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

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).

2. Another mistake is to believe that the Atonement really only comes into effect at the very end, that is, at the time of Final Judgment. This line of thinking is “I know I should live the gospel, but I often fall short. I am just hoping that I will do well enough overall that at the end the Lord will apply His generous mercy to me and I will get in to heaven.” While this thinking is not completely false, it is incomplete. It does include the fact that we must sincerely strive to do what is right, and it includes the idea that the Lord can in His mercy take away our sins. Yet who among us can afford to wait until the Final Judgment to receive the Lord’s help and healing? As a favorite hymn teaches:

I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me! 2

I testify that the Lord hears our prayers and that He will make us clean and bless us with His Spirit here and now, if we will trust in Him and repent. We partake of the sacrament each week to renew our covenants and feel that cleansing power anew. We are exhorted to retain a remission of our sins from day to day (see Mosiah 4:26). When we end each prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen,” we are petitioning the Father that we might enter His presence through the mediation of Jesus Christ, who is pleading our cause before Him (see D&C 45:3–5). Surely our Lord desires to succor us at any time, for in Him “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15).

3. A third misunderstanding is a pernicious lie that goes like this: “It doesn’t really matter what I do. The Lord is going to forgive and save everybody. Why not sample in the meantime a bit of what the world has to offer? After all, everyone else is doing it.” The prophet Nephi accurately predicted this way of thinking long ago (see 2 Ne. 28:8).

The Lord, of course, can and wants to forgive everyone, but a full measure of His mercy will only come with complete and deep repentance. If we have not suffered, we have not repented. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “Repentance of necessity involves suffering and sorrow. Anyone who thinks otherwise has not read the life of the young Alma, nor tried to personally repent. In the process of repentance we are granted just a taste of the suffering we would endure if we failed to turn away from evil. That pain, though only momentary for the repentant, is the most bitter of cups.” 3

What a terrible thing to believe mistakenly that sin will be happiness and that repentance will be easy, for one of the terrible consequences of sin is the loss of the Spirit. “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10), and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

It is also folly to assume that we can premeditatedly sin, repent, and then have the Lord immediately remove all the natural consequences of our sins. When we choose to sin, we also choose the results of those sins. Suppose two people conceive a baby outside of marriage, then repent and are forgiven by the Lord. Will the baby suddenly go away? Obviously not; someone must care for that baby. Though the baby will doubtless bring joy to many lives, some of the consequences of our sins may be difficult to bear. Also, these consequences may not be quickly or easily resolved. We may have to wrestle with some of them for much of our mortal lives. This principle does not detract in any way from the complete and infinite cleansing power of the Atonement. When we truly repent, the Lord fully forgives us and our guilt is swept away (see Enos 1:6). But it is important to understand that the Lord has placed us in a physical world where there are real consequences for our choices.

Elder J. Devn Cornish

Learning How the Atonement Can Change You,” Ensign, Apr 2002, 20.  Elder Cornish was an Area Authority Seventy in the North America Southeast Area when this article was published.

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