Father relies on faith to forgive intoxicated teen driver

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

“For those who have gone through something, A, they want to meet somebody that’s been able to go through it successfully, just to give them some hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that they’re in and that they’re going to be able to make it through as well, and, B, for those who are really kind of working through it, that maybe feel a little stuck, they just want to know, ‘How do I get unstuck? How do I move to that next level?’” Williams said. “And they perceive me as someone who did this, so they’re naturally just inclined to say, ‘How? Can we meet? (Can you) walk me through how to do this?’”

Williams accommodated those he could. His experiences caused him to think how he could help more people. In 2009, his mind turned back to a documentary about forgiveness he had filmed with Christopher Clark not long after the accident. He contacted Clark, who explained the documentary had never been completed and he was now producing “Mormon Messages” videos for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After talking over the project’s potential to help others, Williams and Clark decided to create a Mormon Messages video using some of the 2007 video with new footage. The church released “Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light” on July 28, 2010.

“It just seemed like the perfect way to put something (out),” said Williams, who was surprised to learn that people all over the world were viewing the video. After the video’s success, Williams received more requests to talk one-on-one with people who were struggling to forgive or move on from something in their lives. A combined desire to write a formal memoir for his children and to continue to help others led him to write “Let It Go: A True Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness.” Initially, Williams intended to self-publish and give copies away, but changed his mind after his friend Paul Cardall persuaded him to try publishing through Deseret Book.

“(Paul said that) this is a message that I could self-publish, but it probably wouldn’t reach the right audience,” said Williams, who was initially uncomfortable with putting a price on the book. “… At the same time what (Cardall) was talking about was really true. It just felt right.”

“Let It Go” went on sale at Deseret Book on July 30. The book describes in detail Willliams’ feelings and experiences after the accident and how he was able to forgive White, who is now 22, has been out of juvenile detention for a year and a half and is involved in educating youths on the consequences of underage drinking.

“I told him at the facility, and we’ve kept in contact since, that he has the opportunity to put this mistake in the past and think nothing more of it,” Williams said. “Everyone has this opportunity to put the past in the past and move on. … I (still) remind Cameron of that. I hold no ill will against him. I’m a brother in this with him. I tell him that as often as I can. My expectation is that he marries a beautiful woman, has a family and has a wonderful life.”

For Williams, who has himself remarried, any grudge he was ever tempted to hold against White was over before it really began. It is a concept he worked hard to demonstrate in his book.

“When I looked at everything I’d written, all my journals and notes and stuff, there was a lot of information,” Williams said. “But I wanted the story to be impactful … so I could kind of present it in a way that emotionally drew people in, so that they almost felt they were going through it as well.”

Williams said he also hopes people will ask themselves, “Could I do this?” and describes at length a principle he called “fore-giveness,” or being prepared to forgive others before an offense comes. The first time Williams practiced “fore-giveness,” he said, was during a conference talk in October 2005 when President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted a Deseret News column by Jay Evensen about the story of Victoria Ruvolo, a Long Island woman who forgave a teenager who threw a frozen turkey out a car window on the expressway that ended up smashing through Ruvolo's windshield and into her face.

“I sat there in that conference and I asked myself the question, ‘Could I do that? Am I the kind of person that could forgive like Victoria Ruvolo?’ And I didn’t know,” Williams said. “That was an incredibly powerful exercise to go through, to ‘fore-give’ people, to walk through life with that kind of attitude.”

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