Steven M. Sandberg, BYU General Counsel and assistant to the president, delivered Tuesday’s campus Devotional address. He spoke about the importance of forgiving others and ourselves.
Sandberg shared two stories about forgiveness:
The first story was about a woman named Victoria. While she was driving home from a concert in November 2004, a 20-pound turkey suddenly smashed through her windshield. The turkey had been thrown from a car traveling in the opposite direction. Victoria suffered serious injuries, including a crushed jaw, a fractured eye-socket and significant brain trauma. She woke up weeks later in a rehabilitation hospital.
Victoria reached out to the lawyers of her attacker, an 18-year-old college freshman, and helped lower his sentence from 25 years in prison to six months. After serving his sentence, the two became friends and helped share their message of empathy and forgiveness by co-authoring a book.
The second story featured a man named Chris. An intoxicated 17-year-old driver crashed into the car Chris was driving, killing his wife and two of Chris's children. Chris made an effort to go to the juvenile detention facility, where the driver was being held. The driver asked Chris how he could forgive him for the pain he had caused his family. Chris’s replied, “If there is anything you have seen me do or heard me say or have read about me regarding forgiveness, you should know that it was merely the Savior working through me.”
“The way forward is to follow Jesus Christ,” Sandberg said. “And often it’s forgiving others that helps us and others come into the light.”
As a student at BYU, Sandberg played the role of Malcolm in a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The actors were given real swords to use as part of their costumes. In one scene, the group of soldiers celebrated, and Sandberg pumped his fist in the air forgetting he had a sword in his hand. His action resulted in the accident slicing of his fellow actor's face. Though the cut could have been much worse, Sandberg was mortified about the accident. His horror turned to shock when his friend was able to forgive him so quickly.
As a lawyer, Sandberg explained the difference in the punishments for various crimes. When there is “malice aforethought” and something is done intentionally, the accompanying punishments will be harsher than if the pain was unintentional. There are distinctions for punishments when something is done knowingly, recklessly or negligently. Within the gospel, Sandberg pointed out that the reason why something happened doesn’t determine whether or not a person is forgiven.
“It doesn’t matter why or how the frozen turkey or the swerving vehicle or the sword affects our life,” Sandberg said. “The commandment to forgive all men doesn’t have a caveat. It doesn’t have an asterisk with a footnote saying, except when for when it was really and intentionally cruel.”
The commandment to forgive all men includes forgiving ourselves.
Sandberg taught that one effective way to learn to do this is to picture what you might say to a close friend or loved one in a similar situation.
“You would sit with them in empathy,” he said. “You would offer them words of hope. You would point out their strengths and remind them that they are loved. I know Christ would do this for you if He sat beside you.”
Through Jesus Christ, forgiveness is made possible. He invites us to be a light to others by forgiving them of their shortcomings.
"We are all broken and utterly dependent on the Savior for forgiveness of our sins. And it can be our mistakes, our misfortunes, our missed opportunities, our trying times, even our tragedies that bind us together in forgiveness and love when we choose to forgive others and ourselves,” Sandberg said. “We can be better and do better as we follow Jesus Christ.”
Next Devotional: Jack N. Gerard, General Authority Seventy
Elder Jack N. Gerard, of the General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will deliver the Devotional on Tuesday, March 17, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.
His remarks will also be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio and will be archived on speeches.byu.edu.