Monday, June 30, 2014

Forgiving Through the Atonement

So...this week Sister Wilde and I get a phone call telling us that they would like us to speak in our branch this Sunday. This is the result of said talk. Don't judge the grammar too much, realize that I do not have as much time as I would like to write it. I am still a missionary having to do missionary things. So it may be a little scatter brained. I suppose this is karma biting back at me since I threw Sister Dieter under the bus when we were asked to speak in Raleigh a few weeks back.

Forgiving Through the Atonement
Pittsboro Branch
29 June, 2014

When I think about trials I tend to reflect on what some of my biggest trials have been in my life. One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is that of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brothers. His brothers betrayed him, plotted to kill him, and he was stripped of his clothes. He later was falsely accused and thrown into prison where he endured hunger and thirst deprivation. Joseph was a man who endured much, however when the time came he willingly forgave. He forgave his brothers the moment he revealed himself unto them, Joseph say’s “Now theirfore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45:5. He not only forgave them but he comforted his brothers telling them not to worry. Joseph knew his purpose and recognized the plan that the Lord had in store for him. We do not always understand the reasons or purposes behind our trials. But we can always center our mind on the eternal perspective that all these things are for our spiritual growth and experience. What I find so incredible about this story is that he had not just one chance to take his fury out on his brothers but he had many more. In Genesis chapter 50 Joseph and his brothers are sent to bury their father Jacob who had passed away. In this chapter the brothers of Joseph start to worry that since their father died Joseph would finally inflict his wrath upon them. In the scriptures it tells us that Joseph recognizes their concerns and weeps. In verses 20-21 of that same chapter Joseph say’s to them, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now thearfore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” Joseph had a second chance to hurt his brothers, but instead he chose to forgive them again. He was genuine and sincere, and offered words of comfort towards the very people who once sought to do him wrong. Joseph had power to bring the hammer down upon them. He didn’t have his father there to judge and influence him. But still, even after his father’s death he still chose forgiveness over anger, bitterness, and resentment.
            I don’t think very many people consider “forgiveness” to be a trial. At least I never thought of it as one until I learned more about it from being out [on my mission]. I never realized how poisonous and paralyzing it is to our spiritual growth and development. President James E Faust said, “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.” Forgiveness is hard. In my opinion it is the center of all trials. When I was younger I use to think it was easy to forgive, and I couldn’t understand why my parent’s had such a hard time letting things go. I have learned that the older you get, the bigger and harder your trials become. Life throws more at you as you get older. Things that didn’t seem difficult at first become unbearable and impossible. But all things are possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Benjamin F. Call said, “As we look to God for the strength to forgive and set aside our pride, fear, resentment and bitterness, we feel hope and peace.” The Atonement covers it all.
            Christ felt all of our pain, all of our suffering and sorrows. He was betrayed by all, he was betrayed by people he held dear to his heart. In St. John 15:13-14 Jesus say’s. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends…” He was betrayed by his closest friends.
            Later in the scriptures Jesus goes on to pray to our Father in Heaven by suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane where he bled from every pore in his body. Imagine excruciating pain beyond measure, covering your entire body from head to toe. But his torment didn’t end there. When Jesus was taken captive to Pilate, Pilate knew he was an innocent man and gave the Jews several chances to set him free by their own choice. To which they replied “Crucify him.” In St. Mathew 27:25, “Then answered all the people and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” They didn’t care…When I think about my trials and then read from the Bible what Jesus went through… I can’t help but feel like my trial is insignificantly smaller. Of course our trials never go away and they never get easier. But reflecting on the Savior and what he did for us in those times of great stress, can create relief. Whenever I feel burdened I pay special attention to the end of chapter 15 in St. Mark. In verses 17-20, “And they clothed him with purple, and plaited a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.”… They drove nails through his precious hands. I can barely imagine how tired and weak he felt. He felt it all, the worst thing that will happen to us in this earth is small compared to everyone’s combined, which he felt. If you have experienced betrayal… he felt that. If you have experienced loss, he felt that too. His cousin John was beheaded but the savior still devoted his life to serving others. He was an outcast, he was abused and rejected. He continues to be abused and rejected today by all people. When Sister Wilde and I knock on doors and different people tell us no. I don’t feel upset because they are rejecting me. I feel godly sorrow because they are rejecting Jesus Christ. He is the single person in the world who continues to be persecuted today. People are still trying to hurt him.
            If he didn’t endure that pain, the trials, and afflictions, we wouldn’t have the light at the end of our tunnel. “He is the light and life of the world; yea, a light that is endless that can never be darkened” Mosiah 16:9.  He is our light, and I know that as we look to him in our times of great stress, that he will help make our burden’s become lighter. The scars from the past can never be completely erased or forgotten, but they can heal. That is a promise I can make to you… If we let him in, he will help heal us and make us stronger. This is already given to us as a promise from Him in the Book of Ether. In chapter 12 of verse 27, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
            The power of the Atonement is available to all, especially the healing power of the Atonement. The biggest trial in my life right now in case you couldn’t guess already…is forgiveness. It’s really hard to forgive someone that has hurt you so much. I know this, I’ve been there, and I’m still there. But I am learning more about the healing power of the Atonement. And the more I am focusing on it, the more I notice that those scars start to heal inside of me. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting what has happened, it just means letting go from something that is paralyzing us, and keeping us from moving forward. Lewis B. Smedes said, “Forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
            I know that our Heavenly Father loves us, and that everything we experience in this life is so that we can gain knowledge and experience so we can return to live with Him again. I know that the healing power of the Atonement can and will help all of us through our trials if we choose to let it. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and because I know that, I also know that he can comfort me in those times of trial because he felt what I am going through.
            In closing I would like to share one last scripture found in the Doctrine and Covenants chapter 122 verse 7. The Lord says, “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for they good.”  I know that my savior lives, and that he loves me. I know that as we accept and pray for the strength to use the healing power of the Atonement in our lives, we will begin to truly feel our Saviors love for us. I leave this thought with you in the name of Jesus Christ amen.

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