Repenting is Ascending
By Jeff Markham
3 Verily this is a mission for a season, which I give unto you.
4 Wherefore, labor ye in my vineyard. Call upon the inhabitants of the earth, and bear record, and prepare the way for the commandments and revelations which are to come.
5 Now, behold this is wisdom; whoso readeth, let him understand and receive also;
6 For unto him that receiveth it shall be given more abundantly, even power. (Doctrine & Covenants 71)
These verses from Section 71 stand as a powerful reminder of the true purpose of missionary work. We are not called to provide overwhelming proof of the truthfulness of the Gospel, nor are we called to impress others with our deep knowledge of the scriptures. Rather, we are to:
- “call upon the inhabitants of the earth”
- “bear record”
- and “prepare the way”
In doing so, we spread the Gospel by inviting the Spirit into the hearts of those we invite. The Spirit allows each of us to “understand and receive also.”
Encountering (and overcoming) barriers to faith
How lovely this mortal world would be if every heart and mind always retained a willingness to receive heavenly power! Unfortunately, this is not the case. Mortality is a state of opposition, including opposition to faith in Jesus Christ. At various times, each of us will encounter barriers to belief in Him and His restored Gospel.
When these barriers block the way forward, we should always remember the words of President Russell M. Nelson in the April 2021 General Conference:
The Lord understands our mortal weakness. We all falter at times. But He also knows of our great potential. The mustard seed starts small but grows into a tree large enough for birds to nest in its branches. The mustard seed represents a small but growing faith.
The Lord does not require perfect faith for us to have access to His perfect power. But He does ask us to believe. (from “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains”)
Each of us can strengthen our faith by taking taking time regularly to assess the status of our faith in Jesus Christ by asking ourselves the following questions:
- Do I have faith in Jesus Christ and His healing power?
- Is my faith growing?
- If not, what barriers stand in the way?
The barrier might be a doctrine that troubles us, or an incident in church history that doesn’t feel right. In other cases our faith might be challenged by intense stressors in our life, or mental health challenges, or even strife with family or other members of the church.
Building Our Faith
Whatever the barriers may be, an honest self-assessment is the first step to finding the faithful path forward. With that diagnosis in hand, we can devise a remedy. The parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:3-8 offers a helpful illustration of the types of remedies we may need:
- Refocusing our faith squarely on Jesus Christ and His healing power if it has “[fallen] by the way side” or lodged “upon stony places.” This might mean we need to spend more time studying the core principles of the Gospel rather than fringe topics or controversy.
- Simplifying our lives and schedule to locate our faith where there is “deepness of earth” so that it may take root and not “[wither] away.” Perhaps our lives are too crowded with “good” things such that we do not have enough time and energy to focus on the “better” and the “best.”
- Taking time to study out a doctrine or contextualize an event in church history if our faith seems “choked” “among thorns.” If a certain topic causes us to doubt, we can consult faithful resources (including FAIR) to find answers and help remove “faith-choking” influences.
Whatever barrier to faith we face, humbly and prayerfully determining what our next step on the covenant path needs to be will require courage and strength, and might necessitate a sudden change of direction. The historical context of Doctrine & Covenants 71 is illustrative of this. At the time this revelation was received, Joseph and Sidney were engaged in the revelatory Bible translation, but the church was encountering one of its first waves of apostasy due in part to the work of Ezra Booth. The young church needed a reminder of the core principles of the Gospel. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, commanded His servants to set aside the work of translation and “open [their] mouths in proclaiming [His] Gospel.”
In our own lives there will be times when we may need to set aside the things that occupy our time and focus on the core principles of the Gospel. We may also find at times when the faith of our friends and loved ones seems to be waning that we can answer the call to strengthen them and help them increase their faith.
Repenting is ascending
No matter what the barrier is, our willingness to strengthen our faith constitutes the essence of repentance. Faith and repentance are intimately intertwined as the first principles of the Gospel. Perhaps this is why our prophet has emphasized these two companion principles in recent General Conference addresses. I shared a quote about faith above. Here is a recent quote from President Nelson on repentance from the April 2019 General Conference:
Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.
The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”
Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.
Repentance is not a punishment. It is a constant invitation to draw closer to the Savior. Repentance is to spiritual life what breath is to physical life — it is necessary for everyone, all the time. Repentance is changing to become more like Jesus Christ. In other words, repenting is ascending Mount Zion.
Developing and maintaining a correct understanding of repentance is vital to drawing near to God and experiencing the power He promises to send in abundance to all those who will receive His wisdom. (See D&C 71:5-6.)
“My soul did long to be there”
Repentance changed Alma the Younger from a state of wishing he “could be banished and become extinct both soul and body” to a state of “exceeding joy.” He saw a vision of “God sitting upon His throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God, and [his] soul did long to be there.” (Alma 36:15, 22)
Our efforts to repent should lead us to feeling joy and a sense of longing to be with God.
Whenever we feel unworthy or troubled, we should do all we can to reclaim that joy that comes from knowing we have access to the infinite power of Jesus Christ to overcome the troubles of mortality. Whether it takes the form of studying church history, strengthening our resolve to believe, or mending a relationship with a friend or family member, we are repenting each time to work to “prepare the way for the commandments and revelations which are to come” (D&C 71:4).
If we are faithful to Christ, we have His assurance that “no weapon formed against [us] shall prosper” (D&C 71:9).
Just like Alma, we access heavenly power by calling on the name of Jesus Christ.
The Power of His Name
Barriers to belief act as a veil that holds us back from seeing God’s glory, and if that veil is not pierced we might cut ourselves off from our divine inheritance. Once our faith is growing, and repentance has planted our feet on the covenant path, we arrive at the foot of Mount Zion and the ascent begins in earnest. This is the “abundance” promised by the Lord in D&C 71. Moroni described the process like this:
6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me … then will I manifest unto them … all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. (Ether 4, emphasis added by me)
Jesus Christ condescended to earth not only to prepare the way for us to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence, but also to show us the way. His name, Christ — meaning “messiah” or “anointed one” — is a key to understanding what that divine inheritance includes.
Many scriptures teach us of the great power in taking upon us the name of Christ:
18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.
21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive.
22 For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.
24 For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand. (Mosiah 26, emphasis added by me)
That power comes as we participate worthily in priesthood ordinances, in which we demonstrate our willingness to take upon ourselves His name (see 2 Nephi 31:13; Mosiah 5:8; D&C 20:77).
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. (Doctrine & Covenants 84)
“Great things” hidden “because of unbelief”
We can learn an important lesson from the Experience of Joseph and Sidney as recorded in Section 71 about the seasons of our life and the needs to match our efforts with the problems we face. When apostasy crept in, the time came to put a hold on that effort and focus on proclaiming the Gospel and confounding the enemies of the church.
I can testify that heavenly power flows whenever we humbly and prayerfully assess the state of our faith, take the time to strengthen it, and seek the greater things that can only be taught to us by revelation and the witness of the Holy Spirit. Some days our prayer will be: “I believe, Lord; help thou mine unbelief.” Other days we might be able to say: “ Yea, Lord thou knowest I love thee … show thyself unto me.” (See Mark 9:24; John 21:15; Ether 3:10.) Whatever the case, we will be blessed for faith:
Miracles come according to your faith in the Lord. Central to that faith is trusting His will and timetable—how and when He will bless you with the miraculous help you desire. Only your unbelief will keep God from blessing you with miracles to move the mountains in your life.
The more you learn about the Savior, the easier it will be to trust in His mercy, His infinite love, and His strengthening, healing, and redeeming power. The Savior is never closer to you than when you are facing or climbing a mountain with faith. (from “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains”)
Repenting — ascending Mount Zion by faith — is the process of rending the veil of unbelief:
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. (Ether 4)
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
Jeff Markham joined FAIR as a volunteer in 2020. By profession, he is a diagnostic radiologist. He served as a full-time missionary in the Germany Hamburg Mission from 1996-1998. His favorite callings include teaching primary and early morning seminary. He lives in the Dallas area with his wife and children. He blogs at BookofMormonNotes.com.