—Doctrine and Covenants 64:10
Forgiveness is using the power within us to overcome anger, feelings of revenge, and unhappy and bad feelings. Our Heavenly Father commanded us to forgive everyone, and he will help us as we try to keep this commandment.
Print the letters F, 0, R, G, I, V, E on seven small pieces of paper. Mix them up and give them to family members to make into a word. Give them help if needed. When the word is complete ask each family member to complete the sentence, “Forgiveness is __________.” Read the gospel truth above and Doctrine and Covenants 64:10.
To help family members understand the principle of forgiveness, read or tell the following experience as told by the late Chief Blue of the Catawba Indian nation:
One day my eleven-year-old son went squirrel hunting with six other Indians. He saw a squirrel run up a tree and climbed up to scare it out on a limb. After he had done this he called to the others to hold their fire until he could get down. One of the Indians in the hunting party had always been jealous of me and my position as chief. He and his son both shot deliberately at my boy. He was filled with buckshot from his knees to his head. The Indians carried my boy towards home and found a spot where they lay him while they ran for the doctor.
A friend came and found me and said, “Sam, run home at once; your boy has been shot.” I ran all the way home and found my boy near death. The doctor was there and said my boy would not live. He was right; the boy died in a few minutes.
The man and son who had done the shooting were in my front yard visiting with members of the crowd that had gathered. They did not appear to be upset at their deed. My heart filled with revenge and hatred. Something seemed to whisper to me, “If you don’t take down your gun and kill that man who murdered your son, Sam Blue, you are a coward.”
Now I have been a Mormon ever since I have been a young lad and I knew it would not be right to take revenge. I decided to pray to the Lord about it. I walked to my secret place out in the timber where I always have gone to pray alone when I have a special problem, and there I prayed to the Lord to take revenge out of my heart. I soon felt better and started back to the house. But again I heard something inside whisper, again I turned back and prayed until I felt better. On my way back to the house I again heard the voice say, “Sam Blue, you are a coward.” I turned again and went back to pray and this time I told the Lord he must help me or I would be a killer. I asked him to take revenge out of my heart and keep it out. I felt good when I got up from praying. I went back to the house a third time and when I reached the house I went out and shook hands with the Indian who had killed my boy. There was no hatred or desire for revenge in my heart. (See Marion G. Romney, The Power of God unto Salvation, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 3 Feb. 1960], pp. 6–7.)
Discuss the story by asking questions such as the following: Was it too much to expect Chief Blue to forgive his son’s killers—especially when they did not repent? How did Chief Blue’s strong desire to overcome feelings of hatred and revenge make it possible for him to forgive? Where did he get the strength to forgive? What happened to Chief Blue that showed he had forgiven those who killed his son?
You may want to contrast this experience with the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23–35).
Read Luke 23:33–34. Remind your family that the Savior set a perfect example of forgiveness.
Ask family members to write on a piece of paper the name of someone they need to forgive. As you encourage them to be forgiving, remind them of Chief Blue. Emphasize the importance of wanting to forgive, believing we have the power to forgive, praying for help, and receiving the blessing of having hatred and revenge taken from our hearts. Have each family member keep his piece of paper to remind him of this commitment.
To help family members better understand how forgiving and forgetting can affect their lives, have them participate in the following activities:
Activity one. Fill a bag or sack with five heavy objects (such as books or rocks) that have each been labeled with one of the following words: revenge, hurt, hate, resentment, and anger. Have each family member take a turn trying to carry this heavy load. Explain that carrying those feelings in our hearts is an even greater burden than carrying the heavy bag. When we really forgive, we forget all of these feelings and are free from the burden of carrying them.
Activity two. Prepare an easy obstacle course. Have family members try to go through it while looking backwards. After everyone has had a turn, let them go through the same course looking forward. Discuss how looking forward is like forgiveness because when we forgive we can concentrate on our future or what is ahead and forget the hurts of the past.
Discuss how we can tell if we have really forgiven someone and forgotten—by the way we feel about him, by how we treat him, and by our willingness to help him. Encourage your family to use this test in their lives: Is there someone you have not forgiven? What can you do about it?
To demonstrate the harm we do ourselves when we have ill feelings towards others, leave a small amount of tomato juice in an open can for several days. Show your family how the acid in the juice eroded the can. Explain that when we don’t forgive, the feelings we keep in our hearts are like this acid—they eat away at us. Discuss how this might affect our lives in creating a negative attitude and making us resentful and unhappy).
Discuss whether it is a sign of weakness or strength to be forgiving. Why?
Read or tell in your own words the following quotation by President Spencer W. Kimball:
“Bitterness poisons mostly the one who harbors it in his heart. …
“Generally, the hated one does not even know how bitter is the animosity leveled against him. … The one who hates estranges himself from good folk, shrivels his heart, dwarfs his soul, makes of himself an unhappy pygmy.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], pp. 271–72.)
Have each family member remember from his own experiences a time he found it difficult to forgive and how it affected him.
Who was hurt the most when we did not forgive? (Us.)
What difference does it make when we do forgive? (We can be happy instead of miserable. We can be forgiven of our own sins.)
Why do you think the Lord commanded us to forgive everyone—no matter what they do to us? (He wants us to feel the peace that comes from forgiving and escape the misery that comes from feeling hatred and revenge.)
You may want to read or tell the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) and discuss forgiveness in relation to the story.
Ask your family members (1) that they try to be forgiving with each other during the week, and (2) that they watch for the difference the spirit of forgiveness makes in your home.
Genesis 37–45 (The story of Joseph and his brothers.)
Leviticus 19:17–18 (Do not hate your brother.)
Matthew 5:44 (Love your enemies.)
Matthew 6:12, 14–15 (Forgive men their trespasses.)
Matthew 18:21–22 (Forgive seventy times seven.)
Matthew 18:23–35 (Parable of the unmerciful servant.)
Hebrews 8:12 (The Lord will remember your sins no more.)
Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43 (The Lord will forgive and forget.)
See also “Forgive, Forgiveness” in the Topical Guide.
“Help Me, Dear Father,” Children’s Songbook, p. 99.
“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, no. 193.
Gospel Principles, “Repentance,” chapter 19.
The Prodigal Son (53061), a videocassette.