The start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock of our lives and see where we are going, measured against the backdrop of where we have been. I don’t want to talk to you about New Year’s resolutions, because you only made five of them and you have already broken four. (I give that remaining one just another week.) But I do want to talk to you about the past and the future, not so much in terms of New Year’s commitments per se, but more with an eye toward any time of transition and change in your lives—and those moments come virtually every day of our lives.
Lot’s wife’s sin wasn’t in looking back; it was in wanting to go back. Instead of hearkening to the word of the Lord which told her to go forward, she yearned to return to Sodom and Gomorrah.
So, as a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.
Elder Holland speaks of how the Apostle Paul left everything behind to follow Christ. He shares the poem of Miniver Cheevy, by Edwin Arlington Robinson, and the story of a young man who left his hometown to do something great, only to be torn down by his peers when he returned. He changed, but they refused to see the change in him.
He also speaks passionately about forgiving ourselves, and especially others.
When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.
Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried.…
[Dwelling] on past lives, including past mistakes, is just not right! It is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.” Powerful.
“What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” –Acts 10:15.
Many repented of a rambunctious youth and went on to serve the Lord in righteousness, including Paul, Alma, Alma the Younger, the sons of Mosiah, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, and Moses (sort of).
“Remember Lot’s Wife” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
BYU Devotional, January 13, 2009