"Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace."
(D. Todd Christofferson, "The Divine Gift of Repentance," October 2011 general conference)
"Lord, I Would Follow Thee," Hymns, #220
"Behold, now I say unto you that he [God] commandeth you to repent, and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God" (Alma 9:12).
For more information on this topic, read "Repentance and Conversion" by Russell M. Nelson, April 2007 general conference.
In The Lion King, Simba blames himself for the death of his father. Afraid of the consequences, Simba runs away from home and tries to hide the problem by forgetting the past.
He spends years saying "Hakuna Matata" to any painful memories, but never resolves the issues of his past, which still make him feel sad and guilty. He forgets his potential to be king, instead falling into habits of laziness and lack of responsibility.
Finally, Simba's father, Mufasa, appears to Simba and chastises him:
"You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember who you are."
Later, when Simba hesitates to face his past and take his place as king, the baboon Rafiki gives him this sage advice: "The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it."
With this encouragement, Simba finds the courage to go back home and admit his past mistake. By doing so, he finds forgiveness from his family and is able to fix the kingdom's problems as its true king.
In our lives, we all make mistakes. Sometimes our mistakes are so bad that we want to hide from them and forget that the mistakes ever happened. It's tempting to say "Hakuna Matata" to all the things that make us feel guilty.
But keeping our sins hidden rather than repenting takes us off the path to eternal life. If we avoid the problem, we diminish our potential to be kings and queens in the kingdom of God. Only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ can we find our way back on track and be free of guilt.
[Repentance is a] change of mind and heart that brings a fresh attitude toward God, oneself, and life in general. Repentance implies that a person turns away from evil and turns his heart and will to God, submitting to God’s commandments and desires and forsaking sin. True repentance comes from a love for God and a sincere desire to obey his commandments. All accountable persons have sinned and must repent in order to progress toward salvation. Only through the atonement of Jesus Christ can our repentance become effective and accepted by God.
(The Guide to the Scriptures, "Repentance")
Repenting means confessing our sins to God (and to a Church leader, if necessary), making restitution to those we've hurt, and never repeating our mistakes. The past can't be undone, but we can learn from it and avoid sinning again.
It isn't easy, but by remembering that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, we can find the courage to address our sins and put them behind us for good.
Each [person] has an eternal core and is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Each possesses seeds of divinity and must choose whether to live in harmony or tension with that divinity. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people may “progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny.” Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father's.
[We] believe that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can have a sure hope of eternal glory and that the power of His Atonement is fully accessed only by faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in following the instruction and example of Christ (2 Nephi 31:20). Thus, those who become like God and enter into a fulness of His glory are described as people who have been “made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood" (D&C 76:69) (Gospel Topics: Becoming Like God).
Like Simba, we can remember who we are, learn from the past, and take our place in the kingdom of our Father through the gift of repentance.
Along with watching The Lion King as a family, you can do the following activity to illustrate Christ's Atonement and the gift of repentance.
Materials: One cup of water in a clear glass, another cup with bleach, and food coloring (all separate)
Instructions: Explain how the clear glass of water represents us when we first come into the world, clean and pure. Then slowly add drops of food coloring, and explain how each drop represent a sin we commit (give some examples as you go). The water loses its purity, and it seems like it can’t become clean again. Similarly, when we sin we sometimes feel like we can’t ever make our mistake go away, or that we’ll never feel good about ourselves again.
But it is possible to remove our guilt and become clean to return to live with Heavenly Father if we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Now, pour the cup of bleach into the glass of water. The water will slowly become cleaner until it eventually becomes completely clear again. (You can add more bleach to clear it up faster, but if you let it clear slowly, it gives you more time to explain how the Atonement works, and how sometimes repenting takes time).
Explain how when we repent, Christ’s Atonement can make us clean again, ready to start over and try again to remain clean.