As, at this Christmas season, my thoughts have turned to Jesus in appreciation for His mercy and blessings, my mind has centered upon the great gift of his atonement.
My gratitude for his atoning for my personal sins continually increases.
The pain and suffering, physical and mental, induced by the transgression and sin of men as it is daily reported by the news media, sickens the hearts of righteous men; their souls yearn for a universal understanding that all such suffering could be eradicated if men would understand Christ’s atonement and qualify for the blessings it provides.
Of the two aspects of the atonement, resurrection from the dead is most readily and widely accepted. It is succinctly and accurately thus stated by Paul:
“… as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.)
Mormon puts the two aspects of the atonement in perspective in his great discourse on faith, hope, and charity in these words:
“… what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal. …” (Moro. 7:41.)
Men are not required to have faith in Christ to be resurrected, “for [as Jesus said] the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
“And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28–29.)
It is the aspect of the atonement that will raise men “unto life eternal” that we are considering here. It is not necessary to await the resurrection to receive the blessing of this aspect of the resurrection. Amulek, teaching the Nephites, said:
“And now, my brethren, I would that … ye come forth and bring fruit unto repentance.
“… for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:30–31.)
When a person qualifies himself to receive the blessing of this aspect of Christ’s atonement, he is by the power of God forgiven of his sins; he is born again of the Spirit; he is a new person; he takes on the divine nature; he has “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2); he has peace of conscience and is filled with joy. (See Mosiah 4:3.) This is what Jesus meant when He said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“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.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30.)
If all men would believe Jesus, take him at his word, and obey his commandments, man-made troubles and sorrows would melt away as the hoarfrost before the rising sun.
In 4 Nephi we have a record of a society which did this and preserved a peaceful, happy society for 200 years. Of them the record says:
“And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
“And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
“And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (4 Ne. 1:2–3 and 4 Ne. 1:15–16.)
Essential to an understanding of the aspect of the atonement of Christ which enables men to attain unto eternal life is a realization that mortal man, while he lives on earth, is enlightened by the spirit of God and that he is also tempted by Satan; that every human being who lives beyond the age of accountability yields to some degree to the temptations of Satan. Jesus, who was the Son of God in the flesh, as well as in the spirit, was the only exception.
By yielding to the temptation of Satan we become unclean. To the extent to which we yield we become carnal, sensual, and devilish. As a consequence, we are banished from the presence of God. Without being cleansed from the stain of our transgressions we cannot be readmitted into the presence of God because “no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom.” (3 Ne. 27:19.) Men, in the exercise of their own free agency, having disqualified themselves for a place in the kingdom of God, are banished therefrom and cannot by their own unaided efforts return. If they are ever to return, atonement for their sins must be made by someone not himself banished: Jesus was that one.
All the inhabitants of the earth “are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24) in the spirit. Jesus was his first spirit son. When in the spirit world man’s mortal probation was planned, Jesus was chosen and appointed to come to earth as the Son of God in the flesh and live a sinless life. While here he was to suffer sufficiently to satisfy the demands of justice for the sins of all men.
About 570 B.C., Lehi said Christ would come and offer “himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. …” (2 Ne. 2:7–8.)
“And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.” (2 Ne. 9:21.)
Eighteen hundred years after his suffering in Gethsemane, Jesus himself called one of the brethren to repentance, saying:
“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
“For behold, 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 19:15–19.)
Such was the price Jesus paid in order to provide for us the means by which we may, through faith and repentance, obtain forgiveness of sins and enjoy the blessings of life eternal; all made possible by his atonement—the Gift Supreme.