I’ve written before that I have been inspired by the General Conference Odyssey that some LDS bloggers decide to embark on before the conference being held in April. With a tighter schedule than I’d like, I couldn’t keep up and blog along, but I have been going back and reading historical talks.
I think one of the best lessons I have learned so far from my experience is that there are no new doctrines being taught. I’m also finding that increasing my opportunities for the Holy Spirit to teach me by adding just a few more minutes to my scripture study every morning has been beneficial, too. I have been rewarded to see connections that I’ve never noticed before.
So, today I am going to try to make connections between two talks that have moved me deeply:
Elder Packer compares the journey from sin to forgiveness to the experience of a member of the Donner party of pioneers. He had forgotten most of the harrowing events of the winter in the mountains, but could remember the beautiful spring morning near a ranch that signaled to him that the suffering and anguish were over. He then quotes several scriptures that teach that our experience with forgiveness can spiritually be the same.
The next comparison Elder Packer makes is of the surviving members of the party not being able to wish themselves off that mountain. They had to do their part, but on the way, they had the help of rescuers. So it is with divine forgiveness. Repentance can be a tough process, but forgiveness does not come by wishing we had not sinned, nor by just resolving to never commit the sin again.
Sins have to be confessed. There has to be genuine remorse. There has to be restitution made, and when restitution cannot humanly be made, there is still help and hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the case of serious sins, sometimes the aid of the bishop has to be sought, and sometimes church discipline is necessary to ease the burden of sin.
Repentance is a process that requires a change of heart and applying the Atonement of Christ daily in our lives. The end result is that we can become like the Savior and fulfill parts of his Atonement by being his agent in helping restore to others things we did not take.
Elder Bednar based his talk on 1 Nephi 1:20. Two principles immediately jump out at me:
- Heavenly Father is eager to extend blessings – tender mercies – to his children.
- The children who receive these great blessings from the Lord are chosen to receive because they live and act in faith.
The following paragraph summarizes his thoughts on the tender mercies of the Lord:
Even though tender mercies can appear to be coincidence, they are not random events. To those who have eyes to see, the timing of these blessings confirm that they are sent by a loving Heavenly Father. They are very individualized and personal, and can be in the form of strength, knowledge, reassurance, or pretty much anything else that we need. We qualify for God’s tender mercies through faithfulness, obedience, and humility. Even though tender mercies seem small, they are powerful and can fortify and protect us from the spiritual dangers in this world. Being chosen to receive tender mercies from the Lord is actually based on our desires, intent, and faithfulness. There are no favorites with God, we simply have to choose him.
At first glance, these talks really don’t seem to be all that related. One is about repentance, the other is about daily mercies. In my mind, repentance and forgiveness are the greatest mercies that we can receive from God!
Repentance isn’t just a grueling, punishing process that has to be endured before we can “be in good” with the Lord again! Repentance is designed to change human nature, to teach humility and dependence on God, and to give the opportunity to grow spiritually. Like taking a shower, sometimes the water may feel a little too hot or a little too cold or the soap may irritate cuts and tender places in the skin, but the end result of the process is being clean!
Qualifying for God’s forgiveness is a tender mercy all of its own. While the memory of the sin may remain, the guilt is gone because the Holy Spirit has assured that our choices are no longer debts on our eternal accounts. Then, we are open to having the companionship of the Holy Ghost again and we can see daily the tender mercies that are sent to us. The companionship of the Holy Ghost also helps to continue to change who we are so that we desire to do good, to have communion with the Lord through study and prayer, and so that we truly desire to love all.