What Does “Repentance” Mean?

When Mormons and members of other Churches talk about spiritual matters they often end up misunderstanding each other. This is because neither one realizes that the other uses different definitions for the vocabulary being used. As a Mormon I had no idea that I spoke a different language than my Christian friends. Even though we all spoke English and used the same vocabulary, I had a different dictionary for many words! I didn’t realize this until after I left Mormonism and got involved in several Bible studies at my Church. It quickly became evident that the Mormon definitions I carried around in my head were dramatically different.

A good example of this can be found in the Ensign (January 2009), pages 72-73. In “Latter-Day Saint Voices” Marcos Walker writes an article about letting go of his past. He writes “My mind and heart were troubled, and my soul was filled with pain and sorrow.” Marcos then tells a co-worker (who is a member of another church) that his anguish is the price he has to pay for his mistakes. His colleague responds “Jesus Christ has paid the price, if you have truly repented of your sins.” The word I want to highlight is “Repented”. You can see by the last sentence in Marcos’ article that he uses the LDS definition for the word Repentance. “Although my trials continue, I know that as I repent, turn to the Lord, and keep the commandments, He will continue to sustain me.” What Marcos doesn’t know is that his colleague meant something entirely different when he said “if you have truly repented of your sins”.

The Greek word for repentance literally means “a change of mind”. Now that I understand this, it resonates in my heart as I see how it differs in Mormonism. Whenever I do something that is against God’s will; I feel regret, and even sorrow. But then I turn in thankfulness to my Savior for paying the price for that sin.

This is what Marcos’ Christian friend meant when he said “if you have truly repented”. Because his friend believes that Christ paid the price for his sins, he does not rely on his own efforts to gain forgiveness for a sin. Repentance is abandoning trust in yourself and placing all your trust in what Christ has already done for you.

As a Mormon I lived every day trying to gain forgiveness through the “LDS Process of Repentance”. I was tormented by my sins, trying to do the required works necessary to gain forgiveness. Now, my most precious gift is the complete forgiveness of all my sins! I live in a continual state of repentance, turning constantly to my Savior in thankfulness!

I’m often told that I misunderstand the correct LDS definition of Repentance. In truth, I believe that unlike many Mormons, I actually believed the words of my prophets and apostles. For many years I tried with all my heart to meet their impossible demands. One simple example of these demands can be seen in the Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson, Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord. It teaches that among other things, repentance means to abandon your sin and obey the commandments. Just think about what that would mean. Can anyone truly keep all the commandments and abandon their sins? No one can meet these demands and hence, no one can gain forgiveness in this way.

There was only one perfect person who came to this earth and His name is Jesus. That is why we need a Savior!

I have created a Page on this blog with many quotes from LDS leaders defining the Process of Repentance.
Click here to read this Page:

Link to “Peter’s Journal” contrasting his true repentance with Judas’:

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8 Comments

  1. ames4truth said,

    January 14, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Great point. I see the different vocabulary when I am in my Christian bible studies as well. The means have been changed to protect the brainwashed. I recently went to a class to help with freedom from religious abuse and it told the meaning of repentance was just what you said. Change the way you view things…change directions…change your mind and how you view change. It was fascinating.

  2. ldslesson said,

    January 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    As member of the LDS faith or Mormon, the way I see repentance is very similar to what you are describing. You feel bad when you sin and so do I. You then, “turn in thankfulness to my Savior” and so do I. This is the process. Turning to Christ is the process. Once I have, my sins are forgiven as the Lord said,
    “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
    By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” Doctrine and Covenants 58:42-43.

    Christ did pay for all our sins. I just have to live the way he wants and get better every day.

  3. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    January 14, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Thank you so much for your comment. I understand where you are coming from. I struggled with trying to live the way God wants as I was trying to gain forgiveness. You say you look at repentance like I do. But, there is one big difference in what you see as repentance. You say you are forgiven after you repent. Your repentance is required before you are forgiven. You believe Christ paid for all your sins but, you “have to live the way he wants“. Specifically, how does Jesus want you to live?

    I am forgiven before I even turn to God. All of my sins were forgiven at the Cross, where Christ paid the penalty for all sins. Even yours were forgiven then! Jesus claims the forgiveness comes first. We see this in Luke chapter 7 when Jesus tells Simon the Parable of the debtors. The debtors were forgiven before they did anything. I received my forgiveness through faith (Acts 10:43). You attempt to receive your forgiveness through your works of repentance, one sin at a time.

    Also, what you describe isn’t all that’s required in the LDS process of Repentance. If you go to my Page titled “The LDS Process of Repentance” you will find other things necessary to gain forgiveness, such as keeping the other commandments, forgiving all who have offended you and doing missionary work.

  4. Darrell said,

    January 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Latterdaysaintwoman,

    Great post. I did a post about this a few weeks ago on my blog as well. The difference between Biblical Repentance and the LDS teaching of Repentance is staggering. The LDS view is basically legalistic bondage.

    I am so grateful for what my Savior has done. He had freed us from this bondage. My prayer is that those who are caught in it can see it for what it really is. Coming to the truth is so wonderfull!

    Darrell

  5. royaltonmd said,

    January 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Sorry, but the claim that a person is forgiven even before they repent is simply outrageous and not Biblical in any way, shape, or form.

    Why do believers or anybody else need a judgement? Why bother going before Christ at the last day? It does not make sense if our efforts and works are of so little significance. In fact, the New Testament says over and over we will be judged by our works. What is the difference between salvation and the result of the judgement?

    Christ appealed to the law of the harvest very often in describing the gospel and salvation. It is actually quite simple and beautiful and fair. We must do our part- till the ground, plant the seed, pick the weeds, and water the plants. He performs the miracle 100% in making the plant grow and the sun to shine. But we have to do our part. We must repent and follow Him.

    We have to work, but Christ does 100% of the saving.

  6. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    January 21, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Royalton,
    You asked: “Why do believers or anybody else need a judgement? Why bother going before Christ at the last day? It does not make sense if our efforts and works are of so little significance. In fact, the New Testament says over and over we will be judged by our works.

    All people’s works will be judged on Judgment Day. But, as I mentioned in my very first post on October 13th, on Judgment Day, before anyone is judged, all peoples of the world are already divided into two separate groups–the righteous and the wicked.

    The righteous believer has been forgiven of all sins, so he only has good works to judge. His righteous works are judged and will be rewarded. The wicked Unbeliever’s works will be judged as proof to condemn him to live eternally with Satan.

  7. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    January 21, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Royalton,
    You wrote: “Sorry, but the claim that a person is forgiven even before they repent is simply outrageous and not Biblical in any way, shape, or form.”

    Royalton, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures“! There are many passages speaking of gaining forgiveness through God’s love, mercy, Jesus’ blood and our belief in Jesus. Two of my favorite are:

    Acts 10: 43 “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

    Revelation 1:5 “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood

    Those are my favorite, but here are many more:

    Matthew 1: 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

    Mark 4: 11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

    Luke 7: 36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

    Romans 4: 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

    2 Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

    Ephesians 1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

    Colossians 1: 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

    Colossians 2: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.

    Colossians 3: 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

    Hebrews 10: 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

    1 John 3: 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

    Revelation 1: 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    Psalm 32: 1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

    Psalm 78: 32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. 33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. 34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. 35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. 36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. 37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. 38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. 40How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!

    Psalm 85: 2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. 3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

    Psalm 103: 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; 4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; 5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

    Psalm 130: 1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 5I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

    Isaiah 43: I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. 24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. 25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. 26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.

    Isaiah 44: 22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. 23 Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

    Isaiah 50: 20 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.

    Jeremiah 33: 7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. 9 And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.

    Jeremiah 50: 20 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.

    Ezekiel 36: 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. 30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. 31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. 32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. 33 Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.

  8. Todd Wood said,

    November 30, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for the comment, saturated with biblical truth.

    And I just read Ezek. 36 in my personal Bible reading, yesterday.

    God sanctifies His great name. And God cleanses me from all the idols of my heart. Praise His holy name.

    For those interested, the short, little book, Counterfeit Gods (2009) by Tim Keller is a good read. So is the book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (2007) by Jerry Bridges.

    thinking of heart issues,
    et
    http://www.heartissuesforlds.org


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