Peace in Forgiving

of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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    (Adapted from an October 1987 conference address. See Ensign, November 1987, page 16.)And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philip. 4:7).

    Consider this lesson taught to me many years ago by a patriarch, whom I will call John. He was as saintly a man as I have ever known. His was a life of service, both to the Church and to his community. Although I thought I had known him, he told me things about his life I would not have supposed.

    John grew up in a little community. He had a desire to make something of himself. He struggled to get an education.

    He was well employed, he had married his sweetheart, and she was expecting their first baby—everything was just right.

    The night the baby was to be born, there were complications. The only doctor was somewhere in the countryside, tending to the sick. After many hours of labor, his wife’s condition became desperate.

    Finally the doctor was located. He acted quickly, the baby was born, and everything seemed to be all right. However, some days later, the young mother died from the very infection that the doctor had been treating at another home that night.

    Now everything was all wrong. John had lost his wife, and he had no way to tend the baby and do his work too. He grew angry and bitter. “That doctor should not be allowed to practice,” he said. “He brought that infection to my wife. If he had been careful, she would be alive today.”

    One night a knock came at his door. A little girl said simply, “Daddy wants to talk to you.”

    “Daddy” was the stake president. This spiritual shepherd had been watching his flock. His wise counsel was simple: “John, leave it alone. Nothing you do about it will bring your wife back. Anything you do will make it worse. John, leave it alone.”

    My friend wondered how he could leave it alone. Right was right! A terrible wrong had been done, and somebody must pay for it! But he decided at last to follow the counsel of the stake president. He would leave it alone.

    Then he told me, “I was an old man before I understood, before I could finally ‘see’ that a poor country doctor—overworked, underpaid, run ragged from patient to patient, with little medicine, no hospital, and few instruments—was struggling to save lives, and succeeding for the most part.

    “He had come in a moment of crisis, when two lives hung in the balance, and had acted without delay. I was an old man,” he repeated, “before I finally understood. I would have ruined my life—and the lives of others—if I’d done something.”

    And that is the counsel I bring to you. Some things we must endure without really solving the problem. If you resent someone for something he has done—or failed to do—forget it. We call that forgiveness. To extend forgiveness to those who have offended you is to heal. It will soothe your soul and your heart and your mind and that of others. There will come that peace which surpasseth understanding.

    Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett