The second principle of the gospel, according to the Articles of Faith, is repentance.
Why does repentance naturally follow faith, and particularly, faith in Jesus Christ?
For me it is because as my faith in Christ grows, the more I realize I am not like Him, and the more I want to be like him. If you hold up your right hand, fingers up and palm out, then you can match your left hand to your left, palm to palm. They fit pretty well.
If your right hand represents the Savior and the left hand represents you, then what we hope for is that our right and left hands are together. But in reality, the more I learn about the Savior and about myself, the more I realize there is a distance between my hands. Repentance allows me to close that distance, even if in small increments.
Of course, the whole process of repentance is only possible through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice, it would be impossible.
Another example: the Book of Mormon includes Lehi's vision of the the Tree of Life, in which people can grasp the iron rod and follow it through the mist of darkness toward the tree whose fruit represents the love of God. If we are walking along that path, holding on to the rod, and we let go of the rod in the mist of darkness, we may stray from the path.
Upon finding ourselves away from where we want to be, what are our options? First, we might stop. We might call out for help. In the end, we will try to turn around and return to the rod. Repentance allows us a similar chance, to turn around and return to Christ's path in our lives. When we feel that we've strayed from the path we ought to be on, we stop what we're doing long enough to sort out where we are.
We may look for help – from a loved one, a home teacher, a friend or a bishop, and certainly from the Lord. But in the end, we need to turn ourselves around and return to the Savior's path, where we find comfort, peace and safety.
The Lord taught that He requires of us a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is when our hearts are broken and our spirits are contrite that we are receptive to those promptings to move from where we are to where He wants us to be. It is when we are best able to hear the whisperings of the spirit coaxing us to draw nearer to Him, and confirming to us when we do so. It is when we want to draw near to Him, not just so we can tick off another box on our list of spiritual "to-do's," but because we want to be near Him.