Located along the Snake River in Idaho Falls, Idaho, is Freeman Park — an area with acres of green grass, miles of walking paths and many amenities for visitors to enjoy. Whether it is the view of a baseball diamond, swing sets for children or places for families to picnic, the area is a beautiful space that benefits the community.
Not far from the park is an airport that allows access to the Upper Snake River Valley. And not far from the park and airport is the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.
“Looking down from the river from the park, one can see the majestic Idaho Falls temple, white and clean, standing on high ground,” Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a General Authority Seventy, said during his conference address in October of 2006. “The sound of the rushing waters of the Snake River as it works its way through natural lava outcroppings makes this park very desirable.”
Although the area has been built up, it was not always that way. Both the park and airport — useful and important places in the community — are built on what once was a sanitary landfill.
“A landfill is ‘a place where garbage is buried and the land is reclaimed,’ ” said Elder Bowen in his address. “The definition of reclaim is ‘to recall from wrong or improper conduct to rescue from an undesirable state.’ ”
Like the landfill that has been transformed into something useful and beautiful, so can our lives be transformed from “an undesirable state” to something of beauty through the Savior’s eternal sacrifice.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us,” Elder Bowen said. “His Atonement is infinite. It applies to everyone, even you. It can clean, reclaim and sanctify even you. That is what infinite means — total, complete, all, forever.”
In the October 1995 general conference, the late President Boyd K. Packer taught “there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the Atonement of Christ.”
But, like the landfill needing work before it would become the beautiful park and airport that it is today, so do followers of Christ if they are to become His true disciples.
“Just as the landfill requires dedicated work and attention, laboriously applying layer after layer of fill to reclaim the low-lying ground, our lives also require the same vigilance, continually applying layer after layer of the healing gift of repentance,” Elder Bowen said.
Repentance is more than acknowledging wrongdoings — it is a change of heart and mind and is motivated by a love for God and a sincere desire to obey the commandments. It is necessary for all and a process of transformation that takes work.
“Although it is imperative that we choose wisely, there are times when we will make foolish choices,” said President Thomas S. Monson in his April 2016 general conference talk. “The gift of repentance, provided by our Savior, enables us to correct our course settings, that we might return to the path which will lead us to that celestial glory we seek.”
At times the transformation — like the task of turning a landfill into a beautiful park — may seem difficult. Satan wants us to think it is impossible.
“Satan wants you to think that you cannot repent, but that is absolutely not true,” it reads on LDS.org. “The Savior has promised you forgiveness if you will humble yourself and make the effort that repentance requires. If you have sinned, the sooner you repent, the sooner you begin to make your way back and find the peace and joy that come with forgiveness. If you delay repentance, you may lose blessings, opportunities and spiritual guidance.”
The Atonement cleans, reclaims and sanctifies all who are willing to repent and come unto Christ.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the gift of God to His children to correct and overcome the consequences of sin,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency said in his April 2007 general conference address. “God loves all of His children, and He will never cease to love and to hope for us. The plan of our Heavenly Father is clear, and His promises are great: ‘For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world might be saved’ (John 3:17).
“Christ came to save us. If we have taken a wrong course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can give us the assurance that sin is not a point of no return. A safe return is possible if we will follow God’s plan for our salvation.”
Transformation comes through steadily living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“This statement — ‘a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying’ — should reassure and encourage members of the Church,” Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in his April 2015 general conference address. “Although we are referred to as ‘Latter-day Saints,’ we sometimes flinch at this reference. The term Saints is commonly used to designate those who have achieved an elevated state of holiness or even perfection. And we know perfectly well that we are not perfect.”
Theology of the gospel teaches that a person is perfected by repeatedly and iteratively relying wholly upon the doctrine of Christ, Elder Renlund explained. That comes through exercising faith in Christ, repenting, partaking of the sacrament to renew the covenants and blessings of baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.
“In less formal terms, God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were,” Elder Renlund said. “He cares that we keep on trying.”
May we all draw upon the transformative power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that cleans, reclaims and sanctifies all who are willing to repent, “keep on trying” and come unto Him.