Kelly Ogden, professor of ancient scripture at BYU, spoke about the necessary components of repentance at Tuesday’s devotional.
Ogden began his address with a reference to Jesus Christ’s counsel to preach nothing but repentance.
“Does he mean that literally?” Ogden asked. “Is every topic of all the missionary lessons supposed to be repentance? Does repentance have to be the subject of every classroom discussion of the Church?”
In answer to his own question, Ogden suggested that Jesus Christ didn’t mean this literally but that He used hyperbole to teach that nothing is more important than to get people to repentance.
Ogden went on to explain some of the necessary components of sin. One of the first of these components is the necessity to have sorrow for sins.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma teaches about sorrow for sin by using imagery that connotes torture and suffering, according to Ogden. Specifically, Ogden mentioned Alma’s reference to being “harrowed up” and explained that a harrow is used in farming to break up the hard ground.
“If a harrow were dragged over a live body, it would certainly become an instrument of torture,” Ogden said.
But sorrow isn’t supposed to drive people to depression, according to Ogden. Instead, it is supposed to lead people to repent of their sins.
“Be glad to suffer the godly sorrow now so that you don’t have to suffer the full effects of your sin later,” Ogden said.
The next necessary component of repentance Ogden mentioned was confession. Specifically, he referred to the importance of confessing quickly.
He suggested that many people are growing up with the carefree attitude that they can sin now and repent later. Instead, Ogden said people must not put off repentance.
“As the old rabbis used to say: you cannot repent the day before you die, because you don’t know what that day will be,” Ogden said.
Ogden then illustrated his point by sharing stories of two young people who died in sudden, tragic accidents. The first was visiting his cousin when a storm swept him off a pier and killed him. The second was a returned sister missionary from Ogden’s mission who was hit and killed by a car near her apartment.
Ogden said he believes neither of these young people expected they were going to die when they did, and he repeated the importance of not putting off repentance.
The last necessary component of repentance that Ogden mentioned was the necessity to forsake sins.
He explained that forsaking sins means to give them up and abandon them but that some people neglect an important part of forsaking sins.
Ogden recalled some experiences at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, saying that some missionaries ended up agonizing over past sins even when they had repented.
“What hadn’t they done?” Ogden asked. “They hadn’t forsaken those sins in yet another sense. Part of forsaking is forgiving yourself and putting the sins behind you — burying the old man of sin, as the apostle Paul put it, leaving them buried, and not digging them up anymore.”
As he continued his address, Ogden explained that the gospel is often called the gospel of repentance and said this can be rephrased to mean the good news of repentance.
“We sometimes look upon repentance as a punishment, as a distasteful, negative thing,” he said. “It does involve some pain, of course, but genuine repentance is a blessing — a happy, positive thing.”