How do you stand in your relationship to the Lord in terms of forgiveness? When we think of the Atonement we think first perhaps of this dimension: the vertical line between us and our Heavenly Father. Is it connected at both ends? Are we able to receive all the blessings he has in store for us? Could we stand with him face to face? This depends on many things—faith, hope, charity, commitment, but mostly the knowledge that we have been forgiven of our sins.
As Elder Uchtdorf said in his May, 2007 conference talk, planes sometimes take very long flights, lasting as long as 14 hours and covering 9,000 miles. “There is an important decision point during such long flights commonly known as the point of safe return. Up to this point the aircraft has enough fuel to turn around and return safely to the airport of departure. Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return.” He notes that because of the Atonement, we cannot go past the point of no return. A safe return is always open to us.
Our Father is always there with his arms stretched out, ready to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. Elder Uchtdorf made a striking statement: It is not repentance per se that saves man. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that saves us. It is not by our sincere and honest change of behavior alone that we are saved, but ‘by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’” (2 Nephi 25:23.) In The Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W. Kimball said, True repentance makes a “brilliant day out of the darkest night.”
Elder Uchtdorf also elaborates on the sublime fruits of forgiveness: “True repentance blesses our lives with the effects of the Atonement: we feel God’s forgiveness and His peace, and our guilt and sorrow are lifted away; we enjoy the influence of the Spirit in greater abundance; and we are better prepared to live with our Heavenly Father.”
If we view our relationship with the Savior as a vertical axis between us and him, if we do everything to strengthen it, if we have received his goodness and blessings, we will understand that there is more to this relationship than we formerly thought. There is the whole horizontal dimension to be worked out at the base of our relationship with the Lord. Our forgiveness by him is conditional on the words in his own prayer to his Father, “Forgive us our trespasses [vertical], as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.[Horizontal.]
This is probably the most difficult part of the forgiveness dynamic, “The Lord said: ‘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. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men’” (D&C 64:9–10)
President Hinckley has said, “ Is there anything more weak or beggarly than the disposition to wear out one’s life in an unending round of bitter thoughts and scheming gestures toward those who may have affronted us? We are all prone to brood on the evil done us. That brooding becomes as gnawing.” So I repeat my question: How do you stand in your relationship to the Lord in terms of forgiveness?
Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk in May 1977 entitled “The Mediator.” He makes it very plain that there is a spiritual change which must come over us in order to have the intimate relationship we require with our Mediator, Jesus Christ so that our sins may be forgiven. He says: “To understand this spiritual debt we must speak of such tangibles as love, faith, mercy, and justice.”
As the mediator in his parable set the debtor free, he said, “You will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.”
It is my contention that the Mediator’s relationship expands to include the horizontal aspect of forgiveness. We literally cannot deal with a person who has done us great wrong or abused us, unless we have the Savior standing between us as a mediator.
Place a hand, palm towards you in front of your face. Hold your other hand up, hiding it as much as you can behind your first one. The palm in front of your face is the Savior. The palm behind him is you abuser/enemy. Imagine the Savior’s pleading eyes. He is pleading for your eternal life. Pleading that you will unload your hurt, your trials, your hatred upon him, for he has already suffered for them. (Alma 7:11-12) You do this. You pour out your heart. And as he has promised, he heals you of the results of your abuse. Then he says, “You no longer need hate your neighbor, I have recompensed you for your suffering. Leave him to me. I will deal with him as your mediator. Cling to me and let him go.” You look in his eyes and you see that he does not want you to commit the sin of unforgiveness, for he wants to be with you for eternity.
The Atonement is for us and for our Enemies
Picture your enemies as wounded sheep, carried across Christ’s shoulders whenever you think of them. Look into your Savior’s eyes and see the compassion he has for them as he tries to heal them. It is no longer up to you to punish, to make even, or to gain retribution. The Savior, as Mediator, will take care of that for you. It is what he died for.
As we forgive others, we do our own part to make the atonement work in our lives, and to make the Savior’s suffering count.