Lesson 33: Extending and Receiving Forgiveness

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 272–80


The purpose of this lesson is to motivate us to forgive others and receive forgiveness.

Introduction

In the following parable the Savior taught us about Heavenly Father’s love for us:

A certain man had two sons. The younger son asked his father for his share of the family’s possessions. He then took what his father gave him and went to another country, where he quickly wasted all his money and broke the commandments of God.

When the wayward son had spent all he had, a great famine occurred. He soon became hungry, so he found a job feeding pigs. But he was still so poor and hungry that he wanted to eat the food given to the pigs.

In his misery the young man realized his mistakes. He remembered that even his father’s servants had enough to eat. He decided to return home and ask to live as a servant. When he approached his home, his father saw him coming and ran out to meet him. As they embraced, the son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” But the father was so happy to have his son home again that he took his best robe and put it on him. He gave him shoes to wear and placed a ring on his finger. Then he commanded his servants to prepare a great feast.

When the older brother, who had remained faithful, saw what was happening, he was hurt. The father had not given him such a feast. The father comforted him by telling him that everything the family owned was to be his. His brother had squandered his inheritance, but his return home was a reason to rejoice. He said, “This thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (See Luke 15:11–32.)

Each of us has sinned in some way, but the Lord’s Atonement makes it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins. In speaking of His sacrifice, He said, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16).

In another scripture the Lord says, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). Each of us must repent to receive forgiveness from the Lord.

  • What did the younger son in the parable need to do to change his life? (Realize his mistakes, return home, confess his sins, and forsake them.) What feelings do you think the son had while approaching home? (He may have felt fear of being rejected. He may have felt happy to be going home. He may have felt he was doing the right thing.)

Forgiveness Brings Joy

  • How do you think the son felt after his father welcomed him?

  • How do you feel toward the Savior, knowing that His suffering made it possible for you to repent of your sins?

When we repent, Heavenly Father rejoices and forgives us—just like the father in the parable. Think about your own life and the joy you feel from repenting and being forgiven.

Alma the Younger was the son of a prophet of God, but he had committed some serious sins. One of his worst sins was his attempt to destroy the Church of God by leading people away from the truth. As the leader of the Church, Alma’s father felt much grief over his son’s wickedness and prayed often to the Lord that his son might come to know the truth.

Because of the faith and prayers of his father and other servants of the Lord, the younger Alma was visited one day by an angel. The angel spoke with such force that Alma fell to the earth. He became convinced of God’s great power. The angel commanded Alma to stop trying to destroy the Church. When the angel left, Alma was so astonished he could not speak. He fell again to the ground and had no strength for two days. When he could speak again, he told the people that he had experienced a great change in his life, repented of his sins, and been redeemed by the Lord. Alma decided to keep the commandments of God and do all he could to make up for his past sins. His efforts were so great that he became a great missionary and later became the prophet of the Church. (See Mosiah 27; 29:42.)

In describing his experience, Alma said:

“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins no more.

“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

“Yea, … there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and … on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy” (Alma 36:16–21).

  • What did Alma do to be forgiven? (He repented and called upon God for forgiveness.) How did Alma know he had been forgiven? (His soul was filled with joy.)

King Benjamin’s people also knew the joy of receiving forgiveness. Upon hearing King Benjamin’s last great sermon, they repented and asked to be forgiven of their sins. The scripture explains that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 4:3).

We Are Required to Forgive Everyone

Because of the Savior’s perfect love for us, He willingly forgives us if we truly repent. In return, He has asked us to be like Him and forgive one another.

  • Have a class member read Doctrine and Covenants 64:8. Why did Christ chasten His disciples? (They did not forgive each other.)

  • Have a class member read Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11. Write on the chalkboard Of you it is required to forgive all men.

  • What does the Lord mean when He says that the greater sin remains in us when we do not forgive?

Jesus illustrated the principle of forgiveness through the parable of the unmerciful servant:

A certain servant owed his master 10,000 talents—a great sum of money. When it was time to repay the debt, the servant begged his master to have patience; he did not have the money, but with time he would repay it. The master felt compassion for the servant and forgave him the debt. This same servant, however, went out and demanded payment from a fellow servant who owed him a very small amount of money. When the man could not pay, the servant had him imprisoned. When the master learned what had happened, he was very angry with the unmerciful servant and made him pay all that he owed. (See Matthew 18:21–34.)

Jesus finished the parable by teaching the people, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35).

  • How are we like the servant who had been forgiven his great debt? If we do not forgive others, how are we like the unmerciful servant?

The greatest example of forgiveness comes from the life of the Savior. As He hung in agony upon the cross, He prayed that the Father would forgive the soldiers who crucified Him. “Father,” He said, “forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “To be in the right we must forgive, and we must do so without regard to whether or not our antagonist repents, or how sincere is his [change], or whether or not he asks our forgiveness. We must follow the example and the teaching of the Master” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 283).

Forgiving Others Brings Us Peace

Many times when someone has sinned against us, we become bitter and angry. These feelings can make us miserable, even if we did not commit the sin. If we allow these feelings to stay in our souls, we will drive the Spirit of the Lord away. This is one reason the Lord has commanded us to forgive those who hurt us.

President John Taylor said, “To have in your heart the spirit of forgiveness and to eliminate from your hearts the spirit of hatred and bitterness, brings peace and joy” (quoted by Heber J. Grant, in Conference Report, Oct. 1920, 7).

President Spencer W. Kimball told the following story to illustrate the peace that comes from forgiving others:

In 1918, three officers of the law were murdered when they attempted to arrest several criminals. Glenn Kempton’s father was one of the officers killed. Sometime later the murderers were captured, tried, and sent to prison for life.

  • How would you feel toward someone who had taken the life of your father? Why would it be hard to forgive such a man?

Brother Kempton described his experience this way:

“As a young boy in my early teens, there grew in my heart a bitterness and a hatred toward the confessed slayer of my Father, for Tom Powers had admitted killing my Dad.

“The years swept by, I grew up, but still that heavy feeling stayed inside me. High school ended, and then I received a call to go to the Eastern States Mission. There my knowledge and testimony of the gospel grew rapidly, as all of my time was spent studying and preaching it. One day while reading the New Testament, I came to Matthew, fifth chapter, verses 43 to 45.”

Brother Kempton continued: “Here it was, the words of the Savior saying we should forgive. This applied to me. I read those verses again and again and it still meant forgiveness. Not very long after this, I found in the 64th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 9 and 10, more of the Savior’s words. …”

“I didn’t know whether or not Tom Powers had repented but I did know now that I had an appointment to make after I returned home, and I resolved before I left the mission field to do just that.

“After returning home, I met and married a fine Latter-day Saint girl, and the Lord blessed our home with five lovely children. The years were passing rapidly and the Lord had been good to us, yet guilt arose within me every time I thought of the appointment I had not kept.

“A few years ago, just shortly before Christmas, a season when the love of Christ abounds and the spirit of giving and forgiving gets inside of us, my wife and I were in Phoenix on a short trip. Having concluded our business in the middle of the second afternoon, we started home. As we rode along, I expressed the desire to detour and return home via Florence, for that is where the state prison is located. My wife readily assented.

“It was after visiting hours when we arrived but I went on inside and asked for the warden. I was directed to his office.

“After I had introduced myself and expressed a desire to meet and talk to Tom Powers, a puzzled expression came over the warden’s face, but after only a slight hesitation, he said, ‘I’m sure that can be arranged.’ Whereupon he dispatched a guard down into the compound who soon returned with Tom. We were introduced, and led into the parole room where we had a long talk. We went back to that cold, gray February morning thirty years before, re-enacting that whole terrible tragedy. We talked for perhaps an hour and a half. Finally, I said, ‘Tom, you made a mistake for which you owe a debt to society for which I feel you must continue to pay, just the same as I must continue to pay the price for having been reared without a father.’”

  • Show visual 33-b, “Tom Powers and Glenn Kempton.”

“Then I stood and extended my hand. He stood and took it. I continued, ‘With all my heart, I forgive you for this awful thing that has come into our lives.’

“He bowed his head and I left him there. I don’t know how he felt then, and I don’t know how he feels now, but my witness to you is that it is a glorious thing when bitterness and hatred go out of your heart and forgiveness comes in.

“I thanked the warden for his kindness, and as I walked out the door and down that long flight of steps I knew that forgiveness was better than revenge, for I had experienced it.

“As we drove toward home in the gathering twilight, a sweet and peaceful calm came over me. Out of pure gratitude I placed my arm around my wife, who understood, for I know that we had now found a broader, richer and more abundant life” (quoted in The Miracle of Forgiveness, 291–93).

Conclusion

The Savior forgives us of our sins if we repent and then follow Him, doing all He asks of us. One of the things He expects us to do is to forgive others. As we do so, He has promised us joy and peace, teaching us that both forgiving and being forgiven are essential to our eternal salvation.

Challenge

Repent of any wrongdoings you have committed. If anyone has hurt you in any way, cleanse your soul of any bitterness by forgiving that person.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review Gospel Principles chapter 19, “Repentance.”

  2. 2.

    Prepare yourself spiritually for giving the lesson by taking care of any problem in your own life related to forgiveness.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.