Hopefully each of you is staying healthy and safe. I look forward to the day we can meet together to discuss the Gospel face to face. Until then, I hope you will use the comments below each post as a place to share your own impressions from personal and family scripture study.
You will notice that the format for this post is somewhat different than previous weeks. Instead of reviewing the Come, Follow Me material from last week, I am posting content for the week ahead. I hope this will be a resource you can return to throughout the week as you ponder the scriptures daily in family home evening, personal and family scripture study, or in other quiet moments.
I Will Freely Forgive
Take a moment to consider the heading of this section: I Will Freely Forgive. You may interpret the phrase as a personal declaration that you will let go of personal grudges or forgive the trespasses of those around you. You may hear the voice of a loved one extending forgiveness for an offense you committed against them in a moment of weakness. Maybe you recall a moment in your life where you finally forgave yourself for a foolish act committed years ago. Or perhaps you hear the voice of your Father in Heaven promising to forgive you of your shortcomings and sins.
Throughout each of the chapters in this week’s lesson, you will find a consistent theme of forgiveness and deliverance in a wide range of circumstances. Just as the phrase in the heading above can be viewed in several ways, the experiences recorded in each chapter carry unique meaning. In some contexts, forgiveness is extended to a penitent sinner. In another, the deliverance of one group of people from physical bondage leads another group to seek deliverance from spiritual bondage. In the list below, you will find one passage from each of the study chapters that presents the principle of forgiveness in four unique contexts.
As you ponder each of the passages, consider the questions in the table below.
|Who is seeking deliverance or forgiveness?||Was deliverance or forgiveness received?|
|Who extended the deliverance or forgiveness?||What were the effects of the deliverance or forgiveness?|
As you answer the questions for each passage of scripture, how did the answers change? How did the answers stay the same? Whether we are seeking forgiveness for our own actions or the strength to forgive another, the Savior stands at the heart of our search. No matter the context, the Atonement of Jesus Christ provides the grace needed for forgiveness.
The Redeemer can settle your individual account with justice and grant forgiveness through the merciful path of repentance. Full repentance is absolutely essential for the Atonement to work its complete miracle in your life. By understanding the Atonement, you will see that God is not a jealous being who delights in persecuting those who misstep. He is an absolutely perfect, compassionate, understanding, patient, and forgiving Father. He is willing to entreat, counsel, strengthen, lift, and fortify. He so loves each of us that He was willing to have His perfect, sinless, absolutely obedient, totally righteous Son experience indescribable agony and pain and give Himself in sacrifice for all.Richard G. Scott, “Finding Forgiveness”
All Must Be Born Again
Among the many experiences of repentance recorded in these chapters – perhaps even in the entire Book of Mormon – Alma the Younger’s dramatic conversion stands out. Alma the Younger’s harrowing change from persecutor to preacher provides one example of how one can be born again.
Since the Savior invites each of us to be born again (John 3:3-5; Mosiah 5:14, 49; Romans 6:3-11), we should not expect our conversion story to match that of Alma’s. In fact, while our lives may be dotted by the occasional thundering invitation to repent, such experiences seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Most of us experience a more gradual, daily change on our journey to conversion and spiritual rebirth.
You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality.D. Todd Christofferson, Born Again
Since we cannot meet together to share our experiences in person, I reached out to several ward members to ask for their own conversion stories. In the quotes below, you will find portions of their sincere answers. As you read them, consider writing your own conversion story in a permanent place.
I think I’ve always known that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are real. I have had plenty of experiences that have confirmed this, but for some reason I just never doubted this. My testimony of the Book of Mormon came more gradually when I was younger as I began to read it. I didn’t always understand or even pay attention to what I was reading, but I started to see a change and felt the power of the book in my life as I began to consistently read it. It is interesting that my testimony of Joseph Smith was more difficult to gain. Now, as I think back, logically I should have put together that the Lord would not have brought forth a true book of scripture through a false prophet, but logic isn’t always how we gain our testimony.
For me, I think some of the real moments of conversion have come when the Lord has asked me to do hard things or things that I did not want to do. As we grow closer to the Lord and learn to hear Him, sometimes He gives us direction that seems random or does not really make much sense to us. We can not see the end from the beginning. Sometimes this direction is for us to be an instrument in His hands to help others, sometimes it is direction for our own lives, and sometimes it is both. Often, this direction requires us to leave our comfort zones and step into the unknown. For some, this may be exciting but for most of us, it’s just scary.
I think as we recognize the Lord’s hand in our lives and come to trust Him more we can better see the conversion process in our lives. It allows us to see the change that He’s wrought in us. It also gives us experience to know that we can continue to trust Him as we move forward, even if we are asked to do hard things. I love that the Lord is patient with us and that conversion truly is an ongoing process.
I think of my own conversion as an ongoing process. I don’t think of my testimony and my conversion as being the same thing, as much as two sides of a coin. That coin of heaven increases in value only as my testimony grows, and then, by exercising faith, I experience the change of heart which is conversion. Over the years I’ve found that the two act so much in tandem, that working on one will trigger the other.
The beginning of my conversion was to learn about him. Then to understand him. And then to know him. He lives. He doesn’t live in a distant place where he waits for me. He lives in my life.
After going to seminary during my high school days and learning about church history is when I formed my testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After high school, due to a job I became inactive. Over the following years, I made some good and bad choices. One of those choices affected me returning to the church earlier in my life when I might have wanted to. However with faith and hope, I knew Heavenly Father would let me know when it was my time to return to the church and he did give me signs that is was time.
I got those signs and recognized them and I did return to the church at that point. My life has certainly got a lot more enjoyable. This was my rebirth of my spirit knowing that my hope and faith was worth the wait. I am still learning a lot and walking through the refiner’s fire currently. But just maybe I am near the end of that path where I will more effectively see the iron rod to grab hold of and follow it to live with my savior Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.
Looking back, my conversion has been happening through out my life. It was not one significant “First Vision” experience. It was built over time, where I would be touched by the Spirit and certain things were confirmed to me. Typically this would happen when I was seeking an answer and living right. I feel like the times I have prayed most sincerely or earnestly are the times when I was most discouraged and more than likely probably not living exactly how I should. During those trying times, I would kneel down feeling unworthy to ask our Heavenly Father for forgiveness or help in dealing with struggles. More often than not at these times I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace come over me, reassuring me that I was being watched over.
This is where my testimony started: I knew that (1) Heavenly Father was actually there and (2) He loved me, even when I was falling short. With that knowledge I felt confident in asking for clarity in my prayers. Things began making sense and as I lived my life in a way that would be pleasing to my Savior, that warm feeling of the Holy Ghost was around a lot more often.
I feel ashamed that my spiritual progression has not been a steady increasing line. However when I look back it’s easy to see that when I’m slacking in my scripture reading, or saying my prayers, it leaves space for doubt to creep in. Then something as simple as a testimony meeting, or a song touches me so deep that the burning confirmation is there again. Even in writing this conversion story, reflecting I feel the spirit as I remember specific times where the Holy Ghost was so strong that I could never deny my testimony. Over time these small “touches” of the spirit have shaped and molded me and my testimony.
I know that God lives and loves each one of us, I know he sent his Son to atone for our sins. It breaks my heart to think that I might have caused my Savior pain, but I know he did it willingly and I hope I can show him my love by living as a true disciple of Christ. Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and was also instrumental in bringing the Book of Mormon into our lives. President Nelson is our Prophet today and leads us through Gods direction. I know these things to be true because I feel peace in my heart as I write these things down.