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.
(Above) The milksop meme posted by my friend
What triggered this blog post was a meme that a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook.
Friend: “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 which I believe are FALSE because they are MINGLED truth and error.
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. I ask, Forgive what? The person or the sin? And under what conditions? Any? Some? None?
Jesus forgave those who crucified him, they say, quoting Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And I ask, who were “they” in this passage? Certainly not the Sadducees and Pharisees. Certainly not Pontius Pilate. Whoever the “they” is had to be sinning unknowingly; had to be those who were not willfully rebelling.
They sanctimoniously take aim at me and spit out more 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. They will concede that the process of forgiveness may take years, decades even. But then the table pounding begins again, and I am told that it must, it has been, and it ever will be decreed, ordered and mandated by the decree of Heaven. I submit that this attitude imagines too much power in the offender and almost none in our Redeemer. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender. It has everything to do with my relationship with God.
“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. So here we go with the foolishness that throws away the other gifts that we were given for a reason: sound, wise, righteous judgement. Caution. Enmity.
Long-suffering in a foolishness is not long-suffering in righteousness. I abhor the foolishness that turns a blind eye to the realities before them. Proponents 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. So… it’s okay to keep letting Grandpa Schweinkopf continue to abuse little Molly? That makes you a forgiving person? Little Molly can not wait until heaven. Little Molly needs someone to get a brain along with their heart. She needs defense more than premature, undeserved, dangerous tutu-fluff forgiveness.
These types of people say they freely choose to completely forgive all men, at all times, and in all things, and in all places, unconditionally. They are quite satisfied to wallow in what I believe and feel to be a horrible mingling of truth and error. How is this even possible? If God loves conditionally, and he does, I have two witnesses on that, then he must also forgive continually. I know we are told to love all men, but I don’t recall ever being told to love them unconditionally. He would not ask me to do something he isn’t doing himself. I affirm that he gets to decide the final outcome, the final stamp on each person’s forehead of Forgiven or Unforgiven – that he will “forgive whom [He] will forgive.” But when he tells us “of you it is required to forgive all men” I don’t see the word unconditionally there. I don’t understand how it could be there.
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, nor the conditions upon which they were able to feel the relief of full forgiveness and reconciliation. 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.
As Elder Boyd K Packer clearly taught in the parable of the Mediator:
Through the Atonement Divine Mercy is exercised: How is our sin able to be set aside or cancelled? Because it was paid for by the suffering of the Savior. (D&C 18:10-13).
Through the Atonement, Divine Justice is exercised: The punishment affixed to each sin is paid for by the Redeemer. The punishment affixed to each sin will always be paid for. It must be so. Either by you, or by Christ. You choose (D&C 19:15-19).
Thus, it is only through the Savior that Mercy and Justice are both satisfied, and, upon the conditions of REPENTANCE, we are set free.
“While God has bestowed upon all men, irrespective of condition, this agency to choose good or evil, (Hel 14:31, Moses 7:32-3) He has not and will not bestow upon the children of men a remission of sins but by their OBEDIENCE to law.” – Joseph F. Smith, JD 24:175
(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 – Forgive at lds.org. Accessed 2 Mar 2015.
EVA KOR’s DEFINITION OF FORGIVENESS:
In the documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, one of his victims, Eva Kor, also struggled, initially, with issues of bitterness, anger and vengeance in regard to the commonly accepted definition of forgiveness. This is because the it seems to demand that the offense not be mentioned; not be remembered; must be completely forgotten as if nothing happened. It would mean that her suffering meant nothing and the offender gets away with it unpunished; without suffering justice. But Eva eventually came to define forgiveness thus:
Whatever was done to me
is no longer causing me such pain that I cannot be the person I want to be.
What others have done
is no longer hurting me.
The source of my suffering
is not my equal.
THE PARAMETERS OF FORGIVENESS
Only half of the parameters of forgiveness are usually remembered. The other half is overlooked and forgotten:
The Eighth Article of Faith says that we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon [and other standard works of the church, and the teachings of the Prophet and apostles] to be the word of God. Just so we’re clear, here.
So the current translation of Matthew 18:22-23 begins this concept:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
And the Doctrine and Covenants continues and clarifies it in Section 98, verses 39-40:
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—
And so on unto the second and third time; and AS OFT as thine enemy REPENTETH of the trespass wherewith he has trespassed against thee, thou shalt forgive him, until seventy times seven.
Aha! So this commandment of the Lord ISN’T a disrespectful-to-the-injured, ignoring-sin, masochistic, carte blanche, get-out-of-jail-free card for evildoers to drop their cartloads of manure in endless un-repentant repetition upon of good-doers, rub it in, and then go back to skipping in their fields of marigolds because hahahaha, your Jesus says you have to forgive me, you Christian, you!
IF-F-F-F-F-F-F! I believe that word connotes conditions upon the offender before forgiveness may righteously be granted! REPEN-N-N-N-N-NT! I believe that means there is a requirement placed upon the inward man or, conscience, of the offender to awake to an awareness of his own guilt. COME UNTO THE PRAYING? Wow, you mean, an open admission? The offender actually has to take action? He has to say and do something now? Yes. He can’t just feel it in his heart. I can deal with that. I can deal with a sincerely repentant person having the courage to ask my forgiveness 490 times.
98.7% of the time, this is all the guidance I need. I am able to repent. If you’ve known me long enough, I’ve probably done something stupid by now, realized it, admitted it, and tried to make things right. Then, because I have such loving friends, I am able to be forgiven. My mind and heart and spirit can be in complete harmony with addresses, essays, poems and classic literature teaching forgiveness, such as the gorgeously masterful sermon, I Stand All Amazed, by Jeffrey R. Holland: I can forgive.
There’s just this one little thorn in my side that refuses with the remover to remove. This one little thorn is why I am writing this post: Spiteful Users, Abusers, and Persecutors. Not the ones described in the Bible, no. Its the unrepentant ones. The ones with it’s fang sunk deep in the flesh of my heel, bruising it terribly, and loving every minute of it. Here’s what I have learned from living with poison and dose upon dose of the Savior’s saving anti-venom.
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. This demand also insults the divine worth of each innocently harmed party, each of whom is the child of the God of Heaven. This is because it dispassionately invalidates all claims to justice for harm or hurt experienced, every time, in favor of indiscriminate mercy for harm committed. When the scriptures and teachings of the prophets on forgiveness and repentance are read with this understanding of degrees of forgiveness, 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.
It seems to me that, more often than not, the world and the Church are full of a bunch of unwise Samsons. Unless he was completely brain-dead, we can presume that Samson forgave Delilah. Well, since sin makes you stupid – and he was committing some serious sins around the same time – maybe he was partly stupid (Judges 16:1). Yet I believe that Samson forgave Delilah in the way that most of the Christian worlds understands forgiveness: without condition and without any action to obtain it on her part. Samson forgave Delilah over the green withs incident (Judges 16:8-9). He forgave her, again, for the new rope incident (Judges 16:10-12). Two times, now, when this Delilah has obviously been found with love most feigned, to Samson’s own hurt he doesn’t choose to separate her out from among his associates. He never puts up his guard. What was there in Delilah’s behavior to merit his trust in her? There was nothing in the law of forgiveness which would authorize him to forgive her. The conditions of forgiveness – Deliah’s confession and determined abandonment of sin – were not met. Why, when it was obvious that she was not interested in the eternal well-being of his soul, did he keep handing her another key to get back into it? But he does, and so now comes a third incident: the pin of the beam and the web, with the same storyline and outcome (Judges 16:13-14). And yet she has the audacity to claim that he is the one mocking her by not completely giving in to the power struggle and telling her what she wants to hear (Judges 16:15-16). The white-gloved Christians that have never been in the dark trenches keep insisting: forgive with all thine heart. Be the better person, the “true Christian” by unconditionally laying down and letting men walk all over you.
“And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; That he told her all his heart… And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart…[she served herself upon him fully].” To his great surprise, but not mine, (because the laws of repentance and forgiveness were never met),”Samson… awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will [forgive] as at other times before… And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him. (Judges 16:20)” And why had the Lord departed from him? Because God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7)! And he doesn’t much like it when his children mock each other, either, in breaking trust and covenant with one another. To my mind, forgiveness is just as much a covenant as marriage is. Where there is a law, there is a covenant.
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 and the burden to bear for this ugly key is horror.
It is 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. Sometimes we become so 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. It is a strengthening, comforting unity with Jesus Christ. Call it what you will – key, issue, or unerasable pink Seuss-cat spot – it’s not gone. But the responsibility for carrying it has gone; gone to God. The responsibility to protect yourself and maintain a healthy awareness of others key-giving habits and acting accordingly, is yours as well. It’s about the act, not the fellow child of God. And it’s about you, doing the best you can to create only good keys.
Right now there is a lady at church who is offended and angry at me. I took an issue between she and me alone, as the scriptures direct, and explained what was wrong. I probably would not have bothered if the problem had not involved my child. I pointed to a standard: the church Handbook, and then compared it to the action, and asked for a clarification or a simple correction in action. I thought was reasonable. All these months later, she’s still not speaking to me. Do I feel bad? No. It’s illogical. The key is hers, not mine. I have nothing to repent of or feel sorrow and remorse for doing. It’s a non-issue.
I didn’t give a bad key, and I tried really hard not to be a bad-key-giver. Two different things.
But here’s the gist: Even if my offense had been real; had been malicious, the next step for her is the same. Let go of the key. It’s not the person, it’s the act. Children of God give good and bad keys. Their key is their action and your key is your action. Well, I think all keys belong to God. Good keys, bad keys. He’s the Key-Holder since he’s the Lawgiver. And I tell the Key-Holder about the good things and the bad things that have happened to me. Either way, it’s our mutual business. He’s given me the rules for when to hold on to a key, and when to let it go and how and why.
THIS is At-One-Ment: knowing that those whom I have hurt can take the messes I have made to the Lord, and if I, in turn, approach the Lord and my friend about the ugly keys I created between my brother and I, my repentance and God’s sacrifice can make them disappear.
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. I admit it to you. Yes, I created the key, Lord, and harmed my relationship with my brother. I admit it to him. Yes, you know every single thing about that key and how it hurt my brother. Yes, he can give it to you ,now that I have acknowledged where it came from. When the two of us have both given that key to you, and to each other, you can take it away and destroy it.
THIS is At-One-Ment, because in giving God the bad key, we have acted to create a good key. Now he can recut it with his Son, the Key-Cutter, and give it back to us, a beautiful key in return.
It wouldn’t make sense to cut a new key if someone wanting to enter wasn’t worthy or safe to go in the house. That’s why sometimes, when our friend never comes to correct the key, we give it to God. It’s simply because we have other things to worry about. The key is still there. We don’t throw it away and God doesn’t throw it away. We wait. We don’t give a key to a person who has had nothing to do with it’s creating, to enter into a house he doesn’t care a fig about. We wait. We wait until it can be recut.
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. Just keep the rules of key-cutting . They were ordained to keep you safe.
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 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. My daughter is a second witness.
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. I was hoping for honesty and truth: that we could finally get to the heart of the matter.
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
- When we weigh in the balance the difference between honor and loyalty, there comes a time when in order to achieve honor one must determine the value of that to which he will give his loyalty. If it calls for a surrender of honor then it is false. – Alvin R. Dyer, April 1965
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 in the sky? His very own 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.
- “It is not my general practice to counsel the sisters to disobey their husbands, but my counsel is—obey your husbands; and I am sanguine and most emphatic on that subject. But I never counselled a woman to follow her husband to the Devil.” – Brigham Young (DBY, 200–201).
- “According to our faith no woman should be connected with a man who cannot save her in the Celestial Kingdom of God. What I mean by this is: if a man apostatizes and breaks covenants and loses his standing in the Church of Christ, he is not in a fit condition to save himself, much less to lead his wife aright. He cannot lead her in the path of exaltation, because he has turned aside from that path; he has gone into another path. If she follow him, she will follow him to destruction; she will take the downward road. She will never find, while following him, and he in that condition, the path of salvation.” – George Q Cannon JD 25:368b. Or in other words, to quote President Russell M. Nelson’s April 2016 address, she knows “He has no power!” The very fact he had to deliver this address, a modern-day Jacob 2, proves that I am not alone, nor very far from the mark in expressing the feelings of grieving LDS women as shared in this post.
- “Have you ever seen a marriage on the part of a faithful member of this Church, either man or woman, with one that is not faithful, that has resulted happily for all concerned? Can you not call to mind instance after instance where it has been attended with the worst results? Where the woman after awhile, tired of living in that condition, has been compelled, if she did not wish to lose all hope of salvation here and hereafter, to break the tie and to sever herself from the man with whom she had lived in early life, into whose hands she had committed herself as a maiden, and by whom she had raised children—compelled to sever herself from him, if she expected to obtain eternal life in the Kingdom of God.” GQC, JD pg 367a .====================
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), tempted and taught away from me, I suppose, by the same lies my ex-husband used to pull me away from my family and my faith. 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 someday 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.
“It is our duty to forgive our brother seven times, yes, seventy times seven, (D&C 98:40), when he turns to you and seeks your forgiveness (D&C 98:39); and we should forgive men in our hearts (D&C 64:8) whether they ask our forgiveness or not. And what about our enemies? What shall we do with them? Offer them peace and forgive them the first time. And what then? Go again the second time and forgive them? Yes, if they ask forgiveness. And the third time (D&C 98:23-37)? Yes; but the fourth time the Lord says thine enemy is in thine hand, (D&C 98:31), do with him as seemeth thee good. You have then fulfilled the law (D&C 98:39-48); and even then, if you are merciful, it is said it shall be accounted to you for righteousness. This is the law of the Gospel.” – John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 22:16
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!
WHY D&C 112:25 IS GOING TO HAPPEN EXACTLY AS DESCRIBED: “Holy temples may.. be defiled and desecrated by members of the Church who go into the temple and make covenants unworthily or which they are not prepared or willing to accept and carry forward. When people go into the temple and then make light of its sacred principles, they are defiling it. When unrepentant people accept the holy ordinances without full determination to prove worthy of them, they are helping to violate the sacredness of the holy temple and they are desecrating holy places.” – Spencer W. Kimball, “The Things of Eternity – Stand We in Jeopardy?” Ensign, January 1977, p.6-7
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 by God? Yes. Premeditated murder and the sin against the Holy Ghost. Look it up.
“For all judgments and punishments which the law of the Lord has ordained and appointed unto man are designed to correct their errors and sins. And where they are corrected and they learn better, then He is ready to stretch forth His hand to save and exalt them. The Gospel is ever ready to step in to assist repentant man when he has become sensible that he needs help to be redeemed, and he realizes that he has not the power to redeem himself. Then repentance unto life is granted to him; (Acts 11:18) but it never can come until his judgment is convinced, until his mind is enlightened and his eyes are opened to see himself, and to comprehend his true position. And whether he be in this world or the world to come, he must place himself in a condition to be saved before redemption can come unto him; and it is only by the light of truth and of true and correct principles which can bring happiness and liberty and freedom, and with it a disposition to extend that liberty to all around, and to maintain it and protect each other in its enjoyment; and not with a spirit of vengeance upon the erring, and oppression upon the ignorant, but only with a disposition to seize and hold the hand which is raised to smite his fellow and stop in his wayward course the individual who would override his fellow. And all men should be protected in this freedom to go so far and no further.” – Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses 22:154a-b
“One thing is certain—The Latter-day Saints will never forget their persecutors who repent not. Though they bear up under their losses and misfortunes with a degree of fortitude and cheerfulness, yet the fire of indignation burning in their breasts towards their enemies who have robbed, despoiled, and driven them will never be quenched until they are punished, and justice satisfied, even if it should require time and all eternity to accomplish it…
After patiently waiting many years, we have unanimously adopted this opinion—that God now requires us to redress our own wrongs; or, in other words, to take a stand that will enable him to do it for us; and his late promises to us are to this effect.
It sometimes falls out, when justice is denied to the weak by the strong, whose duty it is to administer it, that an overruling Providence confers power on the weak and oppressed to take their own part, and even to punish the great and the strong for not doing their duty. This is an honor sometimes conferred upon the downtrodden, to console and comfort them, and to bring dishonor, shame, and humiliation upon the great, who were clothed with power, but declined using it in an unpopular, though just cause. All is going on right. ‘It must needs be that offenses come (Matt. 18:7).’
The ‘Mormons’ will carry the remembrance of their wrongs to the grave; and in the resurrection, at the bar of God, they will say—’When I was weak and defenseless, you persecuted me; when I was in prison, you mocked and derided me—you threatened my life, and took it; when I was sick, you carried me out of my house, and burned it—also my grain, and killed my husband; when I had no house, home, or friends that could assist me, with a feeble infant in my arms, you forced me across the Mississippi River at the point of the bayonet—where I had perished, had not God, in mercy and compassion, sent thousands of quails into our camp, and I and my children caught scores of them with our hands, which we ate, and thanked the giver. When I enlisted in your army to fight your battles, you killed my aged father and my brother that were left behind at Nauvoo. When we purchased lands of you and paid you our money, you covenanted that you would warrant and defend them to us. You broke your covenant, by allowing us to be forcibly and illegally removed, and our possessions occupied by others, without our consent, and without compensation.’
This is the way we shall talk; and who, under such circumstances, could talk otherwise? Our enemies can go on just as far as the Lord will allow them, and make their damnation doubly sure. ” – Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 7:51-52
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: 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
– from Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare