The Steps of True Repentance

Victor L. Ludlow


Do you like yourself? Do you feel that your life is unsatisfactory? Many times adverse or unhappy feelings are a result of our own negative behaviors. We may not realize it, but we hurt ourselves when we do not take responsibility for our actions. Often we blame them on others or ignore them.

Many of our problems are a result of our ever mounting bad behaviors. One bad behavior opens the door to our taking the steps to others. Each step tends to be worse than the last. As a result, of our procrastination to repent of the singular behavior, our bad behavior multiplies and causes us much grief. We must recognize our negative behaviors and take the proper steps of repentance to be rid of them as soon as possible.


When we stop rationalizing our negative behavior and humble ourselves before the Lord, we are ready to take the second step in Repentance, which is, Remorse.

Remorse must be genuine or godly sorrow. In 2 Corthinthians 7: 9-10 Paul said to the people,

"Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner,... for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation... but the sorrow of the world worketh death."

From this scripture you can see that there is two types of sorrow: Godly and Worldly.

"Godly sorrow is the abhorrence of sin, because it is wrong and sinful.

"Worldly sorrow is not the a sorrow for the sin but that of being caught. When one has this type of sorrow s/he feels self-pity and helplessness" (Ludlow, 1992).

How can we help others to take the step of Remorse?

We Can However.. Renunciation

The next step in repentance is Renunciation.

"This is the action of renouncing and confessing the sin.

This is a pivotal step in repentance!

It is the turning away from the sin by forsaking it and admitting the error to those who are affected by the act.

It is only through confession that private feelings of remorse are transformed into tangible commitment to change" (Ludlow, 1992).

Confession should includes:

Confession takes many forms depending on the seriousness of the sin.

In most cases the confession need only be to God and the people we have wronged.

In the case of major sins such as :

* Felony Charges

* Addictions such as drugs and pornography

* Sexual sins

there is a need to talk to the Bishop to begin the repentance process.

The Bishop represents the Lord and is there to help the sinner to:

"The Bishop has four basic courses of action that he can follow:
  1. He may feel that the member has genuinely repented and should be informed, as well as comforted and strengthened in the resolve to continue to choose the right!
  2. He may feel that the repentance process is underway, but not yet complete. He then places the member on probation with certain restrictions and expectations.
  3. The sin maybe serious enough to require the member to be disfellowshipped, with certain prescribed restrictions, such as no Church callings, public prayers and talks.
  4. The sin may be so serious that the person is beyond the behavior even closely resembling that of a true Christian and the person is excommunicated from the Church." (Ludlow, 1992).
The last two types of Church discipline are so serious that they require a Church Court. The actions taken by the court requires the sustaining vote of the Bishop, his two counselors, as well as the high council.

Often the action of the Court helps the individual understand how far their behavior has caused them to stray from the Lord and acts as a catalyst and motivator for the person to take the steps to get right with the Lord and enter into full fellowship with the Church.

Excommunicated members generally need to wait at least a year, during which they must demonstrate righteous living. They then can reapply for Church membership and the restoration of former priesthood and temple blessings." (Ludlow, 1992).

To insure a fair hearing, there is an appeals process available for those individuals who do not agree with any Church action.

The act of making a clean break from sin and working to make right choices takes place more often and more effectively when the sinner has the help of loved ones, family, and church members.

It is important that we are a help instead of a hindrance to the recovering sinner. We need to be there for him/her and encourage him/her to good works, instead of turning our backs on him/her.

It is also important that we keep ourselves safe by daily evaluating our thinking and actions to see that we do not adopt the sinner's negative thinking or behaviors.


The next step in Repentance is RESOLUTION!

In this stage the person turns the corner in repentance! It is the turning away from that which is wrong and turning to God. This is how that is done....

Once the person has stopped the sin, s/he must resolve or make a commitment to never do that sin again, then s/he must try to choose the right.


Without the next step of RESOLUTION, the steps of:

are of little worth and leave the person empty and bitter.

Instead of looking back and regretting the problems we have caused, we need to look forward to the blessings our Heavenly Father can now give us.

We cannot change the past, but we can change our future by taking care of the steps we take today!

We must pray and ask for the strength to keep the sin from us, help us make good choices, and act appropriately.

We must work hard to do what is right!


The next step is RESTITUTION.

Whenever possible, the repenting person must try to make up for what s/he has done wrong. There are some things that can never be changed, but the person should do his/her best to do so and then leave the past in the past and get on with his/her future. The act of restitution helps him/her to right his/her wrongs and clear himself/herself of guilt.

Often, the courts of the land forget to apply this step to the sinner, but it still must be done for the Lord to forgive the sinner and for the sinner to be able to forgive himself/herself!

The act of restitution may be something as small as an apology. It may take a period of time to restore property. In the case of a lost life. This cannot ever be repaid.


Now that the sinner has forsaken the bad behavior, s/he is ready to ask the Lord the those that s/he has hurt to forgive him/her. Reconciliation is the final step in repentance. Asking for forgiveness helps the sinner to cleanse his/her soul and bring a feeling of peace and harmony between the sinner and his/her family, friends, and God.

Gaining reconciliation with God is the most important of all. When we have not repented we are kept from the Lord's Spirit which would help us to make good decisions. When we do we are blessed with his Spirit to help us to understand that which is bad and to help keep away unwanted urges to indulge in past bad behaviors.

Remission of Sins

When we have taken the proper steps of repentance, the Lord promises us that He will remember our sin no more. When it comes time to account for our sins the ones we have repented from will be washed as white as snow, as if they never occurred.

It is through the Lord Jesus Christ that the sins that we have been repented of can be forgiven. Since Christ was a sinless, He was able to take the punishment for our sins and therefore allow us to be forgiven of those sins that we truly repent of.

When we are forgiven, we do not forget what has occurred, but the forgiveness keeps us from being continually bothered or tortured mentally and spiritually by them any more. We can use our past sins to help judge what is good and bad. We can remember what steps we took which lead us into trouble and never do them again. We know where those steps will lead and can warn others who are starting down that path.


Ludlow, Victor L. (1992) Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Books.

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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