“Until then, my understanding of the Atonement was limited to repentance and forgiveness. I had been an active member of the Church all of my life—graduating from seminary, participating in institute, serving in a variety of callings, and raising my family to live by gospel standards—but I had never really understood the healing power of the Atonement. I had no idea how personal and penetrating it could be, no idea that it could heal my broken heart and take away the pain and hurt and anger and bitterness that I had been feeling for so many years.
Oh, how I wish I had understood that principle sooner! It wasn’t until I could give my pain and anguish to the Lord and let go of the wounds that had been festering within me that I could also begin to forgive my father and my brother. Then the real healing could start to take place.
It took some time to work through the issues that I was dealing with, but I began to feel peace in my life. Through my understanding of the Atonement, I was able to move past the crippling image I had created of myself and develop relationships with my family.
It was at this point that I had the previously mentioned discussion with the counselor in the stake presidency. It left me wondering if I had taken full advantage of the Atonement. For many years I had blamed my youthful mistakes on the fact that I had been abused. There were some unresolved sins in my life that I knew I needed to repent of in order to be completely healed. Moreover, I felt that my own repentance process was hinging on whether or not I could finally and completely forgive my father and my brother.
After some intense prayer and scripture study, I came to understand what I had to do to be healed from the wounds that had been inflicted on me. I spent several weeks tracking down people from my past that I had wronged in some way and trying to make restitution as best I could. It was not easy, but I knew that I was moving in the right direction in correcting things in my life. Once I was able to own my sins and quit blaming them on those who had hurt me, I was able to really let them go, to turn them over to the Lord and fully repent. Once again, I was amazed at the power of the Atonement to heal my soul and give me the strength to come unto the Savior.
Possibly the most amazing thing about this process has been watching the Lord work in my life. He has consistently placed me in situations that have led me to stretch myself and grow closer to Him. After talking to my stake priesthood leader and hearing his counsel, after visiting with my bishop and confessing my own sins, after contacting people I had not seen in 20 years and begging forgiveness from them, how could I not forgive those who had hurt me? The process of repenting reminded me that the power of the Atonement is not just for me but also for those who have committed sins against me. It is for the abused and the abuser alike.
No one heals from this type of abuse overnight. In fact, getting to the point in my life where I felt I could forgive those who had sinned against me took more than 20 years—20 years of actively trying to understand why these things had taken place and how I could get past them. It has been a long process to learn how to “come unto Christ,” but through that process, I have finally been able to allow Him to become, quite literally, my Savior and His grace was sufficient for me (see Moroni 10:30, 32).
I still have days when I struggle and wonder why I have had to deal with these things in my life. Even though I never would have chosen these experiences, I am grateful for my understanding of the Atonement and for the healing I have felt.”