Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Divine Gift of Repentance

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Divine Gift of Repentance, by D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Whenever you teach a lesson to children on the topic of repentance, the Church has a caveat printed in the manual. Its purpose is to remind that children younger than eight years old have no need of repentance—they still benefit from learning, but they don't need to repent because they haven't been baptized.

Here's what the manuals actually say:

Note: Remember that children younger than eight years old are not yet accountable and do not need to repent of sin. Encourage the children to do what is right, but do not make them feel guilty for things they have done.

Despite this warning, too often you'll see otherwise-well-intentioned teachers telling young children that they need to repent of sins they are incapable of even committing.

I actually remember learning about this as a teenager; I think I can even remember who my teacher was—this is a big deal for me because I seem to have forgotten much of my youth (perhaps because I've tried to repent of my many, many mistakes...). Here's the point: I remember actually wishing I had known this before I turned eight so I could get some more bad behavior in!

Can you believe it? I was longing for repentance-free pre-eight-years-old rebelliousness.

To my shame, the great teacher, seemingly anticipating this very reaction, said that if someone were to long for the very things I was longing for, it was a surefire proof that they were in need of repentance and likely didn't have a pure heart, let alone clean hands (see Psalm 24:3-4).

I've long been grateful for repentance, but Elder Christofferson said something that I had never considered:

Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it.

Smiling when talking of repentance? Usually people are crying and sniffling when they talk of repentance. What can we do to remember this great advice? Here's the smiling quote in a bigger context:

Only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.

I think a happy image of the need to repent is in order. Consider the following play on the familiar Tide laundry detergent image and associated happy-clean-good-feelings commercials I grew up with conveyed:

Don't these happy colors make you want to smile when you talk of repentance?

Yes, Elder Christofferson reminded that "sorrow and regret and bitter tears often accompany [repentance]," but he also taught "whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness." And while the end of that mashed-together quote doesn't have an exclamation point at the end, I think it should have one.

Here, I have one to spare: {!}

Thanks to Elder Christofferson, I will try to remember to smile each time I teach of repentance. After all, I smile inside when I remember that I've been made clean through the repentance Christ's atonement makes possible for me.

Even cleaner than clothes laundered with Tide.*

*I just hope I don't need to repent for borrowing the Tide logo to make a point. A happy point, I might add.

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