Kelly Ogden, professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, spoke on the miracle of repentance at Tuesday’s campus devotional.
“There is no principle of the gospel more important than repentance,” Ogden told students and faculty. “This one principle is so vital that it towers above all others in primacy and urgency. Driven by faith, repentance is the single most important principle to live in order to make the Savior’s Atonement effective and meaningful in our lives.”
Ogden said that repentance is not merely forgetting or feeling guilty, but rather, “it is an attitude change, and a behavior change. We repent not only of sins, but of sinning, and we are willing to do whatever is necessary to remove the stain and the pain. We turn to the Savior. He is the only one who can take away our sins, because He paid the price for them.”
He told students that godly sorrow and suffering are necessary for true repentance. He spoke of a painting that, to him, represented the process of repentance. He said, “It portrays the stages a person goes through to be totally rid of his or her sins—from the agonizing pain of darkness, to the glimmer of hope and recognition that there is a light we can turn to, then fully committing to dedicate ourselves to that light.”
Ogden also spoke of some of his concerns over how many people may see the repentance process. “We have a worry these days. Many in this generation seem to be growing up with the carefree attitude, I can sin now, and I can always repent later; it only takes a few months of waiting and I can go on a mission, or I can go into the temple,” Ogden said.
Quoting Elder Richard G. Scott, he said, “The thought of intentionally committing serious sin now and repenting later is perilously wrong. Premeditated sin has greater penalties and is harder to overcome.
“We must confess and forsake our sins now and not put off our repentance,” Ogden said.
He explained that no one knows when death will occur. He shared examples of two young adults who were unexpectedly and tragically taken from this life.
“The fact is, none of us knows exactly when we are going to be departing this mortal sphere,” Ogden said, “so we should be ready always—never procrastinating the day of our repentance, but repenting daily and keeping ourselves prepared to meet God.”
He further said, “Don’t wait for the pressure situations of mission and marriage to arrive to do your repenting. . . Before going to the temple, before going to sacrament meeting, even before kneeling to pray, be reconciled to Heavenly Father and to the Savior.”
Ogden also spoke of the importance of truly forsaking sins. “To forsake means to give up, to abandon. Indeed, we must abandon all sin as soon as we can,” Ogden said. “Part of forsaking is forgiving yourself and putting the sins behind you—burying away the old man of sin, as the apostle Paul put it, leaving them buried, and not digging them up any more.
“In other words, when you have planted your life in a more spiritual furrow, keep your eyes straight ahead and don’t look back to the old sins, the old people, the old places. Someone suggested that when Satan reminds you of your past, you just remind him of his future! Keep your eyes looking ahead and on the Savior,” Ogden said.
He reminded students that often people remember their sins even though they have repented and have been forgiven. Of this he said, “The Lord leaves the memory in your mind as an early warning system; it is protection against going back to the old ways, the old sins.”
Ogden further said that repentance is a blessing. He said, “We sometimes look upon repentance as a punishment, a distasteful or negative thing. It does involve some pain, of course, but genuine repentance is a blessing—a happy, positive thing.”
He said that once someone has truly repented, then “whatever your past has been, your future is spotless; so tie yourself to your potential, not to your past. One of the most beautiful truths of the plan of happiness is that the Lord forgives and forgets.”
Ogden told of his experience having back surgery. He said, “I learned something from that painful ordeal. It is not enough to repair the damage done; I have to continually strengthen my back so it doesn’t happen again. So with repentance: we must cleanse ourselves of all that is wrong inside, repair the damage that has been done, and continually strengthen ourselves to become more and more resistant to sin and more and more capable of sustaining light and truth from Him who is our strength. It is the daily diligence to prayer and scriptures, along with exact obedience to all other commandments, and serving others, and worshiping in the temple, that we keep ourselves strong and avoid the sinning.”
He concluded by telling those in the audience, “Each of us will stand before our Father, and look into his divine eyes and report on what we have done with this brief moment of time. We will all have photographic memories, a perfect recollection of all we’ve done on earth, and that perfect awareness will either send us into deep despair and remorse or fill us with happiness and gratitude. It’s up to us. We will all live forever—no exceptions—and we’re determining each day by how we’re behaving down here exactly where and with whom we will live forever. Whatever has gone wrong in our lives that has tainted or darkened our souls, can be erased, cleansed, removed, and purified by the power of sincere repentance. It is a miracle.”
To read the talk in its entirety, visit speeches.byu.edu. The devotional will also be rebroadcast on BYUtv. Check byutv.org for schedules, as well as on demand availability.
Writer: Stephanie Bahr