Thursday, March 20, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Ben Hur & Forgiveness

I am going to try and start a new repeating blog entry here, where I put voice to some of the ideas and thoughts I have during the Sabbath. Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught that "The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts." It is from that teaching, obviously, that I take the title for this repeating entry.
[for more information on President Kimball, start
here. ]
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OK, so it's Thursday, but I've had this entry ready since Sunday.

It's a family tradition to watch Ben Hur on or around Easter each year. Well, we did so last night; the Horde loves to watch this genre: Ben Hur, Ten Commandments, Quo Vadis, etc.

While we're watching, my 7-year-old son says to me, "Dad, this scene [the chariot race] is just like the pod-racing scene in Star Wars." I looked at him in a little bit of shock, and agreed. "But Dad," he said, "this one's better, you know why?" I was intrigued and asked him why. "Because this one is real!" Out of the mouth of babes.

Anyway, as the movie ends, Charlton Heston Judah says to Esther, "Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Esther responds with, "Even then." And then Judah says, "Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand." This line hit me as it never had before.

[Aside: I must confess that I have never read this classic. I have two copies of Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ in my library; one that I found in a used book store was printed in -- I believe -- 1898. I have started it, but to my shame, I did not make it very far before the hassles of life pulled me away from it. I have searched and searched, however, and do not believe this line from the movie was lifted from the book. I could be wrong, though.]

This line got me thinking and reminded me of two things right off the bat. First was a talk given last year in LDS General Conference by President James E. Faust. His talk was entitled "The Healing Power of Forgiveness." [Full text can be found here.] Near the end of the talk, President Faust gave the following counsel:

"When tragedy strikes, we should not respond by seeking personal revenge but rather let justice take its course and then let go. It is not easy to let go and empty our hearts of festering resentment. The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. For all of us who forgive 'those who trespass against us,' even those who have committed serious crimes, the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort." [Citations omitted.]
It is not easy for the "natural man" to do this--casting out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. It was not easy for Judah Ben Hur; I know it is not easy for me. I sometimes find myself harboring a grudge like a private little treasure--something I can pull out from time to time and revel in it. "My precioussss......"

It is easy to cast it out, however, if we have the proper attitude, the proper change of heart. You could see it in Judah: he had watched an innocent man receive cruel treatment--true torture--and death by crucifixion. He heard and felt the Savior's last mortal moments on Earth. It moved him and allowed him to forgive and forget his anger. The sword was taken--figuratively speaking--out of his hand.

The second thing that came to mind was a passage of scripture: Alma 24:6-17
6 Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war....
8 And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts....
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
....
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
16 And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
17 And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man's blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
They too had felt the power of His word, they were changed by His word, and they had the sword taken out of their hands not just figuratively changed, but literally taken from their hands. They buried their swords and other weapons in the face of an approaching army. His voice gave them the courage and the peace of heart to do so. His voice gave them a change of heart.

I need that. I need to feel that. As I have gone back and read over President Faust's words again, I was struck by another passage. He said,
"If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become 'less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,' which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes 'that forgiveness...is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.'" [Citations omitted.]
I need that in my life. I need more self-esteem, more well-being, less anger, more hope, less depression, anxiety, and stress.

I need to be forgiven.

We need to forgive to be forgiven.

So, I need to let go of some things.

It may be a long list when I get through, but it's a list that needs to be made.

It may not be easy, but it is necessary.

And it needs to start now.

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