Monday, April 16, 2012

Why not speak of the Atonement of Christ? Part 2


Jesus Christ did many great works when He was on the earth. "He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come."1 He showed us the path to happiness through example, teaching us to love one another, not to judge, and to always abound in good works. He taught His gospel and directed us on how we should live in order to obtain peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Often this direction came in the form of commandments which He taught both in word and by example. "Come, follow me,"2 the Savior taught, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."3 "That which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day."4

But the transcendent event in the life of the Savior was His great atoning sacrifice, including His incomprehensible suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and continuing with His crucifixion on Calvary's cross. The risen Lord taught that His own suffering, "caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit...."5 Luke wrote that, "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground."6 His pain was so great, His suffering so intense that He, "fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:" and then came the ultimate example of trust in His Father, the Almighty God when He said, "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."7

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event in all of human history and in all of eternity. Without the Atonement, this life would be meaningless, the great plan of our Heavenly Father without effect, and the prospect of eternity dismal and disheartening. He trod the winepress alone, "[going] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; . . . [taking] upon him the pains and the sickness of his people."8 And this He did, "that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."9

Who are His people? They that hear His voice and are obedient to His word. "For my sheep hear my voice," taught the Master Shepherd, "and I know them, and they follow me."10 In John we read, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."11 Indeed, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."12 The love the Father and the Son have for each of us is immeasurable and the Savior taught how we can show our love for Them when He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments."13

The Atonement of Jesus Christ culminated in His resurrection that brilliant Sunday morning when He overcame death and became the, "firstfruits of them that slept."14 His victory over the grave enabled each of us to also overcome physical death. And as we listen to His voice through His chosen servants the prophets, always striving to keep His commandments, repent, and serve others, His suffering in the Garden and on the cross enables us to overcome spiritual death.

An apostle of the Lord taught in our day:

"The atonement of Jesus Christ is the single most significant event that ever has or ever will occur. This selfless act of infinite consequence, performed by a single glorified personage, has eternal impact in the life of every son and daughter of our Father in Heaven—without exception. It shatters the bonds of death. It justifies our finally being judged by the Master. It can prevent an eternity under the control of the devil. It opens the gates to exaltation and eternal life for all who qualify for forgiveness through repentance and obedience."15

I am grateful for the opportunity each day to live and strive to better apply it in my own life. Tongue cannot express nor words adequately describe how I feel about the Atonement. Although I do not fully understand the Atonement and how it works, I strive each day to better follow the example of the Savior for that is what He expects of us. God be praised for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

Happy Easter.

Jeremy

References

  1. "The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles," The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles, 2000.
  2. Luke 18:22
  3. Matt 11:29
  4. 3 Nephi 27:21-22
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 19:18
  6. Luke 22:44
  7. Luke 22:42
  8. Alma 7:11
  9. Alma 7:12
  10. John 10:27
  11. John 3:16
  12. John 15:13
  13. John 14:15
  14. 1 Corinthians 15:20
  15. Richard G. Scott, "Finding Forgiveness," Ensign, May 1995, 75

Further reading:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "None Were With Him," Ensign, May 2009
Elder C. Scott Grow, "The Miracle of the Atonement," Ensign, May 2011

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Why not speak of the Atonement of Christ? Part 1


In some of the recent discussions with my friends about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe, I've come to realize that I assume a few things as I answer questions and explain my beliefs. In explaining about prophets, about the Book of Mormon, about Joseph Smith, about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy and obeying other commandments, even about the Godhead, I assume an understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I assume that those with whom I discuss understand that in everything I say, the Atonement is the underlying reason and purpose for everything.

But I realize that may not be the case. I hope that I do not seem to focus too much on doctrines and principles and teachings and histories and not as much on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is the center of everything Jesus Christ taught and, therefore, everything taught by His living prophets today. Without the Atonement, keeping the Sabbath day holy, repenting, striving to love one another, going to church, reading the scriptures, believing Joseph Smith was a prophet, staying faithful to a spouse, or helping someone in need would have no eternal significance or effect.

The Atonement gives meaning and purpose to life, through the suffering of the Savior we gain the ability to repent and try again. Without the Atonement, all the good things that we do would be overshadowed by one or one hundred simple or gross sins. Since no good deed can in itself redeem any amount of wrongdoing, we would all be lost; even helping an old lady across the street would have no purpose and no further consequence than her safely getting to the other sidewalk. You may feel good but even then the reason you feel good about it is because God is pleased with you showing love to one of His children.

No, the reason the Lord created His church, the reason He calls prophets, the reason He has given us the holy scriptures, the reason He gives us commandments, is so that we, children of our Heavenly Father, are persuaded to, "believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God," and so that we, "may know to what source to look for a remission of [our] sins" (2 Nephi 25:23, 26). Everything Jesus Christ did while He was on the earth was to direct us to Him and teach us how we can best apply His atonement in our lives.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is quite simple. Said He, "Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you--that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

"And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up on the cross; and after that I had been lifted up on the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, ...

"And it shall come to pass that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world." (3 Nephi 27:13-14,16.)

We have all "sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But through Jesus Christ and His Atonement though our "sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). If we continually strive to do all that He and His Father ask, our garments will be washed, made clean by the blood of the lamb. This is the miracle of the Atonement and the gospel of Jesus Christ. It underlies all other teachings and is the means by which we may return to our Father in Heaven.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is very real; I have seen its effects in my life and in the lives of those I love. I urge each of you to come unto Him and learn of Him. Learn what the Atonement can do for you. The greatest happiness in this life and in eternity await you. 

Jeremy