As a necessary disclaimer, there are times that we need to leave a relationship or situation for our physical or mental safety.  Our obligation to forgive a perpetrator does not require us to remain in an abusive relationship.  There are other, less extreme, cases where we simply need to “move on.”  See When friends turn against you.  But even in extreme cases, we need to forgive our “brothers.”

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Matthew 18

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

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Jesus used 490 times as an arbitrarily high number to make a point.   A common interpretation is that this meant 490 separate offenses from the “brother.”   Be that as it may, 490 times could also apply to a single offense.  We may have a sincere, righteous desire to forgive someone who hurts us.  We may pray for that person.  We may feel that we really have forgiven him or her.  But then, maybe a week later, some event or thought may trigger us to relive all of the emotional pain and anger.  Then we must nearly start the forgiveness process anew.   Perhaps Jesus also taught that it might take up to 490 cycles to complete the forgiveness and healing process for just the one offence.

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There is no use talking as if forgiveness were easy.     – C.S. Lewis

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– Tom Irvine


Matthew 15

21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

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Jesus broke a lower law in order to keep the higher one of mercy.

– Tom Irvine

Eli was the High Priest of Shiloh and also a Judge of Israel.  He was also the “Prophet.”

Eli faithfully served as a father figure to Samuel. He also had the wisdom and inspiration to realize that Samuel should be the next high priest, rather than one of Eli’s own sons.

Eli was a righteous man but had a tragic flaw. His sons Hophni and Phinehas behaved wickedly by taking for themselves all the prime cuts of meat from sacrifices, and by committing adultery with the women who served at the sanctuary entrance.

Eli became aware of their behavior but rebuked them too lightly and ultimately did not stop them.

Eli’s sons continued their sinful behavior. Samuel prophesied that Eli and his family would be punished for this, with all male descendants dying before reaching old age and being placed in positions subservient to prophets from other lineages. Eli’s sons were ultimately killed in battle against the Philistines. The Philistines also captured the Ark of the Covenant. Eli fell backwards out of his chair and died from a broken neck upon learning of this awful news.

There are several lessons from Eli’s tragic life. Among others, it is a calamitous example of a leader’s failure to stop sexual abuse committed by those who serve under him.

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

God’s Love

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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Psalm 136:26

O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.
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Romans 5:8

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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People argue whether God’s love for us is conditional or unconditional. But I say, Who is man to set bounds on God’s love?

– Tom Irvine

First Law of Heaven

There is a widely-taught principle in my church that “Obedience is the first law of heaven.”   This may have been an extrapolation from Alexander Pope’s quote that “Order is heaven’s first law.”  But discernment must precede obedience.

The Lord placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.   The two were in a childlike state of innocence.  Even so, the Lord gave them a dilemma.  Note that Eve’s original name was “Woman.”  She did not receive the name Eve until she and Adam were being cast out of the Garden per the Genesis account.

Genesis 1

[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
[28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 2

[15] And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
[17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

[20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
[22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
[23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

The “Serpent” then appears to the Woman by herself.  He tempts her to eat of the fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”   There is an exegesis in the teachings of my church that the Serpent actually reasoned  with the Woman.  She came to realize that she must partake of the forbidden fruit in order to gain knowledge, progress and bear children.  She thus partook.  She then plead with Adam that he must also eat the fruit for these same reasons and reminded him that the Lord instructed them that they should remain together.  And Adam did eat.

This action brought about the course of human history.  The Lord appeared to Adam and the Woman to pronounce the consequences which included…

Genesis 3

[16] Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
[17] And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
[18] Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
[19] In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

It was on the verge of the pair being cast out of the Garden that the Woman became Eve.

[20] And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

The simple explanation is that Adam and Eve did not have the power of procreation until they had eaten the forbidden fruit and were cast out of the Garden.  In order to keep the law of “multiplying and replenishing the earth,”  they had to break the law of abstaining from the forbidden fruit.   Keeping the one commandment meant breaking the other.

Even in their childlike state, Adam and Eve had to develop and exercise reason and discernment.  They had to differentiate between a higher and lesser law.

So must we at times throughout our lives.

– Tom Irvine

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Quoted by:

President Thomas S. Monson, BYU Devotional Be a Light to the World, November 1, 2011

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“God left the world unfinished; the pictures unpainted,
the songs unsung, and the problems unsolved,
that man might know the joys of creation.”

Thomas S. Monson, In Quest of the Abundant Life, March 1988.

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Unlike toy boats, we have been provided divine attributes to guide our journey. We enter mortality not to float with the moving currents of life but with the power to think, to reason, and to achieve.

Thomas S. Monson, The Race of Life, April 2012

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President Thomas S. Monson has used the following story in several of his talks. See for example: The Three Rs of Choice, October 2010.

Let us not find ourselves as indecisive as is Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You will remember that she comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom Alice asks, “Which path shall I follow?”

The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”

Unlike Alice, we all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for by choosing our path, we choose our destination.

Work & Self Reliance

“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine, great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …

“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.

“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a hand-out.

“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?

“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.” (“Fable of the Gullible Gull,” Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1950, p. 32.)

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Genesis 3

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

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Proverbs 14

23 In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.

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Thessalonians 3

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

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– Tom Irvine