I was excommunicated from the Mormon Church 22 years ago. I was re-baptized in 1986, and have only now received the Lords priesthood. And yet I still don’t feel worthy to hold the keys of the priesthood. I have struggled so hard to get here. I have prayed and fasted, and still can’t forgive myself for my past. Can you give me any suggestions? Thanks for your time.
You are not alone. Self forgiveness for those who are blessed with humility and really want to do what is right is often not an easy thing to do. But when we understand the import of the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior and the infinite love that He and the Father have for those who strive to do their will, then it is not difficult at all, but becomes a natural thing for us to do.
First, let’s look at the import of the Savior’s sacrifice-
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58:42-43)
Now you have confessed and forsaken your sins, so the Lord does not, nor will not, bring them to mind. I think that Alma’s experience when he repented is very instructive-
Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36:18-20)
Alma’s sins were not trivial. He said of himself–
Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. (Alma 36:14)
Nevertheless, when he realized the import of the great atoning sacrifice, it wasn’t that he couldn’t remember what he had done, it just didn’t bother him- I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
Here is the thought- If you have repented, what you have done in the past is no longer a part of your character. If I were to ask you, “Would you do that sort of thing again?” what would be your answer? Probably, “I wouldn’t be caught dead doing such a thing!” which means that it’s no longer a part of your character. You may think of it as having been done by someone else-that other person that you used to be, but no longer are. That is the way that the Savior looks at it. He judges us as we are, not as we were. What would be the point of Him bringing up something from our past that no longer existed, and that was no longer a part of our character?
So the idea is just to let it go. I will give you an example that may be of help. Consider the young man who had just bought a new pair of shiny, black dress shoes, and after putting them on he went out and walked through the mud and got the shoes all dirty. Realizing what he had done, he returned home (by then the mud had dried), spread a newspaper on the kitchen table, got out a table knife and scraped all the dirt he could off the shoes. He then took the shoes to the sink and thoroughly washed off all the remaining dirt. Then he polished the shoes so that they looked like new. No one looking at the shoes could possibly tell that he had walked through the mud in them. Then the young man returned to the kitchen table, tore off a section of the newspaper, gathered all the dirt into that section, carefully folded it up and put it in his pocket. As he would walk along he would frequently pull the package from his pocket, carefully unfold it and looking at the dirt say, “What an awful thing to do! How dumb I was to do such a thing!”
The question is, what should he have done with that useless dirt? And the answer is obvious. There is also no point in carrying around with you and frequently reflecting on the dirt in your own past. It has no value whatsoever and you should just throw it away, as you would counsel the young man in the above example to do.