The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

Brothers and sisters, for the past few minutes I have attempted to differentiate between obedience that is predominately complying and conforming in nature and a higher level of obedience that includes spiritual submission and enables us to receive “commandments not a few.” Obedience that is primarily complying and conforming is good and is truly obedience. But the higher level of obedience I am trying to describe—an obedience that stretches beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law—is both heartfelt and willing. And it brings an individualized gospel insight and a perspective and a power and a state of happiness that are precious beyond measure. As we read in section 64 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 34:

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days (emphasis added).

Progressing from the level of complying obedience to the level and happiness associated with heartfelt and willing obedience does not occur quickly or all at once. Nor is it merely a matter of greater personal discipline; it is a change of disposition, a change of heart. And this gradual change of heart is one that the Lord accomplishes within us, through the power of his Spirit, in a line-upon-line fashion. For example, in Philippians 2:12, Paul encourages the Saints to “. . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But how are we to do that? Note the answer that follows in verse 13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” That is, we give ourselves to the Lord and choose to be changed. He is working on us and in us.

Brothers and sisters, it is vitally important for all of us to remember that progressing to higher and more spiritually demanding levels of obedience is not simply a matter of more personal determination, more grit, and more willpower; rather, it is accomplished through the enabling power of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, true and lasting happiness is a function of progressing to and through “letter of the law” obedience to public and institutional commandments and toward the spirit of devoted discipleship and a private, personal, and individual change of heart.

Elder David A. Bednar

In a State of Happiness (Mormon 7:7)” Elder Bednar was President of Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional when he gave this address on January 6, 2004

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June 26, 2017

Forgiveness, General Authorities, General Conference, Packer, Repentance, Restitution

Comments Off on Fixing that which you broke and cannot fix is the very purpose of the Atonement of Christ

The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.

. . . .

When an offense is minor, so simple a thing as an apology will satisfy the law. Most mistakes can be settled between us and the Lord, and that should be done speedily. (See D&C 109:21) It requires a confession to Him, and whatever obvious repairs need to be made.

With sincere repentance as a pattern in our lives, measured by our willingness to “confess them and forsake them,” (D&C 58:43; see also Ezek. 18:21–24, 31–32) the Lord has promised that we may “always retain a remission of [our] sins.” (Mosiah 4:12)

. . . .

To earn forgiveness, one must make restitution. That means you give back what you have taken or ease the pain of those you have injured.

But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiled someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back.

There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to.

Your repentance cannot be accepted unless there is a restitution. If you cannot undo what you have done, you are trapped. It is easy to understand how helpless and hopeless you then feel and why you might want to give up, just as Alma did.

The thought that rescued Alma, when he acted upon it, is this: Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ.

When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the “uttermost farthing,” (See Matt. 5:25–26) the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.

President Boyd K. Packer
The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness“, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 18

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June 25, 2017

Alma, Charity, Faith, Hope, King Benjamin, Nibley, Power

Comments Off on The Atonement – At Work Every Moment of Our Lives

In its sweep and scope, atonement takes on the aspect of one of the grand constants in nature—omnipresent, unalterable, such as gravity or the speed of light. Like them it is always there, easily ignored, hard to explain, and hard to believe in without an explanation. Also, we are constantly exposed to its effects whether we are aware of them or not. Alma found that it engages the mind like a physical force, focusing thought with the intensity of a laser beam (see Alma 36:17-19). Like gravity, though we are rarely aware of it, it is at work every moment of our lives, and to ignore it can be fatal. It is waiting at our disposal to draw us on. When the multitude were overwhelmed by King Benjamin’s speech, “and they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth, . . . they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, . . . for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 4:2). The blessing is there waiting all the time, needing only to be applied when the people are ready for it.

. . . .

In discoursing on the nature of the Atonement, the Book of Mormon writers constantly refer to power. “My soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord . . . in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Nephi 11:5; cf. 9:12, 25; Mosiah 13:34). That would seem to be the final word by way of explaining things. The word power occurs no fewer than 365 times in the Book of Mormon and 276 times in the Bible. The power of the devil is also referred to, but that is only the power we give him when we “choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom” (2 Nephi 2:29).

We have what might be called an aliphatic chain, or rather something like a benzene ring, of power. Does it begin with love, faith, hope, or charity? Yes, for they all work together: “The Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men” (Moroni 7:32, 37-38). Moroni says it begins with love (Moroni 7:47-48), the desire to be one with the Beloved. The power source is faith: “By faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing” (Moroni 7:25). It is interesting that though we exercise faith and so can increase it, we have faith but we never read of receiving it; we ask for and receive health, wisdom, protection, the necessities of life, and life itself, but we do not ask for faith; it is a principle that we seem to generate in ourselves, being dependent on some auxiliary source, for it is stimulated by hope. We can “lay hold” of these things only if we are “meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:29), for we cannot create power by an act of will; if that were possible Satan would be all-powerful. “And [as] Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33).

Hugh Nibley
The Meaning of the Atonement, The Maxwell Institute

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June 24, 2017

Forgiveness, General Authorities, General Conference, Uchtdorf

Comments Off on They are Forgiven

Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.

Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.

.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference, April, 2012

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June 23, 2017

Covenants, Nibley, Sacrifice

Comments Off on The Atonement is Either Dead to Us or in Full Effect

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

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June 22, 2017

Fundamental Principles, General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, Holland, Mercy, Nature of Christ, Sacrament, Sacrifice

Comments Off on Every Ordinance of the Gospel Focuses on the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ

Since that upper room experience on the eve of Gethsemane and Golgotha, children of the promise have been under covenant to remember Christ’s sacrifice in this newer, higher, more holy and personal way.

With a crust of bread, always broken, blessed, and offered first, we remember his bruised body and broken heart, his physical suffering on the cross where he cried, “I thirst,” and finally, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (John 19:28; Matt. 27:46.)

The Savior’s physical suffering guarantees that through his mercy and grace (see 2 Ne. 2:8) every member of the human family shall be freed from the bonds of death and be resurrected triumphantly from the grave. Of course the time of that resurrection and the degree of exaltation it leads to are based upon our faithfulness.

With a small cup of water we remember the shedding of Christ’s blood and the depth of his spiritual suffering, anguish which began in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). He was in agony and “prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

The Savior’s spiritual suffering and the shedding of his innocent blood, so lovingly and freely given, paid the debt for what the scriptures call the “original guilt” of Adam’s transgression (Moses 6:54). Furthermore, Christ suffered for the sins and sorrows and pains of all the rest of the human family, providing remission for all of our sins as well, upon conditions of obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel he taught (see 2 Ne. 9:21–23). As the Apostle Paul wrote, we were “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). What an expensive price and what a merciful purchase!

That is why every ordinance of the gospel focuses in one way or another on the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and surely that is why this particular ordinance with all its symbolism and imagery comes to us more readily and more repeatedly than any other in our life. It comes in what has been called “the most sacred, the most holy, of all the meetings of the Church” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 2:340).

.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
This Do in Remembrance of Me, Ensign, November, 1995

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June 21, 2017

Justification, New Testament, Paul

Comments Off on He Had by Himself Purged Our Sins

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Hebrews 1:1-3

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June 20, 2017

Eyring, General Authorities, General Conference, Holy Ghost, Pondering, Prayer

Comments Off on When We Ponder We Invite Revelation by the Spirit

[R]eading, studying and pondering are not the same. We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder we invite revelation by the Spirit. Pondering for me is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying the scriptures carefully.

President Henry B. Eyring
Priesthood Session, General Conference, 2010

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June 19, 2017

Adversity, Alma, C.S. Lewis, Fundamental Principles, Pain

Comments Off on And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain, page 91

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And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

Alma 7:11

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June 18, 2017

Banish Fear, Dew, Hope, Tests

Comments Off on He Loveth Those Who Will Have Him to be Their God

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. [1974], 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.

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