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.