Forgiveness in Mormonism
Mormon teachings hold that forgiveness is an essential part of enjoying happiness in this life and salvation in the life to come. The scriptures reveal two aspects of forgiveness: seeking forgiveness from the Lord through repentance and prayer, and forgiving all those who hurt or offend us. Jesus Christ instructed all men to ask Heavenly Father to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Sin is a burden that is most difficult to bear. When we sin, we know we have acted against the will of the Lord. We feel sorrow at the realization that our actions may have hurt others. Our sins prevent us from feeling close to Heavenly Father and from receiving blessings from Him.
Mormons understand that the atonement (or reconciliation) of Jesus Christ, the act of His taking upon Himself the sins of all mankind, makes it possible for us to receive forgiveness. This forgiveness comes through total, genuine repentance and alleviates the pain and guilt we feel. In fact, the Lord has promised that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42). Since the Lord forgets our sins when we have completely repented, we no longer need to feel guilt for those sins, but can instead feel great comfort.
Mormons believe the Savior stands waiting for us to come to Him, so that we may be forgiven of the Father. In the Book of Mormon it is recorded that when the resurrected Jesus Christ came to the Americas, He extended the invitation for men to look to Him as the means of divine forgiveness. He implored, “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13).
Repentance is a process by which men and women confess and forsake their sins. In Mormonism this means we must explicitly admit wrongdoing, always to the Lord and sometimes—for more serious sins—to a priesthood leader in the Mormon Church. We must promise ourselves and the Lord that we will never again commit the sin. Also, we should seek to make amends for any injury we have caused others. This process of repentance is difficult, but Mormons believe it is all made possible by the atonement of Christ. His great sacrifice was for all, and it will heal each humble man or woman seeking strength to overcome sin.
In addition to asking forgiveness for our own sins, it is a commandment from the Lord that we forgive all men of any offense against us. 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” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10).
Mormons do believe it a serious sin to hold a grudge against another. In fact, as the Lord stated, he who does not forgive someone has committed “the greater sin” when compared to the original offense for which he is holding a grudge.
Like repentance, the commandment to forgive all men can be difficult to keep. It is easy to become angry or bitter during the hard times of life. However, Jesus Christ set the perfect example for us all when He forgave those who subjected Him to the pains of crucifixion. He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), exemplifying forgiveness to utter perfection.
Mormons believe that people can pray for the strength to forgive. The Lord is ready to bless us with power and increased love for others. When we try harder to look for the good in people and stop judging them, it is easier to love them. It is also a belief of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) that forgiveness can lift and heal the soul that is burdened by even the greatest of injuries, be they personal sins or the offences of others. The love that the Lord gives us can replace feelings of sorrow with feelings of peace.