The Book of Mormon is the Atonement Testament and few testify as well as King Benjamin.
6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—
7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.
8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.
9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
But how do we get a clear vision of who we are? Light is a key to vision! And Jesus Christ is the ultimate Light, the “light which shineth in darkness” (D&C 6:21), the light which chases “darkness from among [us]” (D&C 50:25). Faith in Jesus Christ is the key to vision, to seeing ourselves as the Lord sees us. So to improve our vision, we must increase our faith in and connection to the Savior.
It is no accident that faith in Jesus Christ—not only believing in Him but believing Him—is the first principle of the gospel. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “Of all our needs, I think the greatest is an increase in faith” (“ ‘Lord, Increase Our Faith,’ ” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 54.)
We sometimes tend to define unbelievers as apostates or agnostics. But perhaps that definition is far too narrow. What about those of us who have received a witness of the divinity of the Savior and yet deep in our hearts don’t believe He will help us? We believe He’ll help others—President Hinckley, the Quorum of the Twelve, the stake Relief Society president—but not us.
Have you ever carefully selected a gift for someone only to present the gift and have it fall flat? Perhaps a simple “Thanks” feels nonchalant and even ungrateful. Similarly, it must be disappointing to the Lord, who offered the ultimate sacrifice, when we by our unbelief essentially refuse His gift and therefore His offer of help.
An unwillingness to believe that the Savior stands ready to deliver us from our difficulties is tantamount to refusing the gift. It is tragic when we refuse to turn to Him who paid the ultimate price and to let Him lift us up. Life is a test. But divine assistance is available to help us successfully complete this most critical examination.
More than once Nephi chastened his older brothers for their unbelief: “How is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?” (1 Ne. 7:12). How indeed? It is a question we might ask ourselves. The Lord can do all things. But it is our faith in Him, even our willingness to believe, that activates the power of the Atonement in our lives. “We are made alive in Christ because of our faith” (2 Ne. 25:25). I love Nephi’s words when he tells his brothers, speaking of the Lord, “And he loveth those who will have him to be their God” (1 Ne. 17:40)—or in other words, those who accept Him and His gift.
One would think it would be easy to embrace and have faith in the gift of the Atonement. But I fear that some people know just enough about the gospel to feel guilty that they are not measuring up to some undefinable standard but not enough about the Atonement to feel the peace and strength it affords us. Perhaps some of us don’t know how to draw the power of the Atonement into our lives; others aren’t willing to seek its blessings. And some don’t ask because they don’t feel worthy. It is quite the irony—that the gospel of Jesus Christ, which contains the power to save every human being and to strengthen every soul, is sometimes interpreted in such a way that feelings of inadequacy result.
. . . .
In my early 30s I faced a personal disappointment that broke my heart. From a point of view distorted by emotional pain, I couldn’t believe that anything or anyone could take away the loneliness or that I would ever feel whole or happy again. In an effort to find peace, comfort, and strength, I turned to the Lord in a way I had not before. The scriptures became a lifeline, filled as they were with promises I had never noticed in quite the same way—that He would heal my broken heart and take away my pain, that He would succor me and deliver me from disappointment.
Fasting and prayer took on new intensity, and the temple became a place of refuge and revelation. What I learned was not only that the Lord could help me but that He would. Me. A regular, farm-grown member of the Church with no fancy titles or spectacular callings. It was during that agonizing period that I began to discover how magnificent, penetrating, and personal the power of the Atonement is.
I pleaded with God to change my circumstances, because I believed I could never be happy until He did. Instead, He changed my heart. I asked Him to take away my burden, but He strengthened me so I could bear my burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24:15). I had always been a believer, but I’m not sure I had understood what, or who, it was I believed in.
President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), a counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “When we went forth into the waters of baptism and covenanted with our Father in heaven to serve Him and keep His commandments, He bound Himself also by covenant to us that He would never desert us, never leave us to ourselves, never forget us, that in the midst of trials and hardships, when everything was arrayed against us, He would be near unto us and would sustain us. That was His covenant” (Gospel Truth, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols. , 1:170).
And it all begins with the willingness to believe. “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them” (Ether 12:12).
Do you believe that the Savior will really do for you what He has said He will do? That He can ease the sting of loneliness and enable you to deal with that haunting sense of inadequacy? That He will help you forgive? That He can fill you with optimism and hope? That He will help you resist your greatest temptation and tame your most annoying weakness? That He will respond to your deepest longing? That He is the only source of comfort, strength, direction, and peace that will not change, will not betray you, and will never let you down?
Sheri L. Dew
“This Is a Test. It Is Only a Test,” Ensign, Jul 2000, 62. From a talk given on 1 May 1998 at BYU Women’s Conference.
If we would have God “apply the atoning blood of Christ” (Mosiah 4:2) to our case, we can also reject it. We can take advantage of it, or we can refuse it. The Atonement is either dead to us or in full effect. It is the supreme sacrifice made for us, and to receive it, we must live up to every promise and covenant related to it—the Day of Atonement was the day of covenants, and the place was the temple.
We cannot keep ourselves chaste in a casual and convenient way, nor can we accept chastity as St. Augustine did, as to be operative at some future time—“God give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” 1 We cannot enjoy optional obedience to the laws of God, or place our own limits on the law of sacrifice, or mitigate the charges of righteous conduct connected with living the gospel. We cannot be willing to sacrifice only that which is convenient to part with, and then expect a reward. The Atonement is everything; it is not to be had “on the cheap.” God is not mocked in these things; we do not make promises and covenants with mental reservations. Unless we keep our covenants, Satan has power over us—a condition we can easily recognize by the mist of fraud and deception that has enveloped our whole society.
Hugh W. Nibley
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 4,” Ensign, Oct 1990, 26