It is said of the Sermon on the Mount, that it is perhaps the greatest, most significant and important sermon ever given. It certainly seemed to be the beginning of many things to be preached that would not replace, but fulfill the law of Moses. In its day it must have seemed revolutionary to those anxious for change, threatening to the empowered class of the time, and liberating for all those who awaited the breaking of chains that would be ushered in with the coming of the Messiah. There is so much to be treasured from those counsels offered on a hillside above the Sea of Galilee, as can be read in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. I cannot value one part above another, but Jesus’ words on forgiveness, those healing balms that cure the heart of the forgiver, as well as the forgiven, have salved my heart since youth.
When I was a senior in high school I excitedly awaited the day of graduation. My friends and I looked with anticipation toward the opportunity to walk on graduation day, and celebrate together the end of an era. In the last months of school, two of my close friends, in separate incidences, had gotten themselves into serious trouble at the school and were being disallowed from participation in our graduation. Their deeds were serious and in need of correction, nevertheless this was heartbreaking for us.
These were not only school friends, who I had known for many years, but I was also associated with them in our local church congregation. I was a youth assistant to our bishop in the priest quorum, and that made me in part responsible to these young men. I knew they had done wrong and needed to pay the consequences of their mistakes, but I also knew their hearts and did not want the full weight of their deeds to have so great affect at this time in our young lives. What could I do?
Some weeks later, prior to graduation, I went to visit my school’s principal in my capacity as the bishop’s assistant. I plead with him to allow me to vouch for them and their desire to make right the wrongs which they had committed. Mr. Haro listened kindly with loving respect as I spoke on behalf of my friends and fellow quorum members. He declared my action admirable, but said the boys would have to pay the price of their actions. I returned his kindness with gratitude for hearing me out. It was a very positive and uplifting experience, but it still had not accomplished the goal I wished.
The week before graduation I had the opportunity to be the final student speaker at a school graduation related Christian religious service called Baccalaureate. It was quite remarkable that I was selected to speak since my faith was considered by the faculty member in charge of the service not to be Christian. I was required to strictly use only Biblical references, and my written text had to be approved by the school counselor in advance. It was approved.
I prayed to know on what topic I should speak, and I felt inspired, directed, to speak on forgiveness.
The school’s principal was there, as well as hundreds of other faculty, students, parents and community religious leaders. As I recall, only my two friends who were barred from graduation activities were unable to attend. After musical performances and the uplifting words of seven of my classmates, who happened to be young women, I arose to speak to the large gathering, just before a local pastor, Reverend Kenneth Passmore, gave the keynote address.
With power and authority, I declared Christ’s teaching of the healing power of forgiveness, and of His great atoning sacrifice, that requires we forgive all men their trespasses. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
I declared to the outdoor gathering on a grassy slope alongside the flowing Kings River, “Christ has taught us that we should forgive those who trespass against us. Without this forgiveness given, we shall be alone and unforgiven. We shall live a life of prejudice, and an eternity of sorrow. This is far too great a price to pay for revenge or self-satisfaction.”
After the service concluded, I received kind words and compliments from many. One good older woman with a cane compared my sermon positively with that of the pastor, which I felt was very high praise. “Your speech matched right up there with the pastor’s.”
One happy coincidence is that the man who gave the keynote address happened to be the pastor of a little freshman girl named Monica Maleksalehi. I went on my first date with her three years later, and you can figure out the rest. Suffice it to say that I once more shared, many years later, the pulpit with that good reverend at the funeral service of my wife’s grandmother, Flora.
Another wonderfully positive experience for which I was grateful was a very kind exchange I had with a longtime friend. He and I had a falling out some weeks before, and we were no longer on the friendly terms which we had always enjoyed. James came up to me with tears in his eyes and a warm embrace. “Thank you, Danny! That hit me where I needed it. I truly heard what you said. I’m sorry about the way I’ve acted.” All was well again.
A second miracle occurred, one that I had not anticipated, nevertheless, one that was carefully prepared to occur by the guiding hand of the Lord. The miracle was in the sensitive and generous heart of my principal John Haro. He came with tears in his eyes and said, “I really listened to your speech on forgiveness, Danny. I think your friends will graduate with the class on Friday.” He experienced the healing power of forgiveness, and we all benefited from it.
I look back upon those events so many years ago, and I know that the Lord was teaching me even then of the importance of forgiveness and its healing power. Here are two gems of counsel I encourage you to embrace. The first is from the Lord: “Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The second is from religious leader President James E. Faust: “If we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us” (General Conference, April 2007).
“If we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us.”
President James E. Faust
I am so grateful for the healing power of forgiveness. I have been witness all of my life to the effect of the Lord’s teachings and His atoning sacrifice that we might forgive, and be forgiven. I implore you to forgive. Forgive now. Explore the cavernous depths of your hearts and find place to forgive the trespasses of our family members, our friends, of our fellowmen. It will not be easy. Some will offend over and over again. Some may never again in this life warrant our trust, but never will you regret forgiving and receiving forgiveness. I know that if we appeal to God, He will show us the path to finding peace in forgiveness, and with that same mercy offered, we shall be blessed. This is my personal witness that Jesus Christ is the answer to our prayers for peace, and following His command to forgive will reward us on earth and in heaven. May we be forgiven of our trespasses, and find way to be as generous to others. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
“Forgiveness” — Baccalaureate Speech — By Daniel Joseph Malcolm — June 6, 1982
I am sure that I can speak for both Pastor Passmore and myself when I say it is an honor to share the podium with such a lovely host of ladies.
Fellow classmates, parents, teachers, administrators, and all others who might be listening this evening.
I feel a very strong need to speak on forgiveness, our forgiveness for one another.
In Saint Matthew, chapter 5, verses 43 and 44, Jesus clearly states during His Sermon on the Mount, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
It was taught by Christ that we should love our enemies. Later in chapter 6, verses 14 and 15, Jesus teaches, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Christ has taught us that we should forgive those who trespass against us. Without this forgiveness given, we shall be alone and unforgiven. We shall live a life of prejudice, and an eternity of sorrow. This is far too great a price to pay for revenge or self-satisfaction.
Among this group there are many dear friends, many bitter enemies, and a whole lot in between. I take this time now to implore you to make right what is wrong between so many, and to strengthen our friendships. Forgive! Forgive now!
Our time together is growing so short. We graduate in less than a week. This may be the last chance that many of us have to make things right. Forgive your enemies, and through the love of Christ make them your eternal friends. Make sure your friends know how much you love them and cherish their friendship.
I’ll ask you to remember one last thing.
His friend betrayed Him. His even closer friend denied Him. His brothers put Him in chains, whipped and beat Him, and spat upon Him. Then those He loved so dearly hammered nails into the flesh of His wrists and feet onto a cross, and hung Him up for public display. And upon this cross under death’s shadow, in all His agony, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
It is my prayer that we shall spend this final week making right what has been wrong. And if I have offended any of you, please forgive me. I love you all so dearly. Thank you all for all you have done for me. God bless you all. In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
Personal Words of Testimony Written in My Journal — June 1982
I thank my Father in Heaven for the guidance I received in preparing this speech. I found this topic by kneeling and asking for guidance, and in doing so I received it. I then opened the Scriptures at random and the first scripture I saw on the first page I opened to was Saint Matthew 6:14-15. I bear witness that as I wrote and gave the speech I was inspired. Inspired so that tears flowed from my eyes and my body trembled, mostly so when I read the account of the crucifixion of my elder brother. Thank Thee O God the Eternal Father. Daniel Joseph Malcolm — June 1982