Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

As I was fixing breakfast on the very first day of this wonderful New Year, a talk by President James E. Faust, apostle and counselor to the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, shuffled through on my computer entitled, "The Healing Power of Forgiveness." This talk, given in the April 2007 General Conference, was President Faust's last talk before he passed away.

President Faust began his talk with a story of a horrendous murder in an Amish community and told of the extreme forgiving reaction of the Amish community toward the family of the murderer. As President Faust continued, he related a few more stories that illustrate Christlike forgiveness in extreme situations, teaching that we can and must forgive in all cases, large and small.

Forgiveness can be a difficult process, especially in situations where hurt was intended. But whether the hurt was or was not purposeful, "of you it is required to forgive all men" (D&C 64:10). In relation to our argument that "it's not fair" he said:

"All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord. But because it happens, it must be endured. President Howard W. Hunter said that 'God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.'1

"President Brigham Young offered this profound insight that at least some of our suffering has a purpose when he said: 'Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. … Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.'2"

Forgiveness is so key in our pursuit of happiness in this life. With the knowledge that all things will work together for good to them who love God (see Romans 8:28), we can let our hearts be comforted and forgive the imperfect people who hurt us. Indeed, the Lord commanded that we forgive always when he counseled Peter to forgive his brother not seven times but "until seventy times seven." Remember the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God (see Mosiah 2:41). The Savior then follows His counsel to Peter with a parable of a king collecting on the debts of his servants as recorded in Matthew 18:

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be
sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him
an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very
sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that
debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts
forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

The principle taught by the Savior and then reiterated by His servant President Faust is that the Lord in His infinite mercy forgives us of so much more than we will ever be required to forgive another person in this life. Forgiveness liberates us from additional pain and suffering by allowing the Spirit to enter our lives and be the Comforter and the peace the Savior promised us (John 14:26-27).Therefore we must let go of the grudges, the prejudices, the animosity, and anything else that we harbor inside of us and forgive all men. Moreover, if we wish to receive forgiveness, we too must be willing to forgive.

The healing power of the Atonement is for all who wish to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. Part of that perfection process involves learning to forgive. Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to send His Only Begotten Son to atone for our sins and shortcomings and thus allow for forgiveness in His great plan.


1. “The Opening and Closing of Doors,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 60.
2. Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 345.