Lots of people have told me that brushing my teeth is important. As my dentists would surely testify, throughout my life I have not been very good at brushing my teeth. I do brush my teeth, but I am not nearly as consistent as I should be. I think I may have had the most cavities out of any of the other kids in my family! So, why should we even brush our teeth? Its so that our teeth can be rid of the germs and plaque that naturally build up, and so our teeth can be strong, healthy, and clean. And most important, so we can have beautiful smiles!
One night when I actually did decide to brush my teeth, I noticed how smooth and clean they felt. I joked to myself, "You know, this feels pretty good! I should really brush my teeth more often!" Then I thought about how that is just like repentance.
There are many misconceptions about repentance. Some believe that repentance is only needed for "serious sins." Some believe it a last resort for when your mistakes have caused problems. Some believe its some kind of punishment for your sins. Some even believe that just telling someone about their sins is repenting. But those things aren't what repentance is.
Repentance is one of the first principles of the gospel and is essential to our temporal and eternal happiness. It is much more than just acknowledging wrongdoings. It is a change of mind and heart that gives us a fresh view about God, about ourselves, and about the world. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness. It is motivated by love for God and the sincere desire to obey His commandments. To repent, you must look at the sins you have committed, believe that they are wrong and be sorry for it, confess your sins to anyone you have wronged and try to correct them, and don't commit the same sins again.
Do we only need brush our teeth when our mouth is plagued with gingivitis and our teeth are blackened and rotten? Do we only need brush our teeth when we have teeth falling out, hoping to resuscitate one last chance at a smile? Do we only need to brush our teeth right before we go to the Dentist so maybe our teeth don't seem as bad as they are?
Of course not! We need to brush our teeth every day! If we take care of all the plaque and germs and the other little things that happen every day, then the tooth decay and gingivitis and the big things like that will hardly have a chance to happen! The key to having good teeth is making the effort every day to take care of them.
Just like brushing our teeth, the key to being happy is making the effort every day to repent. If you repent every day, you won't get trapped in a pile of sins that corrode and eat away at you until you are completely unhappy and hopeless. And just like how you can go to the dentist for help in taking care of some greater dental problems, you can go to your bishop for help in letting go of some of the sins you have a harder time getting rid of. Don't wait until its too late to repent. I know that our lives can be clean and spotless just like our teeth can if we repent and brush our teeth every day! I'll end with this scripture:
And now my, brethren, 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;