by Truman G. Madsen
President John Taylor sat in a meeting with the Twelve and asked his brethren for their vote to readmit into the Church a man who had disgraced the Church. What complicated the issue is that the man had committed a grievous sin while he had been a member of the Twelve. This is a former generation, lest you begin guessing.
He not only had committed the sin, but when confronted with it, in the presence of his brethren of the Twelve, had vehemently denied it. The sin he committed had been notorious. When finally he buckled and acknowledged it, he had been excommunicated.
Years had passed, I do not know the length of time. All I know is the time came when President Taylor felt this man should have the privilege of beginning over. He asked his brethren. At first there was some sense of: "Oh no, is he really ready?"
But eventually, all except Heber J. Grant, a man I love and honor, said yes. He alone said no. Later President Taylor said, "Why, Heber, why?" He replied, in effect, "Because he lied."
Then President Taylor said: "But Heber, how will you feel when you confront the Lord Jesus Christ hereafter, and it is clear that you were responsible for holding this man outside the Church?
That didn't slow President Grant down at all. He said, "Why, I will look him in the eye and say, I AM responsible for keeping that snake out of the Church!"
President Taylor smiled and said, "Well, Heber, stick to your convictions. Stick to them!"
President Grant went home that day and was waiting for lunch and opened the Doctrine and Covenants. "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men" (D&C 64:10)
That's tough enough. All is an inclusive word, isn't it. There is no exception, but it also says: ". . . he that forgiveth not his brother . . . standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin (D&C 64:9).
Greater than what? Are we to say, for example, that a woman who refuses to forgive her husband of adultery has committed a more serious sin than adultery? The sin of this man, who lied about it, was a moral sin; and yet taken at its face value, that verse seems to say: it's worse not to forgive.
One of the great things about President Grant is that when he knew he was wrong, he was wrong, and he was a practitioner of what Brigham Young called "instant repentance." He shut the book and knew what he needed to do.
He went right back down to the Church Office Building to see President Taylor. He explained to him that he had changed his mind and wanted this man baptized into the Church. President Taylor was pleased. He laughed his Lancashire British Santa Claus laugh and then said, "Heber, what happened?" and Heber explained.
"Heber, how did you feel this morning when you left me at the meeting? How did you feel about this brother?"
President Grant said, "I felt like I wanted to go out and knock him down."
"That's right. Now Heber, how do you feel now?"
He started to weep and said, "To tell the truth President Taylor, I hope the Lord will forgive the man."
And President Taylor said, "Heber, I didn't have to ask the Twelve whether Brother so-and-so can come back into the Church, but I put it to the vote so that you" - and I think he mentioned one or two others - "might learn what you have learned here today. This morning you did not have the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. This afternoon you do. Never forget that, Heber."
He had learned to forgive essentially because it was a commandment. It is in the scriptures. He had always sustained the scriptures. They said to forgive everyone, so he did.
But that's not quite the same thing as learning to forgive because you profoundly need forgiveness yourself.
The problem with being as good and righteous as Heber J. Grant is that you may lack compassion for those who have a problem being able to do what you find easy. But he later learned that compassion.
After he had found himself condemning one of his own brethren, accusing him and in effect saying "you are doing what is wrong," he was brought to realize that it was no longer the other man who was doing what was wrong. It was he himself.
Once he realized that, he went in abject humility, threw his arms around the man and pled to be forgiven. Heber asked the man for his encouragement and strength so he, Heber, might repent. Heber J. Grant was a more compassionate man, after that happened, than he was before.
(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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