20 And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.
21 And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. And it came to pass that they did so. And after they had done praying unto the Lord we did again travel on our journey towards the tent of our father.
(1 Nephi 7:20-21)
Shortly after leaving Jerusalem with Ishmael’s family, Laman and Lemuel became angry with Nephi. They had decided that it would be better to remain in Jerusalem after all, and they resented Nephi disagreeing with them. Together with the sons of Ishmael, they tied Nephi up, intending to “leave [him] in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts” (1 Nephi 7:16). After Nephi was miraculously able to escape, and after several members of Ishmael’s family intervened on his behalf, Laman and Lemuel saw the error of their ways and begged for Nephi’s forgiveness. He described his response in these words: “I did frankly forgive them all they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness.”
I’ve been thinking today about Nephi’s use of the word “frankly” in that sentence. What does it mean? In an address offered jointly by Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe (the Sunday School General President at the time) and his wife, Sister Lolly S. Osguthorpe, they discussed the meaning of this phrase and its implications for us:
Sister Osguthorpe: The scriptures make it sound as if Nephi’s forgiveness was instant. There is no mention that he had to go think it over, no indication that he had to release his anger before he could forgive them, no hint that he had to present them with a set of conditions before he could forgive them. He just forgave them, no questions asked.
Elder Osguthorpe: When I began studying these verses, I wondered about the word frankly. We use the word frankly today to mean candidly or forthrightly. But this is not the full meaning of the word when Nephi used it. The word frank originally meant “to be free—free from enslavement, free from anxiety, unburdened, unrestricted, unconditional” (Oxford English Dictionary). In other words, Nephi forgave Laman and Lemuel totally, completely, nothing held back, no lingering resentment. He freely forgave them, just as the Lord freely forgives us of all of our sins and mistakes.
Sister Osguthorpe: Nephi freed his brothers from the burden of their sin. There is something liberating, amazingly liberating about such forgiveness. It frees the one who sinned, but it also frees the one who forgives. Forgiveness frees everyone involved when it is offered without restraint, with no conditions. I believe that it is one of the most exalted and exalting actions that anyone can experience in mortality (“I Did Frankly Forgive Them,” Brigham Young University Women’s Conference, 29 April 2011).
Today, I will strive to follow Nephi’s example of frank forgiveness. When I feel that I have been wronged, or even inconvenienced, I will be quick to forgive and to move on. Rather than carrying the burden of my unforgiveness, I will free both myself and the person who has harmed me so that we can both move forward unencumbered.