The Word: Letting in the light of forgiveness

Published 5:40 pm Saturday, February 19, 2022

Last week I watched the sun rise over the Roanoke River at the John H. Kerr Reservoir near Clarksville. It was a beautiful and peaceful process. 

We sometimes speak of morning “breaking,” as if light exploded all at once upon the world, shifting abruptly from night to day. But as I watched the sun come up, I saw the light emerge incrementally. The dark night sky transformed from black to gray to purple, all before any actual sunlight was visible. Eventually, the sun’s bright rays crept over the horizon and the night was over.

I thought of forgiveness, and the light that comes into our lives when we forgive others. On one well-known occasion, in response to Peter’s question of how many times we are required to forgive, Jesus said: “Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). 

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Jesus also called upon each of us to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

One of the most haunting warnings from the Savior related to forgiveness: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). 

For some, the ability to forgive comes easily. Others carry heavy burdens and struggle to forgive. 

Thankfully, while the Lord calls upon each of us to forgive others, He doesn’t say we have to do so immediately. He understands that developing the strength to forgive is a process and may require a long journey and difficult struggle. 

Like the light that slowly and almost imperceptibly steals over the horizon as the sun rises, we can develop the ability to forgive over time.

It may require praying “with all the energy of heart” to cultivate the love required to forgive, but any attempts will be magnified beyond our own abilities.

It may also require special study of scriptural examples of forgiveness. Joseph forgave his brothers even after they sold him into Egypt (see Genesis 45).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, testified: “Forgiving and forsaking offenses, old or new, is central to the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I testify that ultimately such spiritual repair can come only from our divine Redeemer, He who rushes to our aid ‘with healing in his wings.’”

As in all things, the Savior set the perfect example of forgiveness. He did not call forth destruction upon those who persecuted and abused Him. Instead, hanging upon the cruel cross, He pleaded with his Father: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

In the words of the children’s song: 

“Help me, dear Father, to freely forgive

All who may seem unkind to me.

Help me each day, Father I pray,

Help me live nearer, nearer to thee.” 

Dr. Brent Roberts is the Branch President in the Sandy River Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also Dean of Greenwood Library at Longwood University. He can be reached at