Ask Mormon Girl: “I’m feeling so ashamed. Can I ever be forgiven?”

This week I received a long message from a young Mormon man in Canada.  In several thick paragraphs, he poured out his story—a story of an orthodox Mormon family wrecked by illness and addiction, of divorce, poverty, and growing up on the streets, of an overworked single mother and an oldest son looking out for disabled younger siblings, while taking abuse from his addict dad, who after much struggle is trying to get his life together.

“I’ve confessed all the details to my Bishop, to my mother, and to the Lord. The whole time I’ve had these experiences I’d managed to keep an image of calm, cool, collected maturity that masked the emotional and spiritual turmoil that was occurring within me. But I feel an immense amount of sorrow and shame.

“Thus, this leads me to my question: Am I still a good person, having strayed so far from the path? Will Heavenly Father be able to forgive me for my serious transgressions? I try to live my life in the pursuit of serving others and making others happy to make up for my shortcomings, but I feel that true forgiveness from Heavenly Father will be extraordinarily difficult, no matter how much I confess or repent. I just want you to help me on this one, help me set my mind straight. I sincerely apologize for the lengthiness of this question; I started to type and kept going and going. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

And he signed it:  “Ashamed.”

Of course, I didn’t wait for the weekly column to write him back.

As soon as I read the message, I put the words right into my iPhone, right then, right there, from the heart and from experience:

“Dear one:  Forgiveness is not something you earn.  It is something you accept.  God long ago forgave you. It may be that the abuse makes it difficult to feel the love.  I feel a tremendous amount of love for you as a brother.  I pray you can feel God’s love too. Walk on, head high, broken hearted one.”

That was all I could say, so choked up, I was.  I wish I could offer more.  Can you help, readers?  Can you show “Ashamed” the love?  If you’ve been there, what wisdom do you have to offer?

Send your query to  Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter. Read The Book of Mormon Girl.


Filed under coming back, forgiveness

52 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: “I’m feeling so ashamed. Can I ever be forgiven?”

  1. Jenna

    This post breaks my heart. Of course you can be forgiven. I love that Joanna said that “forgiveness is something you accept.” You have a Heavenly Father that knows you personally and loves you more than you can imagine. You’re in my prayers.

  2. Staying Strong in Oregon

    Redemption is personal journey. Often the hardest part of the process is learning to forgive and love yourself. Self-loathing and regret are only poison. Know that you are not alone. I pray you will find peace in your life. Heaven only knows I am only beginning that journey myself.

  3. Mark

    I agree 100% with Joanna. Don’t give up on yourself or on God. God is ready to help. Repentance can be difficult at times, not because God is trying to punish you, but because change can take some work and time. God will be there to buoy you up and help you every step of the way. Spend some time on your knees and be honest in your prayers. You will be watched over and given strength when needed. You are in our hearts and prayers.

  4. DrCole

    I agree with the “Forgiveness is not something you earn. It is something you accept.” It has been my experience that one of the most difficult things about forgiveness is forgiving yourself…even if you didn’t do anything wrong and you were merely a victim. Keep plugging along and make your life better today than it was yesterday. Find support in your friends, family and in your own personal study.

    Good luck and we are thinking of you.

  5. I understand how you feel, but it’s true…God forgives immediately…it is us that takes the time to accept it. Remember the reason Alma is in the Book of Mormon is to prove we can change. I remember the moment I realized the things I had done….and how they were holding me back…..I remember being convinced I would be excommunicated. And then I remember the words from my Stake president. “we don’t excommunicate people who come to us in love.” I so wanted to be forgiven. It took me a long, long to work it all through. I never went back, I never stopped going to church and my life has been so much better for it. The adversary wants you to feel discouraged and even worthless…..the Savior wants you to feel loved and accepted. So talk to the Bishop and then revel in the feeling of newness…take the Sacrament and think about the Savior….He loves you.

  6. Ryan

    Dear Brother,

    Joanna is right and inspired. It’s hard to see sometimes but forgiveness simply IS. Jesus stands by and loves you. Alma 7:10-13. We love you and God loves you.

    • Tavia Jade

      Yes, this is a beautiful scripture. Read on! Alma 7:14-16 are beautiful verses that complete the picture of how we make the Atonement of the Savior effect in our life, and lead to Eternal Life with our ever loving Father in Heaven. This is my testimony. I know the peace and joy that comes with repentance. There really is nothing more exquisite than that.

  7. DT

    OF COURSE you are still a good person! And I’m sorry you are “ashamed”. Shame is not a good place. Repentance is cleansing, and for everybody. It is between you and God. Maybe your Bishop will be involved. I don’t know. I feel uncomfortable that you are seeking answers from Mormongirl, who is not God. But hopefully the posts will help you. The gospel works. Faith, repentance, forgiveness (even ourselves), enduring to the end. Reading the Book of Mormon start to finish is life changing. I just did it, I know. The answers to all life problems are there. There are many stories in the Ensign similar to yours. Reading them and seeing how people dealt with their life problems are uplifting and interesting. Sending love your way.

  8. Jason

    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the King’s horses, And all the King’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

    But The King Could, and the King Did.
    –Parley C. Hamblin

    It wasn’t Christ’s mission to make the pious more comfortable in their station. It is the most meek, humble at heart that He draws closest and dear to. He will bring comfort and intimate relief of spiritual heartache and suffering that no one else can. But that part, he makes easy. The hard part, the real struggle is the path to one’s own forgiveness. Be a disciple of Christ, following His example of forgiving others- even the lowliest of heart under public scrutiny, and scorn. Search inside and find that inner, most fragile, and hurt self, and forgive him.

    The King will take over from there, and put the ‘you’ He has known all along, back together again.

    • I realise this post is about “ashamed” and the comments I’ve read are wonderfully supportive, yet for me the poem of Parley C Hamblin above summarises it all in such a few words. It just touched me. Feel blessed to have come across it. Would like to know where I can reach it’s source? Have googled for it, but not found anything. Does anyone else have the book, website, etc where it can be found?. Thank you.

      • jason porter

        Neil and Dani– Thanks for that…

        Parley Hamblin was my Mission Pres. He was a pretty powerful man, lots of ‘damn it, elder!’ and ‘go baptize the hell outta them!’ He had tthese huge ctcher mit meet hook that would swallow even the most otherwise imposing hands. So if your fist is as big as your heart, in spite of his immenseness, had a pretty big, yet tender heart. I’m not sure where he got it, probably Alexander Smith @blessyourvirus [twitter]… one of his most endearing Assistants.

    • Dani

      Beautifully put. Inspiring, really…

  9. Catherine

    I think that sometimes we confuse a process of repentance from a church administration standpoint with a process of repentance from a Gospel of Jesus Christ standpoint. While there may be some steps that a bishop or other church leader requires before granting “forgiveness” or full fellowship or whatever, I think that Joanna is exactly right in saying that forgiveness from God is already waiting for you and each of us. To me it makes sense that God helps us change because he’s forgiven us. Forgiveness is something we can feel gratitude for the second we realize we’re wrong, and not something we have to earn or are on the verge of losing if we accidentally slip up.

    • Jason

      Catherin–You made an excellent point. I’ve seen and experienced myself going through the administrative process of gaining full fellowship. Correctly, this has little to do with anything other than your status as a member. You can gain full fellowship without really taking on fully the spiritual journey of forgiveness and self-love.

      While the Church may offer ‘saving ordinances’ it cannot offer Salvation. Too many times the repenting are asked to sort of jump right in and often attempt to assimilate into the culture to either erase or hide shame. The comfort a pretending a polished smile and taking on the full armor of sharply pressed white shirt and smartly adorned tie is fleeting. It’s sadly more common than we should ever allow, that souls try to gain social acceptance and after a year of fighting inner doubt and contrived happiness, fall away. And I am not talking about falling away from the Church.

      Your life experience, the sum of all things good and bad is unique to you. You should not deny or hide from what has made you, you. What distinguishes you from the a sea of shining, seemingly perfect, never-strayed-from birth Mormons, or Methodist, or whatever, is how much more wonderful the warm light of the Son feels than darkness.

      I stumbled upon an old friend of mine to find him gay, ostracized from the Church, and having contracted HIV. His journey to finding peace has been a long an arduous process, and he has lost things deer to him along the way, I’m sure. But he has found peace and in doing so, crated a movement ( ). His healing process has transcended him beyond acceptance, to a place now where he lives joyfully in the BLESSING of that part of him that is unique and brought greater understanding and love toward himself and others. That SAME thing that members of the church and in society had pronounced upon him as the CURSE and PUNISHMENT for his ‘sinful lifestyle choice,’ turning away from God, or abandoning his testimony–whatever.

      His pursuit is to enlighten others that there are ‘viruses’ in all of us. Thoughts, feelings, disease, and sickness that enter into our bodies can fester and dissolve the spirit and body. Or, as my friend has found, can be blessed as things that make us unique in experience and perspective– a holism that can help us to love more, appreciate more, and live a more meaningful fulfilling life. Your creation matters. Don’t be ashamed. Your life, all of it, should be and is Blessed by God. No matter what.

  10. SG

    God loves you soo much! Always remember that even if you can’t feel it right now, His love for you is a fact. My favorite story to illustrate this is the prodigal son (Luke 15)… read that over and over. Put yourself in the place of the son who came home and whose father RAN to meet him. God doesn’t just accept and forgive you … God and all of heaven celebrates your return to Him.

    • Catju

      If I might add to this, the father doesn’t even let the prodigal son finish his confession before calling for the best robe, a ring, sandals and a feast! As others have said the challenge is not confessing adequately but in feeling forgiven.
      Shame is a powerful dynamic in families impacted by addiction. 12-step groups (AA, Al-Anon) can be helpful. Hearing others speak to the same issues that have caused so much personal shame is very healing.

  11. Tricia

    I agree with Joanna and all the replies thus far. Having said that, I think you’re aware that shame is an insidious little bugger. Shame crawls in, takes up residence and invites all of it’s relatives — depression, anger, hurt, mistrust — over as well. It can become a biochemical experience over time as the brain uses up the neurotransmitter substances that help us soothe ourselves. Kind words and gentle reminders are helpful but not really very effective over time. You will probably read Joanna’s reply and the others and feel better briefly but it’s not likely to last. I think you probably would benefit from seeing a professional to work through these feelings and to be able to truly receive and accept the forgiveness that is available to you. The church has a list of LDS licensed professionals. You could also see someone outside the church who specializes in abuse, trauma, addiction, and depression. You may also want to look for support groups — both inside the church and in your community. Hearing that others struggle with similar issues may help you to know more deeply that you are not alone and that you are, and always will be, one of God’s children. And if you should encounter an individual or group that is not loving or supportive, walk the other direction and keep looking for the right people to help you on your journey.

  12. Lee

    There was a time in my life when I committed a serious transgression myself, and felt the same way. After speaking with my bishop many times, and after lots of prayer and letting time pass, I came to realize that I had been forgiven, but I had not let it go from my mind. Sometimes we have to remember to forgive ourselves and let it go. We do have to accept it. It took me years to get to this point, and I hope you can too.

  13. Ed

    The Cowboy Jesus–via Levi Peterson–says it best: “Why can’t you believe my blood was enough? . . . Why do you have to shed yours too?”

  14. R

    Dear Ashamed,

    Someone asked about the role of grace in a Q&A panel in my ward conference yesterday, and all the leaders present, bless them, answered by talking about works. About how if you run yourself ragged through your whole life in trying to do all the right things, Christ’s grace will make up for what you still lack when you die, and you will thereby qualify for heavenly glory.

    Here’s the thing: I think they were a little bit off point.

    They are of course leaning on 2 Nephi 25:23, which says, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” But they’re missing the logic of the verse. We need to believe in Christ and be reconciled to God not so that we can be worthy of grace, but because we need grace. We don’t earn grace, as Joanna so beautifully noted. We accept it. And I don’t think “after all we can do” means “when we die.” It sounds like you, in a very difficult circumstance, are doing all you can do every day. Grace is there. Grace is not something that swoops in at the end of life and offers you a stepping stool so that you can measure up to God’s mark. Grace is the power of the atonement. It’s what sustains us, moment by moment, whoever and wherever we are.

    Grace doesn’t just make up for what you lack. It actually makes you lack less as the power of Christ’s love makes you a better person and a better disciple. Take courage, brother. Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, and I’ll be praying for you.

    • DT

      R, this is beautiful. This is thought provoking. Thank you. Although I did think grace DOES make up for what we lack.

    • Christi

      Ahhh . . . this is it!!! Once we really get this . . . then all of our “works” become an expression of gratitude for GRACE!!! You’ve heard faith without works is dead . . . but work(s) for Grace??? There’s no such thing . . . it’s all about HIM and not us!!!!!!!! I love this!!! You want to work hard at something? Work hard at accepting His mercy and GRACE . . . everything flows from this place!!!

  15. Mary Longorio

    Many times my father saud to me, it is not where you have been, it is the direction in which you are traveling. Grab hold of tha forgiveness and accept the love that accompanies that great gift. You are worthy forgiveness and you are worthy of love

  16. I guess I’m confused. Is he seeking forgiveness for his sins or his family’s?

    • mystic

      I too was somewhat confused about that. While I hope he is not feeling shame for actions that were not his own, the Atonement is his to utilize from either side of the question. Dear Brother, I have had family members in similar situations to what is described. Please read and take to heart the comments above, but this is what I would add: 1- Forgiveness is not about others or the good you can do in service to them. Forgiveness is about you and your relationship with yourself and God and a big part of that is realizing you are worth forgiving. 2- Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. While this may seem a tangent, I’ve watched many people get hung up on whether or not they are forgiven because the mortals closest to them do not fully trust them. Try not to confuse mortal inadequacies with how your Heavenly Father views you. He loves you. He knows you. My heart goes out to you. I pray you find the peace you are seeking.

  17. Devan T

    A few things that have helped me when growing up with some of the same situations: 1) Ask Heavenly Father how he feels about me in a sincere and honest way. Tapping into his love is a very profound and healing experience. 2) Find a place to ponder and meditate because healing can come by the Holy Ghost when we remove distractions. 3) Write down affirmations and repeat those daily. At first it will seem fake but eventually you will learn to love yourself by writing down positive expressions of yourself and repeating them to yourself everyday. There is so much more I could share about the negative programming but a book that has helped me a lot is called, “What to Say When you Talk To Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter. Good luck my friend!

  18. seashmore

    Ashamed, you are right in recognizing that “true forgiveness from Heavenly Father will be extraordinarily difficult.” It’s difficult because true forgiveness requires true repentance, which often means drastic changes. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Please don’t be discouraged; it’s the adversary who wants us to feel that way. He wants us to have no hope of forgiveness because that’s how he feels. Our loving heavenly parents want us to have hope that we can be forgiven for anything because they want to forgive us. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much He was willing to allow His Only Begotten Son to suffer for us. And our Brother loves us enough to have willingly suffered that.

    I suggest praying and reading D&C 58:42-3 to help you learn this for yourself.

  19. There seems to be two ways, maybe more to approach such a profound issue. I was on the couch for 20 years with a Jungian analyst and so I tend to over think these kind of things. But I think it is a basic knowledge and skill set that, when someone, for instance, tells you they are deeply depressed, it serves no purpose to ignore information and try and be pollyann-ish and tell them, “Oh no, you shouldn’t feel that way, and life is good and, Don’t worry, be happy. God loves you, You’re already forgiven, Yada, yada, yada.” Feeling unforgivable is a real and scripturally possible condition. I once had a very respectable, religiously knowledgable man tell me he was sure his calling and election was made sure, and that he surely was a “Son of Perdition.” He knew it in his heart of hearts. That damn guy has messed me up ever since. I’m pretty sure that I have not, and will not be forgiven for my sins. I’m not bemoaning the fact. It just is. There was a time in my life that I crossed the line of blasphemy way beyond the pale. I was conscious and deliberate. I knew no other way to declare the anger and disgust I felt for God and his family. I accept the consequences. God has said, “Tho your sins be as scarlet,” and he has also said, We must forgive all, he however is free to forgive who he chooses. I know from intimate experience, he has not forgiven me. That’s His call. It’s fair. So I continue with a testimony that the church is exactly what Joseph Smith claims it is, and live with the possiblity that my eternal realm my be somewhat diminished from all the rest. That’s the price of free agency and consequences of grievous sin. Secondly, gobs of guilt does not substitute for the long hard repair of what our sins have unleased. I’ve always felt jealous of Catholics who have a psychic reality that a simple confession can clean the slate. I wish I could believe that.

    • Irwin

      Stephen, I am awed by your honesty, yet troubled by your sad experience. I agree that repentance of serious sin is not as easy as a simple confession, but includes real suffering and anguish, including as you say “long hard repair” of the consequences. That said, divine forgiveness is not conditioned upon a level of restitution that is impossible to achieve, and I hope you haven’t conditioned your own acceptance of forgiveness upon an impossible standard. Sin has consequences that we often cannot repair. Forgiveness is available nonetheless.

      I do not know what transgression you speak of, and cannot comment on the experience that has led you to believe you cannot be forgiven. I want to say, however, that while I am familiar with the teaching that there exists an unpardonable sin, I am confident that there are very very few people are even capable of it. I do not believe that any person as contrite as you seem to be has irreversibly sealed their fate, and so I hope you don’t allow mis-understanding, remorse, or depression to keep you from accepting the forgiveness that is available to you.

      For most of us, we are our own severest critics, and I suspect that when we reach the other side we will find mercy, borne by perfect understanding, that far exceeds expectation. Perhaps your repentance is not yet complete, but it can be. Allow it to be.

      Alma 34:14-16:
      “And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

      And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

      And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety….”

      (As for the religiously knowledgeable person who was sure he was a Son of Perdition, I am not aware of any scripture or church teaching to support that type of revelation. I can only believe that he or she mis-judged, mis-perceived, or mis-understood, as religious people do every day.)

    • Dani

      Wow! Of all the posts, I found yours to be the most intriguing and (whether you require it or not) oddly sympathetic. I make no claims to Biblical or Book of Mormon scholarship. I, like many, was born into this religion, as were my descendants for many generations back. I have freely chosen, for most of my adult life, to practice my beliefs outside the formal structure of the Church — for what I consider to be my own good reasons. With that disclaimer, let me make my main point. I believe, completely, that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. Let me re-emphasize — NO SIN. Let the imagination wander where it may in regards to that statement. My understanding of my Heavenly Father is this: his essence is a divinity far beyond my limited human understanding. Therefore, his ability to discern worthiness must also inherently be far beyond my limited human understanding. I do not question his ability to forgive — even you and your “conscious and deliberate” foray into your own personal dark depths unknown to me. As to your eternal progression beyond this terra firma, I would say this: none of us really knows where we are heading, nor should we. Intrinsic to the story of the life of Christ is the moral imperative that we strive to make this life better for our brothers and sisters, to the best of our ability. I choose to occupy my mind and skills in this pursuit, not in attempting to discern what Kingdom I will be relegated to when my work HERE is done. I know you neither asked for, nor require, my opinion regarding your narrative. Your post just stimulated my thought-process. Thank you. Your words genuinely moved me….

  20. Dear Brother, Remember that the Lord atoned for your sins long before you came to earth. The sacrifice, the Atonement, has already taken place. Forgiveness is yours for the taking.

    Also please, please remember that the atonement is not just meant to cleanse you of your sins. It is for your heartache, your pain, your guilt as well. Again I say, the sacrifice has been made and the Atonement is ready for you.

    Much love to you.

  21. Jared

    Oddly enough, I’m going through a similar situation in that I am coming back into the fold and I myself have asked myself this very same question on many occasions. Thankfully, I have a bishop who is supremely interested in helping me work through the repentance process rather than forcing me through it. Just recently, he encouraged me to look up and read a talk given by Brad Wilcox called ‘His Grace is Sufficient.’ Brother Wilcox’s words came home like truth. I would encourage everyone to read his talk at least once and then reflect on the beauty and perfection that is the Atonement.

    • Aged Observer


    • Tavia Jade

      Beautiful!! Jared, Thank you so much for sharing your experience and testimony!!

      Our church leaders are true representatives of the Lord, and as such, they are the right people to turn to in these situations. They are guided by the Spirit to know what the Lord would have you know and do in order to, well, …be perfected in Christ, as it speaks of in Moroni 10:32-33. I know this for myself.
      Thanks again for sharing, Jared.

  22. i have no idea if you can be forgiven. or what there is to forgive. Anyone who claims to speak on behalf of god is out to make a buck or is clearly delusional. the most dangerous person on the planet is someone who is sure he is right and god is on his side. he will kill you without a second thought and sleep soundly.

  23. Competitive/Contemplative

    Reblogged this on Competitive/Contemplative and commented:
    Forgiveness is powerful…

  24. Steven Parkin

    While receiving feelings of God’s forgiveness are important, solving problems within the (Canadian man’s) family dynamic is the focus of our goal, right? Abuse, Poverty, and Physical Disability appear to be the primary stumbling blocks that he expressed in his letter. He needs a mentor to help him through the items he can change and the courage to work around the parts that he cannot. While I do not want to minimize his pain, I must say that all of us suffer from these 3 afflictions to varying degrees.

    Steve in Millcreek

  25. Brandon

    Fellow readers: Oh, how I love my Mormon heritage. This topic, however, is a point at which we as members of the Church so often miss the mark and therefore fail our brothers and sisters. While the excerpts included from Ashamed’s email are limited, it seems clear that this is not an issue of repentance or forgiveness. As Joanna suggests, that has already been resolved. Rather, it is a matter of deep emotional scars due to years of passing through unbearable life experiences. Therefore, the classic “pray, study harder, and simply trust God” type response to this concern borders on damaging. It’s not that simple. I have no doubt that Ashamed has already attempted this approach countless times over many years. Let’s not add additional emotional burden to an already broken-hearted soul by minimizing his experience.

    Ashamed: I wouldn’t dare claim to understand the depth of what you are going through, but I believe there are others who can identify in some way with your experience. Emotional scars and shame can run deep.The fact that you reached out to AMG seems encouraging to me. If you have not yet done so, reach out to a specialized support community where you’ll find others with similar backgrounds in whom you can confide. I have no doubt that undoing years of emotional damage will be difficult and seemingly unbearable at times, but I believe that sharing your burden in a safe environment is an excellent way to begin finding the much-needed relief that you seek. While I’m confident that my experience pales in comparison, years of shame due to my own scrupulosity never disappeared with any amount of confession, fasting, prayer, or faith alone. While these are important spiritual aspects to healing, it wasn’t until I sought the help of a therapist and other professionals that I was finally able to begin shedding the weight of my emotional baggage. Enlist God’s help in finding the courage to reach out. Some struggles are bigger than we can handle on our own. It is my hope that you can soon begin discovering the comfort that you so very much deserve.

  26. Violet Whittaker

    Dear Friend,
    Remember, God is really, really good at taking terrible things and turning them into something good. Joanna is right – forgiveness isn’t something you earn, it’s something you accept.
    In your search to understand and to heal and feel forgiven, there are many steps. I can’t tell you what yours will be – sometimes they include making yourself busy in serving others and doing the best you can, sometimes they involve following a dream, sometimes they involve professional help, and sometimes all three plus more. For what it’s worth, it seems you have a new family here praying for you.

  27. Anonymous

    I don’t know the details but in reading this post I don’t see anything this young man did that was sinful. Everything mentioned describes his circumstances and actions of others.

    As I read the scriptures I see a God constantly reaching out to rescue and deliver us. Think of Moses and the Exodus a kind of group salvation. The imagery of the constantly vigilant gardener, or the hen gathering her brood under her wings, or the rejoicing Father of the prodigal all suggest to me that as soon as we turn to God He will turn to us. The image of his outstretched arms is not just figurative.

    The Book of Mormon describes the Atonement as infinite and eternal. The Atonement is infinite and we should not underestimate its power to overcome any situation. Infinite means without limits. I believe that what ever you may have done it can be overcome.

    Don’t give up hope. That would be the biggest tragedy.

  28. Aged Observer

    To Ashamed; listen carefully to what Joanna wrote to you. We honor Christ’s atonement by allowing His grace to come into our lives.

    I’m sure that everyone has struggled with the “Be ye therefore perfect” directive that Christ gave to his disciples. Before we go on beating ourselves silly over our inability to be “perfect” (in the 21st century english interpretation) look carefully at a more accurate translation of the Greek (see the footnote to Matthew 5:48 – complete, finished, fully developed).

    God never expected any of us other than Jesus to be sinless. Christ’s atonement is infinite and perfect and will sanctify all who come to Him with a broken heart. Does that mean we should wear a sad countenance at all times because we commit sin? Absolutely not.

    Why then does God ask us to keep commandments and repent when we fall short? My thoughts? This is God’s way of continuing to ask us to invest in ourselves. Brad Wilcox characterizes this as the difference between paying rent and paying a mortgage. A payment is due each month, but there can be a completely different motivation for making that payment. The same thing applies to repentance and continuous striving to do better, because our hearts change one small step (line upon line) at a time. Just when we think we’ve got it, we discover another aspect that we can invest in. Joy comes not when we’re “perfect” at a commandment, it comes one step at a time as we strive to become like our Perfect Example and recognize through that striving our dependence on Him. It’s OK that we sin, it’s NOT OK when we quit trying to change.

    There’s a corollary to this from James Stockdale’s account of being a POW for many years. After he was finally released, someone asked how he had survived and others had succumbed to the torture and imprisonment. He said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story, that I’d ultimately prevail.” The guys who didn’t make it were the ones who said, “I’ll be out by Christmas,” then Christmas would come and go. Then they said, “I’ll be out by Easter,” and Easter would come and go. Eventually, the sum of the disappointments took their resolve and their mortal lives.

    Our adversary works very much the same way. When we sin, we’re immediately set upon by feelings of guilt. If those feelings prompt us to attempt positive change – even though we might “fail” again, they are God inspired. When those feelings pound our face into the dirt with the feeling, “I might as well give up, I’ll never get this right – how could Christ forgive a sinner like me…” the thought is certainly not God inspired. I believe this is what the Lord was trying to communicate in D&C 82:7 “…unto the soul that sinneth, the former sins return…” Not that we’re guilty all over again for past repented sins, but that our adversary uses the opportunity to grind our faces into the dirt to try to get us to reject the perfect and infinite atonement.

    I agree that we mis-read the “…after all we can do” conclusion to the verse in 2nd Nephi. We don’t earn grace, we don’t earn “worthiness”, Christ grants His grace to us as we come to Him with a “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” attitude. For me, the best re-write of 2nd Nephi 25:23 is “even if I did everything perfectly in this life, I would not be saved without the grace of Jesus Christ.” We imperfectly strive to change because we reverence the sacrifice of the Savior. His perfect investment in us is that we get to try, over and over and over and over and over….ad infinitum. And each time we do, we learn a bit more about ourselves, we test our limits, we understand our failings, we realize that without our Savior and Redeemer, we are nothing. We also learn that Christ is quick to forgive – and by understanding that – we learn how to forgive – which is truly learning to be more like God.

    If we interpret “this life is a test” as a pass/fail course, we’re missing the point. We prove ourselves in this “test” not to be worthy of grace, but “prove” ourselves in the refining sense. Each striving refines us a bit more and ultimately brings us on our knees to God saying, “Please, sanctify me”.

    To Everyone, Please Don’t be discouraged – there’s nothing you’ve done that Christ cannot and will not fix, just keep practicing.

  29. Dani Lofland

    The best and real hero’s are always the imperfect ones.

    Life is messy, we get dirty, clean ourselves off and keep going.

    I hope that when your sorrow lessens, (and it will), that you will use your experiences to help you see all the good that you have already done and all the good that you will yet do.

    2 Nephi 2;23-24
    …having no joy, for they knew no misery: doing no good, for they knew no sin.
    But behold, all things have been done the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
    …men are that they might have joy.

  30. The only thing that made me cry harder than his question was your beautiful answer. I think you made us all feel better. Forgiveness is hard to give, harder to receive.

  31. Anonymous

    I have experienced shame in my life as well. After a couple years of therapy, I’ve learned a few things. Firstly, shame hates exposure. It was great of you to reach out and talk about your experiences. Keep talking about it with a trusted friend or family member or therapist. Also, I have loved the work of Brene Brown. She mostly writes for women, but she is a shame researcher and I would wholeheartedly recommend her books and talks. Lastly, never underestimate the power of Christ’s atonement and love. It is more powerful and all-encompassing that we can even comprehend.

  32. Tabitha

    Agreed! This talk has changed my understanding of Grace and thus improved and enhanced my relationship to Christ. A must read/listen!

  33. Melody

    “Jesus loves broken people.” (attributed to Jeffrey R. Holland.)

  34. freshwatermermaid

    Mormon Girl, would you mind passing along this note? Know this: whatever your faith, survivors of abuse and neglect ALWAYS deal with feeling ashamed and alone. Even though abusers have made you feel singled out and unworthy, you aren’t. Its a traceable pattern that is explained and documented in the medical, feminist, academic, activist and of course, religious community. I’m not a believer myself, but I promise you this: you deserve to feel loved and you are loved by many around you. It is not for you to feel shame for living through torment, nor is it for you to atone for the sins others commit upon you. Give yourself a break and accept love from wherever it comes. You are worthy. (I’m from up here in Canada too. You’ll find people who love you everywhere!)

  35. Look up Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson. I think it will help along with the scripture study and prayer…You are as redeemable as anyone else. The truth is Christ takes care of it all regardless of the detail if we allow him to. He is all powerful and his power is all encompassing, and yet it does nothing unless we choose to pursue his power in our lives to better ourselves.
    And regardless of who you are what personality and what temptations we feel influenced by or sucumb to…we all must at some point come to a reckoning of how we have fallen. It doesn’t matter if you are a “molly mormon”, “peter priesthood”, or a drug dealer…part of allowing Christ’s power to be a part of us…or even better stated, empowering Christ’s power in our life. We must realize that we cannot do it on our own, that we are not perfect. If you can’t realize you have a problem there is no fixing it…whether those problems are spiritual, temporal or any other. No resolution comes in ignorance, that is a pure fact.
    Think about how you can improve and enact change with Christ in your life…forgiveness comes and is a palpable understanding even through the veil.
    Don’t be discouraged…that impulse is not one sanctioned or spawned by Christ.

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