Premise: Feeling guilt is an excuse for not repenting.
From Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definitions for guilt are as follows:
1: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy: self-reproach
3: a feeling of culpability for offenses
In other words, guilt is about two things: committing an offense like a crime, or a feeling. It is the feeling part that I wish to address. A survey of the scriptures by and large deal with the offense such as: “And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through aignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are bguilty;” (Leviticus 4:13)
There are only a handful of scriptures that address the feeling of guilt and they are mainly from the Book of Mormon.
“Therefore if that man arepenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine bjustice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own cguilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the dpresence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and epain, and fanguish, which is like an unquenchable gfire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever. ” (Mosiah 2:38)
“Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect aremembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?” (Alma 5:18) (both uses in this verse)
“And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our asins, and of the many murders which we have committed. And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath aforgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the bguilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son. And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to atake them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain- “(Alma 24:9 – 11)
As many of us know, the steps to repentance include the following:
- Sorrow for Sin.
- Abandonment of Sin.
- Righteous Living.
See True to the Faith (2004), 132-35
Which leads me back to guilt. Feeling guilt or remorse is, by itself, not enough to begin the steps of repentance. We must feel genuine sorrow, sometimes called “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10).
In fact, I think that many of us determine to feel guilt and hold on to that guilt as an alternative to repentance.
I’ve been in conversation with someone where they say, “Why are you bringing that up? I feel guilty enough already!” Not ready to change but willing to feel guilt as their personal punishment.
So, restating my premise: Feeling guilt is an excuse for not repenting.
Am I splitting hairs here, totally off-base? Or am I on to something.
BTW, here is a post from Feminist Mormon Housewife that seems to back up my premise.