Although it was a cold night, I found myself sweating and my heart aching. As the bishop of a singles ward, I had just finished giving counsel and encouragement to a beautiful, sweet young sister who was starting down the road of repentance. I could feel the struggle she was having as her spiritual side was battling with her mortal side.
I had seen nearly 20 people that evening, and about half of them had one painful problem or another that needed a bishop’s guidance and help. I wanted to end the long, exhausting night and retreat to my home, but my executive secretary told me three more people needed to see me.
I momentarily prayed that the next three interviews would be easier, for I felt I could not handle another weighty problem at the time. I had grown to love each of these brothers and sisters, and it hurt me deeply to see even one make a foolish decision that caused pain and the need for repentance.
As I pondered for a moment before my next appointment, a thought occurred to me: How would I have felt if everyone I had interviewed that night had needed to see me for repentance? Could I have endured that pain? A more meaningful question came to mind: What if the entire ward of 200 members had come to me in need of repentance? The inner pain I was experiencing would have been multiplied 200 times. I knew I could not have endured that situation. I wondered how any bishop could spiritually and emotionally endure such a burden.
I reflected on our Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement. I knew His love for each of us is so much greater than the love I could have. If I feel pain when someone I love commits sin, I cannot imagine the pain the Savior must have experienced.
As I left for home that night, I realized I had received just a tiny glimpse of the Lord’s Atonement.
As terrible as Christ’s suffering on the cross was, perhaps it was not as great as His suffering in Gethsemane. When He sweat drops of blood as He bore the weight of all the sins of mankind, the great agony of the Atonement took place. His infinite love resulted in infinite pain.
After that night I was better able to understand that Christ endured the pain of Gethsemane because of His love for me and for everyone who has or will come to earth. From that night forth, I have had a new appreciation for the priceless gift of the Atonement.