Now is the time we can repent
“Now is the time we can learn. Now is the time we can repent. Now is the time we can bless others and lift up the hands which hang down.” So said President Russell M. Nelson, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the April 2022 General Conference.
President Nelson spoke about the importance of building spiritual momentum — of continuing to move forward through whatever challenges and opportunities may come in life. Repentance is a way to build this momentum, he said.
Repentance is often a topic during the church’s semiannual General Conference meetings. Specifically, it’s a topic President Nelson has spoken about on many occasions.
In April 2007, he spoke of repentance in a talk titled, “Repentance and Conversion.” In it, he shared that the doctrine of repentance is as old as the gospel itself. “Biblical teachings from the books of Genesis to Revelation teach repentance,” he said, adding that Jesus Christ taught repentance during his mortal ministry.
In the same talk, President Nelson outlined the steps to repentance, including making a sincere confession to the person who has been wronged, restitution to repair damage done — if possible — and then to make changes and improvements to build spiritual momentum.
“Yes, the Lord has commanded us to repent, to change our ways, to come unto Him, and be more like Him,” President Nelson said. “The fruits of repentance are sweet. Repentant converts find that the truths of the restored gospel govern their thoughts and deeds, shape their habits, and forge their character.”
President Nelson, in a Christmas devotional address in 2018, referred to repentance as a gift that is given to everyone from Jesus Christ. He said, “Can we begin to see the breadth and depth of what the Lord is giving to us when He offers us the gift to repent? He invites us to change our minds, our knowledge, our spirit, even our breathing. For example, when we repent, we breathe with gratitude to God, who lends us breath from day to day. And we desire to use that breath in serving Him and His children. Repentance is a resplendent gift. It is a process never to be feared. It is a gift for us to receive with joy and to use — even embrace — day after day as we seek to become more like our Savior.”
During the April 2019 General Conference, President Nelson said, “The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is ‘metanoeo.’ The prefix meta- means ‘change.’ The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean ‘mind,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘spirit’ and ‘breath.'”
Therefore, President Nelson said, when Jesus asks for repentance he invited followers to change “our mind, our knowledge, our spirit — even the way we breathe.”
In other words, repentance is not about punishment, it is not about focusing on wrongdoings. It is about change and improving lives. It is a positive turn in the lives of people who practice it.
“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” President Nelson said.
Repentance has been a central theme for leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in current times and decades past.
In his April 1973 conference address, titled, “Stand Ye in Holy Places,” then-President Harold B. Lee spoke of repentance as a way of feeling peace and progressing positively through life.
“In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance,” he said. President Lee continued by saying that it is a “great falsehood” to believe that there is no turning back after making mistakes, and that repentance helps people to feel peace.
Elder Richard G. Scott, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of repentance as a way to lift heavy burdens. In his October 2002 address titled, “To Be Free of Heavy Burdens,” he said, “Many of you suffer needlessly from carrying heavy burdens because you do not open your hearts to the healing power of the Lord. May this message encourage you to feel the prompting of the Holy Ghost to make those changes that will lead you to be free of oppressive burdens.”
Scott asked several questions to listeners. “Have you done things that you wish you had not done? Is it difficult for you to see any way to solve your problems? Does there seem to be an oppressive, crushing weight that’s always there no matter how you seek to shake it?”
Scott gave urgings similar to President Nelson when he said, “If you have felt impressions to be free of burdens caused by yourself or others, those promptings are an invitation from the Redeemer. Act upon them now.”
In an April 2022 General Conference talk titled, “Christ Heals That Which is Broken,” Amy A. Wright, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency, spoke about healing broken relationships with God.
She told of a woman, written about in the New Testament, who was brought to Jesus. Jesus was told that the woman was “taken in adultery.” Those who brought her may have expected harsh judgment, but instead witnessed Christ’s love.
“Christ’s response to this precious daughter of God was, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’ Another way to say ‘go, and sin no more’ could be ‘go forth and change,'” Wright said. “The Savior was inviting her to repent: to change her behavior, her associations, the way she felt about herself, her heart.”
President Nelson’s cry to encourage others to act now to make changes, feel peace and free themselves from burdens was not a one-time event. In his plea for repentance, President Nelson echoed decades of leaders before him.
“True repentance is not an event. It is a never-ending privilege. It is fundamental to progression and having peace of mind, comfort, and joy,” he said in 2018. The time to repent is now.