I am trying for something devotional here. A fire and brimstone sermon to myself, if you will…
One thing I loved about my high school freshman year of Catholic History was the chapter on the Spanish Inquisition and discussing the horrible things done then. It opened up discussions of religion which I had never before considered and helped me gain an understanding of and frankly a dislike of those evils which had come before. But this acknowledgement of evil was not enough to keep me in the fold. Confessing to evil isnâ€™t enough. It only makes you guilty.
Letâ€™s flash foreword seven years to when I was joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One thing that was new to me was a concept of personal repentance. This may seem silly that as a 21 year old, the concept of righting my wrongs was new to me, and no, in many ways it wasnâ€™t, after all, repentance is intuitive in all of us, a desire to make amends. But to have it so simply articulated to me, and to be given a chance to understand what its application really meantâ€¦These things were more than fresh paint on old walls. These were breaths of life into what otherwise would have been a spiritual cadaver, only useful for examination of sins past. But even with breaths of life being pushed in, a desire to live had to come from myself. And it was hard! It was so hard to let go of all my yesterdays, all those scars that defined me.
And I experimented upon the word. I went to the woman who I loved and wanted to have a relationship with, and I told her all the wrongs I had done. Her response was the response of faith. â€œThat was then, this is now. You are not going to do those things anymore. It doesnâ€™t matter what youâ€™ve done, it matters who you are now.â€ And this faith lifted me, and made me loosen my cold grip on those scars.
But when you open your hand to let go of scars on your palms, not surprisingly, the scars donâ€™t fall off. They are part of your skin, divots in your flesh left behind by wounds long self-inflicted. And so I learned the last lesson of repentance. It does not release us from consequences; it only prepares us in how to deal with them. This can be described in two ways.
When I was young, my Dad didnâ€™t go to church, he stayed home and watched Star Trek. I never loved it, but I did have a soft spot for James T. Kirk. He once said-
Damn it, Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!
Elder Dallenbach, once the General Young Menâ€™s President, once said that when we are tempted to sin, we should not say â€œnoâ€, but firmly say â€œNever!â€ And if we have sinned and cannot say â€œNever!â€ we must shout â€œNever Again!â€
Our sins past become monuments calling for future righteousness. We look to them, and shout â€œNever Againâ€. We need to look hard at the Spanish Inquisition and call out â€œNever Again!â€ We need to look hard at Mountain Meadows Massacre, at the racism of blacks and the Priesthood, at the sexism of polygamy, at the deception of baseball baptisms, and cry out â€œNever Again!â€ We need to take these scars and own them. Not just saying they happened impartially, but be sure to declare they were wrong, they are disgusting, and that we will have no part of them. We need to never forget them, so that we can ensure that they will never happen again. Thus our scars truly do define us and make us who we are. It is only in owning, repudiating, and mastering the evil within that we can become ourselves.