|Doc Christensen is the artist of this painting. Free downloads are available for Sacrament Meeting covers.|
We were in the chapel last Fast and Testimony meeting and beautiful prelude music was being played by a talented member who volunteers his services wherever he is needed. I was standing and talking in a normal street voice like everyone else in the chapel. There was laughing and much visiting going on, and I was focused on being the friendly missionary, when a voice in my head said, "Sit down and listen to the music!" I realized how irreverant I was being. Later, a sister stood up, as moved by the Spirit, and called us all to repentence for being so disrespectful to our Savior and rude to the pianist. She told us later that many people were nodding their heads in agreement. At the end of the meeting, everyone stood up loudly and started where they'd left off before Sacrament Meeting, until someone asked all of us to leave the chapel!
My talk from two Sundays ago in case anyone wants an afternoon reading session:
Bruce R. McConkie states in Mormon Doctrine that “Nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in the importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest . . . The Atonement is not part of the gospel; the Atonement is the gospel.”
In other words, EVERYTHING in the earth and heavens and eternity is about the Atonement. Without it, there would be no hope, no life beyond death, and not anything to look forward to after our experience here on Earth is over.
Why was the Atonement necessary?
There are three principle purposes of the Atonement:
1) First: To restore all that was lost by the fall of Adam when he & Even transgressed against God’s commandment not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
What was lost by Adam? In Garden of Eden—immortality and being able to be in the presence of God. When that relationship was no longer possible, Adam and Eve suffered spiritual death, which is when we on earth are no longer able to be in the perfect, glorified presence of God. We must now walk by faith and we can talk with God through prayer, but we are estranged from him—separated from him.
Adam & Eve also became mortal beings who eventually died, just like all of us, and the plants, animals, and the earth must face death.
Christ agreed in the pre-existence to offer himself as a sacrifice by dying and then overcoming physical death by resurrecting so all people could become immortal and be able to be in the presence of God for the purpose of being judged, which will remove the barrier of the first spiritual death that the fall brought upon us.
2)Second: Christ’s atonement provides for the possibility of repentance so man can be cleansed from his or her individual sins and overcome what the scriptures call the second spiritual death.
So, through Adam and our own sins we were doomed to never be able to stand in God’s presence again and death would have ended everything for us if it had not been for Christ’s atonement.
3) Third: the Atonement provides a power necessary to make it possible for us to become gods some day.
Three R’s of Understanding the Atonement: Word “Atone” means to reconcile or restore to harmony”
Since we are estranged from God, we must be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ.
1. At-one-ment: being one with him again and being brought into agreement of God and us who have been estranged.
2. Redeem—to save, rescue, take something back
2 Nephi 2:26 (Messiah came to redeem the children of men from the fall)- "And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. (Save us from our body dying and never being able to reunite with our spirit). And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, . . . " (We are given immortality—living forever with our spirits being restored to our physical bodies).
Mormon 9:12-13 "Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man. And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yes, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall com forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from the eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death."
Only through Jesus Christ came the redemption of man. He paid our debts brought on by sin so we might stand in God’s presence with the Savior by our side to satisfy that we can be forgiven.
3. Ransom—the giving up something of value to get something back. Self sacrifice of Savior’s life to get our immortal lives back as when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before the fall.
Had power over life and death and chose to submit him to pain, ridicule and suffering, and offered his life as a ransom for our sins.
The build up to the Atonement and the actual act of the Atonement itself.
Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and ended with His Resurrection.
This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement.
We take advantage of His great gift by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by those holding God’s priesthood authority, and then by striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives.
All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
He paid the penalty for our sins, but He did not eliminate our personal responsibility. We can choose to show Him we accept Him as our Savior and that we will follow him by following His commandments.
Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.
While walking with Leah a couple days ago, she created an analogy I’d like to share with you.
We know we become a new person, washed clean at baptism, so let us imagine, at baptism, we are given a lovely, white, shimmering robe to wear, which soon begins to get smudged a little here and there as we live here on Earth. It sometimes drags in the mud, getting spattered with dirt and grime at times when we sin by breaking God’s commandments. Heavenly Father knew we couldn’t be perfect while on the earth and would have no way to ever go back to live with Him unless we could get cleaned up to His standards of perfection. Not to worry, He loves us so much He sent His beloved eldest Son and our brother, Jesus Christ, to solve the problems created by Adam in the fall.
Jesus Christ volunteered to help us all to know the only way to return to our heavenly home to live with Him and Heavenly Father. First, He gave us the gospel, which contained commandments that could help protect us from becoming unclean, which is like having a pair of wellies that keep our feet from getting all muddy as we follow our path in life. AND, to clean the filth from off our robes, Jesus Christ also accomplished the Atonement for us, which is like having a washing machine we can use over and over to keep our robes spotlessly white and shimmering. He purchased that washing machine with everything He had—his blood and his very life, suffering beyond comprehension by taking upon himself every sin, every emotional and physical kind of suffering imaginable that human beings experience. He knows us. He relates to us because he felt what we felt while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, bleeding from every pore as he prayed to His and our Father for strength to endure the agony He was going through and to be able to face the torture and death on the cross which awaited him. This magnificent Atonement was accomplished at great price to our Savior and the suffering there is what Atoned for our sins. Later, the torturous death by crucifixion, his burial and the crowning glory of the resurrection overcame physical death for all mankind, with the promise of immortality.
All He has asked of us in return for the sacrifice of His life is to use that wonderful washing machine through repentance—daily—and try our best to keep ourselves in our white, shimmering robes as clean as possible by being obedient to His commandments.
Imagine, today, as you sit in this Sacrament meeting, that you are sitting at the back of the chapel where you can see the whole congregations. Something different happens after the Sacrament is blessed. You hear the words from the Holy Ghost in your head:
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matt 26:26: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Sitting there contemplating that thought, you watch the Sacrament being passed by the faithful priesthood holders and marvel at the organized proceedings; you suddenly recognize that one of the persons passing the Sacrament is the Savior! You want to shout to everyone that He is here, but you can’t do that during the passing of the Sacrament. People have their heads bowed, are daydreaming, or trying to keep the little ones quiet. Some of the little children see Him and reach up their arms to Him or smile brightly up at Him. One man actually has his hand on the Savior’s hand as He passes him the tray, but that man is too focused on the cup to notice the hand with the nail marks. The woman next to the man looks at the tray and the hands and sees the scars in the palms of His hands and on His wrists, her hands go to her mouth in shock of recognition. Do you think she knows right then and there what the bread and water represent? As you watch this scene, are you feeling the depth of your love and commitment to the Savior? Is gratitude overwhelming your heart?
What is going through your mind as the Savior comes closer to passing you the tray? He expects that we’ve all taken advantage of His great gift of His suffering and giving of His life by repenting so we can be forgiven and be worthy to be in His presence. He heard us say, “Amen” as we agreed to take upon His name, keep His commandments, and serve others in love.
And after the meeting, will He ask us in a loving way, “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?” “What is the reason you attend Stoke Ward each Sunday?” “Do you do all I’ve asked so we can be together forever?”
What are you thinking now, as you visualize this scene? Will it be easier to think of Christ’s Atonement the next time we listen to the Sacrament prayer and think of our baptismal covenant? To follow him and keep his commandments. Will we be able to see him in the garden pleading with our Father in Heaven for strength to do what he has to do for us? Will we think of the things we’ve done that caused him pain? Will we repent quickly so as not to drive any more nails into His hands or pierce His heart with sorrow? Will we see His blood flowing and His body wracked with pain when we take the water and the bread? Will we see as the glorious resurrected God He is and feel the joy of what that means to us?
I’d like to share a gift of a poem written this week by a lovely young woman whom has not had an easy life. She conveys the hopelessness of not knowing about the gospel at first, but then shares how she feels as she is being taught and has discovered hope in Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
You expect too much of yourself
so you can’t grow anymore.
You’re shrinking two feet downward
instead of going up four more
trying to reach the ceiling but you’re barely off the floor.
It all seems impossible like no open doors.
But you open your eyes
and let God see deep within
but He can’t see smile’s or happiness—just your pain and suffering.
You’re confused and tired of scanning and looking,
But, “Hear I Am,” Lord cries.
No need for any more searching
but now the truth is found
and a tear falls down your cheek,
a smile appears on your face;
your future is no longer bleak;
for now you have found the Lord.
No need for looking
no need to seek
for you faith has been uncovered;
your future is no longer bleak.
Everyone’s future is as bright as they choose to make it because of Christ’s Atonement.
Our Savior pleads with us to pray and read the scriptures so we know Him and understand what He has done for us. He wants us to understand that EVERYTHING in the earth and heavens and eternity is about the Atonement. He wants us to know we can reconcile ourselves with Heavenly Father and be reunited with Him through the Atonement.
Because He was without sin, He alone was capable to give us the gift of life beyond the grave—immortality—but better yet, He has told us the way to gain the degree of glory we would like to live in from eternity to eternity. Of course, because He has promised Heavenly Father He would do everything in His power to bring the family of God back home, He teaches through prophets; He has given us the Holy Ghost to guide us and keep us close to Him; He warns; He commands; He sends signs and wonders; He sends enlightenment to man through scriptures and revelation.
Above all and in all He says and does, He encourages us to work for the highest degree of glory, which is the Celestial Kingdom, where we can live with Him and Heavenly Father and with all our loved ones who partake of the saving ordinances available through priesthood power on the earth through baptism and temple ordinances.
Our Savior desires more than anything that we deeply study and pray to understand what the Atonement offers us. He wants us to take advantage of it so we will be ready to stand with Him before Heavenly Father and be judged and receive the grace and mercy He provides for us so we will be standing in our white shimmering robes as our H.F. opens his loving arms to welcome us back home to Him.