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 18, 2017

Adversity, Brown, Healing, Words of Christ

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Remember that each of us is being tested, just as the finest cars and planes are tested before they are put into service. They are tested for weaknesses; they are tested for flaws. Can you stand the test? At the bar the Judge will not look us over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars.

Pres. Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, April 1969

Who heals our wounds, even when they are self-inflicted, so they can become scars without destroying us?

Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
3 Nephi 17:7

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June 19, 2016

General Authorities, General Conference, Kimball, Peter, Words of Christ

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Some time ago a newspaper in a distant town carried an Easter Sunday religion editorial by a minister who stated that the presiding authority of the early-day church fell because of self-confidence, indecision, evil companions, failure to pray, lack of humility, and fear of man. He than concluded:

Let us as people, especially those who are Christians and claim to abide by the Word of God, not make the same mistakes and fall as Peter fell.

As I read this, I had some strange emotions. I was shocked, then I was chilled, then my blood changed its temperature and began to boil. I felt I was attacked viciously, for Peter was my brother, my colleague, my example, my prophet, and God’s anointed. I whispered to myself, “That is not true. He is maligning my brother.”

Then I opened my New Testament. I could find no such character as this modern minister described. Instead, I found a man who had grown perfect through his experiences and suffering—a man with vision, a man of revelations, a man fully trusted by his Lord Jesus Christ.

I remember his sad, triple denial of his acquaintance with the Lord in those terrifying, frustrating moments. I recall his tearful repentance. Many times he was rebuked by the Master, but he learned by experience and never seemed to make the same error twice. I see a lowly fisherman, untaught and untrained, climb gradually under the tutelage of the best Teacher to the high pinnacle of great faith, bold leadership, unwavering testimony, unparalleled courage, and almost limitless understanding. I see the lay disciple become the chief apostle to preside over the Lord’s church and kingdom. I hear him breathing heavily as he laboriously climbs the steep Mount of Transfiguration. Here he sees and hears unspeakable things and has the transcendent experience of being in the presence of his God, Elohim; Jehovah, his Redeemer; and other heavenly beings.

His eyes had seen, his ears had heard, and his heart had understood and accepted the wondrous happenings of the days from the baptism of the Master in the waters of Jordan to the ascension of his Redeemer from the Mount of Olives.

I see this great church president assume leadership of the church. I see the sick and infirm arise and leap to health and normalcy. I hear his powerful sermons. I see him walk steadily, unflinchingly to martyrdom and drink of its bitter cup.

But this minister belittled him, unmercifully undercut him, and downgraded him.

Much of the criticism of Simon Peter is centered in his denial of his acquaintance with the Master. This has been labeled “cowardice.” Are we sure of his motive in that recorded denial? He had already given up his occupation and placed all worldly goods on the altar for the cause. If we admit that he was cowardly and denied the Lord through timidity, we can still find a great lesson. Has anyone more completely overcome mortal selfishness and weakness? Has anyone repented more sincerely? Peter has been accused of being harsh, indiscreet, impetuous, and fearful. If all these were true, then we still ask, Has any man every more completely triumphed over his weaknesses?

. . . .

When Christ chose this fisherman for his first and chief apostle, he was taking no chances. He picked a diamond in the rough—a diamond that would need to be cut, trimmed, and polished by correction, chastisement, and trials—but nevertheless a diamond of real quality. The Savior knew this apostle could be trusted to receive the keys of the kingdom, the sealing and the loosing power. Like other humans, Peter might make some errors in his developing process, but he would be solid, trustworthy, and dependable as a leader of the kingdom of God. Even with so perfect a teacher it was difficult to learn the vast gospel plan in three years.

Peter inquired of Jesus:

Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

And Jesus said unto them, verify I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:27–28.)

Is it conceivable that the omniscient Lord would give all these powers and keys to one who was a failure or unworthy?

If Peter was cowardly, how brave he became in so short a time. If he was weak and vacillating, how strong and positive he became in weeks and months. If he was unkind, how tender and sympathetic he became almost immediately. Responsibility as a refiner and a purger usually takes time.

If Peter was frightened in the court when he denied his association with the Lord, how brave he was hours earlier when he drew his sword against an overpowering enemy, the night mob. Later defying the people and state and church officials, he boldly charged, “Him [the Christ] . . . ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” (Acts 2:23.) To the astounded populace at the healing of the cripple at the Gate Beautiful, he exclaimed, “Ye men of Israel . . . the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate. . . . ye denied the Holy One. . . . And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:12–15.)

Does this portray cowardice? Quite a bold assertion for a timid one. Remember that Peter never denied the divinity of Christ. He only denied his association or acquaintance with the Christ, which is quite a different matter.

Could it have been confusion and frustration that caused Peter’s denial? Could there still have been some lack of understanding concerning the total unfolding of the plan? Being a leader, Peter was a special target of the adversary. As the Lord said:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not. (Luke 22:31–32.)

Peter was under fire; all the hosts of hell were against him. The die had been cast for the Savior’s crucifixion. If Satan could destroy Simon now, what a victory he would score. Here was the greatest of all living men. Lucifer wanted to confuse him, frustrate him, limit his prestige, and totally destroy him. However, this was not to be, for he was chosen for and ordained to a high purpose in heaven, as was Abraham.

Peter followed the Savior to his trial and sat in the outer court. What else could he do? He knew that many times the Savior himself had escaped from the crowd by slipping out of their clutches. Would he again do so?

Though the Lord taught of the coming crucifixion and resurrection, neither Simon nor anyone else fully comprehended his meaning. Was this so strange? Never before had there been such a person or such an occurrence upon the earth. Millions today cannot understand the resurrection, even though it has been preached for nineteen hundred years as a reality with many infallible proofs. Could these men, then, be criticized for not fully understanding this frustrating situation?

Is it possible that there might have been some other reason for Peter’s triple denial? Could he have felt that circumstances justified expediency? When he bore a strong testimony in Caesarea Philippi, he had been told that “they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” (Matthew 16:20.)

When the three apostles came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were again charged implicitly, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9.) Could Peter have felt this was not the time to tell of Christ? He had been with his Lord in Nazareth when the Savior was taken by his own people to the brow of the hill, “whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way.” (Luke 4:29–30.) Surely Peter did not think of this escape as cowardice but as wise expediency. Christ’s time was not come.

 

President Spencer W. Kimball
Speeches of the Year, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1971, pp. 1–8.

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May 22, 2016

Faith, Nature of Christ, New Testament, Words of Christ

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Be not afraid, only believe.

Mark 5:36

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And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Mark 4:35-40

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November 2, 2015

Amulek, Charity, King Benjamin, Sanctification, Service, Video, Words of Christ

Comments Off on Pure Religion: Forgiveness is Followed by Charity

Charity, the love of others that motivates us to serve them, is closely connected with the Atonement.

In his great Atonement sermon, King Benjamin addressed the righteous Nephites, who had just received miraculous forgiveness from their sins, telling them what they must do next:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
Mosiah 4:16-19

In Amulek’s great Atonement sermon, he makes an explicit connection between our cry for mercy and the imperative for us to help others:

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
29 Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.
Alma 34:17-29

The Savior himself made this connection in only a few words:

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 13:34

In other words, as I (Christ) have loved you (by sacrificing himself in Gethsemane and Calvary to redeem you), you should, within the limits of your mortal abilities, help and assist others.

When King Benjamin speaks of beggars, he is not referring only to those who lack material means to support themselves, the poor in money.  I believe that he is also referring to the poor in spirit.  This category includes some who have a great deal of money.

The message that we take to the poor in spirit is to come unto Christ.

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3 Nephi 12:3

Following is a wonderful example of pure love and how it ministers to the poor in spirit.  As some of the comments indicate, the ministry and service traveled in two directions:  to the girl who was ill by the cheerleaders and from the girl who was ill to the cheerleaders.

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I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creed of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals…And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling…When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. This is one of the rules of the whole house.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity, Preface

And the words of Christ:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Matthew 5:44

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November 2, 2015

Book of Mormon, Sanctification, Words of Christ

Comments Off on Be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

3 Nephi 27:19-20

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November 2, 2015

Millett, Necessity of Atonement, Words of Christ

Comments Off on We Cannot Perform Our Own Spiritual Eye Surgery

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.

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Robert L. Millett
Only the Blind See

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November 2, 2015

General Authorities, McConkie, New Testament, Words of Christ

Comments Off on Parables are a call to come unto Christ

Parables are a call to investigate the truth; to learn more; to inquire into the spiritual realities, which, through them, are but dimly viewed.

Parables start truth seekers out in the direction of further light and knowledge and understanding; they invite men to ponder such truths as they are able to bear in the hope of learning more.

Parables are a call to come unto Christ, to believe his doctrines, to live his laws, and to be saved in his kingdom. They teach arithmetic to those who have the capacity to learn calculus in due course. They are the mild milk of the word that prepares our spiritual digestive processes to feast upon the doctrinal meat of the kingdom.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
The Mortal Messiah, Vol.2, p.245
(Paragraph breaks added to enhance online readability.)

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Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew 13:24:30

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April 12, 2012

General Authorities, General Conference, McKay, Words of Christ

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President David O. McKay said, “Man is a spiritual being, and sometime or another every man is possessed with a longing, an irresistible desire, to know his relationship to the Infinite. He realizes that he is not just a physical object to be tossed for just a short time from bank to bank, only to be submerged finally in the ever-flowing stream of life. There is something within him that urges him to rise above himself, to control his environment, to master the body and all things physical, and to live in a higher and more beautiful world.” (Conference Report, April, 1968, Priesthood Session)

Jesus said:

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works. (3 Nephi 27:14-15)

The upward pull comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is drawing us towards Him, reminding us that our true home is another, higher place where only He can take us.

February 2, 2010

Mercy, Resurrection, Words of Christ

Comments Off on Loose Him, and Let Him Go

The story of Lazarus is one of the greatest examples of the power of Savior’s Atonement and of His empathy for all those who sorrow.

Mary, Martha and Lazarus, their brother, were close friends of Jesus.  There is a strong sense that he could relax with them and be comfortable in the midst of all the tumult that his ministry was arousing.

Lazarus became sick and the sisters sent for their beloved friend and Savior, but Christ tarried elsewhere.  Even without hearing further news, Christ knew that his friend had died.

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”

His disciples misunderstood what the Savior said, so He spoke more plainly.

“Lazarus is dead.”

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  According to Jewish law, a person who died must be buried on the same day he or she died.  Some Jews believed that the spirit remained in the vicinity of the body for up to three days, but even by these traditions, Lazarus was well and truly gone.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out of the house to meet him.

“Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.”

Full of faith, Martha said that she knew that her brother would  rise and be resurrected at the last day.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

“She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

Martha’s faithful insight was rare, even among Christ’s followers at this time.  She recognized that He was the Savior, but did not fully understand the power that He held.

Martha then went ahead of Jesus back to her house to tell Mary that He had arrived.  Mary also has great faith in Jesus’ powers and weeps as she speaks to Him.

“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

Jesus here shows the great empathy He has for all who suffer and mourn.  He knows His power and knows that in just a few moments, He will raise Lazarus from the dead, but His love for these two women and their friends is so perfect that He feels their pain deeply.

John writes simply, “Jesus wept.”

We see here two aspects of the Atonement that the Savior will perform in just a few days.

1.  He will resurrect the physical body of Lazarus from the grave.

2.  Even before He suffers the sins, sorrows and disappointments of all men and whom who have ever lived or will ever live on the earth, He experiences the deepest feelings of Mary and Martha.  He “mourn[s] with those that mourn . . . and comfort[s] those that stand in need of comfort . . . .” Mosiah 18: 9

Christ comes to the grave of Lazarus, a cave whose entrance is blocked by a large stone.  He commands that the stone be taken away.

Martha has a sudden fear of what Christ will find if the grave is unsealed.

Christ calls upon her faith, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”

The stone is removed and Christ acknowledges that He is the perfect son of a perfect Heavenly Father and teaches all present of His Father.

“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Christ then calls Lazarus forth from the grave.

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Of course, Lazarus obeys the commandment of the Son of God.  He is wrapped with cloth in accordance with Jewish funeral practices.

Christ says, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Each of us is Mary.  Each of us is Martha and each of us will be Lazarus.

In like manner, on some future day, Christ will say to each of us, “Come forth,” and, like Lazarus, we will rise from our graves to see our Savior.

John 11:1-45