“…that inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you.”
All who may seem unkind to me.
Help me each day, Father, I pray;
Help me live nearer, nearer to thee.
Making things right, and changing my ways.
Help me each day, Father, I pray;
Help me live nearer, nearer to thee.
*For Younger Children* Read or share Teaching Children about Forgiveness and discuss what things you can do to help remember to forgive one another.
Many adults fail to understand the need to extend forgiveness to others. It’s no wonder, then, that children often have difficulty understanding the concept.
Unless we extend forgiveness to others, our lives may be poisoned by anger and hard feelings. Past hurts can magnify as they accumulate, and once-loving relationships can become damaged almost beyond repair.
In some families, grown brothers and sisters haven’t spoken to each other in years because of some slight or injury that remains unforgiven. In the southern part of the United States during the last century, the Hatfield-McCoy feud raged for decades between neighboring families and cost many lives. Neither family would forgive the other—even though few Hatfields or McCoys could recall the original cause of the feud by the time it finally wound down.
An unforgiving husband or wife can build and harbor such bitterness toward his or her spouse that the family is eventually sundered by divorce.
The principle of forgiveness should be taught to children early in life. The lessons children learn best are taught by both example and precept. Don’t simply tell children to forgive others who do them wrong; show them how forgiveness works to keep harmony and love in the family.
One of the best ways to teach forgiveness is to practice the principle yourself. Agree with your partner to honestly try to forgive—and forget—past wrongs. Look to the future, not to the past. Reviving old hurts can only damage a relationship.
Before attempting to teach a child the principle of forgiveness, a parent might consider the following questions:
- Do you try to talk openly with your children?
- Do they usually express their deep concerns to you?
- Do they usually come to you with their problems?
- Do they talk to you about their friends, feelings, and desires?
- Have you tried to be forgiving with them? Or do you constantly remind them about past or present misdeeds?
The last question is the key. If a parent hasn’t succeeded in forgiving his or her children’s mistakes, that parent has a problem with the principle of forgiveness. Until the problem is resolved, parent-child communication will be poor, and the parent won’t be fully prepared to teach forgiveness to anyone in the family.
A forgiving parent is the one most likely to learn of a child’s insecurities and concerns. Harsh condemnation discourages the frank sharing of problems and does little to foster a loving, learning relationship.
While example is important, the principle of forgiveness must also be explained. Whenever a child sulks over some wrong, real or imagined, take the child aside and ask him how he feels. Point out that feelings of anger or bitterness hurt the offended person more than they hurt the offender. By feeling angry or upset, the child is actually punishing himself. Beyond that, quarreling damages a friendship, and only forgiveness, extended unconditionally to one another, can heal the breach.
After a child is no longer angry and has made up with whomever he was mad at, ask him again how he feels. Help him to understand that forgiveness brings good feelings to both parties involved.
In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord issued this warning: “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.” (D&C 64:9.)
While the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormonprovide many examples of the importance of forgiveness, the principle can also be effectively taught by modern parables.
For example, reading “Pockets Full of Rocks,” from the March 1985 New Era, is an entertaining way to get the message across to children.
The story tells of a man named Malcolm Tent who began putting a rock in his pocket every time someone did something to anger or annoy him. The rock served to remind him of the incident and make sure he didn’t forget to stay angry at the person responsible.
Malcolm’s collection of reminder rocks soon spilled out of his pockets and throughout his house. The rocks, symbols of his negative feelings toward others, came to dominate his entire life.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “If we have been wronged or injured,forgiveness means to blot it completely from our minds. To forgive and forget is an ageless counsel. ‘To be wronged or robbed,’ said the Chinese philosopher Confucius, ‘is nothing unless you continue to remember it.’” (Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 48.)
It’s also important to forgive ourselves for errors we’ve made, and to learn to honestly accept forgiveness from others. Dwelling on mistakes made in the past can affect our behavior to the point we become both physically and mentally ill.
Everyone sins. While some sins are blacker than others, we all commit them. We may sin against God, against ourselves, or against others. The important thing is to repent of those sins and learn from them. Equally important is the need to accept the forgiveness offered after true repentance has occurred.
If we fail to learn to forgive ourselves for things we’ve done wrong, once repentance has taken place, only then do we truly fail. Self-forgiveness is important to a happy, healthy life. For many children and teenagers, it is critical. Teenage suicide is all too common today, and the inability to forgive oneself for sins or shortcomings is many times central to the suicide thought process.
Youths often have difficulty placing past actions in perspective. They may feel that the steps they’ve taken are irreversible and that their prospects for a happy life have been forever blighted. If parents can keep the lines of communication open and remain accessible to their children—and sympathetic to their problems—they can do much to help dispel these fears. Love and understanding are the tools that work best.
How can you teach children to forgive themselves for past wrongs or failures? The first step is to teach them the process of repentance—confession to the Lord and, when appropriate, to priesthood authority; restitution, when possible, to those they’ve harmed; a rejection of habits or influences that led to the sin in the first place. Teach them that once they feel in their heart they have repented, they can take solace in the Lord’s promise: “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them and their trespasses against me.” (Mosiah 26:30.)
In teaching forgiveness to his son, Helaman, Alma told of his life as a young man when he tried to destroy the church of God. (See Alma 36:3–24.) As a result, he had led many away unto destruction.
Alma described the great fear he felt when he recognized his sins. This fear was accompanied by exceedingly bitter pain. He exclaimed that the very thought of coming into the presence of God racked his soul with horror.
For three days and nights Alma suffered before he recalled the teachings of his father about the coming of Jesus Christ, who would atone for the sins of the world.
Alma testified to Helaman that when “my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart (being unable to speak): O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, … now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; … And oh, what joy, … my soul, was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:18–20.)
Alma had a personal witness of the joy of being forgiven. He testified of this principle to his son, thus teaching Helaman as his father had taught him.
In Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 we are told:
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” [D&C 58:42]
That’s the example Latter-day Saints are expected to follow, and it’s the message both children and adults must learn if they are to live happy, healthy, productive lives.
*For The Whole Family* Read through and share some from The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness Discuss ways that you can forgive yourself and ways that you can notice to apologize more.
In April of 1847, Brigham Young led the first company of pioneers out of Winter Quarters. At that same time, 1,600 miles to the west the survivors of the Donner Party straggled down the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the Sacramento Valley.
They had spent the ferocious winter trapped in the snowdrifts below the summit. That any survived the days and weeks and months of starvation and indescribable suffering is almost beyond belief.
Among them was 15-year-old John Breen. On the night of April 24 he walked into Johnson’s Ranch. Years later John wrote:
“It was long after dark when we got to Johnson’s Ranch, so the first time I saw it was early in the morning. The weather was fine, the ground was covered with green grass, the birds were singing from the tops of the trees, and the journey was over. I could scarcely believe that I was alive.
“The scene that I saw that morning seems to be photographed on my mind. Most of the incidents are gone from memory, but I can always see the camp near Johnson’s Ranch.”
At first I was very puzzled by his statement that “most of the incidents are gone from memory.” How could long months of incredible suffering and sorrow ever be gone from his mind? How could that brutal dark winter be replaced with one brilliant morning?
On further reflection I decided it was not puzzling at all. I have seen something similar happen to people I have known. I have seen some who have spent a long winter of guilt and spiritual starvation emerge into the morning of forgiveness.
When morning came, they learned this:
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25).
“I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12; see also Heb. 10:17).
When the prophet Alma was young, he spent such a time “racked,” as he said, “with eternal torment, [his] soul … harrowed up to the greatest degree” (Alma 36:12; emphasis added).
He even thought, “Oh, … that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body” (Alma 36:15; emphasis added).
But his mind caught hold of a thought. When he nurtured the thought and acted upon it, the morning of forgiveness came, and he said:
“I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:19–20.)
Letters come from those who have made tragic mistakes. They ask, “Can I ever be forgiven?”
The answer is yes!
White as Snow
The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fullness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” That is, Isaiah continued, “if ye be willing and obedient” (Isa. 1:18–19).
The grace of God promised in the scriptures comes only “after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).
You may tell yourself that your transgressions are not spiritually illegal. That will not work; neither will rebellion, nor anger, nor joking about them. You cannot do that. And you don’t have to do it.
There is a way back. It will not help if, out of tender regard for your feelings, I avoid telling you about the hard part.
John Breen did not come to that morning at Johnson’s Ranch simply by desiring it. He wallowed and clawed his way up over the pass, suffering every step of the way. But once he knew he would survive and the suffering would end, surely he did not complain at the ordeal. And he had help all the way down. He was with rescuers.
When an offense is minor, so simple a thing as an apology will satisfy the law. Most mistakes can be settled between us and the Lord, and that should be done speedily (see D&C 109:21). It requires a confession to Him, and whatever obvious repairs need to be made.
With sincere repentance as a pattern in our lives, measured by our willingness to “confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43), the Lord has promised that we may “always retain a remission of [our] sins” (Mosiah 4:12; emphasis added).
Alma bluntly told his wayward son that “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment” (Alma 42:16).
The punishment may, for the most part, consist of the torment we inflict upon ourselves. It may be the loss of privilege or progress. We are punished by our sins, if not for them.
There are some transgressions that require a discipline which will bring about the relief that comes with the morning of forgiveness. If your mistakes have been grievous ones, go to your bishop. Like the rescuers who brought John Breen down from the mountaintops, bishops can guide you through the steps required to obtain forgiveness insofar as the Church is concerned. Each one of us must work out individually forgiveness from the Lord.
To earn forgiveness, one must make restitution. That means you give back what you have taken or ease the pain of those you have injured.
But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiled someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back.
There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to.
Your repentance cannot be accepted unless there is a restitution. If you cannot undo what you have done, you are trapped. It is easy to understand how helpless and hopeless you then feel and why you might want to give up, just as Alma did.
The thought that rescued Alma, when he acted upon it, is this: Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the Atonement of Christ.
When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the “uttermost farthing” (Matt. 5:25–26), the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.
I repeat, save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the Atonement of Christ.
How all can be repaired, we do not know. It may not all be accomplished in this life. We know from visions and visitations that the servants of the Lord continue the work of redemption beyond the veil (see D&C 138).
Morning Will Come
The Lord provides ways to pay our debts to Him. In one sense we ourselves may participate in an atonement. When we are willing to restore to others that which we have not taken, or heal wounds that we did not inflict, or pay a debt that we did not incur, we are emulating His part in the Atonement.
So many live with accusing guilt when relief is ever at hand. So many are like the immigrant woman who skimped and saved and deprived herself until, by selling all of her possessions, she bought a steerage-class ticket to America.
She rationed out the meager provisions she was able to bring with her. Even so, they were gone early in the voyage. When others went for their meals, she stayed below deck—determined to suffer through it. Finally, on the last day, she must, she thought, afford one meal to give her strength for the journey yet ahead. When she asked what the meal would cost, she was told that all of the meals had been included in the price of her ticket.
That great morning of forgiveness may not come at once. Do not give up if at first you fail. Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.
Then “the peace of God, which passeth … understanding” comes into your life once again (Philip. 4:7). Then you, like Him, will remember your sins no more. How will you know? You will know! (See Mosiah 4:1–3.)
Some years ago I was in Washington, D.C., with President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973). Early one morning he called me to come into his hotel room. He was sitting in his robe reading Gospel Doctrine, by President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918), and he said, “Listen to this!
“‘Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission.’”
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.”
And so we pray, and we fast, and we plead, and we implore. We love those who wander, and we never give up hope.
I bear witness of Christ and of the power of His Atonement. And I know that “his anger kindleth against the wicked; they repent, and in a moment it is turned away, and they are in his favor, and he giveth them life; therefore, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Joseph Smith Translation, Ps. 30:5; see also D&C 61:20).
Let It Go by Chris Williams
The Miracle of Forgiveness
The Gospel of Second Chances
Easy Fruit Pizza & Strawberry Jello Poke Cake
Easy Fruit Pizza
- I package Sugar Cookie Mix
- 8 ounces Cram Cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Enough Bright, Colorful Fruit to cover your pizza. You can use fresh or frozen. Just thaw frozen fruit before you place on pizza.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Slightly grease the bottom of a pizza pan.
- Prepare sugar cookie mix as directed and spread evenly on the bottom of pizza pan.
- Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until slightly brown around outside of crust.
- Cool completely.
Cream Cheese Layer:
- Beat cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar & vanilla until smooth & creamy.
- Spread on cooled cookie crust.
- Wash, dry & cut fruit as necessary.
- Arrange on top of cream cheese layer in a circle pattern, starting from the outside and going in.
(From Best Friends for Frosting )
Strawberry Jello Poke Cake
- 1 – Box white cake mix (Use your favorite brand) We use Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker.
- 1 – (4-ounce) package strawberry Jell-O
- Whipped topping (or fresh whipped cream)
- Fresh strawberries for topping
- Bake cake as directed on package.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool. After it cools, poke holes in cake approx 1″ apart. (A wooden spoon handle worked well for us).
- Mix Jell-O as directed on package and pour over cake, allowing the liquid to run down into the holes you poked.
- Chill and then add Whipped Cream or Cool Whip.
- Garnish with fresh strawberries as you serve.
(From Back Roads Living )
- Linking Up -Stand in front of the room. You represent the first chain and the rest of the links will be on everyone’s left. Ask aloud, “What is the meaning of forgiveness?” Encourage the children to speak up. Have the first brave child that answers come and link arms with you. Then ask, “Have you ever had to say sorry to your mom or dad?” The child that answers will link arms with the child on your left and so on.Other questions you should ask are “What does it mean when you say, you’re sorry?” or “How did you feel when you forgave someone?” Keep asking forgiveness questions until everyone is standing and linked arms. Move towards the child on the other end and link arms with him or her. This should complete your new circle of forgiveness.
- Forgiveness: Washing Sins Away Activity Link
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.