Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love

“Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual (2003)

“Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual

Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love

Hanks, Marion D. 197?

Elder Marion D. Hanks

Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 14–15, 17; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 20, 22

Lesson of Forgiveness

Today I would like to speak of one lesson among many that he [the Lord] taught us and that you and I must learn if we are to merit his friendship.

Christ’s love was so pure that he gave his life for us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13.) But there was another gift he bestowed while he was on the cross, a gift that further measured the magnitude of his great love: he forgave, and asked his Father to forgive, those who persecuted and crucified him.

Was this act of forgiveness less difficult than sacrificing his mortal life? Was it less a test of his love? I do not know the answer. But I have felt that the ultimate form of love for God and men is forgiveness.

He met the test. What of us? Perhaps we shall not be called upon to give our lives for our friends or our faith (though perhaps some shall), but it is certain that every one of us has and will have occasion to confront the other challenge. What will we do with it? What are we doing with it?

Someone has written: “… the withholding of love is the negation of the spirit of Christ, the proof that we never knew him, that for us he lived in vain. It means that he suggested nothing in all our thoughts, that he inspired nothing in all our lives, that we were not once near enough to him to be seized with the spell of his compassion for the world.”

Christ’s example and instructions to his friends are clear. He forgave, and he said: “… Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44.)

Response to Offenses

What is our response when we are offended, misunderstood, unfairly or unkindly treated, or sinned against, made an offender for a word, falsely accused, passed over, hurt by those we love, our offerings rejected? Do we resent, become bitter, hold a grudge? Or do we resolve the problem if we can, forgive, and rid ourselves of the burden?

The nature of our response to such situations may well determine the nature and quality of our lives, here and eternally. A courageous friend, her faith refined by many afflictions, said to me only hours ago, “Humiliation must come before exaltation.”

Forgiveness Required

It is required of us to forgive. Our salvation depends upon it. In a revelation given in 1831 the Lord said:

“My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:8–10.)

Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (see Matt. 6:14–15.)

Does it not seem a supreme impudence to ask and expect God to forgive when we do not forgive?—openly? and “in our hearts”?

The Lord affirms in the Book of Mormon that we bring ourselves under condemnation if we do not forgive. (see Mosiah 26:30–31.)

But not only our eternal salvation depends upon our willingness and capacity to forgive wrongs committed against us. Our joy and satisfaction in this life, and our true freedom, depend upon our doing so. When Christ bade us turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, give our cloak to him who takes our coat, was it to be chiefly out of consideration for the bully, the brute, the thief? Or was it to relieve the one aggrieved of the destructive burden that resentment and anger lay upon us? …

God help us to rid ourselves of resentment and pettiness and foolish pride; to love, and to forgive, in order that we may be friends with ourselves, with others, and with the Lord.

“… even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Col. 3:13.)

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.