by Elder Larry J. Echo Hawk
"Today, I want to focus on forgiveness, an essential and precious gift offered to us from our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
On a December night in 1982, my wife, Terry, and I were awakened by a phone call to our home in Pocatello, Idaho. As I answered the phone, I heard only sobbing. Finally, my sister’s struggling voice said, “Tommy is dead.”
A 20-year-old drunk driver, speeding at more than 85 miles (135 km) per hour, recklessly ran a stoplight in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. He crashed violently into the car driven by my youngest brother, Tommy, instantly killing him and his wife, Joan. They were returning home to a young daughter after a Christmas party.
My wife and I immediately flew to Denver and made our way to the mortuary. We gathered with my parents and siblings and grieved the loss of our beloved Tommy and Joan. We had lost them to a senseless criminal act. Our hearts were broken, and anger toward the young offender began to well up inside me.
Tommy had served as a lawyer in the United States Department of Justice and was on a course to be a strong advocate for protection of Native American lands and natural resources for years to come.
After some time had passed, a court sentencing hearing was held for the young man found responsible for vehicular manslaughter. In their ongoing grief and sorrow, my parents and oldest sister, Katy, attended the hearing. The drunk driver’s parents were also there, and after the hearing concluded, they sat on a bench and wept. My parents and sister were sitting nearby as they sought to gain control of their own emotions. After a moment, my parents and sister stood up and walked to the driver’s parents and offered them words of comfort and forgiveness. The men shook hands; the women held hands; there was deep sorrow and tears for all and a recognition that both families had suffered immensely. Mom, Dad, and Katy led the way with their quiet strength and courage and showed our family what forgiveness looks like.
That outreach of forgiveness in those moments caused my own heart to soften and opened a pathway to healing. Over time I learned how to have a forgiving heart. Only with the help of the Prince of Peace was my painful burden lifted. My heart will always miss Tommy and Joan, but forgiveness now allows me to remember them with unfettered joy. And I know we will be together again as a family.
I am not suggesting that we condone unlawful conduct. We know full well that individuals are to be held accountable for their criminal acts and civil wrongdoings. However, we also know that, as sons and daughters of God, we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are to be forgiving even when it seems others may not warrant our forgiveness."
I wanted to quote that story directly from his talk. I too, have had terrible things happen to me in my life. Forgiveness can be so hard. I have been able to forgive most others without a lot of difficulty, even when they might not deserve it, there is a part of me that really feels judgment is not up to me and I can trust Heavenly Father to judge righteously in all things. I have been given to understand that if they do not truly repent, they will suffer even as I have suffered and that makes me feel so much better than just thinking they will get away with it. It also allows me to grow in faith and trust and allows me peace.
Up until the past two years, I would have said that I was good at forgiving others and loving them anyway. Than something happened which was way more difficult than I ever imagined. Suddenly I found myself in a place where I did not WANT to forgive. I could not even begin to understand what happened and why. I have banged my head against the wall, been severely depressed and anxious and not been able to think with clarity. My every waking moment was spent in the "what if" phase of life.
I have prayed and fasted and read scriptures to no avail. Finally, I have been lead to believe that all will be made right, probably not in this life, but later on. I know that it doesn't matter what people think, it only matters what God thinks and knows.
Finally, I am learning to let go. I wish I could say it was easy, and that it is all behind me, but I can't. It is a daily struggle.
I did love this talk. I pricked at my consciousness and made me want to change. I hope that you have a chance to learn from this talk as I did.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”