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Repentance and Forgiveness Explained in the Book of Mormon


Christianity teaches that repenting of our sins is key to following Jesus Christ and receiving the blessings of His Atonement. The Bible gives helpful information about the principle of repentance, and the Book of Mormon—another book of scripture like the Bible—also includes important teachings about the principle of repentance. Some of these teachings are explained below.

Repentance is necessary for salvation

The Book of Mormon teaches us that we can’t live with God after this life unless we repent (see Alma 5:31). Sin makes us figuratively unclean, and no unclean thing can dwell in the kingdom of God (see 1 Nephi 10:21). But because God wants us to live with Him someday, He provided a way for us to cleanse ourselves from the sullying effects of sin. Through repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “ye may stand spotless . . . at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:20).

Everyone must repent

The prophet Nephi taught that we all have need of repentance and baptism: “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:5). Followers of Christ are also responsible to invite others to come unto Christ and repent (see 2 Nephi 26:27). The prophet Alma felt so passionately about this principle that he exclaimed, “O that I were an angel, . . . that I might . . . cry repentance unto every people!” (Alma 29:1).

Mortal life is a time to learn and repent

God gave you life in part to experience good and evil. He knew we would all sin, so in this mortal life He granted us “space . . . in which [we] might repent” (Alma 12:24). However, prophets consistently warn: “Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 34:33).

Christ’s Atonement makes repentance possible

Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer for our sins. Jesus paid the penalty required by the law of justice for our breaking of God’s commandments. Because the Savior suffered for our sins, we will not have to suffer the full punishment for them if we repent (see D&C 19:16). Christ’s Atonement “satisfied the demands of justice” (Mosiah 15:9), allowing Heavenly Father to mercifully forgive us.

You are blessed when you repent

We are promised great joy if we will recognize our shortcomings and renounce sin: “Blessed are they who will repent and hearken” (Helaman 12:23).

How do I repent?

The process of repenting is not complicated, but it can be emotionally difficult. Nevertheless, the prophet Nephi taught that when the Lord commands us to do something, He also provides a way to do it: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). The Lord has commanded us to repent, and so He has made it possible for us to obey this commandment.

Recognize sin

We must first acknowledge that we have sinned. No change can happen if we refuse to admit that we’ve done something wrong.

Have faith

Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement is a critical step on the road to repentance. The prophet Alma taught, “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things. If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). We may not be able to see Jesus at this time, but we can believe in Him and His power. Have faith that He can free you of the burden of sin and that through Him you can become clean again.

Feel sorrow for your sins

We should have true regret for the things in our life that are in conflict with God’s will. This should lead to a sincere desire to make changes. Once our sins are forgiven, our sorrow will be replaced with joy (see Alma 36:21).

Confess your sins

We should openly and honestly admit our mistakes to God. The Lord taught, “If [you] confess [your] sins before . . . me, . . . I will forgive [you]” (Mosiah 26:29).

Make restitution

If we have wronged someone else, we should ask that person for forgiveness and do all we can to make the situation right. If we have run afoul of the law, full repentance requires us to submit to the appropriate punishment.

Abandon sin

Repentance is a lifelong process. We will continue to make mistakes, but there is no limit to the amount of times we can sincerely repent. In the Book of Mormon, we learn of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, who had been a violent, bloodthirsty people. When they received the gospel of Jesus Christ, they repented of what they had done and refused to take up arms from that time forward, even in self-defense. Instead, they buried their weapons deep into the earth as “a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood” (Alma 24:18).

It’s never too late to repent

Have you ever felt that your sins or mistakes are beyond God’s forgiveness? The Book of Mormon contains this reassuring promise from the Lord: “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30). If you repent fully and with a sincere heart, there is nothing you can do that will disqualify you from the peace that comes with complete forgiveness.

Repentance brings peace and a new way of life.

The prophet Alma described the experience of repentance as a complete renewal—one that’s never too late. “Yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again” (Alma 5:49). When we repent, a “mighty change” is wrought in our heart (Mosiah 5:2). It is the path by which we can find peace and joy, as well as the hope of living in God’s presence someday.

Learn more about forgiveness, one great blessing of repentance.

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