After I baptized Seth eight days ago, we stepped out of the water and into the changing room, and I asked him how he felt. After a tepid “good,” I asked what was wrong, and he told me that now that he’s accountable, he’s concerned about his ability to keep the commandments. I briefly talked about repentance as we dried off, but it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to have our next few family home evenings continue to focus on baptism (as our previous few had) – kind of like new member discussions – and to include a special focus on repentance, and the blessings of the Atonement.
Moroni 8:10 says, in part:
“Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin…”
Meanwhile, D&C68:25 says:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”
I think that as parents we often tend to focus on items 1, 3, and 4 in the First Principles of the Gospel; perhaps it’s natural since the children we are preparing for baptism are not technically in need of repentance…yet. But as soon as they come out of the water, that need begins.
So, clearly, we are to teach our children repentance. But it shouldn't be all doom and gloom; to the contrary, repentance is a most beautiful and uplifting doctrine.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Repentance is a rescuing, not a dour doctrine. It is available to the gross sinner as well as to the already-good individual striving for incremental improvement.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,
“Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life…the invitation to repent is an expression of love. When the Savior ‘began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ it was a message of love, inviting all who would to qualify to join Him ‘and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life [itself] in the world to come.’ If we do not invite others to change or if we do not demand repentance of ourselves, we fail in a fundamental duty we owe to one another and to ourselves. A permissive parent, an indulgent friend, a fearful Church leader are in reality more concerned about themselves than the welfare and happiness of those they could help. Yes, the call to repentance is at times regarded as intolerant or offensive and may even be resented, but guided by the Spirit, it is in reality an act of genuine caring.”
I had the great blessing of serving in a branch presidency for young single adults with a branch president who understood this doctrine: as a result, we convened, on average, one church disciplinary council a month during my time serving in that calling. These were amazing opportunities to watch young single adults change their lives, be lifted from the shadows of sin, defeat and despair; be cleansed and renewed, and to turn their lives around – through the repentance process.
I testify that it is critical that we follow Christ’s admonition to “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation,” and that is most especially and critically applied to us as parents teaching our children – who should be able to take comfort in knowing that as they make mistakes, they can truly have them washed away by the Savior.
I am so grateful for repentance, for I need it (and the power of the Atonement) every day. It is my obligation and joy to now teach that principle to my wonderful son.