Lesson 31: Forgiveness

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 118–21


Objective

Each young man will understand that by forgiving others he can live in more complete harmony with Heavenly Father, himself, and his fellowmen.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  2. 2.

    You may want to assign several young men ahead of time to act out the parable in Matthew 18:23–35 rather than just read it.

Note

God forgives. Perhaps no message in all the scriptures is stronger. The scriptures also make it clear that if we are to become like him we must forgive also. Of course, God’s forgiveness comes as a result of our repentance, but of us “it is required to forgive all men” (see D&C 64:10). Through this lesson, the young men should resolve to practice the principle of forgiveness each day. At this time, they may have little to forgive, but they should feel that no matter what the offense, they can and will forgive the offender.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Case studies and discussion

Describe one or more of the following situations. Then ask the young men what they would do if they were in that situation. Discuss their reactions.

  1. 1.

    Jon left his wallet in the cultural hall after a basketball game. When he went back to get it, it was gone. The next day, Chris, who had recently moved into the ward, came to Jon’s home. He admitted taking the wallet. He returned it saying that he was sorry. He asked Jon to forgive him. Jon said, “Sure, it’s forgotten.” The next day Jon was talking with some friends. One of them asked if anyone knew Chris.

  2. 2.

    Jeff told his friend Chad that he really liked Kathy. He trusted Chad to keep it a secret. Later Jeff overheard Chad telling Kathy’s best friend. Not only that, Chad also told her some things about Jeff and Kathy that were not true.

  3. 3.

    Cameron and his brother had to clean their room before they could go anywhere on Saturdays. Saturday morning, Cameron straightened up the room. That afternoon his friends invited him to go to a movie. When his mother went to inspect the room, she found it a mess. Cameron knew his brother must have made the mess, but his brother pretended he knew nothing about it. Because neither boy would admit to making the mess, their mother said that they both had to stay home that day.

To Be Forgiven, We Must Forgive Others

Parable and discussion

Read (or act out) and discuss the parable of the unforgiving servant, found in Matthew 18:23–35. To help the young men better understand the parable, point out the contrast in the two debts. It was as if the servant would not forgive a debt of one dollar after the king had forgiven him a debt of six hundred thousand dollars.

  • Who does the king in the parable represent? (Our Heavenly Father.)

  • Who does the unmerciful servant represent? (Each of us. We all have sinned and are in debt to the Lord.)

  • Who does the other servant represent? (Anyone who has offended us.)

  • What is Jesus teaching us in this parable? (That we must forgive others if we want God to forgive us.)

  • Why is it important to forgive others?

  • How do you feel when you forgive others?

Quotation

“He who will not forgive others breaks down the bridge over which he himself must travel” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], p. 269).

  • How can not forgiving hurt us spiritually?

Reread Matthew 18:34–35.

  • What if the person who offended you does not ask your forgiveness? Why should you still forgive him, even if he refuses to repent?

Quotation and discussion

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “A common error is the idea that the offender must apologize and humble himself to the dust before forgiveness is required. Certainly, the one who does the injury should totally make his adjustment, but as for the offended one, he must forgive the offender regardless of the attitude of the other. …

“Yes, to be in the right we must forgive, and we must do so without regard to whether or not our [enemy] repents, or how sincere is his transformation, or whether or not he asks our forgiveness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 282–83).

  • What does this statement by President Kimball mean to you?

Forgiveness Enables Us to Live in Harmony with God, Ourselves, and Others

Case studies and discussion

Review briefly the case studies you presented at the beginning of the lesson. For each case study, ask questions similar to the following:

  • If you truly forgave the other person, what would you do?

  • How would you feel toward the other person?

  • How would you feel about yourself?

  • How would you feel if you did not forgive him?

  • If you did not forgive him, could you honestly expect your Heavenly Father to forgive you of your sins?

Quotation

“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. …

“Even if it appears that another may be deserving of our resentment or hatred, none of us can afford to pay the price of resenting or hating, because of what it does to us. …

“God help us 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” (Marion D. Hanks, “‘Even As Christ Forgave,’” New Era, June 1974, p. 6).

  • What does it do to us when we fail to forgive, when we carry a grudge? (It fills us with resentment and pride. It makes it more difficult to love others. It damages our relationship with our Father in Heaven.)

Story and discussion

Explain that each of us has been hurt or offended at some time.

Could you forgive someone who was responsible for the death of a member of your family? Ask the young men to listen carefully to the following story to discover the effect that forgiveness has on our relationship with ourselves, with God, and with others.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie had been arrested for concealing Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War II. They had been sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. There Corrie saw her sister die from the inhumanly cruel treatment they received.

Following the war, Corrie returned to Germany “with the message that God forgives.” Everywhere she spoke, she explained that when we confess our sins and repent, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

After one of her talks, a man came up to speak to her. She recognized him as one of the guards from the concentration camp. He stood in front of her, thrust out his hand, and said: “A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

She recalls her reaction:

“I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying. ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,’—again the hand came out—‘will you forgive me?’”

  • How would you feel in that situation? What would you do? Could you forgive?

Scripture and discussion

Have the young men read and underline Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11.

  • Whom does the Lord say we must forgive? (Everyone.)

  • If we fail to forgive, who has the greater sin? (We do.)

  • What would happen if Corrie ten Boom did not forgive her tormentor?

Story continued

She continues:

“I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow, terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. … ‘Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then” (excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive,” by Corrie ten Boom; reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine; copyright 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512).

Conclusion

Challenge

Ask the young men to think of someone who has hurt or offended them or against whom they hold a grudge. Challenge them to pray for and seek to forgive this person during the coming week.