Individual Repentance

Prophecy tells us that things are going to change and that there is nothing we can do to stop it. Certain things are going to happen. Must we therefore resign ourselves to our fate? Not at all. There is a vital rule that leaves the door wide open to effective individual repentance and escape. We have Professor Heisenberg to thank for that. He found that though you can predict with absolute certainty how masses of particles are going to act, you can never predict how any one particle is going to behave. That is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which used to be called the ‘free will of the atom.’ The single particle is unpredictable; only the mass is absolutely bound to behave according to the unimpeachable laws of physics. In the same way one can prophesy with absolute certainty what a nation of people or society is going to do: you can talk about aggregates and predict the behavior of the masses, but you can never deny any individual the freedom to repent and go the other way. ‘Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.’ The prophets and Professor Heisenberg show us the way out. You do not have to wait for the group to change. for the society to repent, nor do you have to change your ways to comply with theirs; the individual is free to ignore the multitude, and only he is free. Only an individual can repent. Repent is reflexive verb — you can’t repent someone else or force somebody else [to repent]; you just repent…”

— Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, pp. 416-417

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