Q&A: Questions and Answers

“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Oct. 1992, 17

Questions and Answers

Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

How can I repent of something dumb I did when there is no way of correcting it?

New Era

The Lord gives us the opportunity to repent of the mistakes we make, even the dumb ones that can’t be corrected.

Some mistakes are of a serious nature where your actions have hurt other people. Every effort should be made to make restitution or repay those you’ve hurt. And repentance may involve talking with your bishop about what you have done. You may never be able to put things back the way they were, but the Lord has provided a way for you to repent.

Other mistakes are less serious, and you may be simply wishing you could take back an unkind word or act differently when you were rude. You may not even know the people involved, so it would be difficult to find them to apologize. But you can still repent of your error.

Your parents may be able to provide some perspective to help you. Or you may want to consider talking with your bishop, even if your problem isn’t one that you would normally need to confess. He can help you make a plan, step-by-step, that will help you repent. Sometimes just talking about it helps.

Prayer can also bring comfort and guidance. The Lord has instructed us to pray always; that means even when you are in need of changing your life. You can always turn to the Lord in prayer.

If you need to apologize to someone, go and apologize. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. And don’t fall into a rehash of who was right and who was wrong. That type of discussion is essentially useless. Just apologize. Nothing is quite as powerful as simply saying, “I’m sorry.” Often that, and resolving never to do it again, are really all you can do.

True repentance involves a change of heart. How do you go about changing your heart? The Lord has given us the scriptures to understand more about how faith works in our lives. Use the Topical Guide to look up subject areas that particularly concern you. For example, the Book of Mormon says, “faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart” (Hel. 15:7). Desiring to repay, even when you can’t, is a good sign that a change of heart is taking place.

Finally, after you have done all that you can do, turn the rest over to the Lord. He suffered for our sins, even the ones we cannot make restitution for. This sacrifice was made for each of us. As you repent you should feel an immense sense of gratitude for our Savior, and the Atonement will become very personal in your life.

Learning from our mistakes is one way of changing our lives for the better. Don’t become mired down thinking everything is hopeless. You can repent. You will wish that you had never made the error you made. There may even be long-lasting consequences to what you have done. But the Lord has provided a way for us to both repent and feel at peace again.


Even though there is no way of correcting the mistake you made, it does not mean that you cannot repent of it. If you are willing to repent, the Lord will forgive you. What is the use of just keeping the guilt in you?

Annie Sivilai, 15
Bangkok, Thailand

Remember that you have not yet begun to repent until you have stopped what you are doing and never do it again like it says in Doctrine and Covenants 58:43, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” [D&C 58:43]

Jacob Campbell, 13
Provo, Utah

I didn’t do anything to anyone else, just myself. I couldn’t correct what I did by saying, “I’m sorry.” I’ve found that the only thing that comforted me was talking to my bishop. Don’t be scared to talk to him because he is there to help you.

Name Withheld
Oakland, California

We all have sins that we need to repent of. I confess my sins with a full sincere heart to the Lord, and I know that he listens to my confessions. After I have completely repented of my sins, I feel the relief from a heavy burden buried deep inside my heart. That’s when I know the Lord has forgiven me.

Somphith Sally Boutarath, 16
Fresno, California

Our Father in Heaven knew we would make mistakes. That is why he sent his Son. If we are willing to completely repent of our wrongdoings, Jesus Christ’s mission will be put to use for all of us as individuals. Read 1 John 1:7.

Esther Bishop
Magna, Utah

The answer that helps me to understand is the atonement of Jesus Christ. He suffered and paid the penalties for all the sins of the world—all of them. Part of the repentance process is restitution, but sometimes we are not able to make restitution. When we make our best effort, the Atonement comes into play and picks up where our inadequacies left off. Remember, we are judged for our desires as well as our actions. Sometimes our righteous desires help make up for our lack of ability to act.

Elder Isaac Walters, 19
Arkansas Little Rock Mission

Our Father in Heaven has said that if we repent of our wrongdoings, he will remember them no more. Don’t dwell on what came to pass. Look forward to what will come to pass, and you will be happy.

Brynna Wilson, 12
Reno, Nevada

Don’t dwell on not being able to correct it. Just work on repenting of it.

Amy K. Gomm, 14
Pierce City, Missouri

Pray about it first and ask Heavenly Father to forgive you. If it is something that needs more than prayer, then go to the bishop and talk to him. If you do this along with prayer, your sin will be forgiven.

Jennie Welch, 17
Senatobia, Mississippi

Photography by Matt Reier

Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah were called to repentance by an angel of God because they were leading many people away from righteousness. They had a mighty change of heart. You, too, can make things right by changing your heart and your actions. (Painting Conversion of Alma the Younger by Gary Kapp.)