A family member recently told my daughter she wasn’t being forgiving enough of her Father. In the famous words of Indigo Montoya, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
This idea that we just have to forgive someone even when they are still in the throws of sinning against us, is a very common musconception and reveals that the person who is saying it has a lack of basic doctrinal understanding about when, where, how and why we forgive someone who has wronged us through adultery and infidelity.
Let me be clear about something: we must forgive everyone. That much is clear in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I understand this. However, some wrongs are easier to forgive than others. When someone breaks your favorite toy, it is much easier to forgive that than it is when someone breaks your family. Some wrongs need more time and space to forgive. And some wrongs require the sinner to repent or be cast out, by the church and maybe even his own family.
Doctrine and Covenants 42 is pretty clear on this:
21 Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.
22 Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.
23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.
24 Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.
25 But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive;
26 But if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out.
This sounds to me like you get one pass in committing adultery from the church. The 2nd time, no forgiveness is required. I might be wrong on this one, but after reading a few conference talks with this reference included, I don’t think so.
I hated it when my husband would say to me, “You are just too angry with me for me to repair anything with you. You haven’t forgiven me yet.” Some idiot in his group told him I was like trying to hug a porcupine. So he used both of these things as excuses to not repair anything. He thinks there is no point, I won’t accept anything he would or could do, so why bother.
Except that the Lord REQUIRES him to repent, repair and restore to me what he took away. That is why he should bother! Of course I am angry. He would not change, he still refuses to change, and he blamed me for his failure to do so. Wouldn’t that make you angry? Wouldn’t it make anyone angry?
Peter was pretty clear about how you treat someone who refuses to repent, repair and restore:
2 Peter 2:
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Proverbs is very clear about what happens when a man commits adultrey and refuses to repent:
32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
And this one is pretty clear about requiring the innocent to withdraw from the man who refuses to repent!
24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.
25 Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.
It seem pretty clear to me from my study on this topic that the Lord requires us to forgive, more for our own souls, than for the sinner. However, it is not quite as cut and dried for adultery. If the adulterer is unrepentant and refuses to change the innocent are expected to withdraw from him in order to save themselves. The question then becomes, why? Alma gives us some insights…
8 Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one.
9 Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men
Of course, those who continue to be rebellious, wicked and prideful still deserve our forgiveness, but it’s pretty clear that we are not required to continually expose ourselves to the influences of these sins.
33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.
35 And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land.
I do forgive him for what he has done. That was pretty easy to do, and it happened fairly quickly after the original offense. What I have a hard time forgiving is what he has done since then. I know I need to forgive him and I will, eventually. It would be so much easier to extend that mercy if he would do what is required of him to repent, repair and restore that which he took away. If he did the bare minimum in this regard all of our lives would change for the better.
Even so, I still need to forgive him for my own sake. But it goes a long way with me to know that the Lord doesn’t expect me to continue to expose myself to his bad behavior while he is still in the depths of sin. One thing my ex-husband liked to bully me over was that I wasn’t supportive enough of him. Of course not! He wasn’t repentant! The Lord expects me to protect myself from his persistent sin. He refused to repent. So I removed myself, and “escaped from him who lived in error.”