Seek forgiveness

True repentance and forgiveness are integral parts of an eternal plan that shows forth the love of God for His children. Mercifully, we can recognize and correct our wrongdoings and then seek forgiveness. Such a process makes us stronger in the long run.

Consider the case of William Wines Phelps, who was baptized a member of the Church in 1832. He was quickly recognized for his literary talents. His early experiences in the Church were dramatic as well as spiritual.He entered into the United Order and in 1838 sold off some of his properties without permission. Then, at Far West, Mo., he was entrusted with $2,000 that had been subscribed toward a temple there and appropriated it for his own purposes, putting the bishop under a heavy mortgage to recover the money. For this he was disfellowshipped on March 10, 1838.

He became one of the most bitter enemies of the Prophet and was among those who testified against Joseph Smith and his fellow prisoners in Liberty Jail. He also joined with others in whitewashing the proceedings of General Clark and his troops in their abusive treatment of the Saints at Far West. He was finally excommunicated on March 17, 1839.

About a month after his excommunication he had the nerve to write to the Prophet giving counsel on how some business matters of the Church should be handled.

The Prophet replied by letter, and among other things said: ". . . As we consider that we have already experienced much over-officiousness at your hands, concerning men and things pertaining to our concerns, we now request, once and for all, that you will avoid all interferences in our business or affairs from this time henceforth and forever. Amen."

The Prophet must have been hurt by Phelps' conduct because he wrote in a letter from Liberty Jail the following: ". . . We have waded through an ocean of tribulations and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill-bred and the ignorant, such as Hinkle, Corrill, Phelps and various others who are so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society. . . ."

But by the summer of 1840, Brother Phelps had experienced a mighty change of heart, and on June 29, 1840, wrote a letter of true repentance to the Prophet. On July 22, 1840, the Prophet wrote back the following: "Dear Brother Phelps: You may in some measure realize what my feelings, as well as Elder Rigdon's and Brother Hyrum's were when we read your letter.

"Truly our hearts were melted into tenderness and compassion when we ascertained your resolves, etc. I can assure you I feel a disposition to act on your case in a manner that will meet the approbation of Jehovah, (whose servant I am), and agreeable to the principles of truth and righteousness which have been revealed.

"And inasmuch as long-suffering, patience, and mercy have ever characterized the dealings of our Heavenly Father towards the humble and penitent, I feel disposed to copy the example, cherish the same principles and by so doing be a savior of my fellow men.

"It is true that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior - the cup of gall already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us.

"One with whom we had oft taken sweet counsel together, and enjoyed many refreshing seasons from the Lord - `had it been an enemy we could have borne it.' However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord. And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of God's dear children, and again take your stand among the saints of the Most High, and by diligence, humility, and love unfeigned, commend yourself to our God, and your God, and to the Church of Jesus Christ.

"Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.

"Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, for friends at first are friends again at last. Yours as ever. Joseph Smith, Jun."

Thus Brother Phelps returned and in June 1843 was rebaptized. He moved to Utah in 1848 and helped draft the constitution of the territory of Deseret. We remember him best today as the author of many hymns. The current hymnal contains 15 of his hymns, including such favorites as "O, God, the Eternal Father" and "Now Let Us Rejoice." But there is one in particular that has great meaning in light of all that had happened in his life. He wrote "Praise to the Man" as a glowing tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith, his friend who had forgiven him.

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