This week I received a long message from a young Mormon man in Canada. In several thick paragraphs, he poured out his story—a story of an orthodox Mormon family wrecked by illness and addiction, of divorce, poverty, and growing up on the streets, of an overworked single mother and an oldest son looking out for disabled younger siblings, while taking abuse from his addict dad, who after much struggle is trying to get his life together.
“I’ve confessed all the details to my Bishop, to my mother, and to the Lord. The whole time I’ve had these experiences I’d managed to keep an image of calm, cool, collected maturity that masked the emotional and spiritual turmoil that was occurring within me. But I feel an immense amount of sorrow and shame.
“Thus, this leads me to my question: Am I still a good person, having strayed so far from the path? Will Heavenly Father be able to forgive me for my serious transgressions? I try to live my life in the pursuit of serving others and making others happy to make up for my shortcomings, but I feel that true forgiveness from Heavenly Father will be extraordinarily difficult, no matter how much I confess or repent. I just want you to help me on this one, help me set my mind straight. I sincerely apologize for the lengthiness of this question; I started to type and kept going and going. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
And he signed it: “Ashamed.”
Of course, I didn’t wait for the weekly column to write him back.
As soon as I read the message, I put the words right into my iPhone, right then, right there, from the heart and from experience:
“Dear one: Forgiveness is not something you earn. It is something you accept. God long ago forgave you. It may be that the abuse makes it difficult to feel the love. I feel a tremendous amount of love for you as a brother. I pray you can feel God’s love too. Walk on, head high, broken hearted one.”
That was all I could say, so choked up, I was. I wish I could offer more. Can you help, readers? Can you show “Ashamed” the love? If you’ve been there, what wisdom do you have to offer?