Literary BMGD #16: Forgiveness

John Lyon

John Lyon

The culmination of King Benjamin’s address to his people was the “mighty change” they experienced which led them to repent and covenant to keep the commandments and to seek to do good continually. While the scripture says that they “had no more disposition to do evil,” given the later history of this people, we might surmise that the disposition didn’t last. Nor did Benjamin expect that his people would remain sinless, but instead they would likely need a disposition to seek and obtain forgiveness. I suspect that one aspect of the “mighty change” described in the Book of Mormon is exactly that, seeking forgiveness for errors and sin.

So, perhaps we can see something of this “mighty change” in our attitude toward forgiveness. Do we quickly recognize error and seek forgiveness, or do we delay? Mormon poet John Lyon sees this kind of attitude in his poem on forgiveness:



by John Lyon

When I against the Lord transgress;

And none but he can know my secret sin,
Then I’ll repent, and strive his love to win;
By doing all that I’ve forgot to do,
And more devoutly, righteousness pursue;
Then shall I have forgiveness.
And should my folly cause distress,

To father, mother, sister, brother, friend;
I’ll run with speed, confess to each, and mend
The sinful breach, by new obedience I
All loss restoring, through the vile offence;
Then shall I have forgiveness.
Should love demand that I confess,

For open sin a public sense of grief;
I’ll humbly yield, if this should bring relief,
No matter what may be the penance; still,
I’ll strive the law of trespass to fulfil,
To gain from all, forgiveness.
Then shall my brethren love, and bless,

The penitent with heartfelt joy again,
While the recording angels sound the strain
Through brighter spheres: the sinner is forgiven,
And mercy, radiant with the smile of heaven,
Exults in God’s forgiveness.


Kilmarnoch, December 11th, 1846.

In many ways I like John Lyon better than his better-known contemporary and poetic foil, Eliza R. Snow. His poetry is often lighter and more approachable, covering subjects like currency and the death of a canary. Born in 1803, Lyon was largely self-taught, only learning to read at the age of 25, but nevertheless soon becoming an active literary participant, working for seven different newspapers in his native Scotland and assisting in the production of several anthologies of the work of other poets. He joined the LDS Church in 1844 and published his first LDS poem, “Man,” in the Millennial Star in 1845. By 1849, Mission President Orson Spencer lauded his work as “genius” and providing “unmistakable melody and power.” Lyon served an LDS mission in England, published a volume of poems, The Harp of Zion, and then immigrated to Utah, where he was made a patriarch in 1872. His Utah poems were published posthumously in the volume Songs of a Pioneer.

2 comments for “Literary BMGD #16: Forgiveness

  1. Thanks for this — I love it…

    I’m reminded that forgiveness works two ways — (1) I ask for forgiveness whenever I’ve done something to offend, as the poem suggests, but (2) I also freely forgive others who offend me even without their asking for forgiveness.

    When we see faults in others (individuals or institutions), we might be overlooking (2). Oh, the motes that we too often see in the beautiful eyes of others…

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