What Is Repentance?

This is a very important question to consider.  How repentance works in the life of an individual is determined by what they believe repentance to be.  Depending on it’s definition and application, it can either free one from bondage or be a legalistic tool which enslaves.

The LDS Church defines “True Repentance” as a step by step process which ends with the complete abandonment of the sin.  It is taught that if you “repent” of a particular sin and commit that sin again, the repentance was not “true” and was therefore, ineffective.  According to D&C 82:7  “unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return”.  For example, let’s say I think an unkind thought about a neighbor and afterwards repent.  Then in 2 months when I think an unkind thought again ALL THE TIMES I HAVE THOUGHT UNKIND THOUGHTS RETURN!!  If that scares you, it should!  For, how many of us can say that we will never again…

  1. Lie
  2. Get angry
  3. Covet
  4. Mislead
  5. Skip a church meeting
  6. Think an impure thought
  7. Think poorly of our neighbor
  8. Gossip

Look back on the last month of your life… did you sin at all?  If so, how many times did you commit the same sin?  Did you go back and repent of all of them?  How about the ones you committed 2 months ago?  Did you Re-Repent of those?  How about the ones from two years ago? 10 years ago?

When you really think about this you can see how impossible it really is.  There is NO WAY we are going to be able to “truly repent” of all our sins.   According to LDS Doctrine then, we are all doomed because the “former sins will return” (D&C 82:7).   This lines up perfectly with Moroni 10:32 which I talked about in my previous post.   It says “…if ye shall deny yourselves of ALL UNGODLINESSTHEN is his grace sufficient for you.”   It is not until I deny myself of all ungodliness (“truly” repent of all my sins) that I can receive Christ’s grace.  IMPOSSIBLE!!

So, is this what repentance REALLY means?  Thank God because the answer is NO!  The word repent is translated from the Greek word “metanoeo”.  It is a combination of 2 Greek words which mean “change” and “mind”.  To repent is literally to change your mind.  It is what you do ONE TIME when you accept Christ as your Savior.  When you truly accept Christ as your Lord and Savior you “change your mind” and decide to follow Him and not the ways of the world.  There is no step by step process involved and it does not require the complete abandonment of sin.  We can’t do that… so where would the good news be if it were required?  

Once you have come to Christ good works will manifest themselves in your life… good works are the evidence of a saving faith.  A person who has received the gift of salvation will TRY to live a righteous life out of love for their Savior but they will not be perfect.  The glorious news of the gospel is that despite our imperfections, He has paid the price and we will go to be with Him at our death. 

Praise be to Christ!!


  • Darrell,

    As I was reading your wonderful message, I remembered Luke 17:3 where Jesus said:

    “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him”.

    God be with you,

  • I am an apologist from India and this is my first opportunity to visit your website, which I enjoyed very much. Those in the field of apologetics need to do much to bring the doubting Thomases to faith and also to strengthen those who wish to get answers.

    I wish to bring to your notice that a good number of high-quality Ebooks on Christian Apologetics are available for no-cost download from http://www.BrethrenAssembly.Com

    The ebooks have been authored by me and they are in creative commns

    Dr. Johnson C. Philip

  • James,

    Thanks for your comment. Great observation… my take on this is there are times in the Bible where the word “repent” is used in a human sense rather than a theological sense. The section in Luke is talking about when a brother “sins against you” and “repents”. This is a very different use of the word “repent” than when it is used to refer to salvation. In a theological sense, repenting towards God is when you come to Him. Here is what my Lexicon has to say about it:

    “In terms of salvation, repentance denotes a turning away from unbelief, mistrust and rebellion against God and towards complete reliance upon His forgiveness and favor on account of Christ.”

    Mormons teach that repentance is a process used to acheive forgiveness for the sins you commit BEFORE AND AFTER conversion. For example, if you think a bad thought about your neighbor, you need to repent… then if you do it again a week later, you need to repent for that as well as all the other times you have done it because they come back on you. It is really a form of bondage.