The 3rd Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, states, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, believe that the Savior’s Atonement is the most important event in history.
Everything Centers Upon the Atonement of Christ
To atone means to reconcile a person to God by paying the price for the person’s sin, freeing the person from sin’s effects, enabling the person to return to God’s presence. The act of the Atonement includes Jesus Christ’s infinite suffering and offering Himself a ransom in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary, His death, and resurrection.
The fall of Adam and Eve from the presence of God brought death and sin into the world. The effects of the Fall were overcome by the Atonement. The Atonement promises resurrection, the reuniting of body and spirit after death, to all who are born on earth. To be forgiven of sins, a person must have faith in Christ and repent of his or her sins.
The following quote by Church leader James E. Talmage about the need for a Savior impacted me so deeply that I wrote it in my scriptures and refer to it often:
Such then is the need of a Redeemer, for without Him mankind would forever remain in a fallen state, and as to hope of eternal progression would be inevitably lost. The mortal probation is provided as an opportunity of advancement, but so great are the difficulties and the dangers, so strong is the influence of evil in the world, and so weak is man in resistance thereto, that without the aid of a power above that of humanity, no soul would find its way back to God from whom it came. The need of a Redeemer lies in the inability of man to raise himself from the temporal to the spiritual plane, from the lower kingdom to the higher. (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pg 25).
Christ’s Atonement impacts mankind, but the effects it has on an individual life is truly remarkable. A parable and two scriptural stories illustrate my path in understanding and applying the Atonement in my life: the prodigal son, the woman with an issue of blood, and Abigail and David.
Sins Are Forgiven Through the Atonement
In several ways, the story of the prodigal son is my story. A son demanded his portion of the father’s inheritance. The father compassionately complied with his son’s rude request. The son took the inheritance and quickly squandered it. Eventually, he survived by feeding swine. Then, according to the Savior’s words, “when he came to himself, he said…I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 15:17-18). When he came to himself, he thought of his father. How often have I repeated that process! I do not think of God, when I am in the midst of sin, but when I “come to myself,” my thoughts can turn again to Him.
Generally, the younger son is considered the prodigal in need of repentance and forgiveness, but I see myself sinning much more egregiously as the older son in the story. The older son stayed with the father fulfilling his obligation. When the repentant younger son returned to a robe, a ring, and the fatted calf, however, the older son’s pride and anger were as disrespectful to the father as the younger son’s impudence. The father implored the eldest son to join the him in celebrating the younger son’s return. The last line of the story is, “for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32). I have often wondered if the son joined the family celebration or not. The open ended-ness of the story enabled me to see myself as the older brother. I have a choice. Do I swallow my pride and return to the Father? His open invitation invites both brothers to return to Him. His great mercy and compassion to the youngest son demonstrates His unfailing love and desire for every child to return. His patient appeal to the oldest son entreats us to throw off our self-righteousness and pride and become like Him.
The parable of the prodigal son teaches me of God’s great love for me when I choose to run away from Him or become prideful and self-righteousness. I can repent of my sins and through the Atonement’s grace can be forgiven for those sins.
The Atonement Heals All Injustices
The Savior also promises that His Atoning power heals all wounds, griefs, and injustices. The story of the woman with an issue of blood illustrates the power of the Savior to heal all wounds.
Behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour (Matthew 9:20-22 ).
The unnamed woman sought out Jesus believing that He could heal her affliction. She humbly approached Him and reached for His healing power. Her faith in Him enabled Him to heal her. I struggled with a victim mentality for years. I could not find peace. I took my “issue” to the Lord many times. When I was finally willing to drop it at His feet determined that it would not define me anymore, and walk away, He healed me. While my wound was not instantly healed, over time I grew stronger and my perception of the world changed. One day my mother asked me about the incident and I realized I had not even thought of it in months. The wound was absolutely healed! Through subsequent years, the Savior has even healed the scar. I have been reborn, a new creature.
Applying the Atonement’s Merciful Grace To Others
While in the wilderness of Paran, David and his band protected the shepherds and flocks of Nabal. David sent messengers to Nabal requesting food and water. Nabal refused hospitality to David. Furious, David determined to kill Nabal’s household. A servant told Nabal’s wife, Abigail. She hurriedly prepared food and sent the offering to David. She and her servants met David on his way to destroy them.
Abigail fell on her face at David’s feet and said the most remarkable thing, “Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be…I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid…” (1 Samuel 25:24, 28).
Without bitterness or anger, like the Savior, she took Nabal’s sin upon herself to save the lives of her household, and ultimately shielded David’s soul from a rash decision’s effects. I’m glad this story is not open ended. David immediately came to himself and said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand” (1 Samuel 25:32-33).
As the Savior takes upon Himself the sins of others, He stands in their place before us and says, “upon me let this iniquity be: and…forgive the trespass…” Just as I believe the Atonement can be efficacious in my life, I believe that the Atonement can be efficacious in the lives of everyone around me. The Savior, and Abigail, teach me to see beyond sin and defensive pride into the heart of him who has offended me. Like me, he or she is also a child of God. The Savior’s Atonement enables me to become more like the Him and share the mercy He gives me with those around me.
I invite you to apply the Savior’s Atonement more fully in your own life. If you have questions about the Atonement or how to repent, please contact the Mormon Missionaries.