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

Continuing with the entry entitled “Atonement of Jesus Christ” in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, authored by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland while he was President of BYU:

To meet the demands of the Atonement, the sinless Christ went first into the Garden of Gethsemane, there to bear the spiritual agony of soul only he could bear. He “began to be sorrowful and very heavy,” saying to his three chief disciples, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, unto death” (Mark 14:34). Leaving them to keep watch, he went further into the garden, where he would suffer “the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Ne. 9:21). There he “struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible” (JC, p. 613).

Christ’s Atonement satisfied the demands of justice and thereby ransomed and redeemed the souls of all men, women, and children “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Thus, Latter-day Saints teach that Christ “descended below all things”-including every kind of sickness, infirmity, and dark despair experienced by every mortal being-in order that he might “comprehend all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth” (D&C 88:6). This spiritual anguish of plumbing the depths of human suffering and sorrow was experienced primarily in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that he was “in an agony” and “prayed more earnestly.” It was there that his sweat was “as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44) for he bled “at every pore” (D&C 19:18). It was there that he began the final March to Calvary.

The majesty and triumph of the Atonement reached its zenith when, after unspeakable abuse at the hands of the Roman soldiers and others, Christ appealed from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness was the key to the meaning of all the suffering he had come to endure.

Such an utterly lonely and excruciating mission is piercingly expressed in that near-final and most agonizing cry of all, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). In the depths of that anguish, even nature itself convulsed, “and there was a darkness over all the earth…. The sun was darkened…. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Luke 23:43-45; Matt. 27:51-52). Finally, even the seemingly unbearable had been borne and Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and then, saying “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” he “gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46). Latter-day Saints believe that every tongue will someday, somewhere confess as did a Roman centurion at the crucifixion, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54).

“The Savior thus becomes master of the situation-the debt is paid, the redemption made, the covenant fulfilled, justice satisfied, the will of God done, and all power is now given into the hands of the Son of God-the power of the resurrection, the power of the redemption, the power of salvation…. He becomes the author of eternal life and exaltation. He is the Redeemer, the Resurrector, the Savior of man and the world” (Taylor, p. 171). Furthermore, his Atonement extends to all life-beasts, fish, fowl, and the earth itself.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Macmillan Publishing, 1992

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