“Broken the Hearts of Your Tender Wives and Lost the Confidence of Your Children”

D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner

In eloquently poetic but powerfully condemnatory language, the Lord rebukes and pronounces curses on the men, husbands, and fathers among the Nephites and all other peoples who have adulterated the sacred bonds of marriage, even surpassing the Lamanites in abominable behavior: “Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.”

Things haven’t changed much. With adultery, pornography, and various other forms of abuse, modern men continue to break the hearts of their wives.

To be absolutely clear, Alma 39:3–5 describes adultery and fornication as most serious sins, “abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost.” Doctrine and Covenants 42:22–26 outlines Church discipline for adulterers.

On the other hand, it must also be made clear that there is very little, if anything, that is beyond the power of the Atonement to cleanse and heal—for those who seek it. The qualifier here is those who seek it. Those who deny the Holy Ghost will not, by definition, seek it—all the rest are able to be tucked safely under the warm blanket of the Atonement, with the assurance that the Lord will remember the sin no more. In fact, priesthood leaders who work with the repentant, even those with extraordinary memories, are blessed to remember no more the transgressions of those with whom they have counseled and who truly repent.

Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy told the following story in general conference about a time when he served as bishop:

“One night, while I was in a sound sleep, the doorbell rang. I stumbled to answer it and found a young member of my priests quorum at the door… .

“He said, ‘I have to talk to you, bishop. I’ve just done something serious, and I can’t go home.’

“He was right. It was serious. I invited him in, and we talked… . He had many questions. He had committed a terrible sin. He wanted to know if there was hope. He wanted to know how to repent… . He wanted to know many other things.

“I didn’t have all of the answers, but I told him there was hope. I told him the way back would be difficult, but it was possible. I explained what I knew about the process of repentance and helped him see what he must do… . Then I told him to go home, and he did.

“He made his peace with his parents. He asked forgiveness from those he had wronged. He put sin and bad company behind him and did everything he could to repent.

“A year or so later, five young men from that quorum went on missions. He was one of them. I was close to them all… . They all served honorable missions. Within a brief time after returning home, they all were married in the temple. My wife and I attended each of the ceremonies. I could take a piece of paper, even today, and write their names and the names of their wives and some of their children. That is how well I knew them.

“But now let me tell you something—something very private and very important. I cannot remember the name of the young man who came to my home in the middle of the night. I know he was one of the five, but I don’t remember which one.

“There was a time I used to worry about that. I thought perhaps my memory might be failing. I consciously tried to recall who it was that had the problem, but I could not.

“I was eventually released, and I put the entire incident out of my mind. On a late evening walk some years later, I found myself in the ward where I had once been bishop. The shadowy quiet brought back many memories. I was deep in thought when I realized I was walking in front of a house where one of my priests had lived years before. Suddenly, the story of the young man I have mentioned came to mind, and again I tried to remember which of the five he had been. Had he lived in that house? I wondered. Why couldn’t I remember?

“As I continued on my way, something happened—something difficult to explain, but real to me. I seemed to hear a voice which said: ‘Don’t you understand, my son? I have forgotten that. Why should you remember?’” 5

Verse by Verse: The Book of Mormon: Vol. 1