See also: D&C 19:18-19; Moses 4; Mosiah 4:6-7; Mosiah 15; Isaiah 53
Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ.
When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the uttermost farthing (see Matt. 5:25-26), the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.
I repeat, save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ. – Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” General Conference October 1995; Ensign, Nov. 1995, pp. 19-20
I am a father, inadequate to be sure, but I cannot comprehend the burden it must have been for God in His heaven to witness the deep suffering and crucifixion of His beloved son in such a manner. His every impulse and instinct must have been to stop it, to send angels to intervene – but He did not intervene. He endured what He saw because it was the only way that a saving, vicarious payment could be made for the sins of all His other children from Adam and Eve to the end of the world. – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 3, 1999, General Conference
Such a cost demands more of people than a simple confession or acknowledgment. It requires proof that we will “abide in [his] covenant. . . . For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me” (D&C 98:14-15). President Lorenzo Snow remarked, “The Lord seems to require some proof on our part, something to show that He can depend upon us when He wants us to accomplish certain things in His interest.” (Conference Report, October 1900, p. 2) – Elder Ray H. Wood, “Our Thorns in the Flesh,” Ensign, Feb. 2003, p. 33-34
With the love of God the Father, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane. He dropped to His knees in prayer, even sweating great drops of blood. And then, as He departed to go out to see His disciples, He found them asleep. He asked, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matt. 26:40.)
How many of us are sleeping when those around us are hurting and are in need? How many of us give our testimonies of the Lord, but then do not listen, as in 1 John 4:20, “For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
He then returned to the Garden of Gethsemane and asked His Father to help Him through this experience which He had to endure. And for you and me, there is great solace, for “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43)
Do we not understand that we, too, will have moments in our lives when we will be brought to our knees, when we will need help to endure to the end? Even Joseph Smith showed impatience after being in jail for a few months and wondered why he could not get on with his mission. At that time the Lord said to Joseph, “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7) The ways in which we handle our trials are part of the maturing of the physical and spiritual man. – Elder Robert D. Hales, “Lessons from the Atonement That Help Us to Endure to the End,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, p. 19
The spiritual submissiveness which is central to the blessings of the Atonement was well exemplified by Melissa Howes as she led her family in prayer a short while before her father died of cancer. Melissa was only 9 and her father 43. Consider unselfish Melissa Howes’s pleading, in her own words as reported to me by her mother? “Heavenly Father, bless my daddy, and if you need to take him and need him more than us, you can have him. We want him, but Thy will be done. And please help us not to be made at you” (letter from Christie Howes, 25 Feb. 1998). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement,” Ensign, October 2001, p. 14
The third article of faith teaches, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” The Atonement offers redemption from spiritual death and from suffering caused by sin.
For some reason, we think the Atonement of Christ applies only at the end of mortal life to redemption from the Fall, from spiritual death. It is much more than that. It is an ever-present power to call upon in everyday life. When we are racked or harrowed up or tormented by guilt or burdened with grief, He can heal us. While we do not fully understand how the Atonement of Christ was made, we can experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7) . . . .
The Atonement has practical, personal, everyday value; apply it in your life. It can be activated with so simple a beginning as prayer. You will not thereafter be free from trouble and mistakes but can erase the guilt through repentance and be at peace. – President Boyd K. Packer, “‘The Touch of the Master’s Hand,’” Ensign, May 2001, pp. 23-24
Jesus alone could make the required, infinite atonement because, being the only sinless person who has ever lived upon the earth, he had a sinless life to offer and because he, being the Son of God, had power over life and death. No one could have taken his life had he not been willing to give it. “No man taketh it from me,” he said, “but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). It was, therefore, through acts of infinite love and mercy that he vicariously paid the debt of the broken law and satisfied the demands of justice.
We are still further indebted to Jesus, for by his atonement he not only satisfied the demands of the law of justice, but he made effective the law of mercy, by which men may be redeemed from spiritual death. For, while they are not responsible for mortal death, they are responsible for spiritual death, which shuts them out from the presence of God.
All men who dwell on the earth are subject to the influences of righteousness, and also to the influences of wickedness. They are endowed, too, with the divine gift of moral agency, in the exercise of which no person who has lived upon the earth to the age of accountability, except Jesus, has been able in all things to avoid yielding to the influence of evil. All have sinned. Each person is therefore unclean to the extent to which he has sinned, and because of that uncleanness is banished from the presence of the Lord so long as the effect of his own wrongdoing is upon him.
Since we suffer this spiritual death as a result of our own transgressions, we cannot claim deliverance therefrom as a matter of justice. Neither has any man the power within himself alone to make restitution so complete that he can be wholly cleansed from the effect of his own wrongdoing. If men are to be freed from the results of their own transgressions and brought back into the presence of God, they must be the beneficiaries of some expedient beyond themselves which will free them from the effects of their own sins. For this purpose was the atonement of Jesus Christ conceived and executed. – President Marion G. Romney, “The Resurrection of Jesus,” Ensign, Apr. 1985, pp. 5-6
While . . . striving daily, we will fall short. Hence the avoidance of discouragement is so vital. So where is the oft and much needed resilience to be found? Once again, in the glorious Atonement! Thereby we can know the lifting tide flowing from forgiveness.
Furthermore, by applying the Atonement we can continue to access the other nurturing gifts of the Holy Ghost, each with its own rich resilience. The Holy Ghost will often preach sermons to us from the pulpit of memory. He will comfort us and reassure us. The burdens not lifted from us, He will help us to bear, thus enabling, even after we err, to continue with joy the soul-stretching journey of discipleship. After all, while the adversary clearly desires our lasting misery, the Father and the Son truly and constantly desire our everlasting happiness (see 2 Ne. 2:27).
Brothers and sisters, Christ paid such an enormous, enabling price for us! Will we not apply His Atonement in order to pay the much smaller price required for personal progress? (see Mosiah 4:2). Being valiant in our testimony of Jesus, therefore, includes being valiant in our efforts to live more as He lived (see D&C 76:79). We certainly cannot enter His kingdom without receiving the restored ordinances and keeping their associated covenants, but neither can we enter His kingdom without having significantly developed our charity and the other cardinal attributes (see Ether 12:34). Yes, we need the essential ordinances, but we also need the essential attributes. Yes, we need to keep our covenants, but we also need to develop our character. -- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, pp. 23-24
I love the Savior. I feel that as he hung upon the cross and looked out over the dark scene, he saw more than mocking soldiers and cruel taunters. He saw more than crying women and fearful friends. He remembered and saw even more than women at wells or crowds on hills or throngs by seashores. He saw more, much more. He, who knows all and has all power, saw through the stream of time. His huge, magnanimous, loving soul encompassed all eternity and took in all people and all times and all sins and all forgiveness and all everything. Yes, he saw down to you and to me and provided us an all-encompassing opportunity to escape the terrible consequences of death and sin. – Elder John H. Groberg, “The Beauty and Importance of the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1989, p. 40[Elder Neal A. Maxwell] told the Church members that “we finite mortals” will not be able to comprehend the infinite Atonement.
“But we can believe in it and the Holy Ghost can bear witness of it so we have that powerful spiritual knowledge about the Atonement and about Jesus even though we can’t comprehend it all.”
Speaking of God the Father, Elder Maxwell said everything He does, He does for the benefit of His children.
“We can’t comprehend it all, but we can rejoice in it and in the reassurances that He has given that He sees the end from the beginning. And as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, He has made ‘ample provision’ to bring His purposes to pass. . . . How blessed we are to know these things. How solemn is our obligation to others to bring to their ear the refreshing words of the gospel.” – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “We can’t comprehend the capacity of God,” Church News, Feb. 22, 2003, p. 3
The atonement reaches back before the foundation of the world and extends beyond the millennium. We are “begotten” through the atonement. Therefore, it applies to the numberless sons and daughters of God born on all His creations. – Elder Merrill J. Bateman, BYU Women’s Conference, April 1998
No man, nor set of men, nor all men put together, ever suffered what the Redeemer suffered in the Garden. . . . The Savior by his suffering paid the debt for my personal sins. He paid the debt for your personal sins and for the personal sins of every living soul that ever dwelt upon the earth or that ever will dwell in mortality upon the earth. But this he did conditionally. The benefits of this suffering for our individual transgressions will not come to us unconditionally in the same sense that the resurrection will come regardless of what we do. If we partake of the blessings of the atonement as far as our individual transgressions are concerned, we must obey the law. – President Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, October 1953, p. 35
Most significantly, through the Prophet Joseph came translations and revelations which confirmed and described, as never before, the reality of the glorious Atonement, in which, alas, so few really believe today. It is the central act of all human history! Very few words have come directly from Jesus about His specific and personal suffering during that agonizing but emancipating atonement. Almost all of these precious few words come to us through the Prophet Joseph! Jesus truly did bleed at every pore. He trembled because of pain. He suffered both body and spirit. He pled that He might not shrink, or pull back, from performing the Atonement. He finally finished His preparations unto the children of men. Meek Jesus let His will be “swallowed up in the will of the Father”! (Mosiah 15:7) Even in the midst of His astonishing, personal triumph, Jesus, true to His premortal promise, still gave all the glory to the Father (see D&C 19:18–19; Moses 4:2). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1992, p. 39
“In Alma 7:12, the only place in the scriptures, to my knowledge, that it appears, there seems to have been yet another purpose of the atonement, speaking again of the Savior and his suffering, ‘and He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, . . . ’ Have you ever thought that there was no way that Jesus could know the suffering which we undergo as a result of our stupidity and sin (because he was sinless) except he bear those sins of ours in what I call the awful arithmetic of the atonement?” – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Symposium on the Old Testament, p. 17; quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, p. 24-25
Unlike mortals who inherit the seeds of death from both parents, Jesus was born of a mortal mother but an immortal Father. The seeds of death received from Mary meant that He could die, but the inheritance from His Father gave Him infinite life, which meant death was a voluntary act. Thus, Jesus told the Jewish people, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26).
On another occasion He stated: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17–18).
The infinite nature received from His Father gave Jesus power to perform the Atonement, to suffer for the sins of all. The prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus not only took upon Himself our sins but also our pains, afflictions, and temptations. Alma also explains that Jesus took upon Himself our sicknesses, death, and our infirmities (see Alma 7:11–13). This He did, Alma said, so that His ‘bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know. . . how to succor his people’ (Alma 7:12).
The prophet Abinadi further states that “when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed” (Mosiah 15:10). Abinadi then identifies the Savior’s seed as the prophets and those who follow them. For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), “[bore] our griefs, . . . carried our sorrows . . . [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4–5).
The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us.
The Pearl of Great Price teaches that Moses was shown all the inhabitants of the earth, which were “numberless as the sand upon the sea shore” (Moses 1:28). If Moses beheld every soul, then it seems reasonable that the Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us. He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pains and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith. That is why a young Hispanic woman suddenly realized that she was more than a speck in the universe when the Holy Spirit gave her a witness of the Restoration. She felt God’s love, that she was His daughter, and realized that He knew her. It also explains why the plan of salvation seemed familiar to my Japanese friend as the missionaries taught him and as the Holy Spirit confirmed his purposes on earth and his potential. – Elder Merrill J. Bateman, “A Pattern for All,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, p. 74; italics added
. . . For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), “[bore] our griefs, . . . carried our sorrows . . . [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4–5). – Elder Merrill J. Bateman, “A Pattern for All,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, p. 74
Without it [the atonement of the Savior], no man or woman would ever be resurrected. From Adam’s time to the time of Jesus, men died – millions of them. But not a single one of them ever came out of the grave as a resurrected person until that glorious morning when Jesus was resurrected. Without his victory over death, they never would have come out of their graves, worlds without end. It took the atonement of Jesus Christ to reunite the bodies and spirits of men in the Resurrection. And so all the world, believers and nonbelievers, are indebted to the Redeemer for their certain resurrection, because the Resurrection will be as wide as was the Fall, which brought death to every man.
There is another phase of the Atonement which makes me love the Savior even more and fills my soul with gratitude beyond expression. It is that in addition to atoning for Adam’s transgression, thereby bringing about the Resurrection, the Savior by his suffering paid the debt for the personal sins of every living soul that ever dwelt upon the earth or that ever will dwell in mortality upon the earth. But this he did conditionally. The benefits of this suffering for our individual transgressions will not come to us unconditionally in the same sense that the Resurrection will come regardless of what we do. If we partake of the blessings of the Atonement as far as our individual transgressions are concerned, we must obey the law.
. . . When we commit sin, we are estranged from God and rendered unfit to enter into his presence. No unclean thing can enter into his presence. We cannot of ourselves, no matter how we may try, rid ourselves of the stain which is upon us as a result of our own transgressions. That stain must be washed away by the blood of the Redeemer, and he has set up the way by which that stain may be removed. That way is the gospel of Jesus Christ. – President Marion G. Romney, “We Cannot Rid Ourselves of Our Transgressions,” New Era, April 1983, p. 47
I have experienced and have a witness of a truth that President Packer taught: “For some reason, we think the Atonement of Christ applies only at the end of mortal life to redemption from the Fall, from spiritual death. It is much more than that. It is an ever-present power to call upon in everyday life. When we are racked or harrowed up or tormented by guilt or burdened with grief, He can heal us. While we do not fully understand how the Atonement of Christ was made, we can experience ‘the peace of God, which passeth all understanding’” (“The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Liahona, July 2001, 26; Ensign, May 2001, 23). – Elder Jay E. Jensen, “Arms of Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, p. 49
Our Heavenly Father declared, “This is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The Atonement of His Beloved Son enabled both of these objectives to be realized. Because of the Atonement, immortality – or resurrection from the dead – became a reality for all. And because of the Atonement, eternal life – which is living forever in God’s presence, the “greatest of all the gifts of God” – became a possibility. To qualify for eternal life, we must make an eternal and everlasting covenant with our Heavenly Father. This means that a temple marriage is not only between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God. – Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, p. 93
His atonement does indeed cover the world and all people from the beginning to the end. Let us not forget, however, that in its comprehensiveness and completeness it is also intensely personal and uniquely crafted to fit perfectly and address perfectly each of our own individual circumstances. The Father and the Son know each of us better than we know ourselves and have prepared an Atonement for us that is fully congruent with our needs, challenges, and possibilities. – Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr., “What Does the Atonement Mean to You?” Ensign, April 2009, p. 51
Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually – that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind – us, all of us – would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.” Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path – the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”
My other plea at Easter time is that these scenes of Christ’s lonely sacrifice, laced with moments of denial and abandonment and, at least once, outright betrayal, must never be reenacted by us. He has walked alone once. Now, may I ask that never again will He have to confront sin without our aid and assistance, that never again will He find only unresponsive onlookers when He sees you and me along His Via Dolorosa in our present day. As we approach this holy week – Passover Thursday with its Paschal Lamb, atoning Friday with its cross, Resurrection Sunday with its empty tomb – may we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in word only and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear. This Easter week and always, may we stand by Jesus Christ “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,” for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone. – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “None Were With Him,” Ensign, May 2009
The Savior’s suffering was a vicarious act of one totally innocent assuming responsibility for myriads of guilty ones. Thus, Isaiah said, “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” and “was wounded for our transgressions, [and] bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4–5). – Old Testament Student Manual, 1 Kings – Malachi, p. 198
The atonement doesn’t mean we won’t have pain, rather it is a resource in the event of pain. – Jack Marshall, BYU Education Week 2009
Serious illnesses, family tragedies, and emotional struggles do not happen necessarily because we have sinned. Adversity and heartbreak happen to good people; such is the fruit of a fallen world. But having experienced tragedy, sickness, and disappointment in His own life, the Savior knows how to strengthen us in such trials as well. He is there not only when we cry out from the burden of sin but also when we cry out for any other reason.
The power of the Atonement also covers the consequences of sin in the lives of innocent people. We pay no eternal price for things over which we have no control, including harm done to us by others. The Atonement can heal us. The only thing for which we pay a spiritual price is misuse of our own agency, and for that the Savior has given us the Atonement.
Sometimes we think of the power of the Atonement as something that works after this life, as though it were something that applied only at the Judgment Day. But that is not true doctrine. The redeeming power of Jesus Christ works during our lives, day by day, moment by moment, as He gives us strength to overcome, as He forgives us of sin, and as He brings us, through the Holy Ghost, comfort, peace, and joy.
My prayer and hope is that we will discover the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, that we will understand that the Atonement is not something abstract. Christ literally overcame the world and stands as our friend, a Prince who has lived among us and knows how to make us strong. – Elder Bruce D. Porter, “The Prince of Glory,” Ensign, Dec. 2009, p. 29
“It wasn’t just the Son of God that went through that Easter week,” Elder (Gerald) Lund said. “Yes, Jesus was the Son of God, but He was also a man. He had a body like ours that needed food and sleep. He had a personality and character traits. If He walked too far in one day His feet would blister.”
Focusing on the mortality of the Savior’s life, Elder Lund shared the significance of the Savior’s ability and willingness to use His agency to bend His will to God’s will.
“One of the greatest blessings we have in life is agency,” Elder Lund said. “We are free to follow our will. The Savior also had agency, but His will, His wants, His desires, and His wishes always came second. As He said in the Garden of Gethsemane, ‘not as I will, but as thou wilt.’”
Elder Lund also spoke of the condescension of the Savior, and His willingness to undergo tremendous suffering because of His love for all.
“As we consider these various insights into what the Atonement meant for Jesus, personally we are led to exclaim, ‘What could I ever possibly do to repay the Father and Son for all of this?’
“We can do nothing that would repay God and Christ,” he said. “In the true meaning of the word ‘repay,’ what could we give to God that He doesn’t already have? How can the finite repay the infinite? It simply is not possible. But that does not imply that we can do nothing. There are offerings we can make that will be acceptable to them and received with joy.”
Elder Lund gave four suggestions of how individuals can give offerings:
- Acknowledgment. “How quick is mankind to blame God for the natural disasters and suffering you find in the world, but how slow to acknowledge His hand in the goodness of life,” he said. Proper acknowledgment shows thoughtfulness and recognizes the goodness of God.
- Acceptance. By accepting the gift of the Atonement, individuals recognize the sacrifice of Heavenly Father and Christ, bringing purpose to the Atonement.
- Gratitude. “Gratitude that is expressed in both word and deed, is another way of acknowledging what God has done for us and accepting the gifts which are extended to us,” he said.
- Remembrance. “This is perhaps the most important of them all,” he said. By remembering the Savior’s infinite sacrifice, individuals are compelled to action and have the power to be a better person.
“When we remember all that the Father and Son have done for us it rekindles and renews our love for them,” Elder Lund said. “And then that love becomes a powerful agent for our own personal life.”
. . . . Jesus the man carried out the mission of Jesus the Christ. – Elder Gerald N. Lund, former member of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy, BYU Easter Conference, Church News, March 27, 2010
Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better. All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us. – Elder David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Liahona, Nov 2007, pp. 80–83
Now, please notice the next line in Mosiah 3:19: “and becometh a saint.” May I suggest this phrase describes the continuation and second phase of life’s journey as outlined by President McKay. “The purpose of the gospel is . . . to make bad men good” – or, in other words, put off the natural man – “and good men better” – or, in other words, become more like a saint. Brothers and sisters, I believe this second part of the journey – this process of going from good to better – is a topic about which we do not study or teach frequently enough nor understand adequately.
If I were to emphasize one overarching point this morning, it would be this: I suspect that you and I are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming power of the Atonement than we are with the enabling power of the Atonement. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us. That is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us – not only to direct us but also to empower us. I think most of us know that when we do things wrong, when we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to be made clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints – for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us “get it” concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities. – David A. Bednar, “In the Strength of the Lord,” General Conference, October 2004
Only as we accept the Atonement in our lives and strive to live the gospel can we meet the challenges of life and find peace, joy, and happiness. Coming to understand this great gift is an individual pursuit for each child of God. . . .
If we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign, May 2004, p. 86
The purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help all of the children of God understand their potential and achieve their highest destiny. This church exists to provide the sons and daughters of God with the means of entrance into and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. This is a family-centered church in doctrine and practices. . . . Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them. Under the merciful plan of the Father, all of this is possible through the atonement of the Only Begotten of the Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. . . . The fulness of eternal salvation is a family matter.” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995, p. 87
The central purpose of the Savior’s life on earth was to atone for the transgressions of all mankind who would accept His commandments and live them. His sinless life was voluntarily given to take upon Himself the consequences of the demands of justice for all who violated any commandment, large or small. He has provided the process of repentance to help every individual rectify mistakes made on this earth through the power of mercy. Mercy does not overcome the demands of justice but satisfies them through His payment of those demands when earned by our complete, sincere repentance as defined in His teachings. He has promised, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold, he will confess them and forsake them (D&C 58:42-43). – Elder Richard G. Scott, “Learning to Succeed in Life,” BYU Devotional, September 15,1998
Ponder how Jesus was and is the Lord of the universe (see D&C 45:1; 76:24; Moses 1:33; 2:1). Yet His ministry, as we all know, was accomplished in a very tiny geographical space. His ministerial travels were very limited. Yet therein the Savior accomplished the Atonement for all of mankind! There were certainly much more prominent hills than Golgotha and much more resplendent gardens than Gethsemane. No matter; these were sufficient to host the central act of all human history!
We can draw upon that glorious Atonement by repenting. We can learn to serve and to forgive within our sample of humanity, including settings no larger than the family or friendships.
The justice and mercy of God will have been so demonstrably perfect that at the Final Judgment there will be no complaints, including from those who once questioned what God had allotted in the mortal framework (see 2 Ne. 9:1415; Alma 5:1519; 12:314; 42:2326, 30).
Hence, we can and “ought to be content with the things allotted to us,” being circumstantially content but without being self-satisfied and behaviorally content with ourselves (see 3 Ne. 12:48; 27:27; Matt. 5:48). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, April 2000
The more we study, pray, and ponder the awesome Atonement, the more we are willing to acknowledge that we are in His and the Father’s hands. Let us ponder, therefore, these final things.
When the unimaginable burden began to weigh upon Christ, it confirmed His long-held and intellectually clear understanding as to what He must now do. His working through began, and Jesus declared: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.” Then, whether in spiritual soliloquy or by way of instruction to those about Him, He observed, “But for this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27)
Later, in Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be “sore amazed” (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, “awestruck” and “astonished.”
Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, “astonished!” Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (See Luke 22:43.)
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins – past, present, and future – pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. (See Alma 7:11–12; Isa. 53:3–5; Matt. 8:17.) The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” (Mark 14:35–36) – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, April 1985
The more we know of Jesus’ Atonement, the more we will humbly and gladly glorify Him, His Atonement, and His character. We will never tire of paying tribute to His goodness and loving-kindness. How long will we so speak of our gratitude for His Atonement? The scriptures advise “forever and ever!” – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997, p. 7
Since the Savior has suffered anything and everything that we could ever feel or experience, He can help the weak to become stronger. He has personally experienced all of it. He understands our pain and will walk with us even in our darkest hours. . . .
The overwhelming message of the Atonement is the perfect love the Savior has for each and all of us. It is a love which is full of mercy, patience, grace, equity, long-suffering, and, above all, forgiving. – President James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Liahona, January 2002, pp. 19-22
Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick among whom He moved. His regenerating power is with us today to be invoked through His holy priesthood. His divine teachings, His incomparable example, His matchless life, His all-encompassing sacrifice will bring healing to broken hearts, reconciliation to those who argue and shout, even peace to warring nations if sought with humility and forgiveness and love. – President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Healing Power of Christ,” Ensign, November 1988, p. 52
His Atonement is – without an end. It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death (see 2 Ne 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:10,12,14). It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope – it was to be done once for all (see Heb 10:10). And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him (see DC 76:24; Moses 1:33). It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension. Jesus was the only one who could offer such an infinite atonement, since He was born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Because of that unique birthright, Jesus was an infinite Being. – Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, November 1996, p. 35
We all make mistakes. Sometimes we harm ourselves and seriously injure others in ways that we alone cannot repair. We break things that we alone cannot fix. It is then in our nature to feel guilt and humiliation and suffering, which we alone cannot cure. That is when the healing power of the Atonement will help. – President Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, April, 2001
Should there be anyone who feels he is too weak to do better because of that greatest of fears, the fear of failure, there is no more comforting assurance to be had than the words of the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). – President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 2006, p. 57
In the moonlit silence of that Near Eastern night, every acute pain, every heartfelt grief, every crushing wrong and human hurt experienced by every man, woman, and child in the human family was to be heaped upon his weary shoulders. But in such a moment, when someone might have said it to him, he rather says to us, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.) – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “He Loved Them unto the End,” Ensign, November 1989, p. 25
You need not know everything before the power of the atonement will work for you. Have faith in Christ, it begins to work the day you ask. – President Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1997, p. 10
The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own. Sometimes I wonder if in our latter-day world of ease – in our world of microwave ovens and cell phones and air-conditioned cars and comfortable homes – I wonder if we ever learn to acknowledge our daily dependence upon the enabling power of the Atonement. – Elder David A. Bednar, Brigham Young University, October 23, 2001
We really are immortal in the sense that Christ’s Atonement conquers death, both physical and spiritual. And provided we have so lived Today that we have claim on the Atonement’s cleansing grace, we will live forever with God. This life is not so much a time for getting and accumulating as it is a time for giving and becoming. Mortality is the battlefield upon which justice and mercy meet. But they need not meet as adversaries, for they are reconciled in the Atonement of Jesus Christ for all who wisely use Today. – Elder Lance B. Wickman, “Today,” General Conference, April 2008
There the greatest single act of love of all recorded history took place. (See John 3:16.) . . . . There in the garden bearing the Hebrew name of Gethsemane – meaning “oil-press” – olives had been beaten and pressed to provide oil and food. There at Gethsemane, the Lord “suffered the pain of all men, that all . . . might repent and come unto him.” (See John 3:16.) He took upon Himself the weight of the sins of all mankind, bearing its massive load that caused Him to bleed from every pore. (See Luke 22:44; D&C 19:18.) – Elder Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, November 1996, p.33
Jesus had been with his Father, talked with Him, dwelt in His bosom, and knew all about heaven, about making the earth, about the transgression of man, and what would redeem the people, and that he was the character who was to redeem the sons of earth, and the earth itself from all sin that had come upon it. The light, knowledge, power, and glory with which he was clothed were far above, or exceeded that of all others who had been upon the earth after the fall, consequently at the very moment, at the hour when the crisis came for him to offer up his life, the Father withdrew Himself, withdrew His Spirit, and cast a veil over him. That is what made him sweat blood. If he had had the power of God upon him, he would not have sweat blood; but all was withdrawn from him, and a veil was cast over him, and he then plead with the Father not to forsake him. “No,” says the Father, “you must have your trials, as well as others.” – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 206
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins – past, present, and future – pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. (See Alma 7:11–12; Isa. 53:3–5; Matt. 8:17.) . . . . His suffering – as it were, enormity multiplied by infinity – evoked His later soul-cry on the cross, and it was a cry of forsakenness. (See Matt. 27:46.) – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, p.72
Jesus’ perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, griefs, and infirmities and came to know these “according to the flesh” (Alma 7:11-12). He did this in order that He might be filled with perfect, personal mercy and empathy and thereby know how to succor us in our infirmities. He thus fully comprehends human suffering. – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997, p. 7
Again, on Calvary, during the last three hours of his mortal passion, the sufferings of Gethsemane returned, and he drank to the full the cup which his Heavenly Father had given him. – Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “The Seven Christs,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 33
Crucifixion – the horrible and painful death which He suffered – was chosen from the beginning. By that excruciating death, He descended below all things, as is recorded, that through His resurrection He would ascend above all things. (See D&C 88:6.) – Elder David B. Haight, “The Sacrament – and the Sacrifice,” Ensign, November 1989, p. 60; reprinted in Ensign, April, 2007, p.15
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path – the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].” -- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “None Were with Him,” Ensign, May 2009, p. 88
His Atonement is infinite – without an end. It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope – it was to be done once for all. And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension. – Elder Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, November 1996, 35
Some Church members feel weighed down with discouragement about the circumstances of their personal lives, even when they are making sustained and admirable efforts. Frequently, these feelings of self-disappointment come not from wrongdoing, but from stresses and troubles for which we may not be fully to blame. The Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to these experiences because it applies to all of life. The Savior can wipe away all of our tears, after all we can do. . . .
The Savior’s atonement is thus portrayed as the healing power not only for sin, but also for carelessness, inadequacy, and all mortal bitterness. The Atonement is not just for sinners. . . .
Similarly, some Church members feel entitled to “a few free ones” as they sow their wild oats and walk constantly along the edge of transgression. Or they believe that repentance requires little more than saying they are sorry. Constant emphasis on the availability of forgiveness can be counterproductive in such cases, suggesting – wrongly – that they can “live it up” now and repent easily later without harmful consequences.
Despite these reasons for caution, the blessing of making the Atonement more central to our lives outweighs any associated risks. When we habitually understate the Atonement’s broad meaning, we do more harm than leaving one another without comforting reassurances – for some may simply drop out of the race, weighed down beyond the breaking point with self-doubt and spiritual fatigue.
However, if we refuse to repent, and thereby must satisfy justice by suffering for our own sins, we will remain unprepared to enter the celestial kingdom. Unless we accept the Savior’s invitation to carry our sins, we will not experience the complete rehabilitation that occurs through a combination of divine assistance and genuine repentance. By analogy, criminals are not necessarily rehabilitated by serving a fixed number of years to pay their debt to society. A prison term may satisfy our sense of retribution, but real rehabilitation requires a positive process of character change.
Mercy and repentance are rehabilitative, not retributive. The Savior asks us to repent not just to repay him for paying our debt to justice, but also to induce us to undergo the personal development that will purify our very nature. The “natural man” will remain an enemy to God forever – even after paying for his own sins – unless he also “becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” (Mosiah 3:19)
Some of us make repentance too easy, and others make it too hard. Those who make it too easy don’t see any big sins in their lives, or they believe that breezy apologies alone are enough. These people should read President Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness, which reviews many sins of both commission and omission. And while forgiveness is a miracle, it is not won without penitent and strenuous effort. – Bruce R. Hafen, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, April 1990
The person we are when we depart this life is the person we will be as we enter the next. Thankfully, we do have Today. . . . We really are immortal in the sense that Christ’s Atonement conquers death, both physical and spiritual. And provided we have so lived Today that we have claim on the Atonement’s cleansing grace, we will live forever with God. This life is not so much a time for getting and accumulating as it is a time for giving and becoming. Mortality is the battlefield upon which justice and mercy meet. But they need not meet as adversaries, for they are reconciled in the Atonement of Jesus Christ for all who wisely use Today. – Elder Lance B. Wickman, “Today,” Ensign, May 2008, p. 105
Perfection comes through the Atonement of Christ. We become one with him, with a perfect being. And as we become one, there is a merger. Some of my students are studying business, and they understand it better if I talk in business terms. You take a small bankrupt firm that’s about ready to go under and merge it with a corporate giant. What happens? Their assets and liabilities flow together, and the new entity that is created is solvent. . . . Spiritually, this is what happens when we enter into the covenant relationship with our Savior. We have liabilities, he has assets. He proposes to us a covenant relationship. I use the word “propose” on purpose because it is a marriage of a spiritual sort that is being proposed. That is why he is called the Bridegroom. This covenant relationship is so intimate that it can be described as a marriage. I become one with Christ, and as partners we work together for my salvation and my exaltation. My liabilities and his assets flow into each other. I do all that I can do, and he does what I cannot yet do. The two of us together are perfect. – Stephen E. Robinson, ”Believing Christ: A Practical Approach to the Atonement,” 1989-90 BYU Devotional and Fireside Speeches, pp. 120-21
I believe the answers to these penetrating questions [Faith and Hope] are found in Moroni 7:40-42. As we read these verses together, please notice the interrelationship between the principles of faith and hope.
“And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that you can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?”
Now, verses 41 and 42 provide the answers to the challenging questions I just asked.
“And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.”
These verses outline a straightforward formula that invites the gift of peace into our lives. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – that is total trust in Him, complete confidence in Him, and a ready reliance on His merits, mercy, and grace – leads to hope, a hope through the Atonement in the power of the resurrection and in eternal life that invites the sweet peace of conscience for which men and women have always yearned. The redeeming and cleansing power of the Savior’s Atonement helps us to dispel the despair caused by transgression and sin. And the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. As we work and learn and progress and struggle, we are blessed to know that “. . . he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). – Elder David A. Bednar, Education Week Devotional, June 24, 2004
Examples of the enabling power are not found only in the scriptures. Daniel W. Jones was born in 1830 in Missouri, and he joined the Church in California in 1851. In 1856 he participated in the rescue of handcart companies that were stranded in Wyoming by severe snowstorms. After the rescue party had found the suffering Saints, provided what immediate comfort they could, and made arrangements for the sick and the feeble to be transported to Salt Lake City, Daniel and several other young men volunteered to remain with and safeguard the company’s possessions. The food and supplies left with Daniel and his colleagues were meager and rapidly expended. The following quote from Daniel Jones’s personal journal describes the events that followed.
“Game soon became so scarce that we could kill nothing. We ate all the poor meat; one would get hungry eating it. Finally that was all gone, nothing now but hides were left. We made a trial of them. A lot was cooked and eaten without any seasoning and it made the whole company sick. . . .
“Things looked dark, for nothing remained but the poor raw hides taken from starved cattle. We asked the Lord to direct us what to do. The brethren did not murmur, but felt to trust in God. . . . Finally I was impressed how to fix the stuff and gave the company advice, telling them how to cook it; for them to scorch and scrape the hair off; this had a tendency to kill and purify the bad taste that scalding gave it. After scraping, boil one hour in plenty of water, throwing the water away which had extracted all the glue, then wash and scrape the hide thoroughly, washing in cold water, then boil to a jelly and let it get cold, and then eat with a little sugar sprinkled on it. This was considerable trouble, but we had little else to do and it was better than starving.
“We asked the Lord to bless our stomachs and adapt them to this food. . . . On eating now all seemed to relish the feast. We were three days without eating before this second attempt was made. We enjoyed this sumptuous fare for about six weeks.” (Daniel W. Jones, Forty Years Among the Indians, pp. 57-58)
In those circumstances I probably would have prayed for something else to eat: “Heavenly Father, please send me a quail or a buffalo.” It likely would not have occurred to me to pray that my stomach would be strengthened and adapted to the food we had. What did Daniel W. Jones know? He knew about the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that his circumstances would be changed. He prayed that he would be strengthened to deal with his circumstances. Just as Alma and his people, Amulek, and Nephi were strengthened, Daniel W. Jones had the spiritual insight to know what to ask for in that prayer.
The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own. . . . – Elder David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, April 2012, pp. 45-46; from a devotional address given at BYU, October 23, 2001
In Alma chapter 7 we learn how and why the Savior is able to provide the enabling power:
“He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11–12).
The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor – literally run to us – and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power. – Elder David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, April 2012, pp. 46-47; from a devotional address given at BYU October 23, 2001
The knowledge that Heavenly Father loves us and that we are His children gives us strength, comfort, and hope to live this mortal life. Allowing the Savior to atone for our sins is the greatest expression of our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – Dean R. Burgess, “Do You Know Who You Are?,” Ensign, May 2008, pp. 53–55
If we truly understood the Atonement and the eternal value of each soul, we would seek out the wayward boy and girl and every other wayward child of God. We would help them to know of the love Christ has for them. We would do all that we can to help prepare them to receive the saving ordinances of the gospel. – Elder M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign, May 2004, p. 86
For those who are discouraged by their circumstances and are therefore tempted to feel they cannot serve the Lord this day, I make you two promises. Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart. Your circumstances may not be improved in all the ways which you desire. But you will have been given new strength to carry your burdens and new confidence that when your burdens become too heavy, the Lord, whom you have served, will carry what you cannot. He knows how. He prepared long ago. He suffered your infirmities and your sorrows when He was in the flesh so that He would know how to succor you. – Elder Henry B. Eyring, “This Day,” Ensign, May 2007, pp. 89-91
The utter loneliness and excruciating pain of the Atonement begun in Gethsemane reached its zenith when, after unspeakable abuse at the hands of Roman soldiers and others, Christ cried from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) In the depths of that anguish, even nature itself convulsed. “There was a darkness over all the earth. . . . And the sun was darkened.” (Luke 23:44–45) “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent,” (Matthew 27:51) causing many to exclaim, “The God of nature suffers.” (1 Nephi 19:12) Finally, even the seemingly unbearable had been borne, and Jesus said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30.) “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Someday, somewhere, every human tongue will be called upon to confess as did a Roman centurion who witnessed all of this, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54)
To the thoughtful woman and man, it is “a matter of surpassing wonder” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 12th ed., 1924, 77) that the voluntary and merciful sacrifice of a single being could satisfy the infinite and eternal demands of justice, atone for every human transgression and misdeed, and thereby sweep all humankind into the encompassing arms of His merciful embrace. But so it is.
To quote President John Taylor (1808–87): “In a manner to us incomprehensible and inexplicable, He bore the weight of the sins of the whole world; not only of Adam, but of his posterity; and in doing that, opened the kingdom of heaven, not only to all believers and all who obeyed the law of God, but to more than one-half of the human family who die before they come to years of maturity, as well as to [those] who . . . [die] without [the] law.” (The Mediation and Atonement (1882), 148–49) – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, December 2003
It is only through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ that people can overcome the consequences of bad choices. Thus Nephi teaches us that it is ultimately by the grace of Christ that we are saved even after all that we can do (see 2 Ne. 25:23). No matter how hard we work, no matter how much we obey, no matter how many good things we do in this life, it would not be enough were it not for Jesus Christ and His loving grace. On our own we cannot earn the kingdom of God – no matter what we do. Unfortunately, there are some within the Church who have become so preoccupied with performing good works that they forget that those works – as good as they may be – are hollow unless they are accompanied by a complete dependence on Christ. It is this dependence that causes us to want to sing what Alma eloquently referred to as “the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26). – Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Building Bridges of Understanding,” Ensign, June 1998, p. 65
The Atonement not only benefits the sinner but also benefits those sinned against – that is, the victims. By forgiving “those who trespass against us” (JST, Matt. 6:13) the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort to those who have been innocently victimized by the sins of others. The basic source for the healing of the soul is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is true whether it be from the pain of a personal tragedy or a terrible national calamity such as we have recently experienced in New York and Washington, D.C., and near Pittsburgh.
The injured should do what they can to work through their trials, and the Savior will “succor his people according to their infirmities” [Alma 7:12]. He will help us carry our burdens. Some injuries are so hurtful and deep that they cannot be healed without help from a higher power and hope for perfect justice and restitution in the next life. Since the Savior has suffered anything and everything that we could ever feel or experience [Alma 7:11], He can help the weak to become stronger. He has personally experienced all of it. He understands our pain and will walk with us even in our darkest hours. – President James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, p. 18
Another fundamental scripture describes Jesus’ having trodden the winepress of the “fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (D&C 88:106; see also D&C 76:107; 133:50). Others can and should encourage, commend, pray, and comfort, but the lifting and carrying of our individual crosses remains ours to do. Given the “fierceness” Christ endured for us, we cannot expect a discipleship of unruffled easiness. As we seek forgiveness, for example, repentance can be a rough-hewn regimen to bear. By the way, let us not, as some do, mistake the chips we have placed on our own shoulders for crosses!
Uniquely, atoning Jesus also “descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things” (D&C 88:6; see also D&C 122:8). How deep that descent into despair and abysmal agony must have been! He did it to rescue us and in order to comprehend human suffering. Therefore, let us not resent those tutoring experiences which can develop our own empathy further (see Alma 7:11–12). A slothful heart will not do, and neither will a resentful heart. So being admitted fully to “the fellowship of his sufferings” requires the full dues of discipleship (Philip. 3:10; see also 1 Cor. 1:9).
Moreover, Jesus not only took upon Him our sins to atone for them, but also our sicknesses and aching griefs (see Alma 7:11–12; Matt. 8:17). Hence, He knows personally all that we pass through and how to extend His perfect mercy – as well as how to succor us. His agony was all the more astonishing in that He trod “the wine-press alone” (D&C 133:50). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, April 2001
Blessed be the Father for his loving-kindness in giving his Only Begotten as Our Redeemer! We do not know, nor could we appreciate if we did, the feelings of the Father as he watched his firstborn go through the Atonement. How great our Father is.
Blessed be the Son, Jesus Christ, for his loving-kindness in atoning for our sins. I “scarce can take it in” (“How Great Thou Art”). Whenever you and I witness and experience in a human being impressive loving-kindness, we marvel – and we should marvel. But such highly developed loving-kindness is still not closely comparable to Jesus’ loving-kindness. – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Speeches, 31 March 1991
The knowledge that Heavenly Father loves us and that we are His children gives us strength, comfort, and hope to live this mortal life. Allowing the Savior to atone for our sins is the greatest expression of our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – Dean R. Burgess, “Do You Know Who You Are?,” Ensign, May 2008, pp. 53-55
Revealed truths reassure us that we are enclosed in divine empathy. As Enoch witnessed, we worship a God who wept over needless human misery and wickedness (see Moses 7:28–29, 33, 37). Jesus’ perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, griefs, and infirmities and came to know these “according to the flesh” (Alma 7:11–12). He did this in order that He might be filled with perfect, personal mercy and empathy and thereby know how to succor us in our infirmities. He thus fully comprehends human suffering. Truly Christ “descended below all things, in that He comprehended all things” (D&C 88:6). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997
Yet in His later description of His agonies, Jesus does not speak of those things. Instead, after the Atonement, there is no mention about His being spat upon, struck, or proffered vinegar and gall. Instead, Christ confides in us His chief anxiety, namely, that He “would that [He] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18) – especially desiring not to get partway through the Atonement and then pull back. Mercifully for all of us, He “finished [His] preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19). Jesus partook of history’s bitterest cup without becoming bitter! Significantly, when He comes again in majesty and power, He will cite His aloneness, saying, “I have trodden the wine-press alone” (D&C 133:50). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997
The Book of Mormon describes Jesus’ Atonement as the “infinite atonement” (Alma 34:12); it certainly required infinite suffering. When suffering and burdened Jesus entered Gethsemane, He “fell on the ground” (Mark 14:35). He did not merely kneel down, pray intensely and briefly, and leave. His agonies were so great that He began to bleed at every one of thousands of His pores (see D&C 19:18). An angel, whose identity we do not know, came to strengthen Him (see Luke 22:43). Mark wrote that Jesus became “sore amazed” and “very heavy” (Mark 14:33), meaning in the Greek, respectively, “astonished and awestruck” and “depressed and dejected.” None of us can tell Christ anything about depression!
In the course of that great prayer, He pled with the Father in the most intimate and familial of terms, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). This was not theater but real pleading to a loving Father from a suffering Son in the deepest possible distress!
In the Atonement Jesus experienced what He later described as “the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (D&C 76:107; D&C 88:106). We can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like as He stood in our places and paid the price for our sins.
Though sinless Himself, He bore the sins of billions. Thus His empathy and mercy became fully perfected and personalized. Indeed, He thus “descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things” (D&C 88:6; see also 122:8).
He was scourged, most likely with a Roman flagellum of several thongs; at the end of each were sharp objects designed to tear the flesh. His tensed back muscles would have been torn. If he was struck with the usual number of blows, 39, the first blows would have bruised and the last blows would have shredded His flesh. Believing Christian physicians wrote that, medically speaking, Jesus would have been in serious, if not critical, medical condition because of the loss of blood; and, as we know by revelation, He had previously bled from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane (see William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 21 Mar. 1986, vol. 255, no. 11, 1458). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997
At the apogee of His agony, Jesus uttered on the cross the great soul cry of foresakenness: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). President [Brigham] Young’s insight helps us understand His aloneness, which was a unique dimension of His agony:
“At the very moment, at the hour when the crisis came for him to offer up his life, the Father withdrew Himself, withdrew His Spirit, and cast a veil over [Jesus]. That is what made him sweat blood. If he had had the power of God upon him, he would not have sweat blood; but all was withdrawn from him, and a veil was cast over him, and he then plead with the Father not to forsake him” (in Journal of Discourses, 3:206).
When Jesus comes in overwhelming majesty and power, in at least one of His appearances He will come in red attire, reminding us that He shed His blood to atone for our sins (see D&C 133:48; Isa. 63:1). His voice will be heard to declare, again, how alone He once was: “I have trodden the wine-press alone . . . and none were with me” (D&C 133:50). – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997
It was understood from the beginning that in mortality we would fall short of being perfect. It was not expected that we would live without transgressing one law or another.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” (Mosiah 3:19) . . . .
If you have made no mistakes, then you do not need the Atonement. If you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness.
President Joseph F. Smith taught: “Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins. Men can stop sinning and can do right in the future, and so far [as] their acts are acceptable before the Lord [become] worthy of consideration. But who shall repair the wrongs they have done to themselves and to others, which it seems impossible for them to repair themselves? By the atonement of Jesus Christ the sins of the repentant shall be washed away; though they be crimson they shall be made white as wool [see Isaiah 1:18]. This is the promise given to you.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 99–100.)
We do not know exactly how the Lord accomplished the Atonement. But we do know that the cruel torture of crucifixion was only part of the horrific pain which began in Gethsemane – that sacred site of suffering – and was completed on Golgotha. . . . – Elder Boyd K. Packer, “The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 2012
Throughout your life there may be times when you have gone places you never should have gone and done things you never should have done. If you will turn away from sin, you will be able one day to know the peace that comes from following the pathway of complete repentance.
No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out. To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in all scripture is when the Lord said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42)
That is the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Atonement: to take anyone who comes, anyone who will join, and put them through an experience so that at the end of their life, they can go through the veil having repented of their sins and having been washed clean through the blood of Christ. (See Revelation 1:5.) – Elder Boyd K. Packer, “The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 2012
All nations are going to share in these blessings; all are incorporated in the redemption of the Savior. He has tasted death for every man; they are all in his power, and he saves them all, as he says, except the sons of perdition; and the Father has put all the creations of this earth in his power. The earth itself, and mankind upon it, the brute beasts, the fish of the sea, and the fowls of heaven, the insects, and every creeping thing, with all things pertaining to this earthly ball – all are in the hands of the Savior, and he has redeemed them all. – Discourses of Brigham Young, 388
Sin is upon every earth that ever was created . . . consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter; and every earth, and the people thereof, in their turn and time, receive all that we receive, and pass through all the ordeals that we are passing through. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 14:71-72
This was no miracle to him. He had the issues of life and death in his power; he had power to lay down his life and the power to take it up again. This is what he says, and we must believe this if we believe the history of the Savior and the sayings of the Apostles recorded in the New Testament. Jesus had this power in and of himself; the Father bequeathed it to him; it was his legacy, and he had the power to lay down his life and take it again. – Discourses of Brigham Young, 340-41
To be Saints indeed requires every wrong influence that is within them, as individuals, to be subdued, until every evil desire is eradicated, and every feeling of the heart is brought into subjection to the will of Christ. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 19:66
It requires all the atonement of Christ – the mercy of the Father – the pity of angels – and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with us always – and then to do the very best we possibly can, to get rid of this sin within us, so that we may escape from this world into the celestial kingdom. – Discourses of Brigham Young, 60
There is much that we have in common one with another. We know where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go when we leave this life. We know that we are children of our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. We know we want to return to Him after we leave this earthly existence. We know that what we do – and don’t do – here in mortality is of utmost importance. We also know that, should we fall short, our Savior has provided us with the precious gift of the Atonement and that, if we change our lives and our hearts and take advantage of the power of the Atonement, our sins and shortcomings will be forgiven and forgotten. – President Thomas S. Monson, “Be a Light to the World,” BYU Devotional, November 1, 2011
When we promise to follow the Savior, to walk in His footsteps and be His disciples, we are promising to go where that divine path leads us. And the path of salvation has always led one way or another through Gethsemane. So if the Savior faced such injustices and discouragements, such persecutions, unrighteousness, and suffering, we cannot expect that we are not going to face some of that if we still intend to call ourselves His true disciples and faithful followers. And it certainly underscores the fact that the righteous – in the Savior’s case, the personification of righteousness – can be totally worthy before God and still suffer. In fact, it ought to be a matter of great doctrinal consolation to us that Jesus, in the course of the Atonement, experienced all of the heartache and sorrow, all of the disappointments and injustices that the entire family of man had experienced and would experience from Adam and Eve to the end of the world in order that we would not have to face them so severely or so deeply. However heavy our load might be, it would be a lot heavier if the Savior had not gone that way before us and carried that burden with us and for us. – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lessons from Liberty Jail,” Ensign, Sept. 2009, p. 31
The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and a determination to do better and especially to become better. – President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Ensign, Nov. 2012, 24
On the eve of Jesus Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, He issued this benediction to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Of this invitation, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “[This] may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart.” Elder Holland added, “I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Come unto Me,” Ensign, April 1998, p. 19) – Carolyn J. Rasmus, “The Enabling Power of the Atonement,” Ensign, March 2013, p. 20
Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.
How all can be repaired, we do not know. It may not all be accomplished in this life.
This knowledge should be as comforting to the innocent as it is to the guilty. I am thinking of parents who suffer unbearably for the mistakes of their wayward children and are losing hope. – President Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 20
His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.
Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.
And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are – all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory. – Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” General Conference, April 1985
Two thousand years ago, outside Jerusalem’s walls, there was a pleasant garden spot, Gethsemane by name, where Jesus and his intimate friends were wont to retire for pondering and prayer.
There Jesus taught his disciples the doctrines of the kingdom, and all of them communed with Him who is the Father of us all, in whose ministry they were engaged, and on whose errand they served.
This sacred spot, like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.
We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be.
As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies – this suffering beyond compare – continued for some three or four hours. – Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” General Conference, April 1985
After this – his body then wrenched and drained of strength – he confronted Judas and the other incarnate devils, some from the very Sanhedrin itself; and he was led away with a rope around his neck, as a common criminal, to be judged by the arch-criminals who as Jews sat in Aaron’s seat and who as Romans wielded Caesar’s power.
They took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten. Their foul saliva ran down his face as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body.
With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back. Blood ran down his face as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow.
But above it all he was scourged, scourged with forty stripes save one, scourged with a multi-thonged whip into whose leather strands sharp bones and cutting metals were woven.
Many died from scourging alone, but he rose from the sufferings of the scourge that he might die an ignominious death upon the cruel cross of Calvary.
Then he carried his own cross until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.
Finally, on a hill called Calvary – again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls – while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies, the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.
With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.
Then the cross was raised that all might see and gape and curse and deride. This they did, with evil venom, for three hours from 9:00 A.M. to noon.
Then the heavens grew black. Darkness covered the land for the space of three hours, as it did among the Nephites. There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony.
And truly he was, for while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 P.M., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred.
And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll – when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things – then he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost.
As the peace and comfort of a merciful death freed him from the pains and sorrows of mortality, he entered the paradise of God. – Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” General Conference, April 1985
For some reason, we think the Atonement of Christ applies only at the end of mortal life to redemption from the Fall, from spiritual death. It is much more than that. It is an ever-present power to call upon in everyday life. When we are racked or harrowed up or tormented by guilt or burdened with grief, He can heal us. While we do not fully understand how the Atonement of Christ was made, we can experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7) . . . .
The Atonement has practical, personal, everyday value; apply it in your life. It can be activated with so simple a beginning as prayer. You will not thereafter be free from trouble and mistakes but can erase the guilt through repentance and be at peace. – President Boyd K. Packer, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Ensign, May 2001, pp. 23-24
This reliance upon the merciful nature of God is at the very center of the gospel Christ taught. I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair. From the beginning, trust in such help was to give us both a reason and a way to improve, an incentive to lay down our burdens and take up our salvation. There can and will be plenty of difficulties in life. Nevertheless, the soul that comes unto Christ, who knows His voice and strives to do as He did, finds a strength, as the hymn says, “beyond [his] own.” The Savior reminds us that He has “graven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands.” Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way. – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Broken Things to Mend,” General Conference, April 2006