I was traveling one weekend and visited the nearest congregation in the area. I don’t recall the topic of the sermon that was preached, but this one thought remains, i summarize it as reactionary repentance:
A new sermon doesn’t immediately make me a more sinful person.
The sermon was fiery. The doctrine was truth, but the delivery was less than desirable. The person was no doubt trying to apply D&C 6:9, “say nothing but repentance unto this generation,” combined with “shout it from the rooftops,” applied with law of Moses like vigor. The delivery was one of “listen and obey… of course you’ll be blessed.”
I like feedback and comments, but correction is my responsibility. Seeking people’s outside opinion I enjoy. It doesn’t mean I make changes, but it means I should to take a more objective approach to what others perception is because it could help me become a better person. It helps me find areas I haven’t considered that could considerably improve my character and chanced of success.
I haven’t found the reference yet, but it’s attributed to Joseph Smith, “if it’s not voluntary, it’s not the priesthood.” God never forces anything upon us, even change for our good. His first commandment is Love through a simple plan for growth:
“I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”
The proper approach to sermons
It’s important to listen, learn and apply but don’t feel guilty. You can feel the desire for change. The desire to improve, but you shouldn’t feel immediately guilty for a new idea you just learned. If you are reminded of something you should do, have constantly procrastinated or there is a sin you keep repeating that’s a whole other sermon. Guilt can be good, when properly understood and applied. Guilt should be an internal change mechanism, not an external one.
Only you know what, how and when to implement change. No one at the pulpit or outside yourself knows what you need and can’t tell you. So don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry, be proactive in pursuing the path to personal perfection. Besides we aren’t commanded to be perfect immediately, work on everything all at once, or even in this life. To the question put to Brigham Young on what the most important commandment was he replied:
“The most important commandment is the one you’re struggling with the most.”
You read, hear or are reminded of something you should do or no stop doing. Take it into consideration and make a plan for improvement you know is right. It’s faithful, loving and peaceful progression. Not reactionary repentance.
Repentance in the New Testament comes from the Greek word, metanoeo, that has understanding of profound change of mind and heart and essence. Sounds very similar to “a broken heart and a contrite spirit”. That makes a difference in understanding and perception. Christ always invited, never forced, or forcefully preached…
Alma told his people that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people (Mosiah 18:20). What he and others were teaching is that the members’ hearts are being changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“Does that mean that every lesson … must only be about faith and repentance?” Of course not. But it does mean that the teacher and those who participate must always desire to bring the Spirit of the Lord into the hearts of the members in the room to produce faith and a determination to repent and to be clean. (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 43–45) Henry B. Eyring