Many years ago, I read Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo: the unabridged version which is 1,463 pages long. Next to the scriptures, it was the greatest reading experience of any book I have ever had. I became so close to the characters, Jean Valjean, Monsieur Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel—the Bishop of Digne (‘deen’), Fantine, Cosette, Gavroche, Marius, Javert and many others that I wept for a long time after I finished the book because I was so sad, I would not be able to meet them in the Spirit World! Maurine reminded me they were fictional characters. I was completely transported into their hearts, their world, their times, their pain, their burdens. Maurine and I even went to Victor Hugo’s home in Guernsey Island off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel to get a sense of where he wrote this classic novel. Do you want to know my very favorite moment from the entire 1,463 pages? It has to do with our episode today.
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Many years ago, I read Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo: the unabridged version which is 1,463 pages long. Next to the scriptures, it was the greatest reading experience of any book I have ever had. I became so close to the characters, Jean Valjean, Monsieur Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel—the Bishop of Digne (‘deen’), Fantine, Cosette, Gavroche, Marius, Javert and many others that I wept for a long time after I finished the book because I was so sad, I would not be able to meet them in the Spirit World! Maurine reminded me they were fictional characters. I was completely transported into their hearts, their world, their times, their pain, their burdens. Maurine and I even went to Victor Hugo’s home in Guernsey Island off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel to get a sense of where he wrote this classic novel. Do you want to know my very favorite moment from the entire 1,463 pages? It has to do with our lesson today.
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and we are delighted to be with you again this week to talk about Doctrine and Covenants, sections 64 through 66 with a lesson entitled “The Lord Requireth the Heart and a Willing Mind.” We can’t tell you how grateful we are for your words of encouragement and support through emails, texts, Facebook messages and even personal visits. This is our 125th Podcast in a row and we love being with you in your homes and cars and to talk about our favorite topic: The Lord and His scriptures! The Come Follow Me curriculum is brilliant and we are so glad we get to study it together with you.
So, I think most all of us are familiar with Les Mis. Many of us have seen it on Broadway in New York or on the West End in London or even locally. Right now the only place it is playing in a professional production in the whole world is at the Hale Center Theatre in Sandy, Utah. And we saw it the other night and that’s what brought this to my mind. So, the answer to my question of my very favorite moment…You know the basic story. Fantine has a daughter, Cosette, who was conceived through a man who spent a summer with her and then left her flat – as a cruel joke. Fantine, who had no money and her circumstances were very low, had to send Cosette to a far-off village to board with the nasty, drunkard couple, the Thénardiess. Cosette was living a miserable life, treated poorly, was unloved and made to do slave labor while the Thénardiess’ daughters, Ponine and Zelma played with their dolls and toys all day long.
And in the meantime, Jean Valjean had changed his identity and had become the mayor of a town and the owner of a large factory that employed hundreds of workers. Fantine had been abused by her fellow workers and fired on false charges, and Jean Valjean had unknowingly agreed to this. Before long, Fantine lost everything, her hair, her health, her reputation, her virtue, her hope. As she is dying, Jean Valjean promises he will take care of Fantine’s daughter. With that promise upon his lips, Fantine dies in his arms. Through much trial and effort to get away from Javert, Jean Valjean makes his way to Montfermeil to find this child Cosette whom he has never met.
It is bitter cold. It is almost Christmas. Cosette, who is inadequately dressed for the season, was tasked to go bring water from the spring in the woods, a quarter of an hour’s journey from the Thénardiess’ inn. She is a thin and puny girl, malnourished and used to being beaten. She doesn’t know she has just lost her mother or if her mother even existed. She is making her way through the woods, in the darkness of late evening, to fetch a large bucket of water, heavier than she can carry. As she fills the bucket, and tries to lift it to carry all the way back to the inn, Jean Valjean is there, in the woods next to her and he silently took hold of the handle of the bucket and lifted it gently from her. She would no longer have to bear this burden ever again. That is the moment I love. It is the perfect symbol of mortality and the burdens that each of us carries. And truly, we are thin and puny as mortals and we have been beaten down by life and our burdens are too heavy—and the Lord is willing and ready to lift them from us so that we never have to bear them again. (See Hugo, Victor, Les Misérables, Signet Classic, New York City, 1987, pp. 394-398)
And I’m taken by the whole first ten verses of section 64, because here the Lord gives us a key to lifting some of our heaviest burdens. He starts out by revealing a mystery:
2 For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you. (Doctrine and Covenants 64:2)
Remember, this is the voice of Jesus Christ. He is the one who leads by example. He is the one who said in the Upper Room before His crucifixion:
33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer (in German, Scot, “sei Guten Mutes!”); I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
This is the same Jesus Christ who reminds us in our day:
41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me.
42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost. (Doctrine and Covenants 50: 41-42)
And remember, he said, “I will have compassion upon you.” And he then says in verse 4 of section 64:
4 I will be merciful unto you, for I have given unto you the kingdom. (Doctrine and Covenants 64: 4)
And with the compassion and mercy He is going to teach us how to be relieved of our burdens. He is going to silently reach down and take the handle of the heavy bucket full to overflowing.
That’s right. And look what He says next in verses 8-10, and this is one key to having our great and heavy burdens relieved:
8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that 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.
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (Doctrine and Covenants 64:8-10, emphasis added)
Notice that the disciples in His day were ‘afflicted and sorely chastened” because they did not forgive one another in their hearts.
We all carry heavy burdens in our hearts if we don’t forgive one another, burdens that we do not need to carry; burdens that the Lord is willing to carry if we will but give them to Him. This will bless our lives immeasurably.
So this scripture again: I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
Dr. Terry Warner wrote:
“This passage [of Doctrine and Covenants 64:8-10] makes at least three amazing statements:
1. When we refuse to forgive others, we do them wrong. We sin against them.
2. This causes us, who do the wrong, affliction. We are “sorely chastened” for it. We suffer from doing wrong to others…
3. The Lord counts refusal to forgive a greater sin than whatever trespass we are refusing to forgive.
“The first two of these three great truths can be expressed in this simple maxim: “It is not the wrong that others do to us that harms us most, but the harm we do to others.”
“We may find ourselves resisting these truths, especially if we have not yet fully forgiven those we believe have offended us. If I am unforgiving, I am certain the problems are the fault of others—those whom I refuse to forgive. “How false,” I will argue in my heart, “to say that I am responsible for my unhappiness! And how unfair, for I just know that I am the victim, that I am suffering. How can I be blamed if I am the victim? How can I forgive if I am the one who has suffered the wrong?
Terry Warner warned:
“In effect, I feel like I am being told, ‘If bad things have happened to you, it’s your fault.’ What of those who have suffered unspeakably in the Nazi death camps? What of children who undergo horrible abuse? What of any suffering at all? How could the victim be responsible?’”…
“Christ himself and Joseph sold into Egypt and Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail—great leaders eternally—and others that became known only accidentally, like Viktor Frankl and Corrie Ten Boom and Jacques Lusseyran, all of whom suffered in Nazi death camps. These suffered terribly, without recrimination or resentment. They sought no occasion in their hearts against their abusers but forgave, even in the very moment of their suffering. We have little to say about many of the events that befall us, but much to say about how we experience them, the meaning they have for us, how they will influence us.”
“Please appreciate the force of this distinction. It miraculously opens up a bright window of opportunity—the opportunity to forgive. It permits us to remember wrongs done to us without believing that they have damaged us irreparably, without feeling helpless or hopeless. We can remember those wrongs without retaliating in our hearts, without writhing in animosity and vengeance. Forgiving, we avoid doing ourselves terrible harm, and repenting of our refusal to forgive, we put an end to such harm.” (Terry Warner, Why We Forgive)
Hugh Nibley taught that there are only two things in this life that we can learn to do really well, and this is from a man who spoke 13 languages fluently, “we can learn to repent and forgive.”
But how far does this have to go, this commandment of the Lord: “…but of you it is required to forgive all men?’ Do we really have to forgive everyone? Aren’t there any exceptions?
When I was very young, I really never had any offences leveled against me—the nearest thing was maybe that I didn’t get invited to a dance when I thought I should have been or that someone didn’t notice my new dress. I really can’t think of a lot of times where I needed to implement forgiveness.
But as an adult life got very real. Are we to forgive the jerk who cuts us off—ON PURPOSE—in traffic so that he can get ahead or just to be mean? The answer is: Yes. Are we to forgive the person who backed into our brand-new car and left a nice big dent but didn’t even leave a note? Yes. Are we to forgive the person who cheated us out of a lot of money in our business and then left, never to be seen again? Yes. Are we supposed to forgive a child who sets aside all our teachings and a testimony of the gospel and then disdains us? Yes. Are we even to forgive someone who breaks into our house and steals things very precious to us? Yes. How about if we have been physically or sexually abused? Are we to forgive the perpetrator? Yes.
In his wonderful paper, Why We Forgive, Dr. Terry Warner taught:
“Many, including people who have been wronged in the most severe ways, have experienced the liberation of forgiveness. I was approached not long ago by a woman who six years earlier had recalled having been sexually abused by her father when she was a little girl. She had worked with a psychiatrist for much of those six years. In spite of her effort, she gained no relief, no healing. ‘I feel as if I am a set of pipes that are clogged,’ she said. ‘Life, the joy of life, does not flow through me.’
“I asked whether she had forgiven her father. She said she thought she had but wasn’t sure because she still had no peace. So, then I asked her this question: “Have you sought his forgiveness for your hard feelings, your resentment toward him all these years?” She had not. It had never occurred to her to do so. So I suggested that forgiveness consists not of forgetting what happened: it consists of repenting of unforgiving feelings about what happened.
“A light went on in her face. She pondered for a few moments and said, “I am going to do that.” The next day she told me she had written a letter to her father the night before, asking his forgiveness. She said: “I saw that by blaming him I was refusing to forgive and to admit that he too had suffered in his life and needed my compassion. And now that I have done this, I feel free for the first time in my life. This morning, life is flowing through me, and it is sweet.” Since then, she has written to me twice, letters filled with happiness. In one she said of her father, ‘Last week I even asked his advice, and he was shocked and pleased.’ (Terry Warner, Why We Forgive)
“Some, no doubt with good intentions, respond to abuse in a non-forgiving way, resolutely: or teach others to do so. Often they contend that some abuses are simply too heinous and horrible to be forgiven. It would be wrong, they say, to let the offenders off the hook. Or they say that the victims of such abuse cannot forgive, no matter how much they might wish to, because the damage inflicted is too great.
“I think this position presumes that forgiveness is designed to release the perpetrator from bondage, rather than the victim, as if the victim’s main concern were the moral standing of the perpetrator, rather than his or her own moral standing. Looked at in this way, forgiveness for abuse seems to concern what the perpetrator did, and forgiveness seems to require the victim to pretend the injury never happened. Impossible!
“But contrary to this misunderstanding, the freedom that forgiveness brings is not—at least initially—for the forgiven, but for the forgiver. It concerns not what the perpetrator did in the past but what the victim is doing now.
“Understood in this way, forgiveness releases us from the thrall and anguish of the resentment that accompanies our belief that we’ve been irreparably damaged. It becomes an opportunity for sweet liberation. The horror happened, yes. And by forgiveness we find consolation, meaning, increased sensitivity, purification and sanctification and Christ.”
“Forgiveness brings with it a marvelous transformation in our being. [And I love that statement, Maurine, ‘forgiveness brings with it a marvelous transformation of our being.”] It might be called the end of the worst, most damaging kind of affliction—or, equally the beginning of the most exalted joy. The possibility of this transformation is the gift of himself that Christ has given us. The price he paid for sin, including the greater sin of refusing to forgive, is infinite. And this means, among other things, that there exists no suffering that lies beyond his power to redeem, no sorrow that he cannot turn into joy. This means, and I put the case boldly that even the worst horrors perpetrated by humankind—the death camp tortures, the abuse of innocent ones, scalding hatred toward the perpetrators, anything—can all be redeemed on this simple condition: that the individual (whether the one who has suffered or the one who has made others to suffer) repent completely, which includes retaining in his or her heart no hardness toward any creature, no refusal to forgive.” (Ibid)
Let’s take this even further.
I’ll never forget when President James E. Faust taught this tender lesson in general conference:
“In the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, a devout group of Christian people live a simple life without automobiles, electricity, or modern machinery. They work hard and live quiet, peaceful lives separate from the world. Most of their food comes from their own farms. The women sew and knit and weave their clothing, which is modest and plain. They are known as the Amish people.
“A 32-year-old milk truck driver lived with his family in their Nickel Mines community. He was not Amish, but his pickup route took him to many Amish dairy farms, where he became known as the quiet milkman. Last October he suddenly lost all reason and control. In his tormented mind he blamed God for the death of his first child and some unsubstantiated memories. He stormed into the Amish school without any provocation, released the boys and adults, and tied up the 10 girls. He shot the girls, killing five and wounding five. Then he took his own life.
“This shocking violence caused great anguish among the Amish but no anger. There was hurt but no hate. Their forgiveness was immediate. Collectively they began to reach out to the milkman’s suffering family. As the milkman’s family gathered in his home the day after the shootings, an Amish neighbor came over, wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman, and said, “We will forgive you.” Amish leaders visited the milkman’s wife and children to extend their sympathy, their forgiveness, their help, and their love. About half of the mourners at the milkman’s funeral were Amish. In turn, the Amish invited the milkman’s family to attend the funeral services of the girls who had been killed. A remarkable peace settled on the Amish as their faith sustained them during this crisis.
“One local resident very eloquently summed up the aftermath of this tragedy when he said, “We were all speaking the same language, and not just English, but a language of caring, a language of community, [and] a language of service. And, yes, a language of forgiveness.” It was an amazing outpouring of their complete faith in the Lord’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
“The family of the milkman who killed the five girls released the following statement to the public:
“To our Amish friends, neighbors, and local community:
“Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. The prayers, flowers, cards, and gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.
“Please know that our hearts have been broken by all that has happened. We are filled with sorrow for all of our Amish neighbors whom we have loved and continue to love. We know that there are many hard days ahead for all the families who lost loved ones, and so we will continue to put our hope and trust in the God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives.”
President Faust continued:
“How could the whole Amish group manifest such an expression of forgiveness? It was because of their faith in God and trust in His word, which is part of their inner beings. They see themselves as disciples of Christ and want to follow His example.
“Hearing of this tragedy, many people sent money to the Amish to pay for the health care of the five surviving girls and for the burial expenses of the five who were killed.
As a further demonstration of their discipleship, the Amish decided to share some of the money with the widow of the milkman and her three children because they too were victims of this terrible tragedy.
“Forgiveness is not always instantaneous as it was with the Amish. When innocent children have been molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to “get even” with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family…
President Faust concluded:
“Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.
Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic.
Forgiveness comes more readily when, like the Amish, we have faith in God and trust in His word. Such faith ‘enables people to withstand the worst of humanity. It also enables people to look beyond themselves. More importantly, it enables them to forgive.”(Faust, James E., The Healing Power of Forgiveness, General Conference, April 2007)
The commandment from the Lord is clear: I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
And I think, Maurine, back to the very first part of this section, the mystery I was referring to is that as we forgive all men and women their trespasses and sins, this puts us on the path to be like the Savior and to overcome the world, like He did. And if we hold onto grudges, cling to resentments and carry the burdens of victimhood, we are essentially saying, “I don’t need the atonement. I want to carry these burdens myself. I am willing to hold onto all this pain and suffering and carry it through all my life. I know that you, Jesus, have said you will carry all our burdens and the weight of the injustice that has been leveled against is in this life, but no, I want to carry it myself.”
When I am carrying the heavy, oversized bucket of water from the spring deep in the woods in the middle of winter, and a very strong man takes the handle to carry it for me, I want to let go and let him carry it. It is too much for me. If I do not, that is essentially a mockery of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Let’s turn now to verse 33 of section 64:
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. (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33)
I have to remind myself of this verse of scripture often. Sometimes it feels like my efforts make no difference. Sometimes it feels like the things we do are like the tree that fall in the forest and there is no one there to even hear it fall. Was there any sound at all?
If you look closely at the first part of this verse you will see that this is a commandment: Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing. Most of us are deeply involved in well-doing. And many of us know the feeling of weariness that comes when it seems like what we are doing is going nowhere.
“Thomas Edison devoted ten years and all of his money to developing the nickel-alkaline storage battery at a time when he was almost penniless,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught.
“Through that period of time, his record and film production was supporting the storage battery effort. Then one night the terrifying cry of fire echoed through the film plant. Spontaneous combustion had ignited some chemicals. Within moments all of the packing compounds, celluloid for records, film, and other flammable goods had gone up with a roar. Fire companies from eight towns arrived, but the fire and heat were so intense and the water pressure so low that the fire hoses had no effect. Edison was sixty-seven years old—no age to begin anew. His son Charles was frantic, wondering if he were safe, if his spirits were broken, and how he would handle a crisis such as this at his age. Charles saw his father running toward him. He spoke first.
He said, “Where’s your mother? Go get her. Tell her to get her friends. They’ll never see another fire like this as long as they live!”
“At 5:30 the next morning, with the fire barely under control, he called his employees together and announced, “We’re rebuilding.” One man was told to lease all the machine shops in the area, another to obtain a wrecking crane from the Erie Railroad Company. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “Oh, by the way. Anybody know where we can get some money?” (Paraphrased from Charles Edison, “My Most Unforgettable Character,” Reader’s Digest, December 1961, pp. 175–77.)
“Virtually everything you now recognize as a Thomas Edison contribution to your life came after that disaster. Remember, “Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement— discouragement has a germ of its own.”
“A thousand examples could be given of continuing forward, being not weary in well-doing. This especially applies to parenting—and most especially to young mothers and fathers. When it seems like all you can see in your life is dirty diapers, dirty dishes and dirty windows, ‘be not weary in well-doing.’
“When it seems like you cannot make ends meet and all you can see before you is a car that does not work very well and you’re getting to the end of the last roll of duct tape—’be not weary in well-doing.’” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble”, BYU Speeches, Mar. 18, 1980).
I remember when many years ago we had our first cousins camp. We gathered all our grandchildren who were at least six years old and took them to the mountains and camped overnight away from their parents and away from the comforts of home. Maurine, you and I had prepared some stories and brought a couple of coolers of food and a Coleman Stove. It didn’t appear like we got much done in that overnight camp in the mountains. The tent got a couple of holes in it from the sparks in the fire. I think the zipper broke on that camp on our best tent. I remember the right side of the skillet on the Coleman was way too hot and I could seem to regulate it—so, I burned some of the French Toast. We didn’t have enough room in that camp—we needed more space. But I do remember there was a Spirit that came to everyone around that campfire as we told stories of faith from our own family history. It became an unforgettable experience and this next week we will be doing our 9th Annual Cousins Camp.
“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.”
Three of those grandchildren have graduated from high school. One is married and has given us our first great grandchild. One is preparing to go on a mission this fall. All of them are active in the Church and they actually ask us about cousins camp all year long. These are small examples but we continue to try to do our best and we do know that out of small things proceedeth that which is great. It is part of our hope. It is part of our family culture to see things this way. It is great wisdom in the Lord to command us to not be weary in well-doing.
Now, we live in very troubled times. As has been prophesied, “at that day shall [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:20) We see that very thing all around us and as President Nelson has recently said:
“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” (Nelson, Russell M., Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, General Conference, April 2018)
President Nelson also taught:
“The time is coming when those who do not obey the Lord will be separated from those who do (see Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–7). … The greatest gift you could give to the Lord is to keep yourself unspotted from the world, worthy to attend His holy house. His gift to you will be the peace and security of knowing that you are worthy to meet Him, whenever that time comes.” (Nelson, Russell M., The Future of the Church: Preparing the World for the Savior’s Second Coming. Ensign, April 2020)
In verse 41 and 42 of Section 64 we read:
41 For, behold, I say unto you that Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her;
42 And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.
Zion, or the pure in heart, can only flourish as we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in all things and as we do not weary in well-doing and that we are anxiously engaged in a good cause and bring to pass much righteousness of our own free will. (See Doctrine and Covenants 58:27)
In those early days of the Church there were just a lot of individuals who were learning to follow a prophet and who were striving to do something good in the world. It’s like one of President Monson’s favorite hymns said, and it was how he lived his life:
“Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped any one in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made some one feel glad?
If not I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?”
Let us forgive one another. Let us be about overcoming the world. Let us not be weary in well-doing—for we truly are laying the foundation of a great work.
That’s all for today. We’ve loved being with you and we want you to know that we know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and the principles and doctrines we have been teaching are true. We know this.
Next week our lesson will cover Doctrine and Covenants, sections 67 through 70 entitled “Worth…the Riches of the Whole Earth.” Thank you for joining us and thanks for Paul Cardall for the music and for Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing this podcast. Blessings to each of you and see you next time.