By Duane Boyce
“Timetables” in Repentance
It is natural for people undergoing Church discipline to be interested in “timetables.” However, those who have changed their behavior without changing their hearts will be overly concerned with them.
They will resent it if their expectations are not met. In general, be careful in talking about milestones and timetables. When people hear a certain time frame they assume it is a guarantee rather than a minimum. They always think the minimum applies to them; many times it doesn’t.
Furthermore, a focus on specific time frames diverts their attention away from the real issues of repentance. So instead, explain the process of repentance (godly sorrow, change of behavior, and change of heart) and make clear that it takes time to complete the full repentance process.
Explain that, ultimately, you (or in the case of a stake stewardship, the stake president) will feel by the Spirit when repentance is sufficient and complete, but that it will take time. In general, when you must talk about timetables, create expectations that are longer than the minimums found in Church instructions.
For example, it might be better to say, “This will certainly require more than a year, perhaps two or more” than to say, “This will require at least a year.” Creating this expectation and then meeting with the member regularly, and perhaps frequently, is a better way to avoid discouragement than to simply suggest short time frames.
There are two primary benefits in talking about timetables this way: First, doing so invites people to focus on the real issues of repentance rather than just on getting back to the Church in a specific time frame. Second, in cases where the minimum turns out to be sufficient, you will be able to present the member with a pleasant surprise.
That is far better than creating expectations of the minimum and then having to present an unpleasant surprise by requiring more time to pass for repentance to be complete.