“The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to ‘re-turn’ toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.”
I can personally testify of the healing power of Christ’s Atonement.
I spent a few years living my life in such a way as to turn my back on spiritual truths I knew.
I lived selfishly and not only damaged my spirit and my soul, but I hurt many around me by my choices. I was lost. My reasoning seemed justified and even sound within myself, but that’s part of Satan’s deceptions to those who choose to follow him. The funny thing is, we rarely consciously say within ourselves, “Today I will enlist to follow Satan and turn my back on Jesus Christ.” Even Satan knows that such isn’t likely to happen. Rather, Satan entices our senses, our egos, our pride and our weakness for pleasures of the flesh. Even well intended, if not vigilant we can succumb to temptations that in our “right mind,” or perhaps, in the full light of day and in the view of those around us whom we respect or have responsibility, of which we would NEVER openly indulge ourselves.
However, as some men are want to do when we “bottom out,” and if we have not hardened our hearts in open rebellion against God, we may find humility. Defined as an acute recognition of our dependence upon God. In that humility, we may turn to Him and begin to partake of His Son’s loving invitation to come unto Him “all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28.
I’m here to testify that I did exactly that. I returned, humbly, to Him. I began by daily scripture reading to put the promises of the Book of Mormon to the test. Just to try an experiment to see what effects it might have within me. I also began attending Sacrament meeting each Sunday. I didn’t speak to anyone, but sat in the back, quietly. I desired only to try these two things and see if within myself I could find my own earnest desire to truly repent.
Over the course of three months, that’s exactly what happened. During that time I began to pray each morning. I’d prayed before, but these prayers were different. These were deep, meaningful and heartfelt conversations with God, my loving eternal Heavenly Father. I began to have a horrifying realization. As I drew nearer to God, the fallacies, lies and deceits that Satan had so masterfully coated over my sight, began to disappear. The good news is that I began to see clearly who I had become – the bad news was that I began to see clearly who I had become. I was tormented as I’d never been before in my life. Feelings of being lost and alone and the realization that I had offended my God and my Savior. I weeped countless times on my knees. Within this process of pain, I found a love I’d not before recognized – a love of God and Christ that drove me now. It drove desires to be forgiven. It drove desires to become the son I was divinely destined to be. Most importantly it drove a resolute determination that there was no price too great to pay to be forgiven by God and my Savior.
I then began the formal process of meeting with my Bishop, followed by my Stake President. Eventually a disciplinary council was held. I was rightfully excommunicated from the Church.
I think some people view repentance and even disciplinary actions by the Church as a punishment. Losing my membership was not meant so much as a punishment, but as a way of protecting the good name of Christ’s church. This process with my priesthood leaders was the most loving and caring experience a member can have outside of their own families. I would love NOT to have made the decisions that qualified me for excommunication, but I KNOW that such a decision (excommunication) was not only the right one, but it was and is a blessing in my life. And I’m proud that no one can speak ill of the church due to my behaviors – of me yes, but not of the church, which is very important to me…because it is HIS church.
Forgiveness is more than just possible. By following the counsel given by the Savior, as well as from my priesthood leaders, forgiveness and restoration of my church membership together with priesthood and temple blessings is assured. It is within my grasp. It will be determined by my desire, faith and efforts to prove myself worthy – in fact, by simply being and living as the son I should have been all along. It is not easy. It is not quick. It will take a couple of years…but given that my eternal salvation is at stake – there is no price too great to be paid.
I would add that while it is not easy and there is loss – the process itself has yielded some of the most exquisite blessings of my life. I am healing. I feel peace. I feel happiness. Above all, I feel an eternal gratitude for the tender mercies and goodness of my God and His Son, Jesus Christ. For were it not for their love and desires for me – I would have been lost, forever.