- We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Mormons believe in the principle of repentance, which is founded upon true faith in Christ as Savior and Redeemer of the world. Repentance is key to living a Christ-like life; it is an ongoing process through which the individual can bring his life more in line with Christ's example. Repentance is not necessarily a simple matter, as it involves voluntarily changing one's nature. Through repentance men deny their worldly selves and aspire to the divine.
Part of the human condition is the tendency to sin. Repentance includes a recognition of the sin, sincere regret (or godly sorrow), restitution if at all possible, and abstinence from the sin in the future. Key to the repentance process is a person's personal, sincere, prayerful confession to God, which includes asking for forgiveness and resolving not to repeat the sin. The LDS Guide to the Scriptures defines repentance as:
- A change of mind and heart that brings a fresh attitude toward God, oneself, and life in general. Repentance implies that a person turns away from evil and turns his heart and will to God, submitting to God's commandments and desires and forsaking sin. True repentance comes from a love for God and a sincere desire to obey his commandments. All accountable persons have sinned and must repent in order to progress toward salvation. Only through the atonement of Jesus Christ can our repentance become effective and accepted by God.
Less serious sins can be dealt with personally, between the individual and God. It is important for Church members to confess serious sins to a bishop, who can offer advice, encouragement, and assistance with the repentance process.
Consistent with the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words from which it is translated, repentance denotes "a change of mind," "a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined." Thus, a return to sin shows that the repentance process is not truly completed.
Friends of other faiths tend to accuse members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of believing that they can work their way to heaven. Mormons believe that we are saved by grace, and that without the Atonement of Jesus Christ no one can be saved. When Mormons talk about works, doing service to their fellow men in order to increase God's kingdom and help with His work is paramount, but still not as important as the work of individual repentance. In order to be saved, we must repent.
- The prophet Joseph Smith said "Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing to God" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007, 73).
- See Deathbed repentance