It’s the second shortest verse in all of holy scripture, with an abundance of meaning.
Jeffrey R. Holland, in a BYU devotional shed some light on this meaning of this phrase:
“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. So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought—fatally, as it turned out—that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind.
“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. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, “Hey! Do you remember this?” Splat!
Well, guess what? That is probably going to result in some ugly morsel being dug up out of your landfill with the reply, “Yeah, I remember it. Do you remember this?” Splat.
And soon enough everyone comes out of that exchange dirty and muddy and unhappy and hurt, when what God, our Father in Heaven, pleads for is cleanliness and kindness and happiness and healing.” See D&C 58:42.
I love this devotional. This is some powerful, powerful stuff, and it hit me hard.
Lately, I’ve really been studying faith, and trying to better understand this first principle of the gospel. Elder Holland reminds us that faith is always pointed toward the future. I have this fun little habit of constantly dwelling on my past and the pasts of others, never truly letting go of things or ‘forgiving and forgetting.’ But faith requires us to learn from the past, but not live there. To let people change…to let ourselves change. To access the magnificent powers of the Atonement and experience healing and true joy. There are blessings in our future that require our faith, and our abandonment of past grievances, pains, and grudges. I don’t want to look back as Lot’s wife did and doubt the grand plan that my Father in Heaven has prepared for me, and miss out on His blessings. They are dependent on my faith and willingness to utilize the Atonement’s healing and enabling powers.
I love Luke 17:32 and Elder Holland’s guidance because it reminds me (‘remember’ is one of the most significant words in the scriptures!) that people can change, hearts can heal, and there are surely good things ahead.