But repentance in the Mormon scheme of things is no simple matter, at least not according to top Mormon leaders - their prophets. One of the most comprehensive articles on the subject I found on the official Mormon website - lds.org (gotta love how simple that is):
The Message:What Is True Repentance?
by President Spencer W. Kimball
According to the article, written by LDS President and Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, who in turn quotes former Mormon Prophet and President Joseph F. Smith, there are a number of essential elements to true repentance. In no particular order they are:
- sorrow for sins and humble penitence and contrition before God
- the necessity of turning away from them
- a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds
- a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good
- make restitution so far as is possible for all the wrongs that we have done
- to pay our debts and restore to God and man their rights, that which is due them from us
- consciousness of guilt that brings one to his knees in humbleness with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” and in “sack cloth and ashes.”
- remorse and deep sorrow - preliminary to repentance
- the element of shame
- pain and suffering for the errors
- no repeating of the sin
According to the article, "repentance must be consistent and continuous. To repent of a sin and then to tamper with it again or permit it to invade, even slightly, is to lose the repentance and its beneficent effects, and “the former sins return, saith the Lord God.” (D&C 82:7.)"According to the Mormon who wrote me, one of the purposes of Sacrament every week is so people can repent of their sins. My question in light of that and the extensive requirements for true repentance is, can you truly repent in a Sacrament meeting?
You may become aware of the sin and confess it even, but according to the LDS Prophet Kimball you have not truly repented until you have done all the things listed above. The process Kimball describes would take at the very least hours, if not days, weeks, even months or years. If these things are happening, Sacrament must be a very mournful, tearful time every week as people reflect on and grieve over their sins. To be honest, I’ve attended firesides at my local ward but never Sacrament, so I don't know how much of this goes on.
The hugest contrast for me in all this is how repentance is talked about in Acts 5:31 "God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel;" and 2 Timothy 2:25, "Those who oppose him [the Lord's servant] he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth." There is a clear sense that repentance and forgiveness are gifts from God, something God grants to sinners because of His grace and mercy.
Quite a contrast to the conditional forgiveness that can only be earned by accomplishing true Mormon repentance, which in essence says, if you are still repenting you haven't truly repented.