Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians and believe what Jesus taught in the Bible about repentance. Read on to learn more about why Latter-day Saints believe that repentance is important for all of us.
What does the New Testament teach about repentance?
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He shared a parable about repentance. In the parable, a Pharisee, a self-righteous religious leader, and a publican, a despised tax collector, both prayed at the temple. The Pharisee thought he had no need for repentance. He said: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11–12). The publican, on the other hand, humbly prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Jesus taught that the repentant publican, rather than the Pharisee, would be justified. Jesus taught that “every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
This parable beautifully captures the Savior’s New Testament teachings about repentance. The society Jesus lived in measured righteousness by obedience to the law of Moses, a religious code that focused on outward performances (see Larry Y. Wilson, “The Savior’s Message of Repentance,” Ensign, Feb. 2016, 48). But when Jesus Christ came, He taught a higher law that emphasized our motivations and the desires of our hearts. Jesus taught that repentance has more to do with changing our hearts than it does with what is visible on the outside. He taught that we all must change and grow—we all must repent—to be acceptable before God.
What do Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe about repentance?
As Christians, Latter-day Saints believe that repentance is just as important today as it was when Jesus Christ lived on the earth. Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a Latter-day Saint leader, taught: “We must continually strive for the inner change that comes from recognizing that we too—all of us—are sinners. As we do so, humility enters our hearts and minds sufficient to enable further repentance” (“The Savior’s Message of Repentance,” 50).
Latter-day Saints believe that to truly repent and change, we need to periodically evaluate where we can improve. Elder Wilson suggested periodically asking ourselves, “Am I impatient, negative, fearful, critical, self-centered, controlling, light-minded, lustful, cynical, or lazy?” (“The Savior’s Message of Repentance,” 51). Evaluating our own weaknesses like this may seem frightening or difficult. But we shouldn’t fear—the thought that we can change is inherently hopeful.
And Latter-day Saints don’t believe that we have to overcome our shortcomings alone. Indeed, as Christians, Latter-day Saints believe that lasting change and growth is not possible without the help of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints believe in Christ’s promise, recorded in the New Testament, that “my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (see 2 Corinthians 12:7–10; see also Ether 12:27).
Do Latter-day Saints believe in hell?
Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that those who do not repent will suffer the pains of hell: “Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; . . . and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment” (2 Nephi 28:23; see also Matthew 10:28).
Latter-day Saints believe that the term hell can refer to two different places: first, a temporary waiting place where the spirits of those who “died in their sins” go to learn more about Jesus Christ and await the Resurrection (see D&C 138:32); and second, a place called outer darkness, the dwelling place of Satan and his angels (see True to the Faith , 81). Latter-day Saints believe that very few individuals are wicked enough to be sentenced to outer darkness.
As Christians, Latter-day Saints rejoice in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who through His Atonement and Resurrection overcame both death and hell. Latter-day Saints give thanks that Jesus Christ has made it possible for all of us to change, grow, and return to our Father in Heaven if we repent. To learn more about Jesus Christ, our Savior, visit comeuntochrist.org.