Education Week: Repentance


Robert L. Millet recalled a time when a young man, who was recently baptized, came to visit with him. He was preparing for a mission and had written down every sin he had ever committed. The young man figured that if he devoted each day to repent of each sin, he would be done with the repenting a couple of days before entering the Missionary Training Center.

“There was a sweetness about the whole plan,” Brother Millet admitted, but he told the future missionary that his recent baptism took care of most the sins and if there had been anything since his baptism, it would probably decrease the list dramatically.

“I was so impressed with his desire to be clean,” Brother Millet said on Friday, Aug. 19, during Campus Education Week at BYU. He is a professor of ancient scripture at BYU.

BYU Education week class members leave after a class at the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni & Visitors Center Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011.
BYU Education week class members leave after a class at the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni & Visitors Center Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. Credit: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

He went on to explain a couple of the sacrifices and offerings of the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament. Sin offerings were made by the high priests who went into the Holy of Holies once a year, on the Day of Atonement and offered up a sin offering for the whole people. It was not for a specific sin but for the sinfulness of the people. A trespass offering was offered by a priest upon an altar and was for a specific wrongdoing.

“Just as important as repenting of individual sins is repenting of sinfulness,” Brother Millet counseled. “It is a sinful heart that gives rise to specific sins.”

He said the Lord can cleanse everyone from the inside out so that their nature is changed and the desire to sin is gone. One way to know that the heart is being cleansed is that one will begin “to look upon sin with abhorrence.” If the heart changes, the actions will follow.

“Repentance is so much more,” Brother Millet said. “The change is so much more than just stopping doing the bad stuff. We do want to forsake it but we also want to have the change that will cause us to not even want to do that.”

In the book of Mosiah, King Benjamin addresses his people. He tells them the words of the angel who counseled him to put “off the natural man” and taught them about the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. After his words, the people view themselves as “less than the dust of the earth” and cry for mercy.

“Who are these people?” Brother Millet asked. “They are members of the Church. ‘Diligent in keeping the commandments.’ ”

“It isn’t that they came away feeling like worms,” Brother Millet explained. “It is that they realized without God’s help they are nothing. They realize even more than they had realized years before, how much they need Him.”

Credit: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Mosiah 4:3 states “the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy.” They were forgiven because of the Spirit that filled them and the Spirit cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle, Brother Millet said.

Brother Millet said that one of the most tragic moments in the history of the house of Israel was the story of the beloved David, who in a moment of weakness fell from exaltation and lost his family.

“We speak about remorse as being an important part and the grief and pain,” Brother Millet said. “The real question is: What is the basis of the guilt? What is the basis of the sorrow?”

He said if the sorrow is that one has been caught or that it will be an embarrassment to the family or to self, then it is not true sorrow. It is God who is hurt and it is He who has been sinned against.

“True repentance isn’t just cleaning the bathroom,” Brother Millet said. “It is cleaning the whole house.”

He said that Christ will fix the unfixable part and all He requires for a sacrifice is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Being born again is a process.

“The source for the kind of change we are describing is the Lord Jesus Christ,” Brother Millet advised. “He is the light and life of our lives. He is our only hope. There is no feeling of inadequacy, no feeling of jealousy, there are no feelings of abuse, neglect, unworthiness that our Master cannot, as the great Physician, reach into our hearts and heal.”

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