Chapter 9: The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual, (2011), 29–33


Introduction

  1. You may wish to prepare and show at the beginning of class an audiovisual presentation on Jesus Christ’s ministry and atonement such as Slide Set B, The Atonement (stock number PMSI0778). No music accompanies this slide set. Or you could select slides to correspond with “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.”

  2. What would happen to us had Jesus Christ not suffered for our sins and risen from the dead? We would inevitably die, and our bodies would decay in the grave, never to rise again. Our spirits would become subject to Satan forever because we would be eternally stained by our sins. There would be no hope for anyone. (See 2 Nephi 9:7–9.)

Ideas for Teaching

  1. A.

    God governs the universe by law.

    1. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ operate under universal laws that were established before this world was created. The sooner we recognize that we reap blessings by obeying the laws of God and forfeit blessings by disobeying those laws, the happier and more productive we will be. Illustrate this principle by reading Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21; 132:5; 2 Nephi 2:13.

    2. Use Chalkboard 1 to support your discussion of eternal law.

  2. B.

    Because we are fallen, we have need of an atonement.

    1. Help the students understand the helpless state in which all mankind would remain had the Savior not completed his mission with the Atonement. Refer to the scripture passages listed in Doctrinal Outline B 1 and B 2 on page 22 of the student manual.

    2. Use Chalkboard 2 to illustrate what would happen to all individuals who have broken the law if Christ had not made the atoning sacrifice. Point out that this dire fate would affect everyone but Jesus Christ, who was without sin.

  3. C.

    Only Jesus Christ possessed the qualifications and attributes necessary to perform an infinite atonement.

    1. Did Jesus endure temptation at times other than on the three occasions when Satan came to Him as described in the New Testament? The scriptures testify of many times that Jesus was tempted “like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15; see also Luke 22:28; Hebrews 2:18; Mosiah 3:7; Alma 7:11). Jesus’ experiences of suffering temptations enable him to understand completely the temptations we suffer (see Hebrews 2:18; Alma 7:11–12; D&C 62:1). Make sure the students understand, however, that even though Christ was tempted severely, he did not submit to temptation. We are told that “he suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22). Jesus remained completely free from sin (see 1 John 3:5; D&C 45:3–4).

    2. Discuss the immortal attributes Jesus inherited from his Father, who is also our Heavenly Father. Jesus had power over life and death. No one could take his life unless he chose to lay it down himself (see John 5:26; 10:17–18). As the Son of God, he could have called upon angels at any time to save himself from death.

  4. D.

    By means of his divine attributes and the power of the Father, Jesus accomplished the infinite and eternal atonement.

    1. Identify the Father’s motive for the Atonement. Share with the students John 3:16; 1 John 4:8–10; and Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–11, which testify of God’s enduring love for his children and the worth of souls in his sight.

    2. The Atonement is frequently called a vicarious sacrifice. What does the term vicarious mean, and how does it apply to the Savior’s sacrifice? (Jesus was a substitute for all mankind in meeting the demands of justice.)

    3. The Atonement is frequently described as an infinite atonement. In what manner was the Atonement infinite? Help the students understand the following truths regarding the infinite nature of the Atonement:

      1. 1.

        The law of Moses was completely fulfilled by the Atonement (see Alma 34:13–14).

      2. 2.

        The corruptible body could not become an incorruptible body (resurrected in glory) without the infinite capacity of the Atonement (see 2 Nephi 9:7).

      3. 3.

        An infinite and eternal sacrifice was necessary to atone for the sins of all mankind (see Alma 34:10–11).

      4. 4.

        The Savior suffered the pains of every descendant of Adam (see 2 Nephi 9:21).

      5. 5.

        The Savior descended below all things in taking upon himself the sins of all mankind (see D&C 88:6; 122:8).

      6. 6.

        The suffering the Lord experienced was beyond what any mortal could experience or endure (see Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:15–20; statements by President John Taylor and Elder Marion G. Romney in Supporting Statements D on pp. 24–25 of the student manual; or Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement, pp. 151–52, and Romney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1969, p. 57).

      7. 7.

        The Atonement affects worlds without number (see D&C 76:22–24).

    4. When did the Savior actually perform his atoning sacrifice? Many Protestants believe that it was only on the cross; many Latter-day Saints believe that it was only in the Garden of Gethsemane. Both are partly correct, as taught by Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder Bruce R. McConkie in Supporting Statements D on pages 24–25 of the student manual (see Maxwell, “The Old Testament: Relevancy within Antiquity,” A Symposium on the Old Testament, p. 17; McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4:232 n. 22).

  5. E.

    The atonement of Christ harmonized the laws of justice and mercy.

    1. Define justice and mercy. Justice means “uprightness, equity, vindication of right” and “observance of the divine law”; mercy means “kind and compassionate treatment in a case where severity is merited or expected” and “disposition to forgive or show compassion” (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “justice” and “mercy”).

    2. Read Alma 42:13–15, 22–25, and 29–30 to illustrate that mercy cannot rob justice but that justice is satisfied by the Atonement, so that mercy can claim her own (the truly penitent and humble).

    3. Use Chalkboards 3 and 4 to discuss justice and mercy.

    4. Read the clarification of the terms spiritual credit, eternal law, mercy, and mediator that are given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in Supporting Statements E on pages 25–26 of the student manual (see Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 80; or Ensign, May 1977, pp. 55–56).

  6. F.

    The atonement of Jesus Christ is essential for the salvation of all the children of God.

    1. Ultimately, what are mankind’s two greatest enemies? (Death and sin.) The atonement of Jesus Christ provides the means to overcome both of these obstacles. As the first fruits of the resurrection, Christ provided for the resurrection of every person who has ever experienced mortality on this earth (see Helaman 14:15–16). How does the Atonement enable us to overcome sin? Christ paid the price for all the sins of mankind, but an individual must repent before his sins are forgiven through the Atonement (see D&C 19:15–19). The wicked who do not repent remain in their sins and do not receive forgiveness of their sins (see Alma 11:37, 41).

    2. How does the Atonement affect little children who have not sinned? (see Moroni 8:8–12).

  7. G.

    We must do the will of the Father and the Son to receive the full benefit of the Atonement.

    1. Emphasize that the Atonement will be of relatively little use to us unless we incorporate its principles in our lives. If we are not humble, repentant, and faithful, we will not enjoy the full benefit of the Atonement.

Conclusion

Bear your own solemn witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and of your knowledge that he is your personal Savior. You may also want to quote Nephi: “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell” (2 Nephi 33:6). You may wish to conclude by singing or reading Eliza R. Snow’s “How Great the Wisdom and the Love” (Hymns, 1985, no. 195).