Atonement of Jesus Christ
As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.
As descendants of Adam and Eve, all people inherit the effects of the Fall. In our fallen state, we are subject to opposition and temptation. When we give in to temptation, we are alienated from God, and if we continue in sin, we experience spiritual death, being separated from His presence. We are all subject to temporal death, which is the death of the physical body (see Alma 42:6-9; D&C 29:41–42).
The only way for us to be saved is for someone else to rescue us. We need someone who can satisfy the demands of justice—standing in our place to assume the burden of the Fall and to pay the price for our sins. Jesus Christ has always been the only one capable of making such a sacrifice.
From before the Creation of the earth, the Savior has been our only hope for "peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come" (D&C 59:23).
Only He had the power to lay down His life and take it up again. From His mortal mother, Mary, He inherited the ability to die. From His immortal Father, He inherited the power to overcome death. He declared, "As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:26).
Only He could redeem us from our sins. God the Father gave Him this power (see Helaman 5:11). The Savior was able to receive this power and carry out the Atonement because He kept Himself free from sin: "He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them" (D&C 20:22). Having lived a perfect, sinless life, He was free from the demands of justice. Because He had the power of redemption and because He had no debt to justice, he could pay the debt for those who repent.
Jesus's atoning sacrifice took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. In Gethsemane He submitted to the will of the Father and began to take upon Himself the sins of all people. He has revealed some of what He experienced as He paid the price for our sins:
"I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
"But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
"Which 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—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
"Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men" (D&C 19:16–19; see also Luke 22:44; Mosiah 3:7).
The Savior continued to suffer for our sins when He allowed Himself to be crucified—"lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world" (1 Nephi 11:33).
On the cross, He allowed Himself to die. His body was then laid in a tomb until He was resurrected and became "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Through His death and Resurrection, He overcame physical death for us all.
Jesus Christ redeems all people from the effects of the Fall. All people who have ever lived on the earth and who ever will live on the earth will be resurrected and brought back into the presence of God to be judged (see 2 Nephi 2:5–10; Helaman 14:15–17). Through the Savior's gift of mercy and redeeming grace, we will all receive the gift of immortality and live forever in glorified, resurrected bodies.
Although we are redeemed unconditionally from the universal effects of the Fall, we are accountable for our own sins. But we can be forgiven and cleansed from the stain of sin if we "apply the atoning blood of Christ" (Mosiah 4:2). We must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized for the remission of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
See also Baptism; Death, Physical; Death, Spiritual; Eternal Life; Faith; Fall; Forgiveness; God the Father; Gospel; Justice; Kingdoms of Glory; Mercy; Ordinances; Plan of Salvation; Repentance; Resurrection; Salvation
—See True to the Faith (2004), 14–21
"The Atonement and the Value of One Soul"
M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, May 2004, 84–87
If we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God.
"Atonement, Agency, Accountability"
Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1988, 69–72
Ever and always [the Atonement] offers amnesty from transgression and from death if we will but repent. . . . Repentance is the key with which we can unlock the prison from inside . . . , and agency is ours to use it.
"The Purifying Power of Gethsemane"
Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, May 1985, 9–11
The Lord's Atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur, from Creation's dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
"The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope"
James E. Faust, Liahona, Jan. 2002, 19–22; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18–20
Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement. Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully.
"Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement"
Neal A. Maxwell, Liahona, Apr. 2002, 6–13; or Ensign, Oct. 2001, 10–15
By personally understanding and believing in the Atonement, you and I can teach and testify of it with greater gratitude, greater love, and greater power.
Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 1996, 33–36
The purposes of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement all converge on the sacred work done in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The Fall and Infinite Atonement
Spencer J. Condie, Ensign, Jan. 1996, 22–27
Without the knowledge restored through the Book of Mormon, we might never fully understand the Fall and the Atonement.
"The Supernal Gift of the Atonement"
James E. Faust, Ensign, Nov. 1988, 12–14
Faith in the Savior's resurrection "should help us carry all burdens, bear any sorrows, and also fully savor all joys and happiness that can be found in this life."
"Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done,"
New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, Lesson 25
"O How Great the Goodness of Our God"
Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, Lesson 8
"God Himself . . . Shall Redeem His People"
Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, Lesson 18
"Behold, I Am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World"
Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, Lesson 2
"Accepting the Atonement of Jesus Christ"
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, Chapter 5
"The Infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ"
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, Chapter 5
"The Power of the Atonement for Us Personally"
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, Chapter 6
"The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World"
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, Chapter 3
Guide to the Scriptures
"Atonement of Jesus Christ"
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
(Please note that the contents of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a joint product of Brigham Young University and Macmillan Publishing Company, do not necessarily represent the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)
Gospel Principles, Chapter 12