simpler, less intimidating, more powerful, and wider in scope.

Repentance:
noun
1. The act of becoming more like Christ
2. The lifelong pursuit of becoming a Christ like person


Ponder that for a moment...







I prefer this definition because it means that repentance isn't just a stop gap measure for when we screw up. Repentance is a way of life, a way of improving our selves all the time, every day. It means that we never stop repenting, we are never done, and we never give up. If we are always repenting, then we are always becoming men of Christ.

Repentance makes bad men good, good men better, and better men great. If we have an eye toward Christ, and the spirit of repentance always in our hearts then we will one day find that we are that man of Christ we've been striving to become. We will be as Captain Moroni, and shake the powers of hell forever (Alma 48:17)

Homework: (Ponder and pray)

Read: Teachings of Presidents of the Church Joseph Fielding Smith Chapter 5.
Read: Ether 12:27 and ponder how you can apply this to repentance in your own life.