I Have to Forgive Him?

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“I Have to Forgive Him?Ensign, Apr. 1999, 48–49

I Have to Forgive Him?

My husband had abandoned me and our two children. I didn’t know how I could ever let go of my hurt.

When my marriage ended in divorce, some might have thought I would be relieved. My husband, Larry*, had fallen away from the Church, and he had battered me and deserted our family. Still, I was devastated by the divorce.

Much later, after many struggles but with time and distance between Larry and me, I was finally able to make a new life for myself. I met and married a wonderful man, Jim. I was troubled, however, that he was not a member of the Church. Although we had discussed the Book of Mormon for about three years and he had been taught by several sets of missionaries, he had not been able to accept the gospel as the truth. Then one day another copy of the Book of Mormon came into his possession.

My daughter had found the book in an abandoned building across the street from where we lived and had given the book to Jim. As he began to flip through its yellowed pages, he noticed a passage underlined in red. He read the passage and then saw a note penciled in at the bottom of the page, suggesting he turn to another page. He turned to that page and found a few more verses underlined in red. The verses included a beautiful, inspired message of faith, repentance, baptism, and the Savior’s love and mission. When he finished, he looked at me and said, “I believe this book was meant for me.”

Jim was soon baptized, and we worked toward becoming sealed in the temple. But before I could take this step, I felt I first had to fully forgive my ex-husband.

A wise visiting teacher told me that as long as I nurtured my feelings of hurt, I would be unable to forgive Larry. Initially I thought she must not understand. Even though the wounds from my volatile first marriage had long since healed, I continued to carry many scars on my spirit. Wasn’t I justified in holding on to those hurt feelings? I came to realize, though, that I had to stop focusing on my pain and thinking only of myself. To forgive, I had to think of Larry. I knew I couldn’t forgive him by my own power and that I didn’t have to face it alone.

The first step was to turn to the Lord. I knew He could forgive Larry, and if I could acquire a small degree of that Christlike love, I could too. I have since learned that when you fill your heart with Christ’s love, there really isn’t room for anything else.

The second thing I needed to do was to accept this as a long-term goal. The mountain of things to forgive seemed daunting, and I knew I wasn’t strong enough to run up that mountain in one day. As a result, I was not angry or disappointed in myself when complete forgiveness did not come quickly. Rather, it was something I could work at continually until I had chipped all the resentment away.

Another step was to utilize prayer and scripture study. The prophets have told us repeatedly to read the scriptures daily. We have been promised that we can get closer to our Heavenly Father by reading the Book of Mormon than by reading any other book. I know that is true.

Eventually I was able to rid myself of all the nightmares and animosity I felt and to forgive the man who had hurt me so deeply. I was able to be sealed for time and eternity in the temple to a kind companion who leads our family today righteously with the priesthood. The Lord has richly blessed our family—surely not without trials, but we’ve been blessed with peace and love. I’m thankful for Heavenly Father’s plan that has made it all possible for me.

One day years ago after Larry’s second marriage failed, he called me to ask for my forgiveness. Our son was later married in the temple, and although Larry and his girlfriend, Sarah, were not able to attend, they waited outside the temple and came to the reception. Sarah was touched by the Spirit of the Lord and told Larry she felt he had given up something of great worth. When she returned to her home, she called the missionaries and readily accepted the gospel. Shortly after her baptism, she and Larry were married. Larry has since become active in the Church again, and both have Church callings.

A verse underlined in red in Jim’s copy of the Book of Mormon continues to inspire me: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God, and all men” (2 Ne. 31:20).

Illustrated by Cary Henrie