I want to describe a man to you, he was “a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities. And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.” (Mosiah 27:8-10) He is such a rotten person that he is later described as one of the “vilest of sinners.” (Mosiah 28:4)
Think about the feelings you have hearing the descriptions of that man, a man who was trying to destroy the church. A man who was wicked and idolatrous. Compare him to this man.
A man who was the first and chief judge of the people of Nephi, as well as the high priest over the church. A man who stood with the nephites against amlici who sought to destroy the church. A man who baptized more than 3500 people. A man who then delivered up the judgement seat and devoted his life to preaching the gospel. A man who by his faith broke free from bondage and caused prison walls to tumble to the ground. And that only encompasses about four chapters of his life.
Now the wicked man that I told you about seems worse in comparison to this second man, until I tell you that they are the same man. I’m sure a lot of you guessed that as I was saying it, but really think about what this means. Alma the younger, that’s who I was referring to, was an awful rotten kid, but because of the atonement of Jesus Christ The Lord forgave him, and he was able to become a great and powerful man of God.
When Jesus Christ performed his atonement and suffered and died for our sins, he did it so that when we stand before the judgement bar he can stand beside us and say, “I have paid the debt for that.” We can be forgiven through the atonement of Christ. No matter where you have been in your life, you can come back. You can turn to God and be forgiven. If you think that you can never be worthy for the blessings of this church, then you need to gain a testimony of the atonement. You need to take a step passed believing that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and also remember that he paid for your sins, and that he promised to forgive and forget. Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more (D&C 58:42). He loves every single person who ever has and ever will live on this earth, and that is why he freely gives you what you cannot give yourself: forgiveness. You can be worthy again, you can be forgiven, you can come back. Through the atonement of Christ.
Should we not rely on that atonement to forgive others?
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men (D&C 64:10).
I spent a lot of time looking for a good story that would tell you all about e beauty of forgiveness. And while I’m positive there are hundreds….I could not find one I wanted. I have decided that this means I’m supposed to share with you personal experiences of forgiveness.
People have often asked me, “What does your dad do?” And I usually reply, “Well I’m not sure, I think he’s a carpenter. We haven’t talked much.” And this is partially true. The earliest recollections I have of my father are hand drawn cards from prison for my birthday and Christmas. I remember phone calls every few years saying he was thinking of me. I remember invitations extended to plays and performances and I remember no attendance. I do remember invitations extended and he would show up, but those were rare. I remember walking through a graveyard and finding a headstone with my fathers name on it, and not knowing if he lie under that patch of grass (I later found out that he wasn’t there). I remember having to add my dad as a friend on facebook just so I could talk to him, just so I could see pictures of him, just so I could know he was alive. So we haven’t talked much. But I was never mad at him for that because on expressing my feelings toward him he told me, and I’m paraphrasing, “I am sorry that I wasn’t there, but look at what you’ve become without me. I am proud of you. I often think that if I had been in your life it would have ruined you.” My father did not feel worthy to be my father and so he often did not try, but I loved him and I love him still. I remember calling him and telling him I was going on a mission. He’s not a member so I had to tell him what that meant. After talking to him about it he seemed angry, but he called my mom and told her how proud he was of me. He did not want me to check the do not contact box under his name on my missionary papers, he wanted me to write him as often as I could, he wanted to be a support to me in any way. We have spoken more in the past five months since I’ve been on my mission than we did in the twenty one years prior, and every letter is about the gospel. If I had chosen, like so many other people, to refuse my father because of how are lives went, I would be missing out on a lot of support. I would also have missed out on the opportunity to give him a Book of Mormon which he is reading. I could have left him out of my life where I thought he wanted to be, out of anger and hurt I could have written him off. But I chose to forgive him and I have been blessed for that.
Benjamin f. Call in the January 2014 ensign said that we must, “Understand what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness does not require condoning a wrong, nor does it require allowing a harmful behavior, such as an abusive relationship, to continue. Also, forgiveness is not forgetting–if the offense wounded you enough to require forgiveness, you will likely have a memory of it. As author Lewis B. Smedes explained, “Forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future (Choosing to Forgive).”
I have not forgotten but I have learned about love and I have a hope for the way I will raise my future family. I do not condone his absence from my life, but I understand him better.
I know there are much worse things that can be done and can be harder to forgive, and believe me when I say, I have forgiven worse things and I promise you it can be done. Even when the person did not ask for forgiveness, even when the person said there was nothing to forgive. People often have asked me why I forgive the people that I do, and I say because I love them and that’s what Christ would do.
“A common error is the idea that the offender must apologize and humble himself to the dust before forgiveness is required. Certainly, the one who does the injury should totally make his adjustment, but as for the offended one, he must forgive the offender regardless of the attitude of the other. Sometimes men get satisfactions from seeing the other party on his knees and groveling in the dust, but that is not the gospel way (President spencer w kimball).”
We must remember that we have been forgiven of a great many things through the atonement of Christ, and it is required of us to forgive others through that same atonement. When we refuse to forgive someone we are mocking the atonement. We are saying that the atonement was enough to forgive our sins, but it is not enough to forgive what someone else has done to us. By forgiving we are showing our faith and saying that the judgement that Jesus Christ will pass on them, is judgement enough.
There is no peace in harboring old grudges. There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive”-president hinckley).
Without forgiving someone we harbor contention towards that person. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11:29). With the spirit of contention we cannot feel the spirit of God, we cannot teach without it. When we forgive we allow the Holy Ghost to remain with us, and we become great examples of the gospel way.
I promise you that you can be forgiven of all things and you can forgive all things and you can be worthy of great blessings through the atonement of Christ.