“[Jesus Christ] gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 2). Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “the Atonement is that essential ingredient of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness without which that plan could not have been activated” (“He Lives! All Glory to His Name!” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 76). This lesson will focus on the Savior’s intense suffering, which commenced in Gethsemane and culminated on the cross, and will describe how Jesus Christ can help us overcome our sins and strengthen us in our daily living through His Atonement.
Consider starting class by inviting students to sing “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, no. 193) or another hymn about the Savior. Then, when the lesson begins, ask:
How does singing “I Stand All Amazed” (or another hymn about the Savior) prepare you to study the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
Invite students to read Mark 14:33–36 silently, looking for phrases that describe the Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane. List on the board the phrases students identify.
What meaning do these phrases convey to you?
Invite students to study Luke 22:39–44; 2 Nephi 9:21; and Mosiah 3:7 for additional details about the Savior’s suffering during His atoning sacrifice. You may want to suggest that students cross-reference these passages in their scriptures.
What important truths do these passages teach about the suffering Jesus endured for us? (Answers should include the following truth: Jesus Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane caused Him to bleed from every pore.)
Point out to students that the Atonement of Jesus Christ included His suffering for our sins in Gethsemane and on the cross, the shedding of His blood, His death on the cross, and His Resurrection from the tomb. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
“We know He sweat great gouts [large drops] of blood from every pore as He drained the dregs of that bitter cup His Father had given Him.
“We know He suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death. …
“We know that He lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused Him to tremble and would that He might not drink the bitter cup” (“The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, Apr. 2011, 57).
What are your feelings about the suffering Jesus Christ endured in Gethsemane and on the cross?
Ask the following question:
Why do you think Jesus was willing to suffer so much for us?
Invite students to study John 15:13; 1 Peter 3:18; and Doctrine and Covenants 19:15–19 silently, looking for reasons why Jesus Christ willingly suffered the pains of the Atonement. After sufficient time, ask students to share what they discovered. As students respond, consider summarizing their answers on the board as follows:
As you ask the following questions, give students time to ponder their answers before inviting them to respond. (Remind students that as they learn to ponder what they discover in the scriptures, the Spirit will often reveal additional truths to them.)
What do these reasons for Jesus Christ’s suffering teach you about Him?
How do these reasons pertain to you personally?
Emphasize to students that through the Atonement, Jesus Christ became our Substitute—He took our place, He assumed our burden, He suffered for our sins. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For he [God the Father] hath made him [Christ the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin [that is, Jesus knew no sin]; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is as though our Lord and Savior had made the following offer to each of us: “Come unto me. I will take your sin, and I will give unto you my righteousness.”
Testify that because Jesus Christ performed the Atonement, we can be forgiven of our sins if we repent. Because of His sacrifice on our behalf, the way is prepared for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father in an eternal family unit. Jesus Christ submitted to the Atonement because of His great love for Heavenly Father and for us. Encourage students to ponder how they might more effectively seek after and enjoy the blessings of the Atonement in their lives.
Display the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“When the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! …
“The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. (See Alma 7:11–12; Isa. 53:3–5; Matt. 8:17.) …
“… His suffering—as it were, enormity multiplied by infinity—evoked His later soul-cry on the cross, and it was a cry of forsakenness. (See Matt. 27:46.)” (“Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 72–73).
What do you think Elder Maxwell meant by the “awful arithmetic of the Atonement”?
In addition to our sins, what else did Elder Maxwell identify as contributing to the Savior’s sufferings?
Invite a student to read Alma 7:11–13 aloud. Ask the rest of the class to follow along and identify other conditions of mortality for which the Savior suffered. Ask students to report what they identified, and list their responses on the board. (Responses should include pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, infirmities, and death.) Discuss the meaning of these conditions and how Jesus Christ can bless us through the Holy Ghost when we experience them.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, ‘No one understands. No one knows.’ No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor … and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying only upon our own power” (“The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, Apr. 2012, 47).
Ask students how they would summarize Elder Bednar’s teachings. Then ask:
How do the blessings available through the Atonement provide a way for us to return back to Heavenly Father’s presence? (As students respond, emphasize that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive comfort and strength through the Holy Ghost to endure “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” [Alma 7:11].)
To help students understand the Savior’s enabling power, or grace, invite them to each study one of the following scripture passages and prepare to share what they learn. (Consider writing these references on the board.)
After sufficient time, ask:
Consider the ways the people described in these scripture passages were strengthened by Jesus Christ through the Atonement. When have you or someone you know been similarly strengthened?
Why is it important for us to understand that we have access to Jesus Christ’s enabling power?
Display the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“There is an imperative need for each of us to strengthen our understanding of the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that it will become an unshakable foundation upon which to build our lives. …
“I energetically encourage you to establish a personal study plan to better understand and appreciate the incomparable, eternal, infinite consequences of Jesus Christ’s perfect fulfillment of His divinely appointed calling as our Savior and Redeemer” (“He Lives! All Glory to His Name!” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 77).
As you conclude, encourage students to establish a personal study plan of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.