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"Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins." (Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 13).
Thus was fulfilled in part the vision prophecy of the ancient Revelator, that in the last days an angel would come, "having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth." (See Rev. 14:6, 7).
Repentance, which stands eternally established as an indispensable condition of salvation, is today proclaimed anew under the authority of the restored Priesthood, and the call is to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. The second advent of the Christ is near, and but little time remains to prepare for His coming, which shall be in power and great glory, to the accompaniment of the resurrection of the righteous dead, the glorification of the worthy who are still in the flesh, and the destruction of the wilfully and hopelessly wicked.
Repentance, as the ordained requirement whereby remission of sins may be attained, consists essentially in a genuine sorrow for sin and comprises: (1) a personal conviction of guilt; (2) an earnest desire to secure foregiveness; and (3) a resolute determination to forsake sin and follow the path of righteous living. The first step in the course of effective repentance consists in the acknowledgment or confession of sin before God; the second in the sinner forgiving those who have sinned against him; and the third in his acceptance of Christ's atoning sacrifice as shown by a willingness to obey the further requirements embodied in the Gospel of salvation.
1. Without sincere confession of sin repentance is impossible. The Apostle John declared the solemn truth:
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8, 9).
In this modern age the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ has been heard to the same effect:
"Verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death."
"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins. Behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (Doctrine and Covenants 64:7; and 58:43).
2. The sinner must be willing to grant forgiveness to others if he would secure that boon to himself. In teaching us how to pray, the Lord specified the condition on which forgiveness may rationally be asked: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." No hope of forgiveness is justified if in our hearts we are unforgiving, "For," said the Christ, "if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:14, 15).
Through His revelations to the restored Church in the current age, the Lord has emphasized this essential element of repentance:
"Wherefore I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another, for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses, standeth condemned before the Lord, for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9, 10).
3. Contrite repentance will naturally lead the penitent to do all he can to make amends for past offenses, and to comply with the conditions on which forgiveness is predicated. And as he learns that baptism at the hands of one invested with Divine authority is essential, he will seek such a servant of God, and humbly submit himself to the ordinance whereby citizenship in the Kingdom of God may be established.
Without repentance salvation is impossible. The Savior followed the ringing call of His forerunner with the command: "Repent ye and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). So also taught the Apostles of old, that God "commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). And in the present dispensation the word of God has come through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God." (Doctrine and Covenants 20:29).
Against the awful danger of procrastination, whereby the ability to repent may be forfeited, the Book of Mormon solemnly warns:
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors, For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance, even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you." (Book of Mormon, Alma 34:32, 35).
The Only Way
E believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Articles of Faith, 4).
"Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Such was the eager, anguished, almost despairing cry of the humbled multitude who, at the first Pentecost following the crucifixion of Christ, were brought to a realization of their awful guilt through the inspired utterances of Peter, the presiding Apostle.
What shall we do? What can we do? Is hope yet open to us? This is the wail of contritely penitent souls, everywhere, always. When convicted of sin at the bar of his own conscience through genuine repentance, when at last able to see himself in all the repulsive pollution of his transgression, the self-accusing sinner yearns with fervid purpose to make all possible reparation and is zealous to learn and obey the conditions of forgiveness, if such there be.
To every soul thus brought into the depths through the benign though afflicting influences of repentance, to all who thus appeal for mercy and rescue, the answer is direct and prompt:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (See Acts 2:37-39). The promise of remission is as wide as the domain of
sin; for, excepting those (and be it said to our comfort that they are few) who sink so far into the quagmire of iniquity as to be numbered among the "sons of perdition," to whom effective repentance is impossible, all may be saved by compliance with the requirements set forth by the Author of the plan of salvation. The need of forgiveness is likewise universal; "for there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Eccles. 7:20).
Is it not reasonable, and wholly in keeping with the ordinary ways of men in their mutual dealings, that some substantial evidence shall be demanded to attest the genuineness of the repentance we voice in words? Is it enough that the debtor shall merely acknowledge his obligation and express regret that he has not heretofore been able to meet it? He must do something more, or he remains forever in debt. The seal by which repentance is validated is Baptism in water for the remission of sins; for by this is the blood of Jesus Christ made effective to cleanse from sin. (See 1 John 1:7).
The voice in the wilderness heralding the advent of the Lord, the proclamation that aroused Jerusalem and reverberated throughout Judea and Galilee, was "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). The cleansing ordinance was not to be administered indiscriminately, however; it was reserved for those who had brought forth "fruits meet for repentance," those whose profession of penitence was a true index to their contrite state.
Saul of Tarsus when rebuked for his ill-directed zeal in persecuting the Lord's own, exclaimed in agony: "What shall I do, Lord?" By the mouth of devout Ananias came the answer: "Arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins." (See Acts 22). And Saul, thereafter known as