“I was Surprised to Find Love in my Heart for Him”

A Miracle of Forgiveness

LDS_woman_photo_Qumsiyeh-1024x768This story comes from a remarkable pioneer in the church today, Sahar Qumsiyeh, who is the first Palestinian Mormon to go on a full time mission and is currently serving in London.   She was interviewed by the Mormon Women Project, and told this story of finding the ability to forgive her enemies through the love of Christ.

Dealing with the (Palestinian/Israeli) conflict has been a real challenge internally. I’ve seen a lot of injustices done to my people over the years: restricted travel and curfews, friends or relatives arrested or shot for no reason, humiliation, loss of identity, house demolitions. When I was 16 years old and attending Bethlehem University for my undergraduate degree, there was a demonstration on campus and some Israeli soldiers shot a student. The soldiers wouldn’t allow us to take him to a hospital. For two hours, he lay with a bullet hole in his head. That day, I developed feelings of hate towards the Israelis because of what I witnessed them do to my people. After I joined the Church, that hatred kind of dissolved, but I still didn’t love them.

One day when I was trying to go through the checkpoint to attend church, one of the Israeli soldiers told me to go back; he said I wasn’t allowed in. I looked into his eyes and remembered a scripture I read in Matthew that morning in which the Savior said, “Love your enemies.” It occurred to me that I didn’t love the Israelis, and it really bothered me that I could not obey one of the Savior’s commandments. I struggled with that and didn’t know how to overcome those feelings. I came across a scripture in Moroni—chapter 7, verse 48—which talks about charity as the pure love of Christ. It reads, “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.” I decided that this was the only way to gain love for my enemies; I couldn’t love them through my efforts alone. I needed help from my Savior who had perfect charity for everyone. He was able to love and forgive the very soldiers who crucified Him. If anyone knew how to love, He did, and I knew He could teach me. I decided to ask Heavenly Father to help me because living with anger and hatred damages the soul.

The Savior said, “Love your enemies.” It occurred to me that I didn’t love the Israelis, and it really bothered me that I could not obey one of the Savior’s commandments.

I prayed for this for a long time, and I thought He didn’t answer, because I didn’t notice a particular change. But about a year after I started praying, I was passing through one of the checkpoints and I looked into the eyes of a soldier (who told me to turn back) and felt an amazing love for him. I knew that we were all children of God, and we don’t have to hate the people who do bad things to us; we can just hate their actions, but we don’t have to hate the people themselves. It was a tremendous comfort to me to learn that when Heavenly Father tells us to do something, He provides a way for us to obey His commandments.

The Palestinians and Israelis are seeking to establish peace. In order to do that, they have met at a negotiation table for years. I believe the only true peace has to come from the Prince of Peace himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The peace that the Holy Ghost brought into my life after I was baptized has remained with me during days of trouble and conflict. The Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Only He can soften hearts, provide feelings of charity, and supply that peace that my country needs.



“I Could Forgive!”

A Heart Burdened by Years of Resentment Finally Set Free

forgivenessFinding the ability to forgive is one of the most beautiful miracles made possible through the Atonement of Christ.  This story comes from the August 2012 Ensign.

I could not keep my mind on the Relief Society lesson about Jesus Christ’s Atonement and the Resurrection. My mind kept returning to my need to forgive. I longed to feel the peace promised those who do. Instead, my emotions clamored whenever I thought of three individuals who had hurt my daughter Kaylee and me. I wanted to let go of the angry and resentful feelings I still harbored, but something always held me back—my sense that we could never regain what we had lost as a result of their actions.

I stewed about Kaylee’s second-grade teacher, whose insensitive behavior had caused long-term damage to her sense of self-worth and had torpedoed her desire to attend school. Throughout most of her elementary school years, Kaylee had an undiagnosed learning disorder, so she struggled with reading and mathematics. When she made mistakes, this teacher made Kaylee an example of poor performance. When I sent notes from home asking for help in coordinating her studies or to express a concern, he’d scoff and read them aloud so that Kaylee’s classmates could hear—a mortifying experience that brought teasing from her peers. In dismay, I watched my confident, happy child slowly crumble. Her love of learning evaporated. By the end of the school year, she resented school and believed she was too stupid to ever do well.

My resentment toward Kaylee’s former teacher was minuscule, however, compared to my feelings toward the man and woman who had sexually abused me decades earlier.

Through counseling with LDS Family Services, I had been able to work through much of my grieving and healing process. I had learned to dispel my skewed belief (common to many victims) that I could never be “good enough” to be loved by others. But to be fully healed, I needed to forgive.

I longed to let go of my hatred for those two people because I knew it was what my Savior wanted. I craved the peace He promised. But how could I forgive those perpetrators who had created so much pain? Their abuse had caused decades of emotional instability and inner turmoil that had negatively impacted my relationship with my husband and children. The betrayal of my trust and innocence had created a fear of ever becoming emotionally close to another person, including members of my own family, so I had built invisible walls around my heart through which others could not enter. I grieved the lost decades of close relationships.

I wanted to follow the Savior’s merciful example and genuinely forgive those who had hurt my daughter and me, but it was hard to set aside my anger at losing so much. For months I had prayed fervently for help and read many scriptures about forgiveness trying to determine how to forgive.

As I sat in the Relief Society room that day, I prayed earnestly, silently, that Heavenly Father would help me. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the instructor as she invited us to read a quotation from the Prophet Joseph Smith about the Resurrection. The quote began, “I am glad I have the privilege of communicating to you some things which, if grasped closely, will be a help to you when earthquakes bellow, the clouds gather, the lightnings flash, and the storms are ready to burst upon you like peals of thunder.”

As I pondered on this sentence, I looked for parallels between the Prophet’s words and my own life. “My emotions are stormy and broken,” I thought. “Because of others, I feel like my and Kaylee’s lives have been wrenched and divided by earthquakes.”

As I read further, I found hope in the Prophet Joseph’s exhortation to “lay hold of” hope in Christ and the joy that we anticipate in the Resurrection, for as Joseph Smith said, “What can [these disasters] do? Nothing. All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful.”As I read that last sentence, understanding came: The Lord would make up all my losses, all of Kaylee’s losses. I no longer needed to be angry. I no longer needed to mourn. Because of Him—because He would restore all that I’d lost—I could forgive! My heart surged with hope, and I smiled through tears of gratitude.

Kaylee’s former teacher lived nearby, and I encountered him often. In these encounters, he seemed unaware of the pain he had caused, and I tried to hide my resentment. Not long after the Relief Society lesson that touched me so deeply, I ran into him again and caught his eye. The forgiveness I’d been longing for washed through me. I forgave him. My burden of animosity fled.

I am still working to completely forgive those who abused me. I continue to focus on the Lord’s promise that all my losses will be made up to me, and forgiveness is growing in my heart. I am confident that as I try my best, the Lord will heal me of all resentment, and I will be free.