BYU Women's Conference: The beautiful doctrine of repentance


The word “repentance” is often misused and misunderstood and can be given negative connotations by those who associate it with hell-fire and damnation, noted Brother Tad R. Callister in a breakout session of BYU Women’s Conference on Friday, May 1.

“To the contrary, repentance is a glorious positive; it is but another name for the process that perfects us,” he said.

Brother Callister, Sunday School general president, was joined by his wife, Sister Kathryn S. Callister, in sharing insights on the topic “Repentance: ‘A Fresh View about God, about Oneself and about the World’" (Bible Dictionary).

Many years ago, Brother Callister was asked, “Why is the Atonement of Jesus Christ necessary? Why can’t God, who is all powerful, just forgive us when we repent or help us overcome our weaknesses without the sacrifice of His Son?”

In response, Brother Callister gave the analogy of a man who rashly jumps from a plane. Although he regrets his action, no matter what he does or his pleas and petitions, he continues his relentless free-fall. “The law of gravity, like the law of justice, has no passion; it knows no mercy; it has no forgiveness and it knows no exceptions,” Brother Callister said.

Fortunately, the man finds that a friend, sensing the moment of foolishness, had placed a parachute on his back before the jump. He pulls the ripcord and is able to safely float to the ground.

“When we sin we are like the foolish man who jumped from the plane,” Brother Callister explained. “No matter what we do on our own — only a crash landing awaits us. We have no power to reverse the course.”

Rescue is possible only because the Lord provides a parachute — the Atonement. “If we have faith in Jesus Christ and repent (i.e., pull the rip cord) then the protective and saving powers of the Atonement are unleashed on our behalf and we can land unharmed.”

Through repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the demands of justice are met and individuals are cleansed, their guilt removed, and they are changed, perfected and ultimately exalted.

“Sometimes we forget that repentance is not only the road to forgiveness; it is also the road to perfection,” Brother Callister said. “Suppose I invited one of you who live out of state to drive to our home in Bountiful, but I asked you to drive there in neutral.”

The frustrated response might be, “But I can’t get there unless I put my car in gear.”

“So it is with our spiritual progress,” he said. “We can’t get to our desired destination in neutral — we must put our spirit into gear and that is called repentance.”

Brother Callister said that sin can cause individuals to feel embarrassed, discouraged, unclean and estranged from God’s Spirit.

“Because we are God’s children and because He loves us, His plan called for Jesus Christ to pay the price to bring about a condition that can eventually reverse all the negative feelings of sin and replace them with peace and hope and self-confidence. This condition is called repentance.”

In his years serving as a Church leader, Brother Callister has seen individuals who have innocently, but incorrectly, placed limits on the Savior’s infinite Atonement by believing that it somehow falls short of their particular sin. “But it is an infinite Atonement because it encompasses and circumscribes every sin, every weakness, every addiction, every wrong, and every finite frailty of man.”

Knowledge of the Atonement can help individuals forge ahead in life with good cheer. “Because of the Atonement there is no external event, no outside circumstance be it death, disaster, or the like that can rob us of our exaltation, if we but repent. We are in the driver’s seat as to our divine destiny.”

In her remarks, Sister Callister also gave her assurance that repentance is not a negative but “a beautiful doctrine that is intertwined with the Atonement of our Savior,” she said.

When serving on the island of Tarawa, part of the island nation of Kiribati, Sister Callister and her husband had the opportunity to visit with a less-active family. As they visited, the father said, “My boat has been headed in the wrong direction. Today I will change the direction of my sails.”

“Sisters, that is what repentance is all about­­ — changing the ‘direction of our sails’ — or, in other words, the direction of our lives toward God,” Sister Callister said.

Sister Callister said she loves the painting “Christus Consolator” by Carl Bloch where the Savior has His arms outstretched to all. “It can remind us that repentance is for each of us — both young and old, rich or poor, for our mistakes both big and small. … The Savior is always there, ready and waiting, to extend to us all the blessings of repentance, if we just come unto Him.”

In conclusion, Sister Callister said, “I am so grateful that there is an Atonement and for the blessings it brings. As we strive daily to 'change the direction of our sails' and become more like Christ, I testify that hope, peace, and healing will come into our lives.”

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