By Eric Johnson
Some people have argued that Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness is not authoritative because what he wrote is just his opinion. They may even point out that Kimball was “merely” an apostle and not a prophet when he wrote the book. Several points can be given in rebuttal:
1) If you listen to the biannual General Conferences, you will hear plenty of talks that agree with the ideas submitted by Spencer W. Kimball. If Kimball was wrong, why does the leadership continue to give its audiences the same type of information instead of contradicting Kimball’s teaching?
2) If The Miracle of Forgiveness is merely opinion (and one that might be wrong), then why has LDS Church-owned Deseret Book celebrated the book as a “landmark work”? On page 8 of its March 2004 catalog, it calls it “a penetrating explanation of repentance and forgiveness that is illuminated with a bright hope for those who are searching for peace and security. It is a landmark work that has spoken with authority and insight for 35 years, bringing to bear President Spencer W. Kimball’s rich experience and the inspiration of his calling.”
3) If The Miracle of Forgiveness isn’t worthy of being read, then why did the book get recommended twice from the pulpit in general conference? For example, in an April 1970 conference message, Apostle Richard L. Evans called Kimball’s book “a wonderful work”:
Many of you would be familiar with President Spencer Kimball’s wonderful work on the miracle of forgiveness. I witness to you that God is a loving Father who will forgive and help us find peace and self-respect as we repent and show our sincerity by the lives we live. And there is nothing he asks of us that we cannot do; there is no requirement we cannot keep-if we are willing, if we want to. Repentance is a miracle, if it is sincere (Conference Report, April 1970, p.16).
In a 2004 conference message titled “Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” Apostle Richard G. Scott called it a “masterly work”:
“When needed, full repentance will require action on your part. If you are not familiar with the classic steps to repentance, such as confession and abandonment of sin, restitution, obedience, and seeking forgiveness, talk to a bishop or study a source such as President Spencer W. Kimball’s masterly work The Miracle of Forgiveness.” (Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2004, p.16).
Seventy Bruce H. Hafen also recommended this book to LDS members when he wrote:
“Some of us make repentance too easy, and others make it too hard. Those who make it too easy don’t see any big sins in their lives, or they believe that breezy apologies alone are enough. These people should read President Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness, which reviews many sins of both commission and omission. And while forgiveness is a miracle, it is not won without penitent and strenuous effort” (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, April 1997, p. 41).
The book is quoted dozens of times in the LDS church manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball. In fact, chapter four is even titled “The Miracle of Forgiveness” and is comprised almost entirely of quotes from the book with the same name. The Miracle of Forgiveness is also quoted many times throughout other manuals and church publications. For example, in the April 2010 Ensign magazine, Apostle Dallin Oaks quoted Kimball to make his point.
4) As far as Kimball “only” being an apostle when he wrote the book–not a prophet– I wonder, “What was Paul when he wrote his epistles? Should these books be considered less authoritative because he was less than a ‘prophet’?” No, of course not. We have found that those raising this argument never have been or never will be General Authorities in the LDS Church. (Ask the person using this argument, “What’s your position in the church? And what was Kimball’s?”) It should also be pointed out that, when Kimball was the prophet, he fully supported the points in his book. Ask, “Did Kimball ever show regret or retract any of his teachings while he served as the prophet?”
5) If this book isn’t authoritative, why does the Mormon Church continue to officially distribute the book even today?
Based on the above, we invite you to read Kimball’s oft-recommended book. For more information, go to www.themiracleofforgiveness.com