When offered, I immediately chose to write on the passage for the Proclamation which states: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
Unfortunately, when we read the second sentence, this is what we hear:
“blah blah, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah blah, WHOLESOME RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES!” Woo-hoo!
I am not writing about how those “activities” often supersede crucial things like honoring the Sabbath, fulfilling stewardships, attending meetings, etc. Nope. I’m not even going to go there. Disneyland. (Oops, I went there – sorry.)
Instead, I want to spend this invaluable opportunity specifically discussing the 4th item in this important list: Forgiveness. Yep, just the one.
Why? Because forgiveness is hugely important. And, because all of you are now my special friends, I would like you to meet Tarzan. (Just go with it. I promise you won’t regret it.)
As you know, Tarzan lives in the jungle. His favorite mode of transportation is swinging through the trees. It is fast, efficient and exhilarating. He fluidly swings from vine to vine, never touching the ground.
Upon closer examination, you can see that as Tarzan reaches out and grabs the next vine, he releases the vine he had been riding on. This allows him to move forward, constantly grasping new vines to continue his journey.
Imagine what would happen if Tarzan grabbed the next vine, but refused to let go of the old vine? Exactly. He would stop dead – suspended in the air between two vines. To regain his momentum, he would eventually have to choose which vine to release.
Everyone of us finds ourself reaching towards the Savior, towards the atonement – reaching and searching for forgiveness. It is inevitable. It is part of the plan.
However, like Tarzan, if we are trying to grasp the atonement, and refuse to let go of the things we are hanging on to, we stop dead. We lose all spiritual momentum. We are damned.
The Lord said it better, and he didn’t even need to use Tarzan:
The greater sin? You are telling me that my refusal to let go of the things that have been done to me – the pains that I have had to endure – will cause me to lose the Lord’s forgiveness and the power of the atonement? Yes. Exactly. You get it.
If we are unwilling to forgive – unwilling to let go – we are condemned, and have denied the core principles of the very atonement we reach for. Seems a bit hypocritical doesn’t it – to try to get something for ourselves that we deny others?
I have witnessed the toxic nature of an unforgiving heart. I have seen an unwillingness to forgive prevent couples and families from moving forward and regaining their spiritual momentum. Stalled. Damned.
I have witnessed people who cling to the old vines of anger, accusation and resentment until they are so cankered that they no longer reach for the Savior. Spiritually stuck between two vines. One offers hope and joy, the other condemnation and bitterness. Personally, at times I have carried grudges far longer than I should, and I have felt those burdens immediately lift and drift away as I decide to release them. Immediately.
I have also seen those who labor to forgive find great peace and happiness as they free themselves from burdens they have been carrying for 10, 20 years, or 10 to 20 minutes. Forgiveness offers hope, peace and spiritual momentum.
Think of your grudges, resentments, hurt feelings, pain. Can you let them go? Can you move forward? For the sake of your happiness, and the happiness of your family, find a way to forgive. It is the only way.
And it is worth it.
Do you want to read more?
The first is an aricle in a recent Deseret News about stories of forgiveness. The second is a Conference talk by President James E. Faust, who I love and miss.