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

May 10, 2017

Grace, Vandagriff

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The 500th post about the Atonement of Jesus Christ will appear on The Atonement Blog in five minutes.

When I began, I thought that, after a period of time, it would become difficult to keep finding new thoughts and insights about the Atonement and I would stop adding entries.

I was wrong.

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The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to grace.

If You Could Hie to Kolob
Hymn 284

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October 8, 2016

Vandagriff

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I am pleased that Meridian Magazine published a former blog post entitled, Ballroom Dancing and the Atonement today.

Trying to connect the Atonement to every aspect of our lives is a vital way of bringing the Savior’s influence into those lives on a daily basis.

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August 3, 2016

Christmas, Fall, Fundamental Principles, Vandagriff

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Yesterday, I was asked to speak on the topic, “Why We Need a Savior,” as part of our church Christmas Program.  I was happy to receive the request because this question is at the heart of the Atonement.

I was asked to take no more than 7 minutes on this subject.  This raised an interesting challenge.  I can talk about the Atonement for 30 minutes, an hour, two hours or more without difficulty.  However, how could I speak about the essential elements of the Atonement in 7 minutes?

Following is what resulted after quite a number of drafts:

At this time of year, we remember some of the titles Isaiah used to identify the Messiah – Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Many other words also describe Christ and his countless attributes, but, for me, two sacred titles stand above all others – Savior and Redeemer.

But why do we need a Savior?

Our Savior and Redeemer holds those exalted titles because His Atonement saves us from sin and the consequences of mortality and allows us to return to our heavenly home.

We cannot understand the Atonement unless we understand the Fall.

When Adam and Eve were placed into the Garden of Eden, their bodies were immortal – they would never age or die. Those bodies were also incapable of having children.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of Heavenly Father. They could see God with their eyes and hear Him with their ears. That association made a strong spiritual connection easy and natural.

When Adam and Eve transgressed the law and ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, four things happened:

1. Their bodies became mortal and subject to mortal death.

2. They could no longer remain in the presence of Heavenly Father. That separation is spiritual death.

3. They understood the difference between good and evil and were accountable for their choices.

4. They were able to have children so God’s spirit children could come to earth.

After the Fall, “Eve . . . was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5:11)

The Fall was not a mistake, it was a choice. Just as Adam and Eve chose to live in mortal bodies, each of us made that same choice — we chose to come to earth and gain mortal bodies, knowing we would be separated from our Father.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “The atonement is the child of the fall, and the fall is the father of the atonement. Neither of them, without the other, could have brought to pass the eternal purposes of the Father.

“The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Three Pillars of Eternity, devotional address at Brigham Young University on 17 February 1981)

Two scriptures encapsulate our mortal lives and describe why a Savior is essential.

1. “No unclean thing can dwell with God” – 1 Nephi 10:21

2. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” – Romans 3:2

A) We cannot sin and be with God and

B) We all have sinned.

We need a Savior.

The Atonement is key to everything Heavenly Father does and all He has created. “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)

These two terms may sound the same, but have different meanings.

Immortality is how the Atonement saves us from physical death.

Eternal Life is how the Atonement can save us from spiritual death, depending upon our faithfulness.

Amulek describes how Christ saves us from the death of our body and gives us immortality:

“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death . . . . The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame . . . . Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame . . . .” (Alma 11:42-44)

Virtually everyone who will ever be born on this earth will receive immortality through the Atonement of Christ. Their bodies will be resurrected from the grave and returned to a perfect form, then their spirits and bodies will be reunited and never die. Worlds and time without end, they will live. Mortal death will be permanently defeated.

What about Eternal Life?

Eternal Life is the kind of life that Heavenly Father lives. Through the Atonement, immortality comes to all men, righteous or wicked. Eternal Life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.) We obtain Eternal Life, according to the Lord, “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end.” If we do this, He promises, “you shall have eternal life.” (D&C 14:7.)

If we are to gain Eternal Life, this greatest of all gifts, it will be because we become like God. God is perfectly clean and pure and we must become the same way.

How can imperfect people possibly do that?

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (Third Article of Faith)

This brings us to justice and mercy. One of the most important ways in which Heavenly Father is perfect is that He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful.

Perfect justice is not terribly difficult for us to understand. Any time a law of God is violated, justice imposes an appropriate penalty.

Our problem arises because of that scripture we mentioned earlier, “No unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21)

Does justice make us clean?

No, justice ensures that a proper penalty is paid when a law is violated. It does not remove the effects of sin upon the individual who is punished. When prisoners are released from the penitentiary after having served their sentences, we say they have “paid their debt to society.” Prison has not made them clean and pure.

One way to be perfectly clean and pure is to never sin at all. That describes our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and no one else. He is the key to perfect mercy. Christ is the only way to recover from our sins.

Lehi tells us, “[R]edemption 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; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Nephi 2:6-7)

A perfectly sinless Christ took upon Himself all the sins of all the people who will ever live on this world. At Gethsemane and Calvary, he paid the full price that justice imposed for every one of those sins, great or small.

Christ “satisfied the demands of justice by His own suffering, ‘the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). He removes our condemnation without removing the law. We are pardoned and placed in a condition of righteousness with Him. We become, like Him, without sin.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 18)

In place of the demands of justice, Christ provides merciful commandments that ordinary people can obey. He allows us to repent of our sins without being condemned by them. Describing His commandments, Jesus said, “Whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world” (3 Nephi 27:16)

Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. We celebrate the Manger because of what Christ did on the Cross.

David P. Vandagriff

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November 2, 2015

Hymns, Preexistence, Salvation, Vandagriff

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When We Lived with our Father

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When we lived with our Father in palaces of light,
We never felt of suffering, of loneliness or fright.
We trusted that God loved us, before we said good-bye,
For He gave us a Savior upon whom we rely.

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We came to earth without Him, our hearts still feel the loss
Of loving arms around us, bright days that now are lost.
Our mortal flesh brings choices, and we so often err.
We follow other voices, we fail to kneel in prayer.

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But we still have our Savior, the Son we knew above.
He taught us, showed us mercy, the fullness of His love.
He never will forget us or leave us in the night.
When we call out for Jesus, He comes and brings His light.

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Our hearts were filled with anguish when He hung on the cross.
We knew He suffered for us, that we supplied the cost.
Our Father had us watch Him though we would hide our eyes,
So we would never doubt Him, that He would hear our cries.

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For only His Atonement can raise us from the grave
And cleanse us, lift us homeward with families He has saved.
He’ll bring us back to Father, embrace us with delight,
As shining men and women, as beings filled with light.

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David P. Vandagriff
Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved
May be sung to the tune of Hymn 197, O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown

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November 2, 2015

Adversity, Hymns, Service, Vandagriff

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I know thee, O my Savior
And seek thy endless grace
For mercy and for comfort
Until I see thy face.
I honor thy Atonement,
I need thy help today
To be a better servant
To follow and obey.

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As children of our Father,
We’ve left our heavenly home
To come to earth for testing
And often feel alone.
Each of us need thee, Savior,
For we can’t find the way
Through darkness and confusion
Back to eternal day.

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Just as thou helped the beggars
Thou asketh me to bless
My brothers and my sisters,
To bless as I’ve been blessed.
How often thou hast helped me
When I cried out at night.
I go to help the weary, the poor
Bearing thy light.

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Thy hands were pierced and bleeding
As thou for me didst die.
My hands will serve and labor,
Thy teachings I’ll apply.
When I seek out the suffering,
Both sinning and sinless,
Thy hands shall strengthen my hands.
In blessing, I’ll be blessed.

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David P. Vandagriff
Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved
Can be sung to the tune of “If You Could Hie to Kolob”, Hymns, 284

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November 2, 2015

Fundamental Principles, Vandagriff

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What is the greatest manifestation of God’s love for us? A familiar scripture provides the answer. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

How does Christ make that happen – not perishing, having eternal life?

Read the rest in Desert Saints Magazine.

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April 11, 2010

Resurrection, Vandagriff

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My wife and I attended a special performance of the BYU Ballroom Dance Company celebrating the Company’s 50th year yesterday. This is one of the premier dance companies in the world and it has won major national and world competitions many times.

I arrived at the concert expecting a wonderful artistic and musical experience, but I did not expect a spiritual experience. As I watched these talented dancers, I was especially impressed by what careful control they displayed over their bodies. The arms, feet, legs, torso and head moved with great precision, tracking the music and the movements of the other dancers.

When men and women danced in pairs, each dancer displayed a grace and beauty that included something unique to their gender. Each partner moved in a way that enhanced and enlarged the elegance of the other. While each dancer individually was very appealing, the impression presented by combination of the two exceeded the sum of their talents. Again, control of each body was manifested in myriad ways.

While Elder David A. Bednar was President of Ricks College, he made the following statement:

“The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following questions: Will my body rule over my spirit, or will my spirit rule over my body? Will I yield to the enticings of the natural man or to the eternal man? That, brothers and sisters, is the test.” ( Bednar, “Ye are the Temple of God” Ricks College Devotional, January 11, 2000)

Elder Bednar was speaking in terms of obeying the law of chastity and, until yesterday, I had always thought of his described test of mortality primarily in terms of the spirit keeping the body in line. However, I now understand that the test is not only to have our spirit direct our body to avoid evil, but also to have our spirit direct our body to perform good and uplifting acts. Of course, this involves service to others, but I believe it also involves creating beauty and expressing truth, whether our instrument is our body alone as with the dancers or our body in combination with a musical instrument, a word processor, a blank canvas, a sewing machine or a collection of kitchen utensils and ingredients.

While the dancers performed, I realized that their spirits were it perfect control of their bodies. Without that control, the performance would not have been nearly so moving and I would not have felt the Holy Ghost as I watched them.

I also realized what a great tragedy it would be if these marvelous bodies were to age and die and lay buried in the ground forever. What a splendid and vital gift it is that our bodies will be resurrected. Christ died so the bodies I watched will be resurrected and come once again under the control of the spirits of the dancers.

In the words of Amulek,

“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time . . . .

“Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body . . . .

“Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.” (Alma 11:42-45)

Alma also spoke of this resurrection,

“The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

“And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets and then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.” (Alma 40:23-25)

One of the apostate doctrines brought into the early Christian church by Greek philosophers was the idea that the body was inherently evil and only when the spirit left the body behind could it be truly pure. Modern revelation has corrected this erroneous belief.

“The spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-16)

Christ lead the way in this marvelous resurrection. When He rose from the dead on the morning of the third day after His crucifixion, his magnificent and eternal spirit resided in an equally magnificent and eternal body. Because of His Atonement, all of us will be resurrected, our spirits, which never die, rejoining with a body that never dies thereafter.

An even greater potential gift of the Atonement relates to the type of body we will receive upon our resurrection. If we are obedient to the commands of our Savior, His Atonement will give us a resurrected body which is like His body and like that of His Father. Celestial bodies will be filled with light, brighter than the sun.

Celestial bodies will, of course, have arms, feet, legs, torsos and heads and will be capable of dancing. What spectacular and inspiring performances we will then witness as we watch dancers whose bodies perfectly match their spirits, bodies no longer constituted of the elements of a fallen world, bodies overflowing with light, bodies not limited by space or time, bodies saved and exalted by Jesus Christ.

David P. Vandagriff