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David O. McKay Diaries – “Forgiveness”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Forgiveness.” You can view other subjects here.

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Wed., 16 May, 1956:

(Report on Clyde-Powell case)

President David O. McKay

May 16, 1956

President McKay reported an experience that he had yesterday, which he said was the culmination of a feud that has been going on between two of our brethren for several months, to his knowledge, and perhaps longer.  This feud was between a man by the name of Powell and a man by the name of Clyde.  Brother Powell lost his property through the foreclosure of a mortgage which he could not redeem.  Brother Clyde, a wealthy man, purchased the mortgage, and took possession of Brother Powells’ holdings.  Brother Powell was so reduced economically that he was about to lose his home.  He blamed Brother Clyde for his financial ruination, and threatened to kill Brother Clyde, and it seems made some attempt to do so.  The matter came before the First Presidency several months ago, and it had entered into a sort of legal question.  At that time President McKay made the remark that these brethren should be brought together, but the statement was made that it had gone too far and would have to be settled legally; that Brother Clyde was wholly in the right.

Notwithstanding this, President McKay asked that they be brought together; that each should see his bishop, and in the presence of the two bishops the two men should meet and present their difficulties and become reconciled.  This Brother Clyde refused to do, saying that he had been advised by his lawyer not to see Brother Powell; that his life was in danger.  President McKay asked Bishop Isaacson to see what he could to to bring them together.  Bishop Isaacson tried, but they refused to meet, and they also refused to see President McKay, although President McKay told them that he did not think that he should enter into the matter, that it should be settled by their bishops.

Bishop Isaacson persisted, and he learned that each one was carrying a gun, and that Brother Clyde had also hired a bodyguard who accompanied him during the day and remained with him during the night.  A few days ago Bishop Isaacson was successful in bringing them together.  Brother and Sister Powell had agreed to get their bishop and meet at an appointed place.  Brother Clyde had refused again, saying that he was advised not to do so because Brother Powell would kill him.  Bishop Isaacson persisted, and finally Brother Clyde said that if Bishop Isaacson would assume all responsibility to see that he was properly guarded he would do so.  Bishop Isaacson agreed.  Two officers were invited to search these men when they came together.  Sister Powell accompanied her husband, as did several other persons.  There were 12 or 14 in the group.  The officers, who were members of the Church, remained in the meeting.

At the beginning Bishop Isaacson said words to this effect:  ‘We all know why we have met here.  We are all members of the Church.  I am going to ask Bishop so and so to offer prayer.’  The bishop invoked the blessings of the Lord in a very feeling manner.  Following the prayer, Bishop Isaacson said, ‘Now, Brother Powell, in your estimation you have been wronged, and you think Brother Clyde is responsible for your financial condition.  You have lost everything you had, and you are about to lose your home, and you will be penniless.  Brother Clyde is justified in what he did.  Anyone would have done the same thing.  If the Church had been asked to take it they would have taken it, and it would not have helped you in any way because you could not meet your mortgage payments.  Now you have held hard feelings, bitter feelings, against the man who rightfully purchased the mortgage.  I am going to ask if you can in your heart ask Brother Clyde’s forgiveness for the harsh things you have said against him and for what you have threatened to do to him.  I am going to ask you to ask his forgiveness if you have it in your heart to do it.  If you have not, do not, but if you can now, after understanding all conditions, ask his forgiveness, I wish you would do it.  And Brother Clyde, if you can find it in your heart to accept that forgiveness and to forgive him, I wish you would do it.  Do not do it unless you can do it from your heart.’

Brother Powell arose, walked over and extended his hand to Brother Clyde, and asked to be forgiven for what he had said and the threats he had made against his life.  Brother Clyde accepted that forgiveness, and they not only shook hands but embraced each other.  Sister Powell arose afterwards and said that they had gone to the temple the day before in the hope that they would be humbled and would do the right thing.  She broke down and cried, and in fact, they were all in tears.

Bishop Isaacson then said to Brother Clyde, ‘You do not owe him anything legally, and probably not morally.  But here is a man who is losing his home.  You are wealthy.  If you can see a way to do anything to help him save his home, the Lord will bless you for it.  One of you will pass away, and when one goes, there will be one man sitting in that audience who will feel more sympathetic, more sorrowful at the passing of the other than any one else in the room.’  Then Brother Isaacson told the officers and the others that there was nothing further they could do, and that they would leave Brother and Sister Powell and Brother Clyde and their lawyers and others to settle the matter.

The upshot of it was that Brother Clyde wrote out a check for $8750 and some odd cents to clear the mortgage on Brother Powells’ home and gave it to him, and a check to pay a widow whom Brother Powell owed a certain amount, and they have settled their problems with good feelings, and Brother and Sister Powell went back to their home without fear of losing their equity in their home.

President McKay said he cited this experience as one of the most impressive examples that he knew of as to the value of the Savior’s injunction:  ‘Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’  (Matthew 5:23-24)”

Wed., 10 July, 1957:

“8:45 a.m.  Case of Joseph F. Smith III

Bishop Lowell Christensen of the Wakiki Ward, Honolulu Stake, called at the office.  He asked if Joseph F. Smith III may be given responsibility and assignment in the Ward.  Since no official action to excommunicate or disfellowship Brother Smith had ever been taken, and in view of the steadfast faithfulness of his wife and children, and the punishment Brother Smith has suffered; and that he has confessed, asked to be forgiven, and has forsaken his sins, the duty to forgive him was recognized.  I presented this matter at our meeting of the First Presidency this morning, and it was agreed that Bishop Christensen be so informed.

Later, when Bishop Christensen returned to the office, I told him of our decision this morning — that Brother Smith is to be forgiven and that he may now be given responsibility in the Ward.

Mon., 9 Dec., 1957:

“Pres. Jay A. Quealy – Honolulu Stake

Pres. Quealy came in regarding the reactivating of Joseph F. Smith.  I told Pres. Quealy that no formal action was taken when he was disfellowshipped, and that I think we should take no formal action of his participation.  Joseph F. Smith has a son on a mission, and Joseph F. Smith recently confessed to his wife and wrote a full confession to the First Presidency.  Now his youngest son is participating in Church activity.

I told Pres. Quealy that we would go this far — that he might use Joseph F. Smith as he (Pres. Quealy) thinks best under the circumstances.  That, however, is as far as I felt to go in the matter.”

Mon., 23 Dec., 1957:

“Telephone conversation with Elder Harold B. Lee, Monday, December 23, 1957.

Regarding:  Mrs. Lorraine Averett

Brother Lee:  I thought I should call you President about a very serious problem that involved Sister Averett when she was a young girl, 17 years of age.  At that time while working for a concern, she met a man who she did not know was married, and started a love match with him.  Finally she got in trouble, only to find out he was married.  She was caught in a trap.  She, at that time, had an abortion performed when she was three months along.  Later she married this man who in the meantime had divorced his wife.  He proved to be a beast, and has been married six or seven times since.  Later after she divorced him, she met a man by the name of Averett.  This man, at the time, and for sometime after their marriage, was not active in the Church, but later he found himself.  During this time she was very active.  They have done everything they can to try to undo the wrong of the years.  They have a family of four little girls besides a little child she had by this other man.  When she went to President Dyer for a temple recommend, she confessed to this serious mistake.  President Dyer not knowing of the policy of the Church wrote to the First Presidency.  He received a letter back telling of the seriousness of the matter.  They suggested that they wait.  This indicated to them that probably the door was open but not to become in a hurry.  Two years have passed during which time they have been very active.  This morning since they came to see me, I talked to President Dyer.  They are now here for the holidays.  They are anxious to know whether they can get into the temple.  They are moving to Santa Ana, California.  President Dyer says that they would have never suspected that there would be anything like this.  She has been one of the leading lights in the branch.  She was the chief means of activating her husband.  Instead of being embittered, they took it with humility and during the two years they have done all they knew how to do in order to justify their claim of worthiness to go the temple.  President Dyer feels to be lenient.  He is left without a sure answer because he does not know the ruling.

President McKay:  She was a young girl at the time, a member of the Church?

Brother Lee:  Yes, she was.  It was a lapse when she was not too active, but she was born and raised in the Church.

President McKay:  I remember the writing about this.  She did not know that he was married when she yielded to him.

Brother Lee:  When she found out, she was in trouble and presented the matter of marriage.  It was then he confessed that he was married.

President McKay:  Well, she has been more sinned against than sinned.

Brother Lee:  It seems so.

Brother Lee:  Her husband said to me this morning, ‘It seems that she should not be the one penalized because it was she who brought me into activity into the Church.’  The husband manifests a beautiful spirit towards his wife.

President McKay:  You interviewed her.  Well, I feel in my own feelings that we should not have them go to the new Bishop.  We should forgive her and put them in the hands of the Lord.  She has confessed.  They have done all they can.  Now let us give them a helping hand.

Brother Lee:  If you will let me say that to them, I will do it.  Thank you.

A joyous Christmas to you.

President McKay:  We spent until 12 o’clock last night reading Christmas cards.

Thank you for your card.  It has a beautiful picture on it.  I like to remember the Saviour on Christmas.

Brother Lee:  We also looked at cards last evening.  And one thing we discovered last night is that more of our cards had a religious sentiment than heretofore.

President McKay:  Ray and I made the same comment.  It is a good indication.

Brother Lee:  How are you feeling President?  Are you going to be able to get away for the holidays?

President McKay:  No.  I am going down to attend a groundbreaking ceremony.  A Bishop near Laguna Beach, California wrote to me about it.  We will try to get to Laguna.

Brother Lee:  Give our love to Sister McKay.

President McKay:  Thank you and give ours also to Sister Lee.”

Tues., 8 Nov. 1960:

“Principle of Repentance as it Pertains to Prospective Missionaries Who May Have Trangressed

At this point, the members of the Presiding Bishopric and counselors of Richard L. Evans withdrew from the meeting.  Elder Richard L. Evans was asked to remain for a discussion of the case of a missionary from Colorado, a convert of two or three years, who had been guilty of transgression two years ago.  Elder Evans’ careful interview with the missionary brought out the impression that the missionary had repented and that he is a young man of good character and should normally be recommended to be called as a missionary, though the views of others would seem to be that he should not be recommended for call.

President Moyle explained that he and Brother Evans meet the newly arrived missionaries at the Missionary Home Monday mornings and instructions are given in the importance of a clear conscience before they go to the Temple and into the Mission Field.  Missionaries needing to make confessions do so.  Missionaries who disclose transgressions are not now sent into the Mission Field, but are returned to their homes from the Mission Home.

I emphasized the importance of Repentance and the possibility of saving a soul.  I said that I think we are not justified in sending a boy home who makes a confession, and who has kept himself clean since his transgression.  If he has truly repented, we are not justified in prohibiting him from going on a mission.

I then said that if you brethren feel that this boy in question is telling the truth, and if we then refuse to let him go on his mission, I feel that we are doing him an injustice, and the Lord will not be pleased with us.  When we say we shall not send any boy on a mission, we are taking judgment into our hands, and that decision really belongs to the Lord.  If a boy lies, that is his responsibility, and he will not amount to anything here or anywhere else.

President Moyle then said that he felt that way yesterday morning, but that he did not tell them (the missionaries) that he who confesses and repents will be forgiven.

I said that I feel that that attitude is Christlike, and that I feel that He would do it.

Brother Evans said that the boy confessed and was repentant.

I said ‘Go thy way and sin no more.’

Brother Evans said, ‘That is my feeling, President; I feel that any time we close the door forever, we discourage repentance and confession and confidence.’

I said that if we do not forgive, then we do not acknowledge that there is power in repentance; that I think repentance is a most Godlike principle.  Of all principles, repentance is the most Godlike.  I then said that I think we had better have an understanding about this with the Twelve.

President Moyle said that it becomes a matter of discretion for the Twelve to determine whether the repentance is sincere, and if it is, then the missionary should be allowed to go on his mission.

I said that I could see no other way; otherwise, we become somewhat pharisaical in our judgment and condemn a soul irrespective of his desire to do right.  I said that I would let this boy who has confessed to go on his mission.

Tues., 15 Nov. 1960:

“4:30 p.m.

Conference with Elder Mark Petersen regarding Allan Howe, Chairman of the Young Democrats of Utah who has been excommunicated and now re-instated by baptism.  He is going to Washington, D.C. and would like to go in full fellowship in the Church.  After discussing the matter, I told Brother Petersen to bring the case up at our Council meeting next Thursday.”

Wed., 6 June 1962:

2)  Pleas ‘John Doyle Lee’ — About Restoration of His Blessings

The concluding three paragraphs in the book, ‘John Doyle Lee’ by Juanita Brooks, concerning the Mountain Meadow Massacre, as follows were read:

‘Through all the 84 years which have elapsed since the execution of John D. Lee, the dearest hope of his many descendants has been that his name should some day be cleared.  An action taken on Thursday, April 20, 1961, has made that hope a reality for them.

‘On that day the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve of the Mormon Church met in a joint session and ‘it was the action of the Council after considering all the facts available that authorization be given for the reinstatement to membership and former blessings to John D. Lee.

“On May 8 and 9 following, the necessary ordinances were performed in the Salt Lake Temple.’

I said the author had no right to include that in any book.  She was told not to do it, and that if she did the action might be rescinded.  It was agreed that no publicity be given to rescinding the action if this is done; that it would be ‘fanning the flame.’  We decided that the matter be left without further action, and I said that we will leave it just as it is.”

Fri., 29 Mar. 1963:

“9:00 a.m.

Went into the regular meeting of the First Presidency.  President Moyle was absent in London.

We first met with Elder Marion G. Romney, who reported a case of a missionary’s transgression and confession after he had listened to the Brethren instructing the missionaries before they go to the Temple.  After a discussion of the matter, I said that the Lord has said that if you sin and repent you should be forgiven, but if the sin is repeated you should be cut off.  This missionary has made confession, and that repentance should be accepted, but he should be made to realize his responsibility to be honorable in the performance of his mission, and that he goes with our trust.  I advised that the young man tell the young woman to come to Brother Romney, also, because she is a part of the responsibility.