Miracle of Forgiveness: a Sacrament talk brought to you by Elder Madsen
What is my purpose in fulfilling Heavenly Fathers plan? Or in other words, how can I help bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man?
There are quite a lot of ways to answer this question. It is a very broad topic. Thanks Bishop. However, while I was in the act of trying to narrow down how exactly I was to present myself with this topic I found that the most logical answer would be this:
That my role in fulfilling God’s plan is to receive forgiveness and to forgive.
(x2) And here is why.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
“No unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21)
And all are unclean. All have sinned. All are fallen. All are not worthy to dwell with God. And as such, according to the demands of Justice, all must be cast off.
But! I do not wish this to be a hellfire and damnation speech. I do not wish to be depressing or to condemn or judge or do anything of the kind. My prayer is that my message will be that of hope. And of peace. Of assurance. And of love unfeigned.
So there is some good news!
God is merciful. He knows that we are not enough and so He sent His Son to suffer for our sins and to offer us repentance so that through conditions of repentance we can, as the prophet Moroni has said, “become perfected in Him”.
However, we all know perfection cannot be obtained in this life. And so it poses a bit of a problem then. Doesn’t it? Spoiler alert, God knows that too. Because if He were just to save or bless the perfectly faithful and obedient, He wouldn’t have much of a distribution list. And so He has given us 4 tools to help us along the way.
Scriptures. Would be the scriptures. As we read the scriptures we can more readily see not only the shortcomings within us but also the path to take to get out of our spiritual ruts. As we read the scriptures, we become familiar with Christ. The Lord Himself counseled with us to: “Learn of [Him], and listen to [His] words; walk in the meekness of [His] Spirit, and you shall have peace in [Him].” The first step to peace is to learn of Him. We learn of Him when we read the scriptures.
He has blessed us with modern prophets and apostles and other leaders (bishops, stake presidents, youth leaders, and parents) to give us modern guidance.
The Church as a whole. As a hospital. Christ healed on the Sabbath. I think there is great symbolism in this. The Sabbath day is a day for healing. We have been given the amazing gift of the Sacrament to heal us, to sanctify us, and to purify us. BROTHER FOSTER
The infinite, intimate, and eternal gift of repentance as well as the Miracle of Forgiveness that follows that gift.
Keep in mind that God doesn’t love us because we are good. God loves us because He is good. Please remember the wonderful and moving statement that President Uchtdorf taught recently,
“The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd.”
We are saved by grace after all we can do. Or rather, we are saved by grace in spite of all we do. Because our efforts are never enough. But Christ’s efforts are enough. And that is the Miracle of Forgiveness of which I referenced earlier.
A word of caution:
But we must be cautious. We must continue to press forward always. We must not justify sin because of false pretenses that God will only beat us with a few stripes and then we will be saved. No. That is simply not the case. That’s not how Forgiveness or repentance works. Mercy cannot rob justice. God cannot look upon any sin with the least degree of allowance. We cannot proceed in our discipleship with lax behaviors. That is not discipleship at all.
But we can continue to have faith, and repent of our shortcomings and follies and foibles and sins, and inasmuch as we do so we will be granted forgiveness. That’s a promise from on High. And He always keeps His word.
“42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42)
The Lord is so eager to grant to us forgiveness. His arm of mercy is constantly and consistently stretched out toward us. Satan would have us think that God is a Stern Judge. Waiting for the first moment He sees weakness or sin to strike His gavel and condemn us. He is not. He understands weakness and sins. And loves us regardless. Remember, that if we repent, He remembers our sins no more.
The Love of God that we feel is indeed His forgiveness.
Here are some examples from our scriptures of his willingness to forgive:
James 5:20: missionary work
James 5:15: being healed by the priesthood
D&C 58:40-43: even pride and competition is forgiven
D&C 64:5-9: Confession and forgiveness of others (even adultery 42:25)
D&C 50:36: Attending conference
D&C 62:3: Bearing testimony
D&C 108:1 Attending meetings
D&C 64:3 Just because!
I exhort you brothers and sisters to press forward. And to always retain a remission of your sins. Likewise, always retain a perfect brightness of hope.
Although, there’s one more thing I have yet to mention.
The Forgiveness we must show others. Including ourselves.
“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.
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
President Uchtdorf has also said,
“Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking–even a change of heart.”
It’s not comfortable either. But there is little growth in a comfort zone. And there is little comfort in a growth zone. But that’s exactly what Jesus offers us! A change of heart! The ability to forgive other! The ability to step out of our comfort zones!
As we study the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will find the significance of the Gospel in our lives. As we find the significance of the Gospel in our lives we will strive to be forgiven. As we are forgiven we need to seek for the divine gift to forgive others. Otherwise our own repentance is for naught.
In April 2010, Keith B. McMullin shared a story I would like to recount to you.
In Holland during World War II, the Casper ten Boom family used their home as a hiding place for those hunted by the Nazis. This was their way of living out their Christian faith. Four members of the family lost their lives for providing this refuge. Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie spent horrific months in the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp. Betsie died there–Corrie survived.
In Ravensbrück, Corrie and Betsie learned that God helps us to forgive. Following the war, Corrie was determined to share this message. On one occasion, she had just spoken to a group of people in Germany suffering from the ravages of war. Her message was “God forgives.” It was then that Corrie ten Boom’s faithfulness brought forth its blessing.
A man approached her. She recognized him as one of the cruelest guards in the camp. “You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he said. “I was a guard there. … But since that time, … I have become a Christian.” He explained that he had sought God’s forgiveness for the cruel things he had done. He extended his hand and asked, “Will you forgive me?”
Corrie’s faith is put to the test in this moment. Will she deny him the gift of her forgiveness and by doing so, refuse him the peace he is seeking? Will she be worthy of forgiveness herself? Will she be a hypocrite? Or will she allow the Miracle of Forgiveness to touch her heart?
Corrie ten Boom then said:
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there–hand held out–but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
“… The message that God forgives has a … condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. …
“… ‘Help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“… Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart.’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”
Brothers and sisters we need not become a victim twice because of our own stubbornness or resentment to any person or any thing for whatever wrong that has been done to us in the past. I encourage you to forgive. You will relieve a heavy load that you did not know was even there. You will be happier. You will feel the spirit more. You will find peace.
I heard these lines recently:
“For that person striving to live righteously, this mortal existence is a testing time indeed. The faithful are plagued with the temptations of a world who appears to have lost itself in a snarled maze of ambiguity, mendacity, and threatening uncertainty. The challenge to live in the world but not of the world is a monumental one indeed. We do not falter and stumble in the path of righteousness simply because we can do nothing else, but because too often we lose the vision of our relationship with God.”
My friends, we are all as the Prodigal son. So let us come to ourselves. Let us arise from the dust and be the men and women we ought to be. We may all be as the prodigal son, but let us remind ourselves of the way our story ends. I close with Mary Lyman Henrie’s poetic expression of it entitled “To Any Who Have Watched for a Son’s Returning.”
He watched his son gather all the goods
that were his lot,
anxious to be gone from tending flocks,
the dullness of the fields.
He stood by the olive tree gate long
after the caravan disappeared
where the road climbs the hills
on the far side of the valley,
Through changing seasons he spent the light
in a great chair, facing the far country,
and that speck of road on the horizon.
Mocking friends: “He will not come.”
Whispering servants: “The old man has lost his senses.”
A chiding son: “You should not have let him go.”
A grieving wife: “You need rest and sleep.”
She covered his drooping shoulders,
his callused knees, when east winds blew chill, until that day . . .
A form familiar, even at infinity,
in shreds, alone, stumbling over pebbles.
“And When he was yet a great way off,
His father saw him,
and had compassion, and ran,
and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
Heaven help us to come back home. I testify to you of the Infinite, intimate, and eternal power of the Atonement. I have felt the peace and true and lasting joy that comes from repentance. And if the Lord is merciful enough to extend forgiveness and happiness to me, a sin-prone-d and stubborn soul, time and time again I think we can all feel reassured. I have made mistakes. As have we all. I have sinned. As have we all. And I will continue to sin and fall short. As shall we all. But the great thing about God is that He gives us credit for trying. O how great the plan of our God! And I promise you and the Lord that I will continue to try. It is my prayer that you will continue to try as well.
Now brothers and sisters God asks a lot of us. That is true. But Please keep an eternal perspective. He loves you and will help you get up and keep trying. Latter-day Saints keep on trying. A saint is a sinner that keeps on trying. I have faith in you. But more importantly God has faith in you. Heaven is cheering you on, as am I. I love you. I love serving you. I sustain you. This is my prayer and testimony to you in the name of the Miracle of Forgiveness Himself, Jesus Christ, Amen.
— Elder Harrison Madsen