Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, exemplified the power of forgiveness in an incident involving William W. Phelps, who signed his name to a false affidavit which was used as evidence in the imprisonment. William eventually felt great remorse and asked Joseph to forgive him. He wrote to Joseph: "I have seen the folly of my way and tremble at the gulf I have passed. I have done wrong, and I am sorry. The beam is in my own eye. I ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ of all the Saints. For I will do right, God helping me. I want your fellowship, for we are brethren, and our communion used to be sweet."'
Joseph Smith's reply reveals the enlightened qualities of love and forgiveness. He wrote the following reply to William W. Phelp's request: "I feel a disposition to act on your case in a manner that will meet the approbation of Jehovah, whose servant I am. Believing your confession to be real and your repentance genuine. I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship and rejoice over the returning prodigal. Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, for friends at first are friends again at last."
Joseph Smith taught, "And should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repents, and asks forgiveness, our Heavenly Father would be equally merciful to us."
On March 24, 1832, an angry mob dragged Joseph Smith from his home, beat him severely, and left him covered with tar and feathers. Joseph spoke with a slight lisp the rest of his life because of a tooth that was chipped during that assault. "My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body," Joseph later recalled. The following morning being the Sabbath, the Saints gathered, and among them were many from the previous night's mob. Joseph paid them no heed. "With my flesh all scarified and defaced," he noted, "I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals."
Joseph Smith taught his followers to seek to have faith, hope, and charity, the pure love of Christ. He taught that people should lead "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned." Joseph Smith's love for the people grew out of his service to them. "It is a time-honored adage," he taught, "that love begets love. Let us pour forth love - show forth our kindness unto all mankind, and the Lord will reward us with everlasting increase."
Before he was killed, he said, "I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men." He said, "I am a lover of the cause of Christ." Today his followers number thirteen million. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they believe that we can be together as families forever as we seek to love others as God loves us.