On one occasion, I decided to count my blessings. It was an exercise—I started to write my blessings. In the beginning it was easy: my parents, my family, blah, blah, blah. But then I dug deeper and deeper, and at the conclusion of that exercise, and after four pages of my writing, I came to the conclusion that if you are really paying attention to your blessings, they are endless. They really are. Because Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, they love us so much that they have created everything that we have surrounding us, for us. So I am glad that we had this musical number talking about blessings (Count Your Blessings, Hymn #241).
All right. I am delighted to be here with you, so smile! It’s a good day. It’s kind of rainy and gray, but it’s a beautiful day. I’d like to ask you this: Have you ever heard in your mind or in your heart or somehow, the magical words—five magical words—“Your sins are forgiven you.” Have you ever heard those words, or that phrase, in your life?
I have—not only one time; more than one time. So I’d like to talk today about the doctrine of forgiveness. There is this scripture in section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 42: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”
It’s a short verse. I’d like to ask you, do you think the Lord plays games? Do you think, when He says that He remembers “no more” He really means it? Or, do you think that in reality, what He’s saying is, “I remember no more, but watch out. I still do. I remember who you were.” Do you think He plays a game?
Well, I know He has a great sense of humor, but I know He doesn’t play games. He does not, especially in regard to our own forgiveness and in regard to our own sins, and when it is about our own imperfections.
There is another scripture. It is in Isaiah. But remember that when we read prophets, what we are reading is “the will of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:4) as well. But Isaiah wrote: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
We believe that this is doctrine, that when He is saying that He will remember no more about our sins or about our wrongdoing, He really cleans those through His Atonement. So I’d like to talk a little bit about a process. Imagine you are in the middle of this circle that I am drawing with my finger. And then you go to the Lord, and you ask for forgiveness. And then in the second step, He does forgive you.
What you do with this forgiveness is what matters. If you change, we call that repentance. What happens with our faith and our own spirituality? Does it go up or down? It goes up, right? So you ask for forgiveness, He tells you that your sins are forgiven, and then you change. Your faith goes up, and you are in a newer level of light and knowledge. I’ll come back a little bit to this.
So when the Lord is telling you that you have been forgiven, He has changed your condition. You were dirty; now you are clean. And He says, “I remember no more.” He says, “You were red; now you are white.” This is a gift. It’s a blessing. It’s a miracle, actually.
You can tell me, “But Elder Spannaus, I still remember.” Well, for some reason, we have memory. I think it is a good thing that we remember. But that point can have two sides. What you do with your memories of your wrongdoing is what matters. When He tells you that you are clean, you are justified. It is called the law of justification—when you have no more guilt, when you are clean. That is the law of justification, and it comes through the grace and the mercy of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of our faith in Him, He has the power to clean us.
What He has done by that forgiveness is change your condition. You are essentially the same person. Your nature, as yet, is not fully changed. What He did through forgiveness is say, “Yes, I know. You came to me, and you were dirty. Now you are clean; you are white again.” So what you do from there is what matters. You are in a newer level of light, and then you continue life. And then you make a mistake again, right? Have you made the same mistake more than once? Welcome to the club.
And then you go again and ask for forgiveness again. And then He forgives you. And then what you do, if you change, if you repent, then your faith goes up, and your spirituality goes up. And then you are in a newer level of light. Let me read the description or the definition of repentance: “Repentance: the Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world” ("Repentance", Bible Dictionary).
So repentance is a blessing. It’s when we decide, I cannot continue like this. I need to change. And this process of repenting, when we understand the law of forgiveness, it’s a continuous process. It is the process through which we start to go up in levels of light. The scriptures call this process sanctification. It is when you become pure, spotless, holy. It is the process by which we become one with Him. It is obviously a gift, again, that comes by the grace and the eternal Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is also a decision.
When we are forgiven, we receive the gift of being clean again. Remember how you felt when you heard these words, that you had been forgiven? I’ll tell you how I felt; perhaps it is like how you felt. I felt clean, happier, energized, with a high energy. I felt love for others, and I had the desire to become a better person. Perhaps you have felt some other things. We need to use all of those feelings to be brave enough to continue the process of sanctification.
I am 56 years old. I am far away from being old, okay? But one of the good things about age and aging is when you have the possibility to see things with a perspective of time. Being 56 allows me to see in my past and to see decisions with the perspective of time. Now here we are. You are students of the LDS Business College. You are this age, in this range of ages that is critical. It is critical for many things—first of all, it is the age in which you make decisions that will impact not only the rest of your life on this earth, but it will impact your eternity. For instance, you are deciding what to study. You are deciding to study. You are deciding to get married. You are deciding to have children at this age.
So after all these years of serving in the kingdom and having the advantage before you of being older, I can share with you some of my experiences. I have learned that many, many, many members of the Church do not understand forgiveness. And I have heard, in interviews, members that continue remembering things they have done in the past. When I was a bishop, they would come and say, “Bishop, I still remember things that I committed ten, fifteen years ago.” And they are still carrying the weight.
I said, “Have you ever heard that the Lord has forgiven you?”
“Well, yes, I have.”
“So why do you insist—let me ask you. If you have heard already that the Lord has forgiven you, but you continue having these feelings of pain, etcetera, because of things you have done, who do you think wants you to stay in that mud? Would those feelings come from heaven? Would the Lord be playing the game that—oh, you did that ten years ago or fifteen years ago or two years ago? Do we really believe His words when He says, ‘I remember them no more’?”
That is the gospel we preach. This is what we preach. This is the good news, the good tidings that the angels were singing when the Lord was born, that He was going to atone for us, for our sins. So if you can, learn right now this doctrine and apply it, first of all to yourself, and let the past be in the past. Look up to the future. By definition, faith looks toward the future, because of the uncertainty of the unseen.
We can see the past, but we can’t see the future. So by definition, faith is looking toward the future. Faith will give you hope, the hope that things will go well, that we can actually change, that we can become saints. It is a process, a decision line upon line and precept upon precept.
I’ll read a long scripture from Mosiah 4, so bear with me. I hope that you can go and read it again. It is King Benjamin speaking, and I am reading verses 11 and 12:
“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
“And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins.”
So this is the process. As I have told you, go back and read it again, so you understand the process of retaining the remission of sins. This is why we go to church every Sunday. This is why we partake of the sacrament every Sunday. This is why we need to repeat this ordinance for ourselves again and again.
It is the only ordinance that we repeat for ourselves again and again. We are baptized only once for ourselves. We go to the temple and are endowed only once for ourselves. We get sealed in the temple only once. But the sacrament, we ought to partake weekly. The reason is that it is another tool that the Lord is providing for us that we can use to retain a remission of our sins.
Remember the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, ordinances. But if you have been baptized, the sacrament. That’s how you complete the circle. Faith, repentance, ordinance. That’s why we repeat.
I can be talking two or three more hours about this doctrine. I’d like to bear my testimony to you, my dear brothers and sisters, that the gospel is the gospel of joy. The Church is an association of imperfect human beings, of sinners. That is why we come to church, to become clean, to become holy and pure. And that is the battle of life. This is why we came to this earth—to prove, to show Heavenly Father we want to become like Him.
I know that He lives. I know that what I have taught this morning is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. I haven’t said anything of my own reasoning. It is what I have read in the scriptures. It is the doctrine of forgiveness. It is the hope. It is the blessing—an eternal blessing that we can enjoy daily, if we have a repentant attitude towards life. I leave you my love. May the Lord bless you, my dear brothers and sisters, in all your desires and dreams. Dream big. He will bless you. Keep studying, because the Lord will use you in His kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.