Watching the news and reading my Facebook feed there seems to be a common thread lately—hurt. Some of the recent headlines have brought me to my knees asking what can be done and how can we better heal? Answers to my prayers often come in reading the scriptures. And the answers that have come, for both those hurt and those doing the hurting, was forgiveness.
The forgiveness message came to me from studying women in the scriptures—sisters that we have minimal details about. Yet, their daily realities, their hearts and souls, their lessons of forgiveness for others and for themselves seem to reach through time and teach me about today. Here are just two of those women who taught me powerful lessons of forgiveness.
How must it felt to be called the mother of all living? I feel overwhelmed with just the needs of my two children. Eve was in tune, obedient, and covenant keeping. When given the hard choice, Eve literally put family first.
In Moses 5:11–12 it says, “And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we should never have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
“And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.”
These scriptures show that Eve kept her covenants and taught her children. Did she rub her calloused hands and ache for the abundance and ease of their previous life in the Garden? It’s possible. But we also know that to Eve, the joy and learning that could only be experienced out of the Garden was worth the toil, heartache, and labor.
Eve saw her newborn son Cain as a gift from God. I speculate that Eve’s feelings were similar to my own when the doctors handed me my baby boy and I vowed to be the perfect mom, to sacrifice anything and give anything for this child. I was responsible for him—and mistakenly thought I was somehow in control of how his life would turn out.
But Eve learned by experience that all of her teaching, covenant keeping, and loving could not prevent the mistakes of her children. I can only imagine that Eve’s heart must have broken when Abel was slain and Cain was banished, cursed, and lost.
Despite her grief, we know from the scriptures that Eve remained faithful. Covenants and God must have been the only answers to restore and renew hope. I can only guess that she cried out to her Father in Heaven, pleading and wondering what more she could have, or should have done to teach Cain. What would Eve say to the mothers of offenders as they witness the aftermath and pain their children have caused? What would Eve teach all mothers about letting go of an ideal of perfection and receiving forgiveness?
What can Eve teach us?
* The power of the adversary is real, but God is bigger. Eve had faced the serpent and knew of his darkness and lies. She must have understood the battle her children also faced in the world and the mistakes they would inevitably make. Eve could literally testify of the grace and mercy she had received following her own transgressions, meaning that she was one of the first people on earth to not only require forgiveness but to receive it. It is important for us all to remember that forgiveness is possible and necessary, but only through God.
* Choice is the great teacher. Eve honored agency above all else. In partaking of the fruit in the garden, she literally voted again for choice. She knew, as mothers of today know, that no one could choose for her children. Eve was left to then choose God’s grace to heal. She knew that the best way to learn was in choosing and that choice only could happen with opposition. As mothers, we too can choose the tool of agency and prayerfully watch our children fall down and choose to receive grace as we patiently help them, and ourselves, learn to stand again and move forward.
* There is always hope. Eve had to go on, no matter what she had lost. She was the mother of all living, and quitting was not an option. Parenting can push us to our personal and emotional limits. Eve showed us by her example that we can go forward after a loss, but only with God. Mothers can go on as we receive forgiveness for those times we fall short and fall down.
* There is power in keeping covenants. In 1918, President Joseph F. Smith had a vision of Christ’s visit to the spirit world and His ministry among the faithful and noble spirits. It is recorded, “Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God” (D&C 138:38-39). I love to imagine Mother Eve, along with her faithful daughters, greeting the Savior. It brings me hope that one day, despite my shortcomings and challenges, if I keep my covenants, I will also be greeted by Mother Eve and my Heavenly Parents.
Another female scripture warrior is the wife of Nephi. We don’t know her name, but we know she was one of the five daughters of Ishmael. She must have not been too worried about the latest or greatest on Instagram, or she had developed the quality of obedience to her father to be able to leave her life in Jerusalem for a life in the wilderness.
She must have been a woman of great faith and strength, for she bore children in the wilderness and suffered great hardship. After 11+ years of wandering, countless conflicts with her brothers-in-law and her own sisters, and witnessing her husband being abused by his brothers, she got on a boat.
She watched as Laman and Lemuel tied her husband, Nephi, to a boat and suffered greatly. She saw the Liahona stop working and I’m sure experienced great fear as the storms tossed their ship. During this time, as her in-laws were almost dead from grief over the wicked actions of their eldest sons, Nephi’s wife began to pray. Eventually, after what must have been torturous days for Nephi’s wife, her husband was released from his bonds and the Liahona again began to work.
I imagine she must have fallen to her knees in gratitude as she saw the abundance of the promised land. As Nephi’s wife, she must have played a significant part in sustaining him, and now she must have hoped that since they had arrived in the promised land that her brothers-in-law and sisters had learned their lessons so all could start anew.
We do not know the specific role Nephi’s wife played in each of these emotionally charged Book of Mormon scenarios, but I sometimes wonder, how did she stay calm?
How did she survive raising kids in the wilderness? (She did it in a tent for 11 years and I am sure she has great ideas for keeping kids entertained on road trips!)
How did she keep forgiving her abusive brothers-in-law and trust her own sisters?
What can Nephi’s wife teach us?
* Don’t quit. There must’ve been countless times when she wanted to quit and go back. But it was the journey that helped them become and then receive the promises of the promised land. The advice I believe Nephi’s wife would give me is to keep moving forward, trusting God. Even when family members choose different paths and forgiveness is needed over and over again. God’s promises are sure, and we must forgive if we want to be forgiven.
* Don’t stop praying and being obedient even when, and especially when, you are hurting. Nephi’s wife literally saw the Liahona guiding Lehi’s tribe forward. She saw the word of the Lord upon the ball when they were obedient. She also witnessed the consequences of disobedience. She understood, as we need to, that it is important to keep praying for loved ones who use you, hurt you, and talk negatively about you. Because, in the end, hurt can only be healed with love, forgiveness, and the help of God.
* Keep a soft heart. Hard hearts keep you stuck. When we are abused and hurt, it is easy to try and prevent our hearts from aching by simply hardening our hearts. I believe we can learn from Nephi’s wife that a hard heart is not worth it because, without a heart open to forgiveness and love, you can’t recognize the miracles. She draws our attention back to the faith of her husband and reminds us that a soft heart is the secret to keeping the Spirit with you and forgiving others, no matter what is happening. Without a soft heart, Nephi’s wife may not have been able to cry out to God on the ship and pray. With a soft heart, she was able to praise God when they arrived in the promised land. Letting go of the bad allowed her to move forward and receive the promises of the promised land.
* Forgiveness sometimes means leaving. Nephi and his wife and other followers stayed with their rebellious family members as long as they could. Nephi always sorrowed at the choices of his brothers and their families. The scriptures show that he never stopped praying for them, and I think we can assume that his wife was often praying with him. I think one of the important lessons we learn from Nephi’s wife is that we need to stay close to the Lord always so if the time comes, after all our trying and forgiving, that God says it is time to leave an abusive or damaging relationship, we will have the Spirit with us to forgive once more and move forward.
The details of these women’s lives are not all in the scriptures, but the answers to the questions of my heart have truly come during my reading of their experiences. Spiritual impressions come in moments of pondering. And they are filled with unseen advice on subjects of loving and leaving, faith and forgiveness. Scriptures are for our day when the news seems to only tell of hurt and heartbreak, sin and selfishness.
The answers will come, often from the examples of our scripture sisters of the past. And what they teach us is the healing power of love and forgiveness, for this is who God is: “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:4).
Image from Getty Images
For more insights and stories of forgiveness, check out Ganel-Lyn Condie’s new book, I Can Forgive with God: Stories of Healing from Mormon Women, available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.