Three times in the Book of Mormon, prophets warn people not to procrastinate their repentance.
- Alma tells the people of Ammonihah, “I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 13:27).
- Eight years later, Amulek (who was with Alma in Ammonihah) gives the same warning to the Zoramites: “I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end” (Alma 34:33).
- Many years later, another prophet, Samuel the Lamanite, warns the people of Zarahemla that, if they don’t repent now, they will one day regret it. “O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us,” they will say. But it will be too late: “Ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance until it is everlastingly too late” (Helaman 13:33, 38).
Is there a deadline for repentance? Will there ever be a time when God refuses to allow repentant souls to return to Him? I think the answer is no. The scriptures teach that God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (2 Nephi 2:4, Mormon 9:9, Moroni 10:19) and that His work and His glory is to bring about our “immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39). He wants to save us. So if our window of opportunity to repent is finite, it must be because of us, not because of Him.
In our last general conference, President Russell M. Nelson challenged us to repent daily:
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process….
Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day (“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” General Conference, April 2019).
I know from experience that consistency is key to maintaining my level of physical fitness. If I get out of the habit of exercising, over time it becomes harder to get moving again.
Perhaps there is a spiritual equivalent. Perhaps a regular focus on repentance keeps our spirits conditioned, while an unwillingness to repent or a decision to defer repentance results in us being spiritually “out of shape.”
I think this is what Amulek meant when he explained to the Zoramites why they shouldn’t procrastinate:
That same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (Alma 34:34).
Which spirit is he talking about? Your spirit. I would paraphrase his statement this way: If you don’t want to change now, what makes you think you will want to change later? Particularly since you will be even less in the habit of changing then than you are now. Better to get started today than to rely on your future self to bail you out. Besides, the longer you delay, the less likely you will ever get started at all.
Today, I will repent. I will remember that procrastinating repentance only makes it harder to repent in the future. I will follow President Nelson’s admonition to repent every day, in order to keep progressing.