Peace to the soul

"The greatest of faults . . . is to be conscious of none." - Thomas Carlyle, Scottish essayist.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith he declared that the first principles of the gospel were faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and second, repentance. That one word, repentance, carries no other explanation. Perhaps the meaning, then as now, is self-evident.Repentance (in the Greek) denotes a change of mind or a fresh view about God, about oneself and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of motality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Repentance, as we are reminded, is not optional for salvation - it is a commandment.

In 1969, a latter-day apostle sounded a warning about the ravages of sin and unrepented transgressions. A quarter century later, Spencer W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness remains a defining work on the principle of repentance.

What was unusual about this General Authority's writings was that it was blunt in its condemnation of sin, but compassionate and clear about the worth of the sinner. President Kimball reached far beyond the everyday lives of Latter-day Saints. His writings stemmed from his years as a stake president and apostle and his "many experiences in dealing with transgressors."

He especially tackled sexual impurity, encouraging Church members to seek out their priesthood leaders and "put the bitterness of sin" behind them. He reminded the reader that repentance is an individual process - and for serious transgressions - a Church process.

What he spelled out is a step-by-step guide to the process of repentance. President Kimball hammers home the point that it is far better NOT to commit sin; but recovery from sin is possible, even though the path may appear difficult or long. He echoed the Book of Mormon prophets who declared:

But wo, wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Mosiah 3:12)

President Kimball's message is clear: The Lord hates sin. ". . . No unclean thing can dwell in His presence." That, however, does not mean that sin cannot be forgiven or that the sinner cannot be redeemed. The Savior's Atonement can work in our lives. Truly the repentance process produces the miracle that forgiveness of sin inspires.

President Kimball said he wrote about repentance for three reasons:

"First the need. When I come in contact almost daily with broken homes, delinquent children, corrupt governments and apostate groups and realize that all these problems are the result of sin, I want to shout with "Alma: `Oh that I might go forth . . . with a voice to shake the Earth and cry repentance unto every people.' (Alma 29:1.)

"Second, I write to make the joyous affirmation that man can be literally transformed by his own repentance and by God's gift of forgiveness which follows for all except unpardonable sins."

And third, to help priesthood leaders fulfill "their inescapable responsibility" to cry repentance unto this generation.

The broken homes, corrupt governments and apostate groups have not vanished. Indeed the problems of the 1990s look surprisingly similar to the 1960s or even those of the 19th century and Joseph Smith's era.

But the message from Church leaders today is as loud and clear as it was 25 years ago. It is to never give up. President Kimball's voice rings from the pages in almost Churchill-like thunder: to never, never, never give up - on ourselves, on family members who have strayed, or on the Lord.

President Howard W. Hunter emphasized the purpose of the Church in his closing remarks at conference earlier this month: "We are in the work of saving souls, of inviting people to come unto Christ. . . . The world needs the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel provides the only way the world will ever know peace."

Repentance is a continuing process, a process that when complete brings peace to the soul. This peace, President Kimball assures us, "cannot be bought with money, cannot be traded nor bartered. It must be earned. The wealthy often spend much of their gains in a bid for peace only to find that it is not for sale. But the poorest as well as the richest may have it in abundance if the total price is paid. Those who abide the laws and live the Christlike life may have peace and other kindred blessings, principal among which are exaltation and eternal life."

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