The prophet Abinadi, speaking before Christ came to the earth:
I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.
And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God; Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?
Sadly, many do not believe in a Redeemer or understand the need for an atonement, even though they acknowledge human failings. They are left to believe, therefore, that we can never be truly happy, that this life is all there is, and that we must find pleasure here and there as best we can. Without a Savior to redeem and reform us, there is little hope of lasting improvement in humanity. Such a dismal view of life can be corrected by a study of the Book of Mormon. Father Lehi taught that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. …
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:6–8).
Many Church members have been taught the concepts of why we need an atonement, but there are elements of this doctrine that are often misunderstood. Errors in thinking can lessen the hope and joy they ought to feel or cause them to wander into byways of sin or despair. I would like to address a few common misunderstandings about the Atonement.
1. Some have a difficult time accepting in their hearts that when the Lord says “all” He means them too. They seem to say to themselves, “I believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind, but what I have done is so terrible or so repeated that I don’t think the Atonement will work for me.” Some who are faithful members of the Church actually seem to believe that they will never make it back to Heavenly Father’s presence. It is the idea that Christ can save all mankind, but He may not be able to save me. This kind of feeling is terribly discouraging, and it can become an excuse to dabble in sin. “After all,” some rationalize, “I’m not going to make it anyway.”
Others can sense that this idea is false and that Christ can save them, but they are not sure He will. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob taught, “He cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken to his voice; for behold, he suffereth … the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children” (2 Ne.:21). The question is not whether we are perfect or whether we are worth forgiving, but whether we are willing to admit when we do wrong, feel sorry, confess as appropriate, do all we can to set things right, and ask the Lord to forgive us. This is what the Savior meant when He said we must have “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Ne. 9:20). I know that the Lord is ready, even anxious, to forgive each of us personally if we will but come to Him (see Mosiah 26:30).
Elder J. Devn Cornish, Area Authority Seventy
Learning How the Atonement Can Change You, Ensign, April, 2002
Following his healing of a blind man, Jesus spoke plainly to the self-righteous Pharisees: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” What an odd statement! And yet it goes to the heart of that which we have been discussing—our need to acknowledge our need. Those who have accepted Christ and his saving gospel come to see things as they really are. They once were blind, but now they see. Those who choose to remain in their smug state of self-assurance, assuming they see everything clearly, these are they that continue to walk in darkness. Thus Jesus concluded, “If ye were blind”—that is, if you would acknowledge and confess your blindness, your need for new eyes to see who I am and what I offer to the world—“ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9: 41).
. . . .
Let’s be wise and honest: We cannot make it on our own. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps. We are not bright enough or powerful enough to bring to pass the mighty change necessary to see and enter the kingdom of God. We cannot perform our own eye surgery. We cannot pry our way through the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. We cannot make ourselves happy or bring about our own fulfillment. But we can “seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in [us] forever” (Ether 12:41). Then all these things will be added unto us (see Matthew 6:33). That’s the promise, and I affirm that it’s true.
Robert L. Millett
Only the Blind See