Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Forgiveness

 I gave this talk last Sunday in church, and thought I'd share it here.

In the scriptures there are two accounts of a group of people creating a Zion here on this Earth.

One story is in the Book of Moses, where we read about Enoch and his people, and the second is in the Book of Mormon account of the followers of Jesus in the first years after his visit to the Nephites. The account of the Nephites in 4th Nephi is somewhat more detailed than the account of the City of Enoch in the Book of Moses. I'd like to read a bit from 4th Nephi about Zion:

4 Nephi 1:2-3
2 And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.

3 And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

Since the beginning of this church we as members have been striving toward the ideal of Zion.

From the scriptures we can identify some of the characteristics of a Zion society. Here are some of them:

1. There were no contentions or disputations
2. Every person did deal justly one with another
3. They had all things in common among them.
4. There were not rich and poor, bond and free
5. They were all partakers of the heavenly gift

Prophets have clearly and repeatedly taught that we should be working toward a Zion society. They have taught us what we need to do to create that society among us.

King Benjamin taught the Nephites:

Mosiah 4:15
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

Alma the Elder also taught:

Mosiah 18:21
… that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.

This is our baptismal covenant. These are the things that we study and teach every week in church. It’s so simple. Right?

So why do we get it wrong?

Why is it that I still get in fights with my wife, or get angry at my children, or hold a grudge against that guy from high school, or hate Pepper because is more handsome and can shoot a basketball? Why is it that I don’t want so and so as my home teacher, or I don’t want to go to the ward activity if we have teriyaki burgers? (Or whatever.)

We are biologically, physically, mentally incapable of being perfect. As King Benjamin said it, the natural man is an enemy to God. No matter how hard we try we are all imperfect, and will hurt other people, and be hurt by others.

I recognize that I'm imperfect. There are many times when I say to myself, "What was I thinking?" And this helps me understand that everyone else probably says the same thing sometimes. Just as I hope others understand that I am imperfect but trying to be better, I understand that others are imperfect but trying to be better.

There are a couple of guys from high school that I was physically hurt by. For a long time I hated both of these guys. After some years I have come to like one of them, or at least respect. Him I think I can say I’ve forgiven. The other, I still daydream about punching him in the face.

Forgiveness is hard, especially when we have been seriously hurt.

I try to practice forgiveness at home with my family. When my wife and I argue, I think I do well at forgiving her. Unfortunately, I usually forgive her in the same way I forgave the person from high school, which is by waiting long enough. I think that I'll forgive my wife -- tomorrow, after I've calmed down. Or, later, I just need to be alone for a while.

Forgiveness later is good, but not best. To truly be like Jesus we should forgive one another in the moment, when it matters most. I think of Jesus' example when he was on the cross, being killed by the Romans. Luke said,

Luke 23:33-34
33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34 ¶Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Jesus provides the example to us of forgiving others, even as they hurt us.

There is one story of Jesus that for me teaches the importance of forgiveness.

Luke 5:20-24
20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?

 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

For a being that can walk on water, turn water into wine, or feed the multitudes with a small number of loaves and fishes, saying, "Arise, and take up thy couch" is easy. What makes Him a God is His ability to forgive, and build up, and build a relationship with.

There will come a time when for us also it is easier to say, "Arise, and take up thy couch." Humanity's coarse medicine and methods of healing are slowly but surely becoming more refined and powerful. My children can talk with me from half a world away. In a few decades we may have a permanent settlement on another planet. But one of the most important measures of our divinity is how well we, like Jesus, can say, "I forgive you."

If we can forgive others as Jesus does, then we can have Zion here in this life.

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