The Power of the Atonement for Us Personally
“Chapter 6: The Power of the Atonement for Us Personally,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 49
Through the great atonement, the expiatory [or atoning] sacrifice of the Son of God, it is made possible that man can be redeemed, restored, resurrected and exalted to the elevated position designed for him in the creation. 1
From the Life of John Taylor
President John Taylor often taught of the effects of the Atonement of Jesus Christ on all mankind. He also spoke of the joy he received personally as he contemplated the mercies of the Atonement. “I rejoice that we have a Savior who had the goodness to come forth and redeem us,” he said, “and I rejoice that we have a Savior that yet looks forward to the redemption of the world.” 2
Shortly before his death, President Taylor wrote the following to his family members, expressing the hope he had through the Atonement:
“I pray God the Eternal Father that when we have all finished our probation here, we may be presented to the Lord without spot or blemish, as pure and honorable representatives of the Church and kingdom of God on the earth, and then inherit a celestial glory in the kingdom of our God, and enjoy everlasting felicity with the pure and just in the realms of eternal day, through the merits and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, in worlds without end.” 3
Teachings of John Taylor
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected.
It now becomes our duty to enquire … what was accomplished by the atonement.
First, the Resurrection. The penalty of the broken law in Adam’s day was death; and death is passed upon all. The word of the Lord was, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” [Genesis 2:17; see also Moses 3:17.] The atonement made by Jesus Christ brought about the resurrection from the dead, and restored life. And hence Jesus said: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;” [John 11:25] and Jesus Himself became the first fruits of those who slept.
The next question that arises is, how far does this principle extend and to whom is it applicable? It extends to all the human family; to all men of every nation. 4
All must come forth from the grave, some time or other, in the selfsame tabernacles that they possessed while living on the earth. It will be just as Ezekiel has described it—bone will come to its bone, and flesh and sinew will cover the skeleton, and at the Lord’s bidding breath will enter the body, and we shall appear, many of us, a marvel to ourselves [see Ezekiel 37:1–14].
I heard Joseph Smith say, at the time he was making a tomb at Nauvoo, that he expected, when the time came when the grave would be rent asunder, that he would arise and embrace his father and mother, and shake hands with his friends. It was his written request that when he died, some kind friends would see that he was buried near his bosom friends, so that when he and they arose in the morning of the first resurrection, he could embrace them, saying, “My father! My mother!”
How consoling it is to those who are called upon to mourn the loss of dear friends in death, to know that we will again be associated with them! How encouraging to all who live according to the revealed principles of truth, perhaps more especially to those whose lives are pretty well spent, who have borne the heat and burden of the day, to know that ere long we shall burst the barriers of the tomb, and come forth living and immortal souls, to enjoy the society of our tried and trusted friends, no more to be afflicted with the seeds of death, and to finish the work the Father has given us to do! 5
The Atonement enables the faithful to overcome spiritual death and obtain exaltation.
God’s plan in relation to man was that he should fall, and having fallen and obtained a knowledge of good and evil, (which knowledge he could not have obtained without placing himself in that position), then it became necessary that he should know concerning the atonement and redemption which should be brought about through the mediation of Jesus Christ. 6
How, and in what manner are men benefitted by the atonement and by the resurrection? In this, that the atonement having restored man to his former position before the Lord, it has placed him in a position and made it possible for him to obtain that exaltation and glory which it would have been impossible for him to have received without it; even to become a son of God by adoption; and being a son then an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ [see Romans 8:16–17]; and that, as Christ overcame, He has made it possible, and has placed it within the power of believers in Him, also to overcome; and as He is authorized to inherit His Father’s glory which He had with Him before the world was, with His resurrected body, so through the adoption, may we overcome and sit down with Him upon His throne, as He has overcome and has sat down upon His Father’s throne. …
… Through His atonement, believers in Christ, and those who obey His law, partake of His glory and exaltation, and are inheritors of the Godhead; whilst those who do not obey His law although resurrected cannot inherit this exaltation; they are raised from the dead, but cannot inherit a celestial glory without being obedient to a celestial law. … Jesus said, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” [Luke 24:46–47.] 7
The Atonement redeems little children and those people who die without a knowledge of the gospel.
The Redeemer Himself, when tabernacling in the flesh, said to His disciples … , “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” [Luke 18:16–17.] And after His crucifixion and resurrection He repeated this same admonition to His Nephite disciples: “And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” [3 Nephi 11:38.]
Without Adam’s transgression those children could not have existed; through the atonement they are placed in a state of salvation without any act of their own. These would embrace, according to the opinion of statisticians, more than one-half of the human family, who can attribute their salvation only to the mediation and atonement of the Savior. Thus, as stated elsewhere, in some mysterious, incomprehensible way, Jesus assumed the responsibility which naturally would have devolved upon Adam; but which could only be accomplished through the mediation of Himself, and by taking upon Himself their sorrows, assuming their responsibilities, and bearing their transgressions or sins.
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 the heathen, who, having died without law, will, through His mediation, be resurrected without law, and be judged without law, and thus participate, according to their capacity, works and worth, in the blessings of His atonement. 8
Because the Savior has been “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” he can fully comprehend our trials.
It was necessary, when the Savior was upon the earth, that he should be tempted in all points, like unto us, and “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” [Hebrews 4:15] to comprehend the weaknesses and strength, the perfections and imperfections of poor fallen human nature. And having accomplished the thing he came into the world to do; having had to grapple with the hypocrisy, corruption, weakness, and imbecility of man; having met with temptation and trial in all its various forms, and overcome; he has become a “faithful high priest” [Hebrews 2:17] to intercede for us in the everlasting kingdom of his Father.
He knows how to estimate and put a proper value upon human nature, for he, having been placed in the same position as we are, knows how to bear with our weaknesses and infirmities, and can fully comprehend the depth, power, and strength of the afflictions and trials that men have to cope with in this world. And thus understandingly and by experience, he can bear with them. 9
The first principles and ordinances of the gospel are necessary for us to receive the full blessings of the Atonement.
Having noticed the great blessings, privileges, powers and exaltations that are placed within the reach of man, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, it next becomes our duty to enquire what is required of man to place him in possession of them. …
The conditions required of the human family to enable them to obtain the high exaltation which the atonement makes it possible for them to receive, are: First, Faith in God as our Father and the great Supreme Ruler of the universe; in whose hands are the destinies of the human family; in whom we live and move and have our being. And in His Son Jesus Christ, as the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, as the great Mediator and great propitiatory sacrifice provided by the Father before the creation, and consummated by the offering of Himself upon the cross. 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.” [John 3:16.] Or, to use the words of the Nephite King Benjamin:
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.” [Mosiah 4:9.]
Or as Paul writes; “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6.]
The second principle of the Gospel of salvation, is repentance. It is a sincere and godly sorrow for and a forsaking of sin, combined with full purpose of heart to keep God’s commandments. As is written by the Prophet Isaiah: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” [Isaiah 55:7.] And to quote from the Book of Mormon:
“And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” [Mosiah 4:10.]
Thirdly, Baptism for the remission of sins, of our personal transgressions, which, through this means, provided by divine mercy, are, by reason of the atonement, blotted out. To use the words of Paul: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” [Romans 6:4–5.]
Next, the reception of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands of those who have received the Holy Priesthood, and are duly authorized, ordained, and empowered to impart this blessing: Thus Peter preached on the day of Pentecost:
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” [Acts 2:38–39.]
These are the introductory or first principles of the everlasting, unchangeable Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that is and has been the same to all men, amongst all nations, in all ages, whenever, or wherever it has been taught by the authority of heaven. Hence we read: It was “preached from the beginning, being declared by holy angels, sent from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof.” [See Moses 5:58–59.] 10
We partake of the sacrament in remembrance of the Savior’s Atonement.
Sacrifices, which were offered up from the days of Adam … , were [representative] of the great expiatory sacrifice which He was to make by the sacrifice of Himself. They were so many types, shadows and forms of which He was the great prototype—the substance, the reality prefigured and foreshadowed by the other sacrifices which had been offered up from the beginning. …
But previous to the offering up of Himself, as the great expiatory sacrifice, having fulfilled the law and made it honorable, and having introduced the Gospel, He met with His disciples … to eat the Passover. He then told them, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” [Luke 22:15.] To eat what with you? The Passover. To eat what with you? The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. … The two ceremonies centered in Him, He was the embodiment of both, He was the Being provided before the foundation of the earth, and prophesied of by men of God throughout all the preceding ages; and also on account of whom the sacrifices were offered up by all the servants of the Lord, from the fall of Adam to that time; and all the various [sacrifices] heretofore offered pointed to Him, for whom they were all made and in whom they all centered. On the other hand, He it was who introduced the more perfect law, and offering Himself once for all, an infinite atonement, He, through this sacrifice, accomplished that which was designed by the Almighty before the world was, and of which the blood of bullocks, of goats and of lambs was merely the shadow.
In view of what was almost immediately to take place, He instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of this great crowning act of redemption. When at the table, “He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me;” [Luke 22:19] afterwards, “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.” [Matthew 26:27–28.] …
As from the commencement of the world to the time when the Passover was instituted, sacrifices had been offered as a memorial or type of the sacrifice of the Son of God; so from the time of the Passover until that time when He came to offer up Himself, these sacrifices and types and shadows had been carefully observed by Prophets and Patriarchs; according to the command given to Moses and other followers of the Lord. So also did He Himself fulfil this requirement, and kept the Passover as did others; and now we, after the great sacrifice has been offered, partake of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance thereof. Thus this act was the great connecting link between the past and the future; thus He fulfilled the law, met the demands of justice, and obeyed the requirements of His Heavenly Father. 11
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• What was accomplished by the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
• In what ways does the doctrine of resurrection offer you consolation?
• How has the Atonement affected you personally? How does it help you to know that the Savior “can fully comprehend the depth, power, and strength of [your] afflictions and trials”? What experiences have you had that have strengthened your testimony of the Atonement?
• What is required of us so we can receive the “great blessings, privileges, powers and exaltations” available to us through the Atonement? (See also Articles of Faith 1:3–4.)
• What is the relationship between the sacrament and the Atonement?