If the Devil Applies for Baptism

Heber J. Grant

Some years ago a prominent man was excommunicated from the Church. He, years later, pleaded for baptism. President John Taylor referred the question of his baptism to the apostles, stating [in a letter] that if they unanimously consented to his baptism, he could be baptized, but that if there was one dissenting vote, he should not be admitted into the Church. As I remember the vote, it was five for baptism and seven against. A year or so later the question came up again and it was eight for baptism and four against. Later it came up again and it was ten for baptism and two against. Finally all of the Council of the Apostles, with the exception of your humble servant, consented that this man be baptized and I was then next to the junior member of the quorum. Later I was in the office of the president and he said:

“Heber, I understand that eleven of the apostles have consented to the baptism of Brother So and So,” naming the man, “and that you alone are standing out. How will you feel when you get on the other side and you find that this man has pleaded for baptism and you find that you have perhaps kept him out from entering in with those who have repented of their sins and received some reward?”

I said, “President John Taylor, I can look the Lord squarely in the eye, if he asks me that question, and tell him that I did that which I thought was for the best good of the kingdom. … I can tell the Lord that [that man] had disgraced this Church enough, and that I did not propose to let any such a man come back into the Church.”

“Well,” said President Taylor, “my boy, that is all right, stay with your convictions, stay right with them.”

I said, “President Taylor, your letter said you wanted each one of the apostles to vote the convictions of his heart. If you desire me to surrender the convictions of my heart, I will gladly do it; I will gladly vote for this man to come back, but while I live I never expect to consent, if it is left to my judgment. That man was accused before the apostles several years ago and he stood up and lied and claimed that he was innocent, and the Lord gave to me a testimony that he lied, but I could not condemn him because of that. I got down on my knees that night and prayed God to give me the strength not to expose that man, seeing that he had lied but that we had no evidence, except only the testimony of the girl that he had seduced. And I prayed the Lord that some day additional testimony might come, and it did come, and we then excommunicated him. And when a man can lie to the apostles, and when he can be guilty while proclaiming repentance of sin, I think this Church has been disgraced enough without ever letting him come back into the Church.”

“Well,” repeated President Taylor, “my boy, don’t you vote as long as you live, while you hold those ideas, stay right with them.”

I left the president’s office. I went home. … I was reading the Doctrine and Covenants through for the third or fourth time systematically, and I had my bookmark in it, but as I picked it up, instead of opening where the bookmark was, it opened to:

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men; but he that forgiveth not his brother standeth condemned before the Lord.” [See D&C 64:9–10.]

And I closed the book and said: “If the devil applies for baptism, and claims that he has repented, I will baptize him.” After lunch I returned to the office of President Taylor and I said, “President Taylor, I have had a change of heart. One hour ago I said, never while I live, did I expect to ever consent that Brother So and So should be baptized, but I have come to tell you he can be baptized, so far as I am concerned.”

President Taylor had a habit, when he was particularly pleased, of sitting up and laughing and shaking his whole body, and he laughed and said, “My boy, the change is very sudden, very sudden. I want to ask you a question. How did you feel when you left here an hour ago? Did you feel like you wanted to hit that man right squarely between the eyes and knock him down?”

I said, “That is just the way I felt.”

He said, “How do you feel now?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, President Taylor, I hope the Lord will forgive the sinner.”

He said, “You feel happy, don’t you, in comparison. You had the spirit of anger, you had the spirit of bitterness in your heart toward that man, because of his sin and because of the disgrace he had brought upon the Church. And now you have the spirit of forgiveness and you really feel happy, don’t you?”

And I said, “Yes I do; I felt mean and hateful and now I feel happy.”

And he said: “Do you know why I wrote that letter?”

I said: “No, sir.”

“Well I wrote it, just so you and some of the younger members of the apostles would learn the lesson that forgiveness is in advance of justice, where there is repentance, and that to have in your heart the spirit of forgiveness and to eliminate from your hearts the spirit of hatred and bitterness, brings peace and joy; that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings joy, peace and happiness to every soul that lives it and follows its teachings.”

And so he went on. I cannot remember all of the teachings, but he continued in this way, telling me that he could never have given me that experience, that he could not give to me a testimony of the gospel; that I must receive that testimony for myself; that I must have the right spirit come into my heart and feel it—the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of long-suffering and charity—before there would any good come to me as an individual; that by simply surrendering my will to his, and voting to baptize this man, I would never have learned the lesson that the spirit of joy and peace comes in the hour of forgiveness, and when our hearts are full of charity and long-suffering to those who have made mistakes. From that day to this I have remembered those teachings. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, chapter 16, Forgiving Others, An excerpt from the life of Heber J. Grant. See: )


About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives:
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1 Response to Forgiveness

  1. I have always loved that story and have tried my best to apply it 🙂

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