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Looking at Repentance as the Only Plan—Not the Backup Plan

You are now here on earth, a glorious son or daughter of God. You have entered a mortal world with all the deficiencies, temptations, and enticements of a secondary existence where Satan and his followers are allowed to tempt you, to seduce you, and to ensnare you. While you have made mistakes, these sins do not describe who you are. Your identity is not defined by the sins of this world, but by the righteousness of another. Finding yourself here with the sins and failings of this difficult probationary state, your soul cries out for divine help. Deep in your soul, you yearn for a Redeemer, a Savior, to find your way back to your heavenly home. The Fall does not define you; it helps to refine you.

In understanding the Fall, we must always remember who we really are. We are divine, literal spirit children of Heavenly Parents. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught, “Because this doctrine [of the Fall] is so basic to the plan of salvation and also because it is so susceptible to misunderstanding, we must note that these references to ‘natural’ evil emphatically do not mean that men and women are ‘inherently’ evil. There is a crucial difference. As spirit sons and daughters of God, all mortal men and women are divine in origin and divine in their potential destiny. . . . But it is also true that as a result of the Fall they are now in a ‘natural’ (fallen) world where the devil ‘taketh away light’ and where some elements of nature—including temporal human nature—need discipline, restraint, and refinement.”3

We live in a world of sin, and no matter how good we desire to be, sin enters into each of our lives. The Apostle Paul said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The Apostle John taught, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”5 Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”6

There are many types and degrees of sin, but sin in some form will remain with us in this mortality. Brigham Young said, “Do not suppose that we shall ever in the flesh be free from temptation to sin. . . . I think we should more or less feel the effects of sin so long as we live.”7

We cannot completely escape the world that surrounds us. If we are wise, it leads us first to humbly realize our mortal difficulties and to turn to our Savior with full purpose of heart. Very noble souls are often pained by their own mortal weaknesses. Nephi laments, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”8

Mormon wrote of those hearing the teachings of King Benjamin: “And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified.”9

Repentance Is Necessary for All

Repentance is not our backup plan; it is the only plan. “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence.”10

I remember in my late teenage years when I first began to understand the powerful words of King Benjamin: “I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures.”11 He referred to us as being in a worthless and fallen state. He asked, “Are we not all beggars?”12

With reflection, I found his teachings convincing. He explained: “[God] is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another.”13

I thought, “It is true that my ability to breathe, to live and move my body, and to do according to my own will, does not come from my own accomplishment, but is given to me as a gift from God.” I compared it to a very young child eating at his parents’ table, not realizing the efforts necessary for his parents to provide the food each day.

King Benjamin then added even more reason to appreciate our dependence on our Father. He speaks of “the Atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord.”14 Accepting King Benjamin’s admonition to “repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you”15 brings you closer to God. And then this piercing message of truth: “And now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.”16

I absolutely know that repentance is necessary for all of us, and for all of our lives. Our faith in Christ and our willingness to follow Him bring us hope, peace, and love for God and for His children. We need not feel discouraged when we sense our spiritual progress seems too slow or when we continue to see the weaknesses in our character. We must never become “weary in well doing.”17 “Be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.”18 Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”19


Image titleIn this book, Elder Andersen writes especially to those who are "awakening" unto God—those who are just beginning to discover or who seek the divine gifts and power of repentance and forgiveness in their lives. The Divine Gift of Forgiveness is organized in such a way that readers can choose the section or chapter that applies most to them and study it without having to have read from cover to cover. Leaders can similarly recommend specific chapters to those with whom they work. Filled with powerful doctrine along with stories and experiences, this book will help all readers become more devoted disciples of the Savior. Available now at Deseret Book stores and at DeseretBook.com.


1. See 2 Nephi 2:11–16; Doctrine and Covenants 29:39–40.

2. See Deuteronomy 4:29–31.

3. Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1997), 207.

4. Romans 3:23.

5. 1 John 1:8.

6. Isaiah 53:6.

7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 50.

8. 2 Nephi 4:17–18.

9. Mosiah 4:2.

10. Moses 6:57.

11. Mosiah 4:11.

12. Mosiah 4:19.

13. Mosiah 2:21.

14. Mosiah 4:6.

15. Mosiah 4:10.

16. Mosiah 4:10.

17. Doctrine and Covenants 64:33.

18. Moroni 9:25.

19. John 16:33.

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