What is eternal progression?
Eternal progression means working continually to become a better person. When we make mistakes, we can repent. Repentance allows us to refine and to redefine ourselves, creating opportunities for building our relationship with God.
Unlike Jesus Christ, we don’t live perfect lives. We make mistakes and sin. Our free will or agency is a gift from God, and throughout our lives we use that agency to set priorities and make choices—some of which lead to pain and regret and hold us back from becoming more like our Father in Heaven and returning to Him. There are always consequences for the choices we make—good and bad. Certainly God could intervene and allow us to exist without sin or the sorrow that follows, but our Father in Heaven allows us to make mistakes, knowing how much we can learn from them. He also gives us guidelines and commandments to keep us free from the limiting consequences of sin. He offers divine instruction and asks us to follow it of our own free will. Of all the gifts given to us by God, this gift of agency is among the greatest. When we use that agency to turn our will over to our Heavenly Father, we gain self-mastery, accountability, and personal growth.
Everything we have is a gift from our Heavenly Father.
Throughout time, God has asked His children to consecrate (or give back to Him) portions of all that He has given. We make that contribution in the form of offerings, tithes, and service to others. And above all else, He asks us to consecrate a portion of our free will through obedience. After leading the ancient Israelites out of Egypt, the prophet Moses communed with God and received His Ten Commandments. When the people humbled themselves and obeyed the Ten Commandments, they were blessed; when they did not, they suffered the consequences of their sins. Through Moses they were admonished to worship no other gods or idols; to honor their father and mother; to keep the Sabbath day holy; to not take God’s name in vain; and to not steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, or covet. In the ensuing dispensations, also through His prophets, God decreed additional commandments to guide His children and help them in their lives. In addition to the Ten Commandments, we have been instructed to be baptized, pray, study the scriptures, honor the laws of the land and the law of the fast, donate tithes to the Church, follow the prophet, and live a healthy lifestyle. All commandments are given by God to protect us and increase our happiness.
While sin can often bring its own short-term pleasure, it doesn’t bring long-lasting peace and joy.
Though we can eventually learn that sin doesn’t bring true happiness, we learn this lesson by making mistakes while living imperfect lives. Accordingly, God allows us repentance, which can bring us to a place of deep humility and help us understand how totally dependent we are on Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
To repent, we first recognize our sins with clarity, not trying to minimize or justify them. With this realization comes profound sorrow, the kind of contrition that opens a broken heart to God’s healing power. We gain the strength to abandon and forsake the sin that troubles us. We confess our sins and do everything in our power to make restitution for them. And in pleading for mercy, we also learn to extend it, forgiving others who have sinned against us while we ask forgiveness from God for our own sins. The forgiveness we offer others has its own healing power, releasing us from the kind of burden that resentment creates in anyone who harbors it. When we give such burdens to God, doing so brings with it the kind of peace that only He can offer us. “My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (John 14:27).
Turning our back on sin is a crucial step, but in doing so we must also turn ourselves toward God, rededicating ourselves to the kind of life that keeping the commandments will bring us.
The Book of Mormon teaches us important lessons about repentance and receiving forgiveness from God. In fact, the book’s main purpose is to witness of Jesus Christ’s divinity and to call God’s children to repentance. One of the book’s great redemption stories is that of Alma, whose narrative conveys the soul-crushing weight sin imposes on our lives. In it we are reminded of the very serious work required to emerge from under the burden of sin. But like Alma, we can become cleansed from sin with the Lord’s help. God promises us that if we sincerely repent of our sins, then He will “remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
We are also told, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Once we have God’s forgiveness, we must also forgive ourselves and put our faith in the healing and saving power of the Atonement. We are asked not only to believe in Jesus Christ but also to believe Him. Our Savior promised us that He would redeem us from the sins we commit in this life if we would truly repent and have faith in Him. This is our small part of the miraculous, refining process that ultimately can perfect and shape us into the best version of ourselves.
Why does sin make me unhappy?
Regardless of culture, religion, or civil laws, there are universal principles of right and wrong that our spirits recognize.
Around the world, certain actions are commonly held as wrong: stealing, killing, committing adultery. Often these actions are addressed with civil consequences. Other behaviors traditionally held as wrong are becoming more acceptable in common culture. However, even though society may condone an action, the spiritual consequences of any sin continue to be very real. These consequences are often manifest in feelings of guilt, dissatisfaction, sadness, or defeat.
How can repentance benefit my life?
Suppose all the injuries you’ve ever had—the bumps, bruises, and pulled muscles—never went away.
Just like physical injuries, our spiritual pain and regret can be healed. God wants us to be happy; He wants us to be spiritually healthy. He has provided a way for us to be healed and to take away the pain, discomfort, and distress of sin. Doing so begins by recognizing our wrongs, an acceptance that requires self-examination and personal humility. Often repentance necessitates an admission to a person in authority and recompense to anyone wronged. Repentance always, however, involves a desire to become better, a commitment to improve, and a plea to God for His forgiveness, help, and mercy.
Unlike physical injuries, which may leave scars or permanent damage, our spiritual well-being can become perfectly whole again. But we cannot do it on our own. Jesus Christ suffered so that all our sins—from our minor scrapes to our most traumatic wounds—may be perfectly healed through Him.
A loving Heavenly Father wants this recovery for us; He wants us to return to Him, happy and spiritually whole. But as the scriptures explain, “No unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21). We left God’s presence, born unblemished in spirit as innocent children. To return to Him, we must do our part to continually make amends, patch up our mistakes, and rely on the healing Atonement of Jesus Christ.