Repentance: Problems with Playing Church Today

In this episode of HOTM Full Circle, Shawn McCraney delves into the misconceptions surrounding organized religion and repentance. He highlights the importance of seeking a personal relationship with God, free from the intermediaries of religious institutions. Shawn discusses the concept of “progressive realizations” and emphasizes the true biblical meaning of repentance as a change of mind, rather than merely altering actions. Featuring special guest Sarah Young from, this episode challenges traditional views on sin, repentance, and the role of religion in one’s spiritual journey. Tune in for an eye-opening discussion that aims to deepen your faith and understanding of God’s will.

Written and presented by Shawn McCraney in Murray, UT.


Live from SLC UTAH, this is HOTM FULL CIRCLE.

And I am your host, Shawn McCraney
It is June 4th 2024

Welcome all – always.
Let’s pray if you would

Our audience – here and at home, Mags, Del, our pop-in special guest, Sarah Young from Check my Church.

Before we introduce Sarah Young from Checkmychurch, I want to discuss something that is not biblically based, is my own opinion established through observations taken from sitting with countless people.

Defending Mormons and Organized Religion

Insights and Understanding

So some of you might wonder, why did you promote that you are Defending Mormons when all you have really done this first month of shows is generally attacked organized religion.

One of the reasons so many people will join and participate in organized religion is they lack real insights and understanding of the Living God.

We might see this lack as an empty space in their heart or mind that they long to fill. What they soon discover is to know Him is to diligently seek Him, and to diligently seek Him means three general things – time, effort and pain.

Time seeking the scripture by the Spirit and the effort it takes to do it along with the personal pain it creates (because in the search we soon discover ourselves and how much is needed in terms of adjustment in mind and body).

Role of Intermediaries

What I think often happens is that people, not having the time to labor or the desire to experience the pain such can create in them, will go to an intermediary – church, in this case – and allow a representative to show and tell them what they should believe and be like.

In exchange for this, they are more than willing participants in paying money, to volunteer and in some extreme cases, to adore and trust someone who allows him or herself to represent God in terms of lifestyle, doctrinal determination and even holiness.

Through this approach, they have their longing to know God by faith replaced by the material representations of Him standing right in front of them.

Idolatry and Religious Allure

I want you to understand that from the Biblical perspective this is just a form of idolatry – plain and simple.

And from what I can tell, this is one of the reasons why so many people are complicit in the game of playing church and one of the reasons there are men and women all over the world who are more than willing to stand before audiences in these roles.

One of the reasons I approach the faith the way I do (with f bombs, references to alcohol, pot and whatever else) is to directly breakdown all religious allure, and “open the kimono,” (so to speak) and literally cause people to turn away from me (in horror, once that kimono is opened) and to look more to Him or to some person who will let them see them as a worthy idol where there are none.

Direct Relationship with God

Obviously, this was a direct indictment on those who choose religion as a replacement for what God is calling all people to do – to come to Him directly and allow Him (and Him alone) to teach, lead and govern them.

Sarah Young and

Introduction to Sarah Young

Well, we have several people who are involved in and one of them is a woman I have known for several years – maybe even ten.

Unlike most, she has really tested our stuff (and what we do and have done) and has not been so repulsed that she has walked away.

Her name is Sarah Young and she created an online service to people of faith that is just invaluable – I will let her tell you all about it but ladies and gents, Sarah Young!

“Welcome and do us a favor, give us a short history of your religious life and then what you are doing today.

Sarah Young of

Understanding Repentance

Misunderstandings in Organized Religion

Before we get to the phones, emails and such, I want to quickly touch on understanding a word that needs some genuine understanding that is very different from how almost all church-playing religions use it.

The word, repent or repentance.

This topic is one of the most misunderstood in all of organized religion.

If you took last weeks message to heart on sin, then you already can see that there is a need to change our idea of repent or repentance because if sin has been paid for in full by Christ – nearly two thousand years ago – past present and future thennnnnnnnnn . . . repentance automatically takes on a different shape.

Changing the Mind

I mention this last week when I alluded to the idea that today all people are repenting to God for failing to live by the faith and love He wants from us.

But let’s work back even further here when it comes to the terms repent or repentance.

If we looked these terms up in a modern dictionary we would find a number of misleading definitions including the notion that repent means,

“to turn from sin;”
and/or “to change behaviors and attitudes about previous actions and beliefs.”
And sometimes, “to feel badly.”

And while these definitions all speak to the end results of effectual repenting, none of them define the original and biblical meaning of the word, “repent.”

Unfortunately, and as a result of these modern definitions of the word and the errant religious traditions that have allowed it to remain in tact, “repent,” and “repentance” actually and literally only, in the sense of the word, means one thing and all other things extend from it.

What is the one thing?
That a person “changes their mind.”

Religion vs. Relationship with God

Why is this important? In the context of playing church,

Religion wants repentance to mean turning from the sins of the flesh first and minimally.

Relationship with God demands that repentance first and maximally means a change of mind.

The first suggests “a fake it till you make it “ approach to God while the latter suggests a “get right with God from the heart first and the rest will fall into play,” approach.

After literally decade of playing church and all that it insisted on when it came to my repenting (which again meant, changing my actions) I encountered the Living God and afterward committed solely only to Him and His will from my mind without giving any place for self-will, self-renunciation or works from my own strength.

Personal Testimony

I literally refused to curtain or control anything my flesh was failing in but took everything and submitted it to Him.

Along the way, I changed my mind to focus on knowing Him and His ways, and learned to let Him work through the Spirit of His Son without religious ideals or demands playing any kind of part.

Listen clearly – in faith I trusted that He would lead me and that He would help me overcome whatever it was He wanted fixed in me and I opened myself up to agreeing that His will and ways were right but that I lacked the ability to meet them.

So I needed Him, I called out to Him, with all of my violence, lust, anger, rage, wrath, need for substances, porn, love of my flesh.

In my mind I admitted and knew I was wrong in all ways of the flesh but refused to let religion modify me or my choices that were at odds with what I knew.

See, I had repented in the best defined sense of the word – then waited as I sought to know Him better, on how He would change and strengthen me.

So, I literally refused to let mens ideas of what I was supposed to do, be, believe and act sit on the shelf and submitted myself directly into the Hands of my Maker.

Faith and Trust in God

Are you willing to do that? If you are, you make a huge step in walking by faith and faith alone and freeing yourself from the chains of playing church.

And I came to see that only through this way, only through this approach, was I made free from the law of sin in my flesh and was far better equipped to walk in the strength of my spirit.

Only through this approach was I personally equipped to mindfully overcome what religion was always trying to get me to overcome in my flesh.

And here is the amazing fact about approaching repentance in this way – there is 100% trust and faith on Him and He, once the mind has changed, is able to then work through us.

See, in my MIND I knew that addictions, wrath, lust, hate, revenge, judgement was not of Him – this I agreed to – completely from my heart.

Renewal of the Mind

All progress in overcoming the flesh begins with the mind; all success in overcoming the flesh ends in the mind as the mind is more and more renewed by the presence of the Spirit.

So, when reading the ancient scripture written to them/then, it’s important to understand that the words for repent should always be read to first change their minds.

In the gospel of Mark, for example, the words say:

Mark 6:12. And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

The meaning is this: “And they went out, and preached that men should change their minds.”

Changed their minds about what? How they were living? On their views of God and the Law and the Messiah.

When John the Baptist says, in Matthew 3:2.

“Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand …” the passage could better read,

“Change your mind, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The True Meaning of Repentance

Changing Actions vs. Changing Mind

So, this is the first problem with the use of the word “repent” today – far too many people think it means to change our actions, which is the very end of the road of repentance, never the beginning.

We want repentance to begin with stopping

the affair, stopping the drinking, stopping the sin – I strongly suggest a better way, what I see as God’s way, and that is to first change your mind about how you view the so-called sin and what God thinks of it.

This brings us to the second problem with the errant understanding of the word repent – meaning, to change ones actions – as people use it as the requisite qualification for people to stay out of hell and/or to enter into heaven.

In the sense of changing actions NOTHING, folks, NOTHING, could be further from the truth.

Changing the actions if the mind remains unchanged mean little by comparison to the mind/heart of the individual changing.

God knows this and this is where His mercy thrives.

We do not go to heaven because we have changed our actions nor do remain outside the kingdom because we haven’t.

We enter the heavenly kingdom by God’s grace through faith and we remain outside for refusing to change our minds about Him and His view and ways.

Misinterpretations and the Good News

When we use the word repent in the sense of “stop or turn from your actions or behaviors” and then tie this erroneous definition of repentance to pleasing God, we have slipped into another gospel, and the good news is lost.

This is where everything begins and ends in the heart.

A person who struggles with alcoholism will not be kept out of the Kingdom because of the action, they will be kept out of the Kingdom from not changing their minds about the action.

Same with all sins of the flesh.

See, a genuinely changed mind before the living God to see things His way brings contrition in the face of our failures, humility and shame – not before MEN but before God.

This shame brings us to His throne, where He mercifully receives us with love, and works with us to reign through His spirit and not by the flesh.

Religious repentance is a work of the flesh, and in my case, never worked unless I relentlessly worked at ridding myself of whatever it was and this never ever worked long term.

LDS Teachings on Repentance


Because I had not turned my spirit mind over to the living God wholesale.

As an example, I grew up on the following teachings in the LDS church about repenting. They very much represent the thinking of most other religious organizations in many ways.

Here are a few examples –

President Joseph F. Smith penned this incomprehensibly burdensome passage found in Gospel Doctrine, pages 100-101:

“True repentance is not only sorrow for sins, and humble penitence and contrition before God, but it involves the necessity of turning away from them, a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light. Not only so, but to make restitution, so far as it is possible, for all the wrongs we have done, to pay our debts, and restore to God and man their rights – that which is due to them from us. “

I have four words to this statement – thief on the cross.

He goes on and writes,

“This is true repentance, and the exercise of the will and all the powers of body and mind is demanded, to complete this glorious work of repentance; then God will accept it.”

LDS Prophet and Seer Harold B. Lee said (Ye Are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of Harold B. Lee, page 321):

“In one sentence, repentance means turning from that which we have done wrong in the sight of the Lord and never repeating that mistake again. Then we can have the miracle of forgiveness.”

I have six words that God said to Paul in the face of this APOSTLES thorn in his side,

“My grace is sufficient for thee.”

Mormon Prophet Spencer W. Kimball wrote all of the following in his utterly evil book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, which apparently has been shelved by the organization but it was mandatory reading for me as a kid and the vestiges of this thinking remain in many of their members. He said,

“Our loving Heavenly Father has given us the blessed principle of repentance as the gateway to forgiveness. All sins but those excepted by the Lord – basically, the sin against the Holy Ghost, and murder – will be forgiven to those who totally, consistently, and continuously repent in a genuine and comprehensive transformation of life. (page 14)

He continues,

“There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin. (page 163)

And adds,

“Trying is not sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tried to abandon sin. (page 164)

And even more,

“Repentance must involve an all-out, total surrender to the program of the Lord. That transgressor is not fully repentant who neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, fails in his family prayers, does not sustain the authorities of the Church, breaks the word of Wisdom, does not love the Lord nor his fellowman. A reforming adulterer who drinks or curses is not repentance. The repenting burglar who has sex play is not ready for forgiveness. God cannot forgive unless the transgressor shows a true repentance which spreads to all areas of his life. (page 203)

In an LDS General Conference this so-called prophet of my youth said, (“To Bear the Priesthood Worthily, Ensign, May 1975):

“There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as the soul.”

Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, an Apostle of my youth, wrote (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, page 242):

“All must repent to be free. All must obey to gain gospel blessings. All must keep the commandments to merit mercy.”

LDS Apostle Boyd. K. Packer, an apostle in my youth, as reported in the LDS Ensign Magazine, said (“The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” November 1995):

“Even that grace of God promised in scriptures comes only after “all you can do.”

Finally, the LDS 1997 Gospel Principles manual states (page 125):

“To make our repentance complete we must keep the commandments of the Lord. “

Do you realize that no human has ever kept the commandments of the Lord – except the Lord?

That is why we were given Him to do what we can’t do and to place our faith, trust, salvation in His hands and not our own?

True Repentance and Freedom from Sin

I would wrap tonight’s comments up with this observation –

“whatever we overcome through self-will and determination must be feared for the possibility of returning; but whatever He overcomes for us will die a certain death because even if it manifests in our flesh again, it has already been decided and handled in our minds.”

We will leave off here and talk a bit more about real repentance in part II next week. But give this some real thought, will you and send them to us.

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