I read an article about repentance in the August 2009 Ensign magazine. “Mending Quilts, Mending Lives” illustrates the idea of repentance in a story about a damaged quilt.
While making a quilt, one of the quilters accidentally put a hole in the fabric when she carelessly handled a pair of scissors. The author wrote,
“We were all upset and knew the quilt was ruined. I remember my grandmother telling us not to worry because with iron-on tape and some careful ‘finagling’ she would be able to make the hole almost invisible. Sure enough, she fixed it, and although a patch now covered the unsightly hole, we had to look closely to find it” (page 16).
As the story unfolded, 37 years later the author of the Ensign article decided to use the quilt in a Young Women’s meeting to teach about life and repentance. When she looked for the patch that had repaired the quilt, she could not find it. She wrote,
“Then I was reminded of the words in Doctrine and Covenants 58:42: ‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.’ I knew what I needed to share with the young women… Just as I had been unable to find the patch in the quilt, so it is with our lives–if we truly repent, it can be as if a sin had not been committed and even the Lord will remember it no more” (page 17).
As I read this, it made me think a bit about the Mormon perspective and teaching on repentance. The words that follow the Doctrine and Covenants passage that the author quoted (D&C 58:43) explains what it is (in Mormonism) to “truly repent.”
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
The LDS pamphlet “Repentance Brings Forgiveness” clarifies the Mormon position on this:
“Abandonment of Sin…The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again.”
Because, if sin is not permanently abandoned, the former sins return:
“And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:7).
It has been taught that,
“We also have to forsake the sin and never to repeat it not even in our minds. …In order to remain forgiven we must never commit the sin again” (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teaching Families. 1981, pp. 35-36).
“Those who receive forgiveness and then repeat the sin are held
accountable for their former sins” (Gospel Principles, 1997, page 253).
So if the quilt in the Ensign story represented a real life, it would not have one patched tear in the fabric, but hundreds — maybe thousands. There would be patches upon patches upon patches. Indeed, there might be more patches than quilt!
And herein lies the problem with Mormonism’s impossible promises of forgiveness and cleansing. In real life, relying on what Mormonism says God requires for “true repentance,” it can never be. The frequency and depth of our sin is more than can ever be patched and repaired.
The Bible presents God’s forgiveness this way:
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12).
God does not patch us up and send us on our way to see how well we’ll do. Instead, this is what He does for us:
“[I]f anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
God does not merely repair our sin-torn souls. He reweaves the fabric of our lives, replacing the beat up, stained and battered cloth with a beautiful new quilt of His own design.