Friday, August 28, 2009

The Essence of the Atonement

The following is a hymn found in the hymnal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As you read through the lyrics, think of what the Savior's Atonement means to you personally.

O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown, hymns #197

O savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.
The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, o king of all.

No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land.
No more can satan harm us,
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, o lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer
To thank thee, lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,
By heaven's plan appointed,
To ransom us, our king.
O jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring!

Text: Karen Lynn Davidson- b. 1943
Music: adapted by J.S. Bach- 1695-1750
Hans Leo Hassler- 1564-1612

The whole song is powerful, from the first line through the last; however, today I want to focus on the last two lines of the second verse:

The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

These lines capture the essence of the Atonement. No matter what you've done, no matter who you are, you have access to the grace of the Savior's great atoning sacrifice. From the smallest lie or complaint to the grossest moral sin including persecuting the Savior Himself, the Atonement covers all our mistakes and shortcomings. The Savior said, from the cross, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). How this statement shows His great mercy! Jesus Christ is hanging on the cross, nails in his hands, wrists, and feet; a cross of thorns on His head; and stripes from a whipping across His back, and He pleads for the forgiveness of those who did all of this to Him.

The very foes who slay thee have access to thy grace.

The apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us:

To all of you who think you are lost or without hope, or who think you have done too much that was too wrong for too long, to every one of you who worry that you are stranded somewhere on the wintry plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process, [the words of the living prophets call] out Jehovah's unrelenting refrain, "[My] hand is stretched out still." (See Isaiah 5:25; 9:17, 21.) "I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them," He said, "[and even if they] deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, . . . if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts." (2 Nephi 28:32.) His mercy endureth forever, and His hand is stretched out still. His is the pure love of Christ, the charity that never faileth, that compassion which endures even when all other strength disappears. (See Moroni 7:46–47.)
-Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 104–7

The Atonement is for all; it is not too late. The Savior's call is to come unto Him and be perfected in Him, not become perfect and then come. All you need is the desire to rid yourself of the things that are keeping you from being truly happy and go from there. Pray and plead with the Father for the strength to overcome that which is holding you back.

The power of the Atonement is real. The joy and relief that comes from being cleansed through sincere repentance and the Atonement is miraculous. We are all children of our Heavenly Father who loves us and who is patient with us. He wants us to be happy and will help us as much as we let Him. It doesn't matter what we've said or what we've done; He just wants us to come back to Him. It's our choice.