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

I wish now to summarize the elements of doctrine that apply the holy Atonement and its enabling grace to our lives. In this way I hope to illustrate how fully each of us needs the Lord’s power and how earnestly he seeks to turn our mourning to joy, our blindness to sight, and our ashes to beauty.

When I think of the Savior all alone that night in Gethsemane, a solitary light shining in the vast darkness of cosmic evil, I think of the millions of people for whom he alone paid the full ransom. Then I recall Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase about “the awful arithmetic of the Atonement.” The wonder of that event is clearly beyond our comprehension. As Elder Packer said, “How the Atonement was wrought, we do not know. No mortal watched as evil turned away and hid in shame before the light of that pure being.”

The first and most familiar elements of the Atonement relate to the transgression of Adam and Eve and to our personal sins. Because of the Fall, Adam and his children became subject to death, sin, and other characteristics of mortality that separated them from God. To allow mankind again to be “at one” with God, the eternal law of justice required compensation for these consequences of the Fall. The eternal law of mercy allowed the Savior to make that compensation fully through the great “at-one-ment,” relieving Adam and his children of their unbearable burdens.

Somehow, through his sinless life, his genetic nature as the Only Begotten of the Father, and his willingness to drink the bitter cup of justice, the Lord Jesus Christ was able to atone unconditionally for the original sin of Adam and Eve and for the physical death, and to atone conditionally for the personal sins of all mankind.

The unconditional parts of the Atonement, those that assure our resurrection from physical death and that pay for Adam’s transgression, require no further action on our part. They are the free gifts of unmerited divine grace. The conditional part, however, requires our repentance-part of “all we can do”-as the condition of applying mercy to our personal sins. We have been told that if we do not repent, we must suffer even as the Savior did to satisfy the demands of justice. (See D&C 19:15-17.)

Elder Bruce C. Hafen

The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences, Deseret Book, 1989

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