“The Healing Power of Forgiveness”
President James E. Faust
Of the First Presidency
In the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania a devout group of Christian people live a simple life without automobiles, electricity, or modern machinery. They work hard and live quiet, peaceful lives separate from the world. Most of their food comes from their own farms. The women sew and knit and weave their clothing, which is modest and plain. They are known as the Amish people.
A 32-year-old milk truck driver lived with his family in their Nickel Mines community. He was not Amish, but his pickup route took him to many Amish dairy farms, where he became known as the quiet milkman. Last October he suddenly lost all reason and control. In his tormented mind he blamed God for the death of his first child and some unsubstantiated memories. He stormed into the Amish school without any provocation, released the boys and adults, and tied up the ten girls. He shot the girls, killing five and wounding five. Then he took his own life.
This shocking violence caused great anguish among the Amish but no anger. There was hurt but no hate. Their forgiveness was immediate. Collectively they began to reach out to the milkman’s suffering family. As the milkman’s family gathered in his home the day after the shootings, an Amish neighbor came over, wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman, and said, “We will forgive you.”
Amish leaders visited the milkman’s wife and children to extend their sympathy, their forgiveness, their help, and their love. About half of the mourners at the milkman’s funeral were Amish. In turn, the Amish invited the milkman’s family to attend the funeral services of the girls who had been killed. A remarkable peace settled in on the Amish as their faith sustained them during this crisis.
One local resident very eloquently summed up the aftermath of this tragedy when he said, “We were all speaking the same language, and not just English but a language of caring, a language of community, a language of service. And, yes, a language of forgiveness.” It was an amazing outpouring of their complete faith in the Lord’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
…How could the whole Amish group manifest such an expression of forgiveness? It was because of their faith in God and trust in His word, which is part of their inner beings. They see themselves as disciples of Christ and want to follow His example.
…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.”
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.”
If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being.
…We need to recognize and acknowledge angry feelings. It will take humility to do this, but if we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us. The Lord requires us “to forgive all men” for our own good because “hatred retards spiritual growth.” Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts, just as He did for the Amish community.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
We live in a world in which the whole concept of marriage is in peril and where divorce is commonplace…
The weakening of the concept that marriages are permanent and precious has far-reaching consequences. Influenced by their own parents’ divorce or by popular notions that marriage is a ball and chain that prevents personal fulfillment, some young people shun marriage. Many who marry withhold full commitment, poised to flee at the first serious challenge…
The kind of marriage required for exaltation — eternal in duration and God-like in quality — does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward the ideal…
There are many good Church members who have been divorced. I speak first to them. We know that many of you are innocent victims — members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have first-hand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce…
I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face the reality that for most marriage problems the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility, but selfishness. The first step is not separation, but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache….
A couple with serious marriage problems should see their bishop. As the Lord’s judge, he will give counsel and perhaps even discipline that will lead toward healing.
Bishops do not counsel members to divorce, but they can help members with the consequences of their decisions. Under the law of the Lord, a marriage, like a human life, is a precious, living thing. If our bodies are sick, we seek to heal them. We do not give up. While there is any prospect of life, we seek healing, again and again. The same should be true of our marriages, and if we seek Him, the Lord will help us and heal us…
If you are already descending into the low state of marriage-in-name-only, please join hands, kneel together, and prayerfully plead for help and the healing power of the atonement. Your humble and united pleadings will bring you closer to the Lord and to each other, and will help you in the hard climb back to marital harmony…
In conclusion, I speak briefly to those contemplating marriage. The best way to avoid divorce from an unfaithful, abusive, or unsupportive spouse is to avoid marriage to such a person. If you wish to marry well, inquire well. Associations through “hanging out” or exchanging information on the Internet are not a sufficient basis for marriage. There should be dating, followed by careful and thoughtful and thorough courtship. There should be ample opportunities to experience the prospective spouse’s behavior in a variety of circumstances. Fiancés should learn everything they can about the families with whom they will soon be joined in marriage.
In all of this, we should realize that a good marriage does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection.
“It’s True, Isn’t It? Then What Else Matters?
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Presidency of the Seventy
I take as my subject today something President Hinckley said in General Conference in April, 1973…
Then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of meeting a young naval officer from Asia. The officer had not been a Christian, but during training in the United States, he had learned about the Church, and was baptized.
President Hinckley asked the officer: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and more particularly a Mormon Christian?”
The officer’s face clouded, and he replied: “My family will be disappointed … As for my future and career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”
President Hinckley asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?”
With his dark eyes moistened by tears, he answered with a question: “It’s true, isn’t it?”
President Hinckley responded. “Yes, it is true.” To which the officer replied, “Then what else matters?”
Through the years I have reflected on these words: “It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?” These questions have helped me put difficult issues in proper perspective.
The cause in which we are laboring is true. We respect the beliefs of our friends and neighbors. We are all sons and daughters of God. We can learn much from other men and women of faith and goodness.
Yet, we know that Jesus is the Christ. He is resurrected. In our day, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the priesthood of God has been restored. We have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Book of Mormon is what we claim it to be. The promises of the temple are certain. The Lord Himself has declared the unique and singular mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a “light to the world,” [and] “a messenger to prepare the way before [Him]” even as “the gospel roll(s) forth unto the ends of the earth.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?
…We know what is right. A few years ago my wife, Kathy, was with our grandchildren while their parents were away. Our four-year-old grandson gave his little brother a strong push. After consoling the crying child, she turned to the four-year-old and thoughtfully asked, “Why would you push your little brother?” He looked at his grandmother and responded, “Mimi, I’m sorry. I lost my CTR ring, and I cannot choose the right.” We need to be careful because excuses can impede our progress.
“A Lesson from the Book of Mormon”
Sister Vicki P. Matsumori
Second Counselor, Primary General Presidency
My message today is for you first generation members who may have been born to goodly parents, and yet not taught the gospel in your homes. Instead of being like the army of Helaman who “had been taught by their mothers, that … God would deliver them,” you may be like their parents, the people of Ammon, who grew up as non-believers.
It may be helpful to review the story about the people of Ammon. They were Lamanites who had been taught the gospel by Ammon, Aaron, and others. When they accepted the gospel, these Lamanites were called the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and later called the people of Ammon. The sons of these people of Ammon were the army of Helaman who helped fight the non-converted Lamanites.
So the strength of the army of Helaman really began with their parents who were the people of Ammon. They were the ones who first learned the gospel from the scriptures. They were the ones who learned about the power of prayer. And they were the ones who made and kept covenants with the Lord. And just as it began with them, it begins with you. As first generation members, you are the ones who begin the cycle of teaching and strengthening the next generation…
Persistence is the key. With every reading of the scriptures, unfamiliar words will take on meaning. You can read about heroes and great acts of courage. You can learn of the tender mercies of the Lord. And above all, you can feel the love of God and know that Jesus Christ is our Savior.
“Do You Know?”
Elder Glenn L. Pace
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
The first time I knew I had a testimony was when I was just 11 years of age and my parents took me to Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
My favorite activity was to collect all the free stuff. I became very adept at working the system. I would ask, “Is this free?” With a positive response I would reach out my 11-year-old hand and say “Thank you. Is that free too? Thank you!” On occasion she might say, “No, I’m sorry, those cost five cents.” Undeterred, I would lower my head and showing much disappointment say, “Oh, I always wanted to read that pamphlet, but I don’t have any money. Thank you!” It worked every time. The truth is: I never read it. I just collected it.
However, on this particular trip, I was alone in our 1948 Chevrolet waiting for my parents when I became inescapably bored. In desperation I looked down at the seat and spotted my stack of free stuff. I picked up a pamphlet entitled Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story and began to read it.
I was riveted and my heart was filled with joy. After completing it, I caught my reflection in the rear-view mirror, and much to my surprise, I was crying. I didn’t understand then, but I understand now, I had felt a witness of the Spirit. My parents weren’t there. My sister wasn’t there. My Primary teacher wasn’t there. It was just me and the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.
Now, this can happen to you and something similar probably already has…
Spiritual witnesses come at a young age to those who are exposed to spiritual experiences. As parents and leaders, we are good at making certain you understand the rules and commandments. We could improve on helping you gain a testimony of the principles and doctrine. Perhaps we could pause more often and help you learn to recognize the Spirit.
Once you recognize those feelings for what they are, your faith in them will increase. Soon you will find that you have developed a spiritual sixth sense which cannot be misled.
At 11 years of age I knew Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I didn’t hear voices; see angels, or anything like that, but what I felt was much more certain. My spiritual sense had been touched. I felt elation springing forth from the innermost part of my being which is protected from all deceit. This spiritual sense vibrates only when activated by the Holy Ghost.
How does this spiritual witness feel? It is as difficult to describe as the scent of a rose or the song of a bird or the beauty of a landscape.
Nevertheless, you know it when you feel it.
“The Miracle of the Holy Bible”
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
The Holy Bible is a miracle! It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen.
It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all it is a wonderful miracle that an account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we might have it today.
It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.
The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warns us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ…
It is not by chance or by coincidence that we have the Bible today. Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records…
William Tyndale gave his life because he believed so deeply in the power of the Bible. He said, “The nature of God’s word is that whosoever read it or hear it reasoned and disputed before him will immediately to make him every day better and better, till he be grown into a perfect man.”
Honest, diligent study of the Bible does make us better and better, and we must ever remember the countless martyrs who knew of its power and who gave their lives that we might be able to find within its words the path to the eternal happiness and peace of our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom…
The First Testament of Christ is the Bible’s Old Testament, which predicted and prophesied of the coming of the Savior, His transcendent life, and His liberating Atonement.
The second Bible testament of Christ is the New Testament, which records His birth, His life, His ministry, His gospel, His Church, His atonement, and His resurrection as well as the testimonies of His Apostles.
The third Testament of Christ is the Book of Mormon, which also foretells Christ’s coming, confirms the Bible’s account of His saving Atonement, and then reveals the resurrected Lord’s visit to the Earth’s other hemisphere. The subtitle of the Book of Mormon, the clarifying purpose-statement printed on the cover of every copy is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
Each of these three testaments is a part of the great, indivisible whole of the Lord’s revealed word to His children.
“The Things of Which I Know”
President Gordon B. Hinckley
My beloved brothers and sisters, I am pleased with the opportunity to speak to you this morning. I thank each of you for your prayers in my behalf. I am so very grateful to you. In my 49 years as a General Authority, I have spoken well over 200 times in General Conference. I am now in my 97th year. The wind is blowing, and I feel like the last leaf on the tree.
Actually my health is quite good, despite all the rumors to the contrary. Skillful doctors and nurses keep me on the right tack, and some of you may go before I do. However, with my age in mind, I wish to give you my testimony of the basic truths of this work.
I confess that I do not know everything, but of some things I am certain. Of the things of which I know, I speak to you this morning…
How deeply grateful I am that we of this Church do not rely on any man-made statement concerning the nature of Deity. Our knowledge comes directly from the personal experience of Joseph Smith, who, while yet a boy, spoke with God the Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Risen Lord. He knelt in Their presence; he heard Their voices; and he responded. Each was a distinct personality. Small wonder that he told his mother that he had learned that her church was not true. And so, one of the great overarching doctrines of this Church is our belief in God the Eternal Father. He is a being, real and individual. He is the great Governor of the universe, yet, He is our Father, and we are His children…
The second great certitude of which I am sure also has its foundation in the vision of the Prophet Joseph. It is that Jesus lives. He is the Living Christ. He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Messiah of the New. Under His Father’s direction, He was the Creator of the earth…
Now, the next thing of which I am certain, and of which I bear witness, is the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without it life is meaningless. It is the keystone in the arch of our existence. It affirms that we lived before we were born in mortality. Mortality is but a stepping stone to a more glorious existence in the future. The sorrow of death is mitigated with the promise of the Resurrection. There would be no Christmas, if there were no Easter.
I speak next of the great certitudes that have come with the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is the restoration of the priesthood or the authority given man to speak in the name of God…
Now finally, I mention the blessings of the house of the Lord, which have come of the restoration of the ancient gospel.
These temples, which we have greatly multiplied in recent years, offer blessings that are had no where else. All that occurs in these sacred houses has to do with the eternal nature of man. Here, husbands and wives and children are sealed together as families for all eternity. Marriage is not “until death do ye part.” It is forever, if the parties live worthy of the blessing.