Obtaining True Forgiveness

In “Have I Truly Been Forgiven?“, Elder K. Brett Nattress states the “promise of complete and perfect forgiveness is made to everyone – in and through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ.” Obtaining true forgiveness, in my opinion, involves three phases: forgiveness from God, forgiveness of self, and forgiveness of others.

Forgiveness From God

The first phase of obtaining true forgiveness is receiving forgiveness from God. We do this through the process of repentance. The Gospel Topic on Repentance tells us that repentance is made up of these elements:

  1. Faith in our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
  2. Sorrow for sin
  3. Confession
  4. Abandonment of sin
  5. Restitution
  6. Righteous Living

Repentance is a process and we have been counseled by our living prophet, President Nelson, to experience the “joy of daily repentance”. Looking at the elements above, we see that there is both joy and sadness in the process. However, the feeling that one has been forgiven from God has no comparison in our lives.

I remember as a teenager a time where I needed to to be forgiven. We had a family outing and were enjoying potato chips when one of our aunts said “I hope you’re saving some of those for the rest of us”. Well, we had eaten all of the potato chips except for those that spilled on the floor. We hastily gathered those chips up and put them back in the bag. There weren’t a lot of them. My cousin then handed this bag to our aunt who thanked him for being kind and proceeded to eat the potato chips. At the time I didn’t think anything of it.

Not long after, that aunt was diagnosed with cancer. It had spread throughout her body and the doctors informed the family that she didn’t have long to live. I remembered my role in putting the potato chips back in the bag from the floor and wondered if that played a role in her getting cancer. It weighed heavily upon me.

I don’t remember how the conversation started, but my mom and I discussed what had happened and how I felt that we may have inadvertently caused my aunt’s cancer. My mom was one of the most loving people in the world. She had empathy for me and explained that what we had done did not cause the cancer. That was a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. I don’t recall if I ever got the opportunity to apologize to my aunt for the potato chips, but I do know that I had received a forgiveness for that action.

In the same way my mother empathized with me and explained to me that my actions had not caused my aunt’s cancer, Heavenly Father empathizes with us and forgives our sins. The repentance process is sometimes painful and can seem impossible, but with God all things are possible and we can be forgiven.

Forgiveness of Self

The second phase of obtaining true forgiveness is to forgive ourself. This is not always easy. I know that my mind will go back and relive times of sin and the guilt and hurt that they caused. Even knowing I have repented of my sins, I still harrow them up in my mind and cause myself to be tormented. This is not how Heavenly Father wants us to be. Once we have gone through the process of repentance, we should not look back, but forward.

How do we forgive ourselves? I believe that the last three elements of repentance spoken of above are the answer. By abandoning the sin, we remove the thing that has caused us guilt and grief. For those of us who have had an addiction, abandoning the sin may be a lifelong process. The temptations to fall back into addiction are great at times, and sometimes I have found myself slipping. I then have to rely on my faith in God and Christ and the knowledge that they are there to help me overcome what is happening. I have to remember that I have repented of those sins and that I am now stronger than before. I have to remember the joy I have felt being sin free and that if I stick to the course of abandoning those sins, I will be happy.

Making restitution for our sins allows us to remove self-inflicted guilt. There are different ways to make restitution for different sins. However, the act of making restitution coincides with the forgiveness received, not just from Heavenly Father, but also from those we may have harmed. Making restitution also allows us to participate in the work of the Savior to help God’s children come back to our Heavenly Home.

Finally, righteous living allows us to focus on the positive and not on the negative. This is huge when forgiving oneself. When we live the commandments and keep our covenants, we are blessed with the Holy Ghost. Christ’s peace is given unto us and we can live after the manner of happiness.

Elder Nattress states “President Russell M. Nelson taught, ‘Without the [Savior’s] infinite Atonement, all mankind would be lost.’ [We aren’t lost] to the Lord. He stands at the door to lift us, to strengthen us, and to forgive us. He always remembers to love us!” We should always remember to love ourselves.

Forgiveness of Others

In the Lord’s prayer we find these words “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In this verse, debts can also mean offenses, faults, or sins. The Lord is telling us that we will be forgiven to the degree we forgive others.

How hard is it to forgive others? At times it may seem impossible. There are debts, offenses, faults, or sins that are so great it can seem too much for us to forgive. However, we are “required to forgive all men” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).

As I said, this may not be easy. In the fall of 2020 I was let go from my position at work. I had spent twenty years at this company and had given them everything I could. In an instant it was no more. To say I was upset would be an understatement. I was bitter at the person who had decided that my job was no longer necessary.

I carried this weight for a couple of months as I tried to find new employment so that I could ensure my family’s well being. I would see posts on my social media timeline from them and the first thought was resentment.

I was once engaged in a conversation with a former teammate at the company and we were talking about my former manager. My teammate told me about a conversation where the manager asked her why I hadn’t been in contact with the manager and utilized the manager as a resource to find employment. I scoffed. Why would I go to the person who had singled me out of the team to have my position eliminated? I even “figured out” how it came to be that my spot was chosen for elimination. I did not want to forgive my former manager for upsetting my life.

I then realized that the only person I was causing bitterness and grief in was myself. I had to find a way to forgive the person for eliminating my position. I had to understand that there was really nothing I could do about, that my former manager wasn’t a bad or evil person, and that this was a business decision only. There was nothing personal in this and my manager didn’t want to cause me harm.

Once I started realizing this, I began to lose the bitterness I let build up inside me. I’d like to say that I’m 100% over this and have forgiven this person, but I’m not there yet. How do I know? Because I still have some feelings of resentment when I see posts about my former manager and my former company. They are becoming less intense, so I know I’m on my way to achieving a full forgiveness for what happened.


Obtaining true forgiveness involves active participation on our part. Receiving forgiveness from God, forgiving ourselves, and forgiving others allows us to remove the guilt, harm, and negative feelings associated with sin. Elder Nattress tells us that “there is always hope, there is always healing, and there is always a way back.” By obtaining true forgiveness we can have joy and live after the manner of happiness.

Tips for Teaching

When teaching on this topic, you may want to consider:

  1. Reviewing the topic of Repentance found in Gospel Topics. Ask why repentance is made up of the six elements found in the topic. Find out which topic the class feels would be most difficult and why.
  2. Discuss forgiving oneself. Why are we so hard on ourselves? What has God given us to help us forgive ourselves? You may want to point to a person’s Patriarchal Blessing as one source of how God views us.
  3. How can the forgiveness of others help us receive forgiveness? Is there an example in the life of Christ where He forgave others that had trespassed against Him? Discuss the obstacles to forgiving others and how those obstacles can be overcome.






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