The scriptures are replete with scripture where the Lord freely forgives. My search online at (lds.org/scriptures) showed 90 specific references in the Standard Works, 25 from our Doctrine and Covenants, the scripture written most closely to our day. For example: (110:5) to Joseph/Oliver “Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.”; (25:3) to Emma “Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called.”; (112:3) and to other church leaders (Thomas B Marsh – senior apostle of the twelve at the time) “Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted; therefore, all thy sins are forgiven thee.” ; to us all (58:42) “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”; (29:3) “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that at this time your sins are forgiven you, therefore ye receive these things; but remember to sin no more, lest perils shall come upon you.”; (61:2) “Behold, verily thus saith the Lord unto you, O ye elders of my church, who are assembled upon this spot, whose sins are now forgiven you, for I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts;”; (64:3) “There are those among you who have sinned; but verily I say, for this once, for mine own glory, and for the salvation of souls, I have forgiven you your sins.”; (50:36) “And behold, verily I say unto you, blessed are you who are now hearing these words of mine from the mouth of my servant, for your sins are forgiven you.”
Over and over we are reminded of His desire for us to repent, be forgiven and return unto Him. (84:61) “For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment—that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you.”; (64:9) “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.”
This from the Book of Mormon: (Enos 1:5) “And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.”; (Mormon 8:32) “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”; (Alma 24:10) ”And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.”; (Mosiah 26:29) “Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.”; (Mosiah 4:10) “And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.”
In modern day, we are taught this principle over and over as well at conference. My search of latter-day (scriptures.byu.edu) talks showed 2115 conference addresses touching on this subject with a dozen in this year alone (2016). We were taught this this year in talks by Elder Oaks, Bednar, Eyring, Uchdorf, Holland, and others, and most recently by Elder Renlund in the final conference talk this year, where he said: “Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.” (Elder Dale G Renlund Oct 2016 ‘Repentance: A Joyful Choice’)
And besides all these voices, we are taught it here in talks in your ward, by assignment from the stake to us high council speakers, and I am sure as assigned by the Bishop when you give talks here at this pulpit.
Why is this message so often repeated? Perhaps it is that we have not yet learned it, or that we all need to learn and do it better. Perhaps it is that it is the heart of the gospel, of being ‘Christian’, that besides being a blessing to others – permitting them to move on ‘and sin no more’, but that it is a blessing to us to forgive and forget and move on with our own lives.
When you pray and study over your concerns, what do you expect Him to say to you? Do we not hope for forgiveness for ourselves? Do we not expect Him to consistently ask us to receive His peace by forgiving any who have wronged us?
In Jerusalem, “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2–4) “Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.” (Matthew 19:14–15.)
One of the attributes very young children often have is a willingness to ‘frankly forgive’ others, to trust that their parents love and care for them and will do all they can to care for them.
Nephi in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 7:20-21) “And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me. And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. And it came to pass that they did so. And after they had done praying unto the Lord we did again travel on our journey towards the tent of our father.”
The words to Primary Songbook #99 ‘Help Me, Dear Father (to freely forgive)’ say this: “Help me, dear Father, to freely forgive .. All who may seem unkind to me. Help me, dear Father, to truly repent, Making things right, and changing my ways. Help me each day, Father, I pray; Help me live nearer, nearer to thee.” (Words and music: Frances K. Taylor, 1870-1952)
Church music teach truth in a simple memorable way. This simple song reminds us; 1) we can ask for help to forgive (pray), 2) we are to ‘freely forgive’ others just as we are to ‘repent and seek forgiveness’ for ourselves, 3) by so doing, we are learning to become more like Him.
To forgive is a divine attribute. It is to pardon or excuse someone from blame for an offence or misdeed. The scriptures refer to forgiveness in two ways. 1) The Lord commands us to repent of our sins and seek His forgiveness. 2) He commands us to forgive those who offend or hurt us.
We are learning to be more like Him when we forgive others. We must forgive to be forgiven
.. forgive, as a little child .. Forgiveness is flip side of Repentance. We only have to repent once, while holding a grudge, planning revenge, being angry and hurt can last forever ..
Story: Mom and drunk driver – When I was 10 my father was killed on a dark narrow highway in Vernon, BC by a young intoxicated man who pulled suddenly onto the highway. My Mom and Dad had travelled to BC with the church men’s choir for a performance while me and my two brothers and two sisters were left in Calgary to be babysat by our grandparents (Clyde and Hazel Spencer of Magrath). I recall the Bishop and others coming to the house to tell us of the accident. Dad had been driving in the days before chest level seat belts and died on scene. The others in the car all survived with minor injuries – Mom had lost a few teeth. I remember the funeral and the visitors to the house afterward. I do not, however, know anything about that young man. Some time afterwards, my Mom attended his trial. I was later told that she sat and listened and even helped hold his crying child at one point in the proceedings. She never told us about any of this. I believe she wanted us to forget and forgive as she had done. She chose to know but never to repeat or speak of it again in my memory.
President Hinckley (Jun 1991 ‘Of You It Is Required to Forgive’) said: “A spirit of forgiveness and an attitude of love and compassion toward those who may have wronged us is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us has need of this spirit. The whole world has need of it. The Lord taught it. He exemplified it as none other has exemplified it.” He concludes his talk saying, “My brothers and sisters, let us bind up the wounds—oh, the many wounds that have been caused by cutting words, by stubbornly cultivated grievances, by scheming plans to “get even” with those who may have wronged us. We all have a little of this spirit of revenge in us. Fortunately, we all have the power to rise above it, if we will “clothe [ourselves] with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.” (D&C 88:125.)”
Story: Grandpa and the dead dog – Not long ago, I was visiting with Sister Rollingson, who lives two doors over from where my Grandparents lived. She told me of the day my grandfather came over and talked with her husband, telling him he had seen his dog chasing Grandpa’s sheep. Brother Rollingson assured he would take care of the problem, and as soon as Grandpa left, he went out in the back yard and shot the dog. Later Grandpa Spencer discovered that the culprit dog had not belonged to the Rollingsons. Sister Rollingson reported she was impressed that my Grandpa came over to apologize and ask forgiveness for his mistake.
Elder Richard G Scott (May 1995 ‘Finding Forgiveness’) said: “Which of us is not in need of the miracle of repentance? Whether your life is lightly blemished or heavily disfigured from mistakes, the principles of recovery are the same. The length and severity of the treatments are conditioned to fit the circumstances. Our goal surely must be forgiveness. The only possible path to that goal is repentance, for it is written: “There is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. … “The Lord … [will] not come to redeem [His people] in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins. And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance.” (Hel. 5:9–11)
This from Cecil O Samuelson (Feb 2003 ‘Words of Jesus: Forgiveness’) “Jesus taught His disciples what to do when they felt offended or received trespasses (see Matt. 18:15–35), saying: “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matt. 18:15). Peter, wanting to clarify the meaning of the teaching, asked, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” (Matt. 18:21). In his day, they were taught they only had to forgive after the offender make the first move to resolve the offence, and that the offended person need only forgive only two or three times. Jesus answered with clarity, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). In other words, there are really no constraints, numerical or otherwise, placed on our forgiveness of others.” He notes in conclusion: “The blessings that flow from the gift of forgiveness are many. Chief among them is peace. It is the Saviour’s desire that we each feel His peace. He said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The forgiveness we offer to others and the forgiveness we receive from Jesus Christ [bring us that peace, and] lead us to Him and along the path to eternal life.”
Elder Benjamin J Call in a Jan 2014 Ensign article ‘Choosing to Forgive’ wrote: “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. [even if those who offended you do not ..]”
While we need not subject ourselves or other innocents to the consequences of sins of others and may even need to take steps to remove ourselves from harmful situations and to protect others in our care from those intent on committing sin .. in the same vein, as we hope for forgiveness even after repenting over and over again, we are commanded to forgive others even if they aren’t yet done sinning yet. Thankfully, God has promised that all will eventually be set right. Wounds will be healed. Hearts will be bound up. He will make it right and good. We just need to continue repenting and forgiving each other and He will do His job for us as He has promised.
A final note. We have discussed seeking forgiveness from God, and of our need to forgive others. There is a final element to forgiveness – that of forgiving ourselves. “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58:42-43). If you have repented and forsaken your sins, take the next step and forgive yourself. Move forward with confidence doing good, doing what is right, being an example to your family and friends. Don’t let Satan stop you from moving forward with your life. He lies, whispering: You are not good enough. You have failed and must stop trying to be good.
However, modern day scriptures teach us the truth, that:
- ‘He that repents and [obeys] the commandments shall be forgiven’ (D&C 1:32)
- ‘Thrust in your sickle, and your sins are forgiven’ (D&C 84:61)
- ‘He who has repented of his sins is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more’ (D&C 58:42)
- ‘I will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men’ (D&C 64:10)
- ‘Inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you’ (D&C 82:1)
- ‘Whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven’ (D&C 95:1)
- ‘I have forgiven thee thy transgression’ (Moses 6:53)
- ‘If he confess his sins before thee and me, and repent, him shall ye forgive’ (Mosiah 26:29-31)
“If we will sincerely repent, God really will forgive us, even when we have committed the same sin over and over again. … likewise, we will be blessed when we forgive others, even if they commit the same sin over and over again.” (Elder J Devn Cornish Apr 2016 ‘Am I Good Enough’). And I submit, we will be blessed when we forgive ourselves and move forward, despite having stumbled over and over again. The simple doctrine of the gospel: Have faith, repent, be baptised/partake of the sacrament, [repeat these steps as needed], and endure to the end.
Help us to freely forgive .. all who seem unkind to us. Help us truly repent and make things right, and change our ways to be nearer to His. That we may joyfully accept the gift of giving and receiving forgiveness that we have been provided and progress and improve and endure to the end, is my prayer. Amen