Latter-Day Saint Bishop, Chris Williams, experienced a horrendous tragedy in February 2007. After leaving an evening basketball game with his family, a 17-year-old slammed his vehicle into their Passat. William’ son, daughter and 5-month pregnant wife were killed. The 17-year-old driver fled the scene, but was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Only Williams and his six-year-old son, Sam, survived the tragic accident. His 14-year-old son was at a friend’s house that evening.
Williams, once a hospital orderly, watched his family die before his eyes. He knew the reality of the situation. While struggling to move, suffering from his own intense injuries, in that moment between life and death, he managed to rise above the pain and thought, “Whoever has done this to us, I forgive them. I don’t care what the circumstances were, I forgive them.”
Cameron White, the 17-year-old, was speeding upwards of 60 MPH and was drinking vodka when his car struck Williams at full force. His son that survived the accident suffered severe injuries. Despite these devastating blows, Williams has always held to his belief that forgiveness is the ultimate act of practicing God’s word. Williams simply believes that White made poor choices.
To forgive such horrific acts is not always human nature, but is a deep belief in divine intervention.
When Williams was 16 years old, a little boy ran out in front of his car. Williams recalled the feeling of sitting in the back of a police car – all alone – knowing what it was like to accidentally kill a child.
Williams regularly prayed after his first son was born. He would pray, “Help me appreciate him, and if he’s taken prematurely, give me strength.” It was as though his own experiences as a teenager prepared him for the personal experiences he was to face as an adult.
Williams points out that no one has a perfect life and to be able to comprehend and accept this makes it easier to forgive. If people cannot accept this reality, it sets themselves up for anger at God and towards other people. There are two different types of grief and forgiveness: emotional and decisional. Sadness is emotional, which is part of the normal grieving process.
An excellent example to thousands of people, Williams receive more than 800 emails when he publically forgave White. Many messages contained heartfelt condolences. But others stated thoughts that were far more moving, such as “If you can forgive … I can too.”