Like many, I'm still reeling from the knowledge of Friday's events.  Like many, it's tricky to put into words exactly how I'm feeling, exactly how much I want to hold my little ones close and never let go.  Like many, I've felt a mixture of grief, anger, sympathy, and fear these last couple of days.

I don't often discuss my faith on this blog, but it is incredibly important in my life.  In our church, I teach a lesson to the women's group once a month.  I was originally scheduled for last week, but we were out of town and I asked to switch, but keep the same lesson.  That meant that yesterday's topic was forgiveness.

I'm obviously not the parent of one of those dear children.  I haven't lost a child or sibling or friend.  I didn't know that young man or his family or their grief.  Yet I believe the timing of this lesson was a tender mercy from a loving Father in Heaven to remind those in our little community of some important blessings we can enjoy, especially during this Christmas season, because of the birth of a babe in Bethlehem.

I'm grateful I could prepare a special program on Christmas and forgiveness, even if I was by no means one of the most affected.  If you've been feeling the melancholy of the last few days as I have, I hope the below messages can provide comfort and peace to you as they have to me.


"Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as it applies to human relationships:
“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.” 5

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.” 1 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.” 2 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.” 3

“Come unto Him, all ye that labour, come unto Him that are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” 

(Matthew 11:28-29)

“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.

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men;”

(D&C 64:9-10)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, my servants, that inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you."

D&C 82:1

I would like to recount a story told by Kenneth J. Brown, who was serving as a U.S. Marine in Japan following the dropping of the bomb. His moving story about a Japanese Christian he met at Christmastime in Nagasaki is as follows.

“I watched him turn from the street and climb the path leading to our shelter. He was groping, hesitating. As he came near he folded his umbrella and stood quietly a long moment. His thin coat soon dampened from the cold rain that was falling from the same sky that had brought death to nearly half his townspeople three short months before. I concluded that it must take some special courage to confront one’s conquerors without invitation. It was little wonder that he hesitated.

“His polite bow to me was no bow of submission. Rather his squared shoulders and lifted head let me feel as if I were looking up at him even … though I towered over him a foot or more. I recall being disturbed that I hadn’t yet become used to the near sightless eyes of those who had looked heavenward that morning when the bomb dropped. …

“… I respectfully asked if I could be of service. [In his clear English] he introduced himself as Professor Iida. …
“‘I am Christian,’ he said. ‘I am told this is the head minister’s office. Are you a Christian? It is good to talk with a follower of Christ; there are so few Christian Japanese.’

“I took him to the inner office of the division chaplain and waited while the two men conversed. Professor Iida stated his request briefly. He was a teacher of music in a Christian girls’ college until it was closed by imperial command. … He had been imprisoned because of his professed Christianity. After being released he had returned to Nagasaki and continued his music instruction in his home even though it was forbidden. He had been able to continue a small chorus and would be pleased if … they [could] sing a concert for the American Marines.
“‘We know something of your American Christmases,’ he said. ‘We should like to do something to make your Christmas in Japan more enjoyable.’

“I felt sure the chaplain would give a negative reply. Our unit was one of hardened fighters, four years away from home, who had fought the enemy from Saipan to Iwo Jima. … Yet there was something about the man that bespoke sincere desire to do a good deed so that … permission was granted. The concert would be Christmas Eve.
“The rains had stopped and a calm settled over the atomic bowl reminiscent of the calm that night long ago. The concert was well attended; there was nothing else to do. The theater … had been cleared of its fallen roof and men were sitting on the jagged walls. The usual momentary hush fell over the audience as the performers filed on stage. …

“The first thing we noticed was that they were singing in English and we became aware that they didn’t understand the words but had memorized them for our benefit. Professor Iida had taught his students well; they sang beautifully. We sat enthralled as if a choir from heaven were singing for us. … It was as if Christ were being born anew that night.

“The closing number was a solo, an aria from ‘The Messiah.’ The girl sang with all the conviction of one who knew that Jesus was indeed the Savior of mankind and it brought tears. After that there was a full minute of silence followed by sustained applause as the small group took bow after bow.

“Later that night I helped Professor Iida take down the trimmings. I could not resist asking some questions that propriety forbade but curiosity demanded. I just had to know.

“‘How did your group manage to survive the bomb?’ I asked.

“‘This is only half my group,’ he said softly, but seemed unoffended at my recalling his grief so that I felt I could ask more.

“‘And what of the families of these?’

“‘They nearly all lost one or more members. Some are orphans.’

“‘What about the soloist? She must have the soul of an angel the way she sang.’

“‘Her mother, two of her brothers were taken. Yes, she did sing well; I am so proud of her. She is my daughter.’ …

“The next day was Christmas, the one I remember best. For that day I knew that Christianity had not failed in spite of people’s unwillingness to live His teachings. I had seen hatred give way to service, pain to rejoicing, sorrow to forgiveness. This was possible because a babe had been born in a manger [and] later taught love of God and fellowmen. We had caused them the greatest grief and yet we were their Christian brothers and as such they were willing to forget their grief and unite with us in singing ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.’

“The words of Miss Iida’s song testimony would not be stilled, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.’ They seemed to echo and re-echo over the half-dead city that day.

“That day also I knew that there was a greater power on earth than the atomic bomb.”
(James E. Faust, The Power of Peace)

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)


"I think [forgiveness] may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern. Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way."

(Gordon B. Hinckley, Forgiveness)

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him…Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

(Luke 23: 33-34)

Later when I was living in the Portland, Oregon, area, an urgent call came from a valued friend who had been bedfast for nearly a year.  Now his condition was critical.

He told me his family doctor had informed him earlier that afternoon that his life was nearing its end and that it was now only a matter of a day or two, or perhaps a week at the most, until he would expire.  Then he remarked: “The strange thing about this whole matter is that the doctors still do not know what is wrong with me.  They just know that I am dying.  Tonight I just felt that I wanted to visit with you before I prepare to meet my Maker.”

While continuing our conversation, I received a divine insight real problem was.  “Brother,” I responded, “I believe I know what is wrong.”  He seemed startled, but genuinely interested, as he urged, “Please tell me.”

“You’ve had a number of very serious hurts and disappointments in your life,” I said, “that have filled you with bitter resentment.  Many of these have never been resolved.”  He seemed incredulous and somewhat apprehensive as he inquired, “What do you know about them?”

“Not a thing,” I replied, “unless you tell me about them.  I only perceive that you have been deeply hurt many times.  Yet you have never forgiven those who were responsible for these offences.”

“Well, I must admit,” he countered, “that I have had some pretty bitter experiences.  But since I accepted the gospel, I believe that I could forgive those who were responsible if they asked for my forgiveness.”

“But that is not how the principle of forgiveness works,” I said.  “When any serious grievance takes place, the Lord requires us to forgive the guilty party the moment the infraction occurs, if possible.”

“Recently, I heard of an experience that was conducted [at the rattlesnake farm near Salem, Oregon],” I said.  One of the caretakers took one of his large rattlesnakes and put a forked stick behind its head so it could not coil to strike.  Then he began to tantalize it with small chicks and other food.  The snake kept trying to coil unsuccessfully, and venom dripped quite freely from its fangs.  Within minutes the snake stiffened and died.  The caretaker then commented that a rattlesnake can stand just about anything except its own venom.  When it cannot discharge the venom as fast as it is produced, it dies of its own accumulated poison.”

Then I suggested to my friend that his own condition somewhat paralleled that of the snake: “When you have any resentment, hurt, bitterness, or hatred in your heart, regardless of the cause, if you do not get rid of it at once through the spirit of forgiveness, the hatred will continue to fester and grow and increase, since that is the basic Law of the Harvest.  Unless contained, these negative feelings will finally consume and destroy the person who harbors them.  This is what has been troubling you and what, even now, has brought you to the point of death.

My friend began to sob unashamedly.  In the process he removed his nightshirt and showed me his bare back.  I had never seen a back like this, not even in the concentration camps of Europe.  Across his back were large crisscrossed scars that were scabbed over with ugly flesh.  Some of them were so deep a person could almost lay his arm in them.

Then he related to me how his father used to come home occasionally in a mean, drunken stupor.  His temper would flare up and he would take a heavy whip from the wall and flog whoever was within reach.  This whip, a “cat o’ nine tails,” was leather with several strands.  At the end of each strand was fastened a large brass ball with metal spikes that could tear the hid off an animal.

On one occasion my friend was the victim.  Just fourteen years old at the time he was whipped into unconsciousness.  How long he lay on the floor he did not know, but as he regained consciousness, he found himself lying in a pool of his own blood, with his back fairly torn to shreds.  He managed somehow to crawl from his house and he vowed he would never return.

At this point I interrupted, “You’ve kept that promise, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“You've Never forgiven your father for that flogging, have you?” I next inquired.
“No, I guess not,” was his reply. “But if dad were to ask for forgiveness, I think I could forgive him now.”
“I’m concerned,” I said, “that you still don’t understand the underlying principle.  You have had the divine responsibility of forgiving your father from the moment that you regained consciousness, so that the healing power of forgiveness could come into your own life and relieve you of this terrible burden.  In doing so, you might also have started the process of healing for your father as well.  But because you have continued to nurture this resentment, it has festered and grown until it is literally consuming you.  In addition, I feel you still have a number of other resentments against others that likewise have never been resolved.  These are adding to your burden and hastening your untimely death.”
My friend then recalled numerous other cases throughout Canada, Montana and the Pacific Northwest, none of which had been resolved.

“Where does your father live?” I asked next.
“The last I knew, he was living in North Dakota,” my friend responded.  “I haven’t seen him or been in touch with him for over forty years.”
When we finished talking, I invited him to sit upon a chair so I could give him a special blessing and outline for him what must be done.  In the blessing he was instructed to get out of bed the following morning, take his wife, and drive to his father’s home in North Dakota, with the assurance that his father was still alive.  He was also to drive to the homes of all the other people against whom he had resentments, no matter where they lived.
“In each case he was to ask for their forgiveness for having harbored resentments against them.  “Don’t go there and try to persuade them to beg for your forgiveness,” I admonished.  “Rather, your assignment is to ask their forgiveness for your having failed to make a reconciliation these many years.”  The blessing outlined how he was to ask for such forgiveness.  In addition, I blessed him with the necessary strength to accomplish this task successfully.

About four or five weeks later my friend stopped his car in our driveway.  As he stepped of his car, I greeted him with, “Brother, you’re a well man now, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he responded, “I haven’t felt this good in many years.”
He then began to relate to me his experiences.  He told me about his aged father, who was now in his eighties and nearly blind.  When his father came to the door, he inquired in his usual gruff manner, “Who are you?”
My friend informed him that he was his son.  Still rather brusquely, his father responded, “Well, what do you want now?”
My friend answered: “Dad, I have come home to ask for your forgiveness.  For years I have held a bitter resentment against you for what you did to me when I was a young man.  I had no right to feel resentment toward you.  Can you forgive me for holding a grudge all these years?”
He said that his father looked stunned for a moment.  Then he broke down and cried, threw his arms around his son, and sobbed, “Son, I’m the one who should have asked for your forgiveness, but I didn’t have the courage.  Can you forgive me?”
Then my friend added:  “You know, we made a complete reconciliation.  The spirit of peace and forgiveness flooded both of our lives.  I had a similar experience in every home I visited, as you directed me to do in my blessing.  Today I am a happy, healthy man.  I’m at peace with myself and with my Lord.”
“Within six months, my friend was the third-highest sales producer for the large life insurance company he represented.  Just before Christmas he and his wife were called to go on a special mission to New Zealand.  More than thirty years later, as far as I am aware, he is still very much alive, enjoying life and serving his fellow man.”

(Frederick and June Babbel, To Him that Believeth)
Rev'rently and meekly now,
Let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.

In this bread now blest for thee,
Emblem of my body see;
In this water or this wine,
Emblem of my blood divine.
Oh, remember what was done
That the sinner might be won.
On the cross of Calvary
I have suffered death for thee.

Bid thine heart all strife to cease;
With thy brethren be at peace.
Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be
E'en forgiven now by me.
In the solemn faith of prayer
Cast upon me all thy care,
And my Spirit's grace shall be
Like a fountain unto thee.

At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love that cannot end.
Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful evermore,
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.
(Joseph L. Townsend, Reverently and Meekly Now)
There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.

Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example which, if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.

Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.

Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.

Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.

Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.

Because He came, we are gathered tonight to worship Him, in bonds of brotherhood and love.

(Thomas S. Monson, "Because He Came")

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild 
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight 
Glories stream from heaven afar 
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah 
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God love's pure light 
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.


  1. Beautiful post. Thank you for the great reminder, especially at a time when it is so relevant.

  2. Your post is inspired, for so many reasons. Thank you Preethi.


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