In September 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith and a number of elders had recently returned to Ohio from their journey to dedicate the land and the temple site in Zion, or Independence, Missouri. During this journey the elders had experienced some disagreements and bad feelings, but most were able to reconcile with each other. On September 11, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64.
The Lord assures the elders of His willingness to forgive
Think about a time when you were hurt by the words or actions of another person and how you responded in that situation.
The Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64 about one month after he and a group of elders had returned to Ohio from Independence, Missouri. These elders and other Church members had experienced difficulties because of disagreements and hard feelings among themselves. In this revelation the Lord said, “There are those among you who have sinned” (D&C 64:3). The Lord’s words in this revelation teach us how to respond when others have hurt us.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–4, looking for phrases that describe how the Lord responded to those who had sinned. Write them in the following chart. (You may also want to mark them in your scriptures.)
Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–4 teaches that the Lord is compassionate, forgiving, and merciful. In your scripture study journal, write why this principle about the Savior is important to you.
At the time this revelation was received, some Church members, including some of the elders who had been traveling with Joseph Smith, had become critical of the Prophet. In Doctrine and Covenants 64:6, the Lord referred to the criticism of the Prophet by using the phrase “sought occasion against him.” Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:5–6, looking for what the Lord taught.
Ponder the following questions:
What did the Lord say about Joseph Smith?
What can we learn from these verses?
The Lord also explained some conditions of forgiveness. According to Doctrine and Covenants 64:7, what must we do to receive the Lord’s forgiveness? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Lord commands His servants to forgive one another
In addition to feeling physical pain, what emotions do you think you would feel if you were bitten or stung by a venomous animal? Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes common in the Americas. Rattlesnake bites cause pain, swelling, numbness, and discoloration. If they are untreated, they can lead to permanent tissue damage or even death.
Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Seventy spoke about the choices a person faces if they have been bitten by a rattlesnake: “There are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system” (“Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 21).
Which of these two courses of action do you think is wiser? Why?
Elder Hanks said, “If we pursue the [second] course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the [first], we may not be around long enough to finish it” (“Forgiveness,” 21).
A person’s choices after receiving a rattlesnake bite can be compared to our choices when we feel hurt because of the words or actions of another person. Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:8, looking for the consequences some of the Lord’s disciples faced because they refused to forgive one another.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How can a person be afflicted (or hurt) by not forgiving others?
How is this like the consequences of a person chasing a rattlesnake that has bitten him or her?
Study Doctrine and Covenants 64:9, looking for another consequence of not forgiving others.
We learn from Doctrine and Covenants 64:9 that if we do not forgive others, we stand condemned before the Lord.
The lesson that may be most helpful to us to learn from this passage is to be forgiving. We receive great peace in our lives when we forgive others. As you read the following statement by Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy, think about how it relates to this truth: “It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 12).
Carefully study Doctrine and Covenants 64:10–11, and identify further principles the Lord taught about forgiveness.
In your scripture study journal, explain how the principles you learned from Doctrine and Covenants 64:10–11 could help a person in the following situations:
A young woman is hurt and embarrassed after learning that some of her peers have been spreading gossip about her. Later, some of these people apologize, but others do not. The young woman forgives those who apologized but holds a grudge against the others.
A young man disobeys a commandment. He prays for forgiveness and discusses the problem with his bishop. However, even after the bishop has assured the young man that he has fully repented, the young man continues to feel unworthy because of this past sin.
A young woman is feeling sad and confused because of the actions of her father. He has abandoned his family. Before he left, he rarely showed love for the family and was often cruel. She does not understand why her father acted this way, and she carries feelings of anger toward him. She knows she should seek to forgive him, but she doesn’t think that she can.
Consider if there is anyone whom you need to forgive. At times it can be extremely difficult to forgive another. As you read the following counsel from President Gordon B. Hinckley, look for what you can do if you are struggling to forgive someone: “If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. … It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 5).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How do you think praying for strength can help you to forgive?
Study Doctrine and Covenants 64:12–14. Note that the Lord taught that our choice to forgive others does not relieve them of responsibility for their actions. They are still accountable to the Lord for the wrongs they have done.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:15–17, and notice that the Lord specifically said that He would forgive two of His servants, Isaac Morley and Edward Partridge, because they would repent of their sins.
At the beginning of this lesson, you learned that the Lord is compassionate, forgiving, and merciful. As you forgive, you can become more like Him. Decide how you can apply the principles of forgiveness you have learned today.
Scripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11
Spend a few minutes reading Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11 out loud. Once you have repeated the scripture passage at least five times, find a sibling, parent, or friend who will help you practice memorizing it. Recite the scripture passage to this person until you can repeat it from memory. Explain to the person how the principles in these verses can help you throughout your life. Then ask the person to sign today’s entry in your scripture study journal.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–19 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: