The Rattlesnake Bite

As one of our ward goals for the year is understanding repentance, I took notice of an article that my wife recently found, “Removing the Poison of an Unforgiving Spirit” by H. Burke Peterson (Ensign, Nov. 1983, 59). In the article, Bishop Peterson talks about the feelings we have all carried at one time or another:

“There are many today who harbor in the deep recesses of their hearts a canker, a hurt, a feeling of resentment, a dislike, or in some cases even a hate because of unpleasant experiences with past and present associations. Some have been taken advantage of in a business sense. Others have had their feelings hurt by neighbors, or relatives, or friends. A few have been lied to or had a trust of long standing betrayed. Some children, young and now grown, have been offended by harsh or dictatorial parents. Husbands and wives may have deep schisms between them caused by criticism and a resulting resentment. The list of sad experiences goes on and on—yes, it is too long.”

Then he tells of a group of teenagers who were picnicking outside of Phoenix in the desert and one of the girls in the group was bitten by a rattlesnake. After she was bitten, the others in the group, rather than starting to remove the venom from the wound, chased the snake for 15 or 20 minutes until they found it and took revenge by killing it. The girl had to go to the emergency room, and within a few days, her limb was destroyed by the venom and she had to have her leg amputated—all of which could have been avoided if those young friends tended the wound rather than following to their impulse for retribution.

Bishop Peterson concludes his talk with this advice:

“Now, brothers and sisters, let us go to our homes and dismiss from our beings—and purge from our souls—the venom of any feeling of ill will or bitterness toward anyone. Let us strike from our hearts the unwillingness to forgive and forget; and, instead, approach men in the spirit of the Master, even those who ‘despitefully use you.’ (Matt. 5:44.) Let us pray—rather, let us plead for the spirit of forgiveness. Let us look for the good in each other—not the flaws. The Master knew men’s lives would be changed more quickly and more surely by love than by criticism. In 1 John 4:19 we read: ‘We love him, because he first loved us.'”

May God give us all the strength to follow this sound and healing advice.

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