You may have lived through the awful, error-filled object lessons that I did in Sunday School or seminary. Here are some examples of what not to do to teach children or anyone about sin and repentance:
- A teacher picked up a slab of wood. He drove four or five nails into the board, then turned the hammer over and pulled them out. “This is like the law of chastity. You can repent, but the holes are still there.”
- A teacher took out a piece of gum, placed it in his mouth, and chewed it well. Then he took out the gum and held the was before the class. “This gum is like chastity. Who wants it now?”
- The teacher brings a luscious looking, decorated cake to class. He sets it on the table in front of the class with plates and forks next to it. After talking about chastity for some time he picks up a plate. All the students' mouths start watering in anticipation of their treat. The teacher sticks his hand into the cake, grabs a handful, and smashes it on the plate. Then he holds it out to the class. “Who would like a piece?”
I suppose all these awful “analogies” are used in the hopes of scaring kids into avoiding sex at all costs (assuming, of course, that this hasn't already been a problem for some). Of all things kids can mess around with, it's one of the most impactful. And there a grain of truth in all that mess. When we sin, we are forever changed. We can't turn back time and undo what we did. We can't use the time we spent sinning for growth and service and goodness. We can't magically make physical ills caused by addictions, repair the relationships that were ruined, cause illegitimately conceived children to be unborn and start over, or pull back all the problematic consequences of our bad behavior, we can still be clean before God.
Still, the gospel teaches us that scarlet sins can be white as snow. Not pink. Not tinted. Pure white. That is truth. Whatever baggage may stick with us from our sins as we travel through life, we can rest assured that God does not hold it over our heads, use it to smack us around, or even remember it.
We can be utterly clean before him. He will see us as we are.
Watch this video clip together.
Here are some example questions to ask about repentance:
- Why does Heavenly Father want us to keep the commandments? What happens when we do? What happens when we don't? (I suggest real answers, not simplified ones. We do not always feel good when we do good, we do not always have good things happen to use when we choose righteously, etc.)
- What does it mean to repent? How do we repent?
- What are the steps in repentance and how do they work?
- When do we need to talk to a bishop?
- How does God see us when we repent?
- How do we see ourselves when we repent? (Again, truth is best. It is often much harder for other people to forgive us and for us to forgive ourselves than for God to forgive.) What can we do with the memories of sin?(For example: use them as a catalyst to do good, to remember to avoid sin, etc.)
- What should we do after we repent?
David A. Bednar said:
Repentance is the sweet fruit that comes from faith in the Savior and involves turning toward God and away from sin.
How do you help your children understand the process of repentance?