To forgive is a divine attribute. It is to pardon or excuse someone from blame for an offense or misdeed. The scriptures refer to forgiveness in two ways. The Lord commands us to repent of our sins and seek His forgiveness. He also commands us to forgive those who offend or hurt us.
Seeking Forgiveness from the Lord
Sin is a heavy burden. It brings the tenseness of guilt and the anguish of knowing that we have acted against the will of our Father in Heaven. It brings lingering remorse as we realize that because of our actions, we may have hurt others and prevented ourselves from receiving blessings our Father has been ready to give us.
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness for our sins through sincere and complete repentance. Sinfulness brings suffering and pain, but the Lord's forgiveness brings relief, comfort, and joy. The Lord has promised:
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
We can experience this miracle, whether we need to repent of serious sins or day-to-day weaknesses. Just as the Savior pleaded with people anciently, He pleads with us today:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
”Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
”Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me“ (3 Nephi 9:13-14).
In addition to seeking forgiveness for our own sins, we must be willing to forgive others. The Lord said: ”Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men“ (D&C 64:9-10).
In the everyday circumstances of life, we will surely be wronged by other people—sometimes innocently and sometimes intentionally. It is easy to become bitter or angry or vengeful in such situations, but this is not the Lord's way. The Savior counseled, ”Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you“ (Matthew 5:44). He set the perfect example of forgiveness when He was on the cross. Referring to the Roman soldiers who had crucified Him, He prayed, ”Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do“ (Luke 23:34; see footnote c ).
We should pray for strength to forgive those who have wronged us, and we should abandon feelings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. We should also look for the good in others rather than focusing on their faults and magnifying their weaknesses. God will be the judge of others' harmful actions.
—See True to the Faith (2004), 70-72
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.
“Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
Additional Study Materials
Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Part B, Lesson 33
Marriage and Family Relations Instructor's Manual, Lesson 7
Guide to the Scriptures
Resources for Teaching Children
Kevin R. Duncan, Apr. 2016 general conference