For Mother’s Day, I purchased an app for my wife’s phone that provides information, maps, details, and locations of most of the hiking trails around the world. This app has become a favorite as we love to hike together. We had a memorable experience together climbing Heart Mountain in the Rocky Mountains near Banff, Alberta, that taught us lessons about repentance.
With the app, we are able to download maps on her phone and then, using GPS location, see where we are on that map and keep on course. The trail up Heart Mountain is very steep and treacherous.
Choosing Paths to Follow
We were nearing the top of the mountain when we came to a fork in the trail. To our left, a group of hikers were trying to get a dog to climb through a narrow chute and up over a rocky ledge. To our right, a young couple quickly headed off along the other well-worn path into a rocky area that looked a lot simpler. We chose to follow them. We gave no heed to the blue marker clearly indicating the narrow chute to be the right direction, and we did not consult our app to help us know the way. It was the wrong choice!
This trail started off easy but, to our dismay, soon became very steep, difficult, and dangerous.
Eventually it ended at a cliff face that we could not negotiate. It was then that we finally looked at the trail app and discovered we were far off course. We had to find another way up that involved some difficult trail finding and a very steep and difficult scramble up and off of this cliff. We eventually made it to the summit, but it would have been a much safer climb if we had followed the correct trail.
There are three reasons we chose to follow the wrong path.
Most of us have experienced these same transgressions. The first was impatience. We didn’t want to wait for that dog. The second was complacency. The other trail looked easier (at the moment), was being used by others, and would just as likely get us to the top. The third reason was simply pride. We knew better than those before us. We had hiked mountains before and were confident that we could do this one without any help or guidance. We all have experienced these feelings in one form or another. The Apostle Paul reminds that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The natural tendencies of impatience, complacency, and pride require that all of us need to use the power of repentance daily to keep us on the right path.
Repent and Course Correct
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches: “No matter how terribly off course you are, no matter how far you have strayed, the way back is certain and clear. Come, learn of the Father; offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Have faith, and believe in the cleansing power of the infinite Atonement of Jesus the Christ. If we confess and repent of our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…It may not be an easy path, and it requires self-discipline and determination, but its end is glorious beyond description. You are not doomed to a tragic end” (“A Matter of a Few Degrees,” Ensign, May 2008). It is true, with the power of the Atonement we can repent and course correct.
President Russel M. Nelson encourages us: “Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance…It is the key to happiness and peace of mind…Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day. When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!” (“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” Ensign, May 2019).
Repentance is the key to course correction, and it can be done in so many ways. Repentance is recognizing our impatience, complacency, and pride and working each day to be kinder, more dedicated, and humble. Repentance is realizing that some sins require others to help us overcome and that we need to reach out in faith to family, priesthood leaders, and friends. Repentance is ministering.
Following the Path of Jesus
It is partaking of the sacrament and witnessing that we will remember Our Savior and follow His commands. Repentance is creating a home founded on gospel learning. It is joyfully living the Sabbath Day. Repentance is allowing the Savior to take the lead in our lives, trust in Him with all our hearts, and “lean not unto [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Repentance is joy!
We need to pattern our lives after the king of the Lamanites. After being taught by Aaron, he desired to be born of God and have his sins remitted and “receive his Spirt, that [he] may be filled with joy.” In fact, he was willing to “forsake [his] kingdom” to “receive this great joy.” Aaron’s answer was simple: “If thou desirest this thing,…repent of all thy sins…and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.” (Alma 22:15-16). Repentance brings everyday hope and everlasting joy.
Repentance is only possible through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
Relying upon the Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ
Christ’s atoning sacrifice doesn’t condone sin, but it is a recognition that we all struggle. Jody and I were able to climb to the summit of Heart Mountain, but it was more difficult and dangerous than it should have been. It would have been more pleasant if we would have been humble enough to follow the path. One of the unique features of the trail app is that it records the paths of those who use it. All of these unique recordings are saved, and the user can overlay those recordings over the actual trail to see where others hiked. As expected, many took the same path we did. When we sin, we are not lost. We need to remember that repentance isn’t plan B—repentance is the plan. Elder Lynn G. Robbins gave us this counsel: “Repentance is God’s ever-accessible gift that allows and enables us to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Repentance isn’t His backup plan in the event we might fail. Repentance is His plan, knowing that we will” (“Until Seventy Times Seven,” Ensign, May 2018).
The power of Christ’s atonement is that He has already experienced the difficulties of every path: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).
Jesus knows how to save us, how to lift us, and how to sympathize with us. There is no road He has not taken, and we can never say, “No one understands how I feel or where I have been” because He does understand, and He has been there. He opens His arms to us and invites us to “return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Nephi 9:13-14). When we repent, Christ will lift us from our wandering paths, help us deal with the hardships, and safely deliver us to the summit where we can see our eternal potential and experience everlasting joy.