I have a pet peeve. It started out slow, then it started to grow. My pet peeve centers on the false concept that SO MANY people have about the interrelated virtues of forgiveness, meekness and the true nature of love, real love. Having lived through years of domestic violence and gone through years of group and individual therapy thereafter, perhaps my experiences make my perspective unique, even seemingly hardened. But this is not so! I am merely getting sick and tired of this milksop, namby-pamby, idiot doormat way of thinking. Jesus was NOT a wuss. Meekness is NOT weakness and forgiveness does NOT surrender personal boundaries or give a Get Out Of Jail Free card to the unrepentant hardened sinner. I openly and gladly acknowledge that I am not the current nor final Judge of any living soul, including myself, but I know what the doctrine is. What keeps my pet peeve alive and kicking, like a constant mental corkscrew boring into my sensibilities, is other people’s clinging to the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture while refusing to believe the true and actual doctrine.
What triggered this post was a meme that a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook: “Forgive people in your life, even those who are not sorry for their actions. Holding on to anger only hurts you, not them.”
I commented: People misunderstand this principle and commandment. There are different kinds of forgiveness.
This effectively opened a firestorm of adamant denial, from my friend and a mutual friend. All three of us are Latter-day Saints. The following is a list of beliefs they expressed about forgiveness:
1. FORGIVENESS IS ONE-DIMENSIONAL: Forgiveness is simple, one-size-fits-all, there is only one kind. I forgive when I am hurt, and when I hurt others I know I need to be forgiven.
2. FORGIVENESS IS MANDATORY, INDISCRIMINATE AND UNCONDITIONAL: And that’s because of ✿ ❃ LOVE ✽ ✿. [Can I puke hearts and flowers here?] Proponents point to the fact that forgiveness is a commandment anyway, so, grit your teeth, plug your nose and swallow your medicine: you MUST forgive. Jesus forgave those who crucified him, they say. They sanctimoniously take aim at me and spit quotes like “of you it is required to forgive all men“. Continuing on in blind insistence, they rattle away that even if someone never asks forgiveness, when we forgive them we are set free and can move on. Granted, this process may take years, decades even, but it must, it has been, and it ever will be mandated by the decree of Heaven. “I can’t afford to carry resentments anyway” they say. “If I refuse to forgive, especially in regard to an unrepentant person, at that point I am hindering my OWN progression and happiness” they say. Long-suffering in a foolishness that turns a blind eye to the realities before them, they claim to choose a simple faith that Jesus has paid the price and that he will make things right on the other side; because it is not their job to choose who they will and won’t forgive. These types of people say they freely choose to forgive all men, at all times, and in all things, and in all places, unconditionally, and are quite satisfied to wallow in this horrible mingling of truth and error.
3. GRANTING FULL FORGIVENESS IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE: Behold the bastions of forgiveness, up there on yon pedestals: Holocaust victims who forgave heinous actions that you and I have never had to endure! [Never mind that these kinds of individuals are extremely rare. Never mind that you do not really understand the depths of what they are talking about.]
Let me refute these beliefs with doctrine
THE DEFINITION OF FORGIVE
As used in the scriptures, to forgive generally means one of two things:
(1) When God forgives men, he cancels or sets aside a required punishment for sin. Through the atonement of Christ, forgiveness of sins is available to all who repent, except those guilty of murder or the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost.
Divine Mercy exercised: How is this sin able to be set aside or cancelled? Because it was paid for by the suffering of the Savior. (D&C 18:10-13). Divine Justice exercised: The punishment affixed to a sin will always be paid for. Either by you, or by Christ. You choose (D&C 19:15-19). It is only through the Savior that Mercy and Justice are both satisfied.
(2) As people forgive each other, they treat one another with Christlike love and have no bad feelings toward those who have offended them.
In other words, wherever possible, they play Pollyanna’s Glad Game, as I will explain further in this post.
Source: A Guide To The Scriptures at lds.org. Accessed 2 Mar 2015.
1. FORGIVENESS IS MULTI-DIMENSIONAL.
From the word go, Latter-day Saints teach of a God of discernment, a God who knows the heart of every individual intimately. If forgiveness were just a binary process, there would be no need in the immediate afterlife for differentiated holding areas: places we call Spirit Prison and Spirit Paradise. If forgiveness were just a binary process, the Judge of All would not have taught us, while on this earth, that in his Fathers house there are many mansions. If forgiveness were just a binary process, I would be a more fearful Christian, in constant worry of the 50/50 odds between Heaven and Hell. I am glad that the restored Gospel teaches me of three degrees of glory, and of the requirements the Lord has set forth to enter the Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms. What the kingdoms really determine is how near unto his bosom or far at arm’s length the Lord is willing to interact with you for all eternity. Essentially, they are varying degrees of trust. I also glad that my mother taught me that every ordinance, every law set forth, are celestial-level laws, demonstrating God’s high expectations for and belief in his children.
Prager University has an excellent video that explains how forgiveness must and should be multi-dimensional. It is a 5-minute lecture by Dr. Stephen Marmer, and I highly recommend it to you. He teaches that there are three types of forgiveness: Exoneration, Forbearance and Release. These teachings are true and they coincide with what prophets of God have taught for ages. Yet what most people, including my Facebook friends, are screaming at me to accept is that I must exonerate everyone. I can not. I will not. My own intelligence and integrity recognize that the conditions for exoneration are not met by everyone. This black and white demand not only refuses to recognize the shades of gray but also disregards divine principles and insults my moral agency.
When the scriptures and teachings of the prophets on forgiveness and repentance are read with this understanding, they make much more sense to me. I stop wresting with them. The very fact that we have more than one word for forgiveness illustrates that there is more than one kind of forgiveness.
2. FORGIVENESS IS MANDATORY YET DISCRIMINATE AND CONDITIONAL.
In other words, God recognizes that you have a brain and expects you to use it. He recognizes the myriad of conditions in which events occur in this sphere of existence and full knows and sees the hidden thoughts and intents of each individual heart. He uses his discernment to judge his children, why should he not expect that his divine offspring also have the capacity and necessity to judge (Moses 1:15, 18, Mosiah 29:29). Though some scriptures say to judge not, others commands us to judge righteous judgement (John 7:24), even while acknowledging that sometimes we as mortals can’t (D&C 10:37)!
“If charity is not always quick to our understanding, it may occasionally be quick to our misunderstanding. It is not charity or kindness to endure any type of abuse or unrighteousness that may be inflicted on us by others. God’s commandment that as we love him we must respect ourselves suggests we must not accept disrespect from others. It is not charity to let another repeatedly deny our divine nature and agency. It is not charity to bow down in despair and helplessness. That kind of suffering should be ended, and that is very difficult to do alone. There are priesthood leaders and other loving servants who will give aid and strength when they know of the need. We must be willing to let others help us” Sister Aileen H Clegg. (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 107; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 77).
So you can’t afford to carry resentments? And you think the better way is to just lay down all self-respect, and all personal boundaries and allow a non repentant abuser to harm you again? and again? and again? Such things are NOT the doctrine of Christ! Why were you given Moral Agency if not to exercise your Intelligence, if not to discern good from evil? Once discerned, isn’t ACTION required on your part, because you have knowledge and are therefore accountable to God as to how you respond thereunto? What of Christ’s Parable of the Importuning Widow? She didn’t sit passively waiting for things to get better in that magical someday in the great beyond. Neither did the American Revolutionary War patriots. Or the righteous oppressed people in the Book of Mormon. Or the hosts of American servicemen and women who saw evil in the Nazi worldview and laid down their lives for their friends! No, YOU, who have overshot the mark would have us all sitting around and passively knitting in rocking chairs, whispering Forgive, Forgive, Forgive while evil men drop nuclear bombs in your front yard! Enough already!!
This is not meekness!! Meekness is great power under complete control. Rather than rewrite it here, I refer you to Elder Neal A. Maxwell two masterful sermons on the virtue of meekness. I highly recommend them to you.
What about those poor individuals who have internalized the guilt, shame, lies, false beliefs? Whose abusers and false teachers now have an 24/7 outpost in their heads? Who believe that somehow because they cannot forgive a horrible person they must remain forever unforgiven. Who regret and mourn over their imperfection and beat themselves up with it? Who do not rest in the blood of Christ because they do not really accept it: because they do not really believe in it, or that it really applies to them personally? Who fear daily that there is little hope for them to ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven and await, with fear and dread, the eternity of damnation? The unnecessary sorrow and suffering of such individuals makes me sad. I have lived that. I have been in that prison. Our Savior Jesus Christ died so that anyone willing to repent of their sins, as often as that sincere and humble repentance occurs, can be forgiven (Daniel 10:12). His Atonement is a gift for all, if only we would have the faith to believe it, showing by our acts that we really do trust and believe the Atonement to be really real, really true and really efficiacious… yes, even for you and even for me. I am reminded here of a story recently retold by the apostle, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, but that I remember reading or hearing from the apostle, Elder Boyd K. Packer:
There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers, and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.
He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship—working out in the gym, playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows, and cultural presentations. And, oh, how he yearned for only a taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship—every meal appeared to be a feast! But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.
On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then that the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship—the food, the entertainment, all the activities—had been included in the price of his ticket. [Source: April 2011 General Conference].
Jesus has paid the price of your ticket here. So look to God and live! Men are that they might have joy – here, now, and forever. Forgiveness comes to those who seek it. Repentance comes to those who seek it. The truth is that in the end, reconciliation between you and anyone else has nothing to do with any other relationship but the one that exists between you and God (Ether 12:37, D&C 135:5). This is a truth – the very key – for which I have struggled long and mightily; for which I have paid dearly to understand and possess as my own. This key is the reason people like Corrie TenBoom and Eva Kor can honestly say they forgive!! The price to pay is horror, the burden to bear for this ugly key is horror. The horror of the thought of never being completely forgiven of our own sins. The horror of experiencing the lack of sincere repentance in inescapable interactions with men most odious. It was this horror that made our Savior shrink away from the noxious cup and bleed in agony from every pore. He took it all in, like water bears every fiery arrow aimed into its depths, like bread dough bears every punch of its creating, like shepherds receive deadly wounds from wolves to save sheep, and like doors only open when the key is surrendered to them. We cry unto heaven, Look at this horrible key, God! Look what has happened to me! How can it be? How could it have happened? How could you have let it happen?! From there with our righteous indignation at our neighbor’s treatment of us and our hurt feelings, we launch full-throttle into a misunderstanding of the nature of God. We becoming more angry and distrustful of Him than we even were against the original offender. The better choice is to Let the key go, and open the door. THIS is forgiveness. THIS is At-One-Ment: not with the person who harmed us, but with the person who frees us from the pain of that harm by taking it upon himself. THIS is At-One-Ment: knowing that those I have hurt can take the messes I have made to the Lord, and if I, in turn, approach the Lord about the ugly keys I created between my brother and I, my repentance and his sacrifice can make them disappear. THIS is At-One-Ment, because in giving him those keys, he gives us beautiful keys back in return.
THIS is true forgiveness because the formula includes four necessary proponents: myself, my brother, the ugly key in question and the Lord. Yes, I created the key, Lord, and harmed my relationship with my brother. Yes, you know every single thing about that key and how it hurt my brother. Yes, I am willing to give it to you. When the two of us have both given that key to you, you can take it away and destroy it. Thank you, Lord, for the furnace of your suffering which refines that ugly key away and creates a renewed and beautiful one – a new and renewed, healed relationship – for my brother and I to share once again.
This process of true forgiveness looks nothing like the whitewashed seplechures containing feelings buried alive that proponents of universal unconditional forgiveness preach. Especially when the offending party WILL NOT repent. Put a cork in a festering bottle of filth and say it isn’t there? Tell the person harmed to ignore the ugly key, the ugly key maker and the only one who can destroy it? NO! Universal peace, joy and brotherhood is NOT possible without the acknowledgement of Jehovah, the submission to His Laws, and the acceptance of the Justice, Mercy and TRUTH wherewith he intercedes for all mankind. He is waiting for the world to let him in.
If you are good with God, you don’t have to worry about anyone else, repentant or not. That is not part of your journey, because you have no control over anyone else. God knows your heart. I know he knows mine. He knows how I have struggled. By His Spirit he has given me multiple assurances of peace and of comfort, reassurances of his love, understanding and COMPLETE knowledge of my circumstances. The power behind the courage I have to write this testimony of what forgiveness, love and meekness are and are not comes from these remembered experiences. For this is how I know that I have forgiven my unrepentant and still abusive ex-husband.
This is also how I KNOW my ex-husband has not repented: in no way does his behavior toward me and my children reflect a softening or remorse. In no way is he willing to let go of his claims to his unrighteously obtained prizes. In no way is the Golden Rule exercised or exemplified. Instead, he has clung to us like the serpent to Adam’s heel, as I have waited, and waited for my Lord to crush the oppressive serpent’s head as promised. Were the shoe on the other foot, I would have let my ex go. I would also have let the children go and entirely; been willing to admit to everyone the truth that they were solely her bodily posterity, her heirs alone, and for my part, I had desired to usurp her offspring from her for my own childless and selfish purposes. I would have allowed those children to grow up normally – undisturbed – in a new marriage with a father their mother had truly chosen freely: in a clean, happy, Gospel-centered courtship and romance. I would not have tried to pry into the details of her life, pumping the hostage children for details. I would have respected every boundary, by NOT poking my head into her vehicle in an attempt to see her other children, etc. I would have left ALL of them in peace, but especially HER: Grieved for the shining young life whose flight, like a shooting star, I had selfishly interrupted and caused to come crashing down to ruin, I would have retreated from her forever, as well as from her children. I would have done MORE than required by state or church law; NOT fought her tooth and nail on the interpretation and enforcement of every line of the JOD. I would not have continued to play the silly vacillating game of “I am your husband, no, I am your father. NO, whatever I am, YOU are a child and I am the only adult!” I would NOT have patronized, scolded and shamed her when the only thing she ever tried to do in any post-separation interaction with me was stick up for her rights and the rights of her children. I would not have poisoned her son’s mind against her, secretly coached him in how to behave, promised him every conceivable bribe and taken him from her, even if I had the power to do so. I would have pursued peace, and done everything in my power to have been the true friend and protector to her that I should have been from the beginning, especially with our age difference. Think this is impossible? I am personally acquainted with a man like this; a man who has learned from what he has suffered, even from how he has been wronged. He is kind, soft-spoken, gentle and forgiving. He does more for his ex-wife and children than he has to, because he wants to… because he loves. THIS is what repentance and forgiveness look like and feel like – not this war zone I’ve lived in since 2001.
It hurts me that others insist and demand that the only acceptable action I can take is total exoneration. It hurts me when others tell me that I have not “fully forgiven” him. Some even grow so cruel and bold as to assert that I have not forgiven him at all. I think their main reason is that somehow they think a forgiving person is a somehow a person without parts or passions. They expect there to be no negative emotion left. Father forgive them, for they just don’t understand!! When I read an account of a harrowing experience in holy writ or otherwise, I feel the emotion of the experience, even if it is over, done, and resolved. Why is this not recognized in the case of offense, repentence and forgiveness? If a poem or essay can be acceptable when read aloud, retold in full emotion and drama, why isn’t it likewise acceptable for a person to convey the pain, anger, hurt or humiliation of their experiences, past AND present?! To have feelings, always have feelings, is to be like God (Moses 7:29)! It is nonsense to expect that in placing the ugly key in God’s hand, that somehow the protective, god-given enmity toward a continually-offending oppressor must also disappear as we hold hands, sing kumbaya, and he – grinning – draws out another knife with his other hand from behind his back.
“To every forgiveness there is a condition. The plaster must be as wide as the sore. The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin. There must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit. There must be ‘sackcloth and ashes.’ There must be tears and genuine change of heart. There must be conviction of the sin, abandonment of the evil, confession of the error to properly constituted authorities of the Lord. There must be restitution and a confirmed, determined change of pace, direction and destination. Conditions must be controlled and companionship corrected or changed. There must be a washing of robes to get them white and there must be a new consecration and devotion to the living of all of the laws of God. In short, there must be an overcoming of self, of sin, and of the world” – Spencer W. Kimball (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 353).
Though my ex-husband must have asserted to someone in authority that he had done so, I solemnly witness before God that I have NEVER experienced ANY approximation of being treated in accordance with the attitudes or behaviors just described by President Kimball. Therefore, at this time, the only type of forgiveness that is possible for me to extend to my ex-husband remains in the category Dr. Marmer called Release. It is not because of me. It is because of him. The Lord and I are unable to advance any further in reconciliation. Remember that I don’t hold that ugly, ugly key anymore, God does. Yet please acknowledge – because of the lack of full resolution – that the ugly key still exists! God did not erase it because he can not. He also does not deny it or diminish one iota of the excruciating significance of any part it: it is there in his hand, whole, complete, in all its hideousness. He took it and he holds it, and that is all that was ever expected of me. It is not my job to clean that key, or make it disappear, or generously say it’s existence doesn’t really matter anymore (especially after the passage of all this time). It’s also not my job to fix it on behalf of my ex-husband, and it never was. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not the cessation of feelings. Forgiveness is trusting God over all else (Isaiah 26:3-4). That is the only place where “peace that surpasseth understanding comes from”, especially in those instances when the ugly key cannot yet be destroyed (Philippians 4:7). Therefore, it is WRONG of the blind peacenik naysayers to glibly sing a lie that the ugly key doesn’t exist, the ugly key never happened, the ugly key had no negative impact whatsoever, or that the ugly key, because it is still ugly, and still exists, belongs to me!! Finally, it is not their job to say “Tell me about your key” and then – after hearing the description requested, the memory shared – respond with condemnation! With friends like that Job needed no enemies.
Do you know what? For many years, I used to pray, every day, that my ex-husband would die. My stake-president even counseled me to do so, explaining that in this case it was a righteous prayer to save my posterity from harm (1 Nephi 4:13). But I couldn’t do it. I had given the ugly key away to God for safe-keeping. But the death-prayers made the ugly key return to me. I didn’t like seeing it all the time and being place in constant remembrance again. It took away my peace and brought back bitterness and agony. So I began, instead, to pray for a better day. In other words, I began to beseech the Lord, in hope, for that day when the 2-way level of forgiveness between myself and my ex-husband could change to Forbearance or even into the miracle of Exoneration.
However, that DID NOT mean that during those years when I prayed with charity toward him that I was some kind of automaton! I had to continue to interact with the man! Had to continue to correct all the crap he taught my children, had to continue on and endure, sometimes silently and sometimes not so silently. Instead of just one ugly key, the offenses continued to the point that I believe God has a pretty hefty keyring of them now. Forgiveness is NOT the same as denial, silence, voicelessness, or the false assertion of the disappearance of unrepented sin! It is NOT acting as if nothing incorrect, wrong or evil ever happened or wasn’t continuing to happen! It is not self-abdication or self-abnegation in the name of “love”. I can still be a forgiving person while expressing righteous indignation over ugly keys that should not have been and should not be… and that I wish with all my heart would be GONE!! I can still be a forgiving person while defending myself and my children from further harm. I can still be a righteous and forgiving person if I teach my children the truth about what happened instead of conveying half truths, invalidating my own experiences, or obeying a stupid law which necessitates a lie on behalf of the ex “to maintain a positive relationship with their father.” ESPECIALLY when the children themselves instigated the discussion by asking an honest question. I can still be a righteous and forgiving person if I raise a voice of warning to protect my child from a known harm they can not escape or from which I am legally prohibited from restraining them.
“Jesus lived and taught the virtues of love and kindness and patience. He also taught the virtues of firmness and resolution and persistence and courageous indignation. These two sets of virtues seem to clash with each other … yet both are necessary. If there were but one, love without discipline, love without deep conviction of right and wrong, without courage to fight the wrong, such love becomes sentimentalism. Conversely, the virtues of righteous indignation without love can be harsh and cruel” – Spencer W. Kimball
I remember a FHE lesson my ex-husband taught me once, early in our marriage, when it was still just him and I. He created this little poster that read, Stone, I Will Not Carry You. He waved it about, many times in my face during the lesson, and made sure to hang it on the refrigerator for weeks afterwards. The “lesson” was really a chastisement from him, the uninspired Gospel-According-to-Me and nothing like what was written in the manual. He was angry with me for not “forgiving and forgetting” the ROTTEN, LYING, STINKING base upon which our marriage began. He was not happy with me that I was not more like him, that I could not whitewash, minimize or ignore THE TRUTH of what had brought us together, or act like it had never happened – especially around others. I was still ashamed; he wasn’t. It was a thing I wished could be repented of; for him it wasn’t. He was satisfied with the outcome. To him, it was over, case closed. He had gotten what he wanted. But to me, it was not done and over, it was current. I had not been true to my God or true to myself, and I knew it. The consequence was that I was miserable. The consequence was that I had really gotten nothing that I wanted. I had not been strong enough to stop it from snowballing, and even after I had sought outside help, I had not been able to stop it or escape from it.
“And this what I, what I wished to have. This young girl who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell. Look at the difference. Then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and remember with what judgment ye judge…”- Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre (1996 film).
“Anyone who would induce someone to do that which is unworthy to do, or to take advantage, or rob someone of virtue, or embarrass, or hurt, really doesn’t love the person he professes to love. What he feels under such circumstances is something less than love.” – Elder Richard L Evans, Conference Report, April 1966, p. 88-89
He chastised me for continuing to “bear the burden of bitterness” and encouraged me to “drop the stone” like he had. I was slightly insulted by this simplistically flippant attitude, but more dumbfounded, really. So… that’s how he had been able to commit sin in the morning and go to the temple in the afternoon with a bounce in his step and a big smile on his face? Was repentance really THAT easy? Unlike him, I had been crushed by what I had done. Shamed. Smashed to the very depths, shattered with regret for all that I had done and allowed to happen. And I had done it all out of a yearning search for ✿LOVE✿. Yes, the need to be deeply loved was behind the choice I made to love him over everything and everyone else, even God. So during the “lesson” I began to wonder: Who did he think Jesus was? His personal Santa Claus whipping boy? Someone he could just continue to lay all his crap upon indiscriminately? A chained-up Deity at his constant disposal whom he could intermittently whip, abuse, and torture with his sins, splitting and splattering the body back open at his whim and then walk away laughing at what a chump Jesus was? Glad it’s not me, dude! Here, take another stone, I know you can handle it! That’s what you’re here for, hahahaha. I began to watch him more closely and with growing dismay. What had I done? Who had I really married?
To my horror, I observed that everything he did (and did not do) felt, sounded, looked, and acted like the scriptural description of crucifying Christ afresh. I looked in vain for ANY indications AT ALL of godly sorrow, and the fruits thereof in him. When my first child was born, I had the final Prodigal moment in a series of moments and fully came to myself. I realized that I was trapped in a place very much like the Silver Chair described by C.S. Lewis, and I could not get out. I prayed to God for release many times and the answer was no. Seven years into our marriage, when the choice came again between following Christ or following my ex, I chose Christ. This was the overriding reason for the divorce: I had reconciled with my God. I had realized I could not follow Christ when I was with my husband. I noticed the Spirit became offended when I was with him and left. In fact, not following God and not obeying his commandments because of my ex-husband’s teachings, persuasive arguments and justifications as to why that disobedience was okay in this particular circumstance, IS THE VERY REASON WHY the calamity of our relationship happened. “Conditions must be controlled and companionship corrected or changed. There must be… a new consecration and devotion to the living of all of the laws of God.” I have never regretting taking President Kimball at his word.
“In the light of scripture, ancient and modern, we are justified in concluding that Christ’s ideal pertaining to marriage is the unbroken home, and conditions that cause divorce are violations of his divine teachings. Some of these are…the union of an innocent girl to a reprobate – in these and perhaps other cases there may be circumstances which make the continuance of the marriage state a greater evil than divorce. But these are extreme cases – they are the mistakes, the calamities in the realm of marriage.” – President David O. McKay, Achieving A Celestial Marriage Student Manual, p.86.
“I have been a true and faithful wife to you, Sir Pitt,” Lady Jane continued intrepidly; “I have kept my marriage vow as I made it to God, and have been obedient and gentle as a wife should. But righteous obedience has its limits. – from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Vanity Fair.
“Still indomitable was the reply — ” I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.” – from Chapter 27 of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
“I told the women to follow her husband, but I never told her to follow him to hell.” – Brigham Young
Unfortunately, over the years my ex-husband’s response, just as Lucifer’s, has become the goal of going after my posterity since he couldn’t have me. It is truly ironic because this man was struck in his early youth with an illness that effectively left him without branch. Had it not been for usurping offspring from me and the covenant husband he displaced, he never would have had children. My ex once even confessed to me that he knew God had never intended for him to be my husband. He even said he knew he was stealing me from the person I was meant to be with “but he just loved me so much he didn’t care.” You call THAT ✿LOVE✿?? How did he think I was supposed to feel upon hearing that ? It is 2015 now, nearly 24 years since I first met him. I no longer pray any prayer of hope in regard to him (Moroni 5:2, D&C 112:24-26), but I do pray for my son who is living with him now (D&C 50:7). As my parents and others that truly loved me prayed for me (Mosiah 27:14), they were heard and answered. I know God also hears me and that I will also be answered.
3. GRANTING FULL FORGIVENESS IS NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE. IN FACT, SOMETIMES IT IS BETTER FOR BOTH SIDES, AND EVEN DIVINELY SANCTIONED, FOR FULL FORGIVENESS NOT TO BE GIVEN.
No lightening has struck me for writing that yet, so I will keep on typing.
Regarding those I call the Saints of the Holocaust, for that is what they are: When Corrie TenBoom once again encountered the former Nazi officer who persecuted her and her sister at one of her speaking engagements, she had the test of her life. He approached her AND HUMBLY ASKED FOR HER FORGIVENESS. She, this preacher of righteousness who had gone around everywhere, spouting at the mouth about forgiveness, had reached her moment of truth: would she practice what she preached? Despite an internal struggle, she attempted the reconciliation and was rewarded with feelings of joy, love and peace. Now, my Hippy-Forgiveness friends point at her and say, SEE?! But I point back at the TWO of them and say, SEE?! The conditions of the law of reconciliation were fully met! THAT is why there was a fullness of joy, even the bursting forth of the glory and light of shared exoneration, for both Corrie and for this sincere-hearted man. This is a diamond! A rare and precious jewel! Unfortunately it happens so seldom in this fallen world of ours. It ought to happen, since our Heavenly Father has proven his hope and intent that it might ever happen by giving the gift of his Only Begotten. When shared exoneration occurs, yes, it IS “beautiful and glorious to behold”! (Mark 4:24).
Sometimes Liberty Jail “prison temples” are the path designated for sainthood. Obviously, not everyone takes that path, or they refuse to travel it in any other way than enduring it physically. Thus good people rob themselves of all benefits that are possible to gain from bad things (D&C 122:7, D&C 59:7). Such a beautiful cleansing, healing moment as TenBoom experienced did not commonly occur for most mortal players on the stage of the Holocaust era. I believe it was because it was not sought. What is a wicked person? A wicked person is a person who does not repent, a person who deliberately chooses not to seek the two-way reconciliation of repentence and forgiveness in a situation for he created. This “not-seeking” is the cause of triggering the curse the scriptures speak of where the wicked and their descendants unto the third and fourth generation are punished. How long are they punished? Until somebody in that family seeks to make things right. An example of the beauty of the posterity repenting when the first-generation perpetrator never did, is the example of Monika (Goeth) Hertwig. There is a documentary about her shame and guilt over her father, an SS officer in the Camps. It is called Inheritance, and always makes me cry.
I am a witness that this curse is real. Call it the Cycle of Abuse, the Terah-Abraham Deity Debate or the Book of Mormon’s Pride Cycle – by whatever name you give it, I grew up with it (3rd generation). I have tried in my own life to break it (Isaiah 58:12). I have watched my mother struggle to break it, and finally soften… but not soon enough for some of her children to forgive her. Yet I have forgiven her, because I know the struggle. I have forgiven her because I have given up the ugly key, and then watched as she and the Lord worked together to refine it away. I have regained the belief I lost as a very small child: here again in my heart is the beautiful pure gold key that sings to me the sweet song that my mother really does love me. I am thankful to a God who allows us to struggle; thankful that he judged my family capable of changing, of learning the myriad dimensions of what it means and what it does not mean to love, to be meek, to repent and to forgive.
He does not grant that privilege to everyone. In fact, I personally believe that one of the most severe curses he can lay on a wicked man is to cut him off, root and branch (Job 18:16). That is, to cut him off from his forbears and to grant him no posterity whatsoever. When Lucifer and his angels were cast out of heaven, this was their curse: no further connection to Heavenly Parents, and no opportunity to have offspring. I can remember the surprise, even shock, I felt, during the live broadcast of the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple, when President Hinckley said that this curse had justly fallen upon the heads of Governor Lillburn Boggs of Missouri and Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois. Oh yes, the God of the Old Testament, that Lawgiver Jehovah, is alive and well… and I don’t immediately see any pansies blooming around his feet with this one, do you?
Yet the beautiful flowers of love are there. The reason God flooded the earth, denying all but 8 individuals the blessing of root and branch, was out of love for the unborn children who would never have a chance to learn and live righteously because their forbears were too far gone into wickedness. This is the same reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The same reason the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations went down. God’s love is a firm and protecting kind of love. It is a real, unsentimental love which could not heed the non-repentant cry, the demand even, for universal, automatic, mandatory forgiveness of all acts by every man. “Otherwise”, like spoiled toddlers, they cry out,”Otherwise we will not believe, follow or obey you!” This tantrum-ic mantra is a demand for no demands. It is a demand for a one-way covenant where the covenant grantor (God) grants all to the covenant grantee (us), even if the grantee breaks the covenant of heaven. WHAT? This is not the covenant, nor is it the order of heaven!! It is a lie. It is a , a twisted version of the covenant of hell, given to us every day in the soft and easy philosophies of men for the purpose of deceiving and ensnaring us. The truth is that the one-way covenant where the covenant grantor (Lucifer) grants all to the covenant grantee (us), even if the grantee breaks the covenant of heaven IS the covenant of hell. By this action of disobedience to the covenant of heaven we fully keep – or are in obedience to – the covenant of hell!! Lucifer then becomes king and master over all those who have wittingly or unwittingly served him.
A large part of my heart hopes you NEVER have to experience what I have experienced to come to the same beliefs about repentence and forgiveness as I have. (However, a small part of my heart concedes that perhaps these experiences might be necessary for you, for your own sanctification, as they were for me. In that case, I will not presume to meddle in the ways of God). I have come to these beliefs after MUCH struggling, soul-searching, heartache, betrayal and HURT… some of which was caused by the mistaken action of forgiving, or trying to forgive, or force myself to forgive individuals who were not the least bit sorry for what they did. My current personal belief is that boundaries – emotional, spiritual and physical boundaries – are just as important, if not more important, for the wounded party as is the attempt to forgive their offender… at whatever level is possible.
BOUNDARY EXAMPLE # 1: THE EBENEZER, a Hebrew word for Stone of Remembrance. The prophets typically built such towers to remember God and his goodness to them: as a symbol of their gratitude for the continuing protection of his covenant. ♬ Here I raise my ebenezer, Hither by thy help I’ve come.♬ But not all pillars in the scriptures were like that. The prophet Jacob agreed to recognize an ebenezer originally set up by his constantly abusive and unrepentant father-in-law Laban. It was Laban who claimed its necessity because he did not trust honest Jacob. Elder Neal A. Maxwell described this situation so well when he said irony is the crust on the bread of adversity. Yes, what an ironic affront to a truly good man from such a turd-of-heart as Laban. Yet when Jacob agreed to it, the ebenezer became a two-way covenant. It is known as the Mizpah tower. It has nothing to do with the beautiful nonsense of the two-part Mizpah coin pendant that best friends and sweethearts like to wear. Jacob and Laban were not friends, but enemies declaring and agreeing to a truce. Sometimes a truce is the best you’re going to get when dealing with a person of the lie.
BOUNDARY EXAMPLE #2: THE COMMAND NOT TO FORGIVE. Remember, the command to forgive is partially conditioned upon the repentance of the offending party. When there is repeatedly no repentance, it’s four strikes and you’re out! God’s COMMAND is NOT to forgive. I believe it is because in this situation, continued forgiveness would be detrimental to the offended. A huge part of the Book of Mormon is about the very concept of setting boundaries, and when those boundaries are violated, righteously defending yourself. God does not expect you, his wounded child, to sit there with your head uncovered, in sackcloth and ashes, and say, “Well, I guess you can do this to me again, because, after all, I am a forgiving person.” Captain Moroni is like Tolkein’s Gandalf, only on Divine steroids: Now hear this! When it comes to our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!! In case you think I am all theory and hot air, try debating with God. Here it is, in living color, straight from the Lord himself. D&C 98:38-48.
39 And again, verily I say unto you, if after thine enemy has come upon thee the first time, he repent and come unto thee praying thy forgiveness, thou shalt forgive him, and shalt hold it no more as a testimony against thine enemy—
44 But if he trespass against thee the fourth time thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord; and they shall not be blotted out until he repent and reward thee four-fold in all things wherewith he has trespassed against thee.
47 But if the children shall repent, or the children’s children, and turn to the Lord their God, with all their hearts and with all their might, mind, and strength, and restore four-fold for all their trespasses wherewith they have trespassed, or wherewith their fathers have trespassed, or their fathers’ fathers, then thine indignation shall be turned away; [think Monika Hertwig. I am not sure it is possible for her to restore anything her Nazi father took away, but at least through the film she is trying. At least through raising her grandson differently, she is trying.]
48 And vengeance shall no more come upon them [the repentant sinner and his posterity], saith the Lord thy God, and their trespasses shall never be brought any more as a testimony before the Lord against them. Amen.
When I read this passage of scriptures, I know how to act. With the repentant people described in verses 39-40, you must sincerely, deliberately and with all your heart play what Pollyanna called the Glad Game. In other words, you must think good thoughts toward, or “agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him” The rest of the verse warns, “Lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison.” (3 Nephi 12:25). What prison? The prison that falls on YOUR head for being the one who did not forgive, who broke the divine injunction to hand over the ugly key. (Please refer to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s masterful sermon, The Other Prodigal.) Remember, it is not YOUR ugly key, it is the offender’s ugly key, and that matter is not your business. It is between him and God. Let God hold onto it. That’s the plan. With the unrepentant people described in verses 41-43, do the same: play the Glad Game, and surrender the ugly key to God. But after the 4th offense, with no repentance forthcoming, Miss Pollyanna can take a hike, and you may weep and wail with all your heart unto the throne of God, remind him of that key, which is still just as broken and just as ugly. Make no mistake, it is not a fun thing to watch as the house, this person who has professed to have been swept clean, fills with even more demons than were there before (Matthew 12:43-45). It is not a happy thing to see an unrepentant person march themselves further down to hell. It is grievous. But we don’t have to follow them there by forgiving where it is neither merited NOR in obedience to the divine command not to forgive.
BOUNDARY EXAMPLE #3: HYPOCRITICAL HATERS GONNA HATE. That’s why we were all taught about the armor of God. So put it on and wear it. I think a big reason we need that armor is because of hypocrites. The Lord detested them, and in no uncertain terms he deftly, skillfully and wisely called them to the carpet, nearly every time he interacted with them. The Lord takes no delight in duper’s delight, nor in the suffering and abuse of his faithful servants.
Over the past few days I have been on YouTube watching the 1994 production of the Charles Dickens novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. Having read M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie, I am amazed and delighted that so many years before Dr Peck, Mr Dickens knew how to describe a person of the lie in the character of Seth Pecksniff. In my fascination over the movie, I unfortunately discovered much that was not to be admired in the life story of Charles Dickens. Perhaps Dickens knew hypocrisy so well because he was a hypocrite himself, especially in his treatment of the wife of his youth, Catherine, the mother of his 10 children. He lived the life of a hypocrite in his later years in the matter of his mistress, Ellen Ternan. I hate to break it to you but hypocrites like Seth Pecksniff really do exist in the real world, ever-so-carefully and slyly. Seth Pecksmith’s final appearance in the film is a masterpiece of illustration in how self-deceivers think. Even when faced full-on with multiple witnesses of the true nature of his character, Pecksmith’s reaction is CLASSIC: taking the stance of a sullied, yes, near-martyred innocent victim who magnanimously FORGIVES his accusers because that’s just the kind of perfect Christian he is. Oh yuck!!! It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. Over the years, I have actually witnessed identical events with real people. The movie is worth watching, just for that scene alone: so that your eyes might be opened, and you might have knowledge to protect yourself against such folks. Hypocrites are a huge reason why THREE types of forgiveness and boundary setting are so very necessary. It is because – unless they are awakened to the truth – the 70-times-seven forgiveness of good, trusting, kind-hearted people – real Christians like the character Tom Pinch – are used and abused by people like Seth Pecksniff with impunity. Oh remember, remember: the 70-times-7 command from Christ is based on the CONDITION of the offenders sincere and honest repentance!
BOUNDARY EXAMPLE #4. THERE IS NO RUG IN GOD’S HOUSE UNDER WHICH TO SWEEP UNRESOLVED SINS. Offenses do not disappear from before the ears and eyes of the Lord. In fact, he hears and maintains them. He forbids them not. Don’t believe me? Then read Revelations 6:9-11. Or sing the 2nd and 4th verses of Praise to the Man with eyes to see and ears to hear that UNREPENTED crimes, and the damage they have done to His children REMAIN and are CURRENT before the view of Almighty God. Why? Because the souls of his persecuted Saints continually cry up unto him. Ain’t no forgiveness in the room, folks, because the guest of honor – the offender – either isn’t repenting or has committed a sin for which there can be no forgiveness. “What?!” cry the Hippie-Forgiveness-Peaceniks! There are sins for which you can not be forgiven? Yes. Premeditated murder and the sin against the Holy Ghost. Look it up.
BOUNDARY EXAMPLE #5. GO YE OUT FROM AMONG THEM. If God expected us to just forgive and forget, to put up and shut up, no matter how bad the unrighteous dominion, then the scriptures would be a lot more empty. Abraham left Terah. The children of Isreal left Pharaoh and Egypt. Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. The Pilgrims left Europe. The early Latter-day Saints left New York, then Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois (four witnesses, just like in D&C 98) and then finally left the country altogether. Utah was not a state then, remember? I could give you many more examples, but I think you get the picture.
SUMMARY: Forgiveness IS necessary. Within its proper bounds, when correctly understood and practiced, forgiveness is beautifully possible! I fully agree and believe that with what measure we mete, that measure shall be meted unto us again. Furthermore, the Atonement is the keystone of any discussion of forgiveness and repentance. Indeed, it is the very key to any release from the negative consequences of that interaction as well as the key to all the joy of the positive blessings of full reconciliation. Just as there is a Messiah who is our Judge and Lawgiver, there MUST be degrees of forgiveness. Otherwise there would be no individual test and no individual achievement: there would be no purpose to the three degrees of glory!
For those really hard, hurtful cases… those cases where the Seth Pecksniffs of this world always seem to win and where Ebenezers must be built for self-defense and sanity, the most comforting quote I have ever heard comes from Dallin H Oaks. “Brothers and sisters, if your faith and prayers and the power of the priesthood do not heal you from an affliction, the power of the Atonement will surely give you the strength to bear the burden.” – [Oct 2006, General Conference]. Even if that affliction is the continued, unremitting and unrepentant actions of a Seth Pecksmith. I was absolutely devastated at the time Elder Oaks made this statement. Despite a request for my opinion, the opinions of his ex-wives, and the opinions of our priesthood leaders (to which we all responded in the negative) my ex-husband was fully refellowshipped into the LDS Church. That quote saved me then, as it has, many many times since. When all else fails… even – as it felt at the time – that the Church, its prophets and priesthood had… I knew the Savior had not.
I chose a Don Henley song that I have always liked for the title of this post. In The Heart of the Matter, Henley sings about forgiveness, even if, even if, someone does not love you anymore. The Last Supper is the Heart of the Matter. Our Savior set up the pattern, showing us what he was about to do and how he hoped we would follow. In the divine, simple illustration of the bread and water, he showed how he paid THE EVERYTHING for us, body and blood, with his whole soul. In the washing of his apostles feet, he showed how the true leader is a person who serves others rather than serving himself upon them (Ezekiel 34:1-4). Another Henley song talks about The Last Worthless Evening. That dark night of Gethsemane was not the last worthless evening for our Savior; it was the very reason he came to this earth (John 18:37). The only way that great sacrifice can become worthless is if we make it so. The liberty and eternal life His Sacrifice provides on conditions of repentance becomes meaningless only if we never choose to make full and sincere use of it. In every moment he spent with mankind, Jesus Christ showed us how to live, and how to stop dying, if we will it (Moses 5:9). He paid the way, opened the door and he set us free. He stands with arms outstretched, holding the keys to eternal life. These keys are NOT given to us upon conditions of any lie (Alma 11:37). No, not with one hint of any of the three mingled myths I decried in this post. The Lord’s way is one of exactness and integrity. It is a way of illuminating Light: exposing and blazing in the full, whole glory of irrevocable Law, covenant-activated Mercy and beautiful, wonderful Truth.
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken
– Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare