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’: