Cassia’s Sunday Musings: The Atonement as the Foundation for Life

This is actually less a “musing” and more a talk.  Well, OK, it was a talk.  And I have been terrified for the past week and a half about giving this talk, especially since I just couldn’t get it to really work out.  Finally it started to come together last night, some around 8pm but most around 10pm.  I was up late.  :)  But it came together, and for that I am very grateful.  :)  (And I have to admit I’m feeling more confident in my speaking ability, too – that’s nice!)

So, for any who may be interested in knowing what I spoke about, here it is.  :)

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In our church we have many of wonderful doctrines.  We know that we are children of our Father in Heaven.  We know that, because of His love, we can communicate with Him through prayer.  We know He has given us prophets to guide us.  We know He has given us temples, giving mercy to all those who have died without knowledge of His gospel.

Yet none of these doctrines would mean anything were it not for the Gospel of Christ – the good news – the knowledge that our Savior, Jesus Christ, atoned for our sins.  That he took upon himself our wrongs – our mistakes and our rebellions.  That He suffered for us, making it possible for us to repent.  And that He suffered death, so then he could break the bands of death and give us all the hope of resurrection.

Abinadi testified,

“Thus [because of the Fall] all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state…  And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.  And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.  But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.  He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death” (Mosiah 16:4, 6–9).

To the Nephites, our Savior said,

“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you –that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.  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…  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” (3 Nephi 27:13–14, 19).

Without Christ, we would have no hope.  But with Christ we have an enlivening hope that reaches beyond this life, beyond our challenges and struggles, our pains and losses.  This is the gospel.  This is the foundation of our hope and faith.

I have a testimony of this.  I know I need to continue to strengthen it, but I still know it.  But I wonder – how do I pass this on to my children and to others entrusted in my care?  As parents, leaders, teachers, even friends – how do we help others understand the importance of the Atonement?

I think of the people who were converted when they heard King Benjamin, and then later of their children who were too young to understand at the time King Benjamin spoke and then later “did not believe the tradition of their fathers.  They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.  And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened” (Mosiah 26:1–3).

I know I cannot force my children to have a testimony.  Yet what can I do to make it more likely that they would accept the truths I am teaching them?

I think Nephi gave a key to this when he wrote “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).

Looking further in the scriptures, I gain comfort when I realize that these things can have effect even if I don’t think they are listening at the time.  I read of Enos who said,

“Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.  And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul… “And ther came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed… Because of they faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard no seen… wherefore, go to, they faith hath made thee whole.”  (Enos 3-5, 8)

Did Jacob realize his son was listening?  I am especially caught by the word “often” – because Enos had “often” heard his father speak, it was there in his mind, ready to come when he was ready to really pay attention.

This idea is even further shown by the experience of Alma the Younger.  His father Alma heard the testimony of Abinadi concerning our Savior.  His heart was touched and he gained his own testimony and became a great leader in the church.  Of course he often taught about the Savior!  And yet his son rebelled.  Rather than just wondering if anything was getting through, Alma had to deal with the fact that his son was actively acting against what he’d been taught.

And yet, at the time his son needed it the most, when Alma the Younger was “racked with torment” and “harrowed up by the memory of [his] many sins,”

“…behold I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.  Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.  And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36: 12–13, 17–20).

In both of these cases, the father’s consistency in teaching about the Atonement allowed that knowledge to be brought to mind when the child most needed it.  As parents, leaders, teachers, and friends we can all participate in this preparation – whether those we teach seem to be listening or not.

But before we can really teach we must be sure we ourselves are built on this foundation, “the rock of our Redeemer” (Helman 5:12).  In General Conference this past April, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle spoke on the Atonement and on the need for each of us to gain or strengthen our own testimony of our Savior.  Talking about the Resurrection and Atonement, he said,

“They must be more than principles you memorize.  They must be woven into the very fiber of your being as a powerful bulwark against the rising tide of the abomination that infects our world…

“There is an imperative need for each of us to strengthen our understanding of the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that it will become an unshakable foundation upon which to build our lives…

He continued,

“I energetically encourage you to establish a personal study plan to better understand and appreciate the incomparable, eternal, infinite consequences of Jesus Christ’s perfect fulfillment of His divinely appointed calling as our Savior and Redeemer.”

As Elder Scott emphasized, it is Christ who changes lives.  And we can only make a permanent change for good if we “resolve to make him the living center of our home.”  We must come to know Him.  We must study the scriptures, for they testify of Him.  We must pray fervently for a witness of the Spirit that these things are true.  It almost sounds old now – scripture study, prayer, temple attendance.  Yet we hear about these so much because they are what can bring us to a knowledge of the truth!

And if we want to have and strengthen our own personal witness of the Savior and His Atonement, we must be sure we are not distracted away by other things.  In our study of the gospel, in our prioritizing of our time, we need to be sure we remember that Christ is our foundation.  I remember His gentle chastisement of Martha – “thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42).

We have a lot of wonderful things we can do, a lot of wonderful things we can study and focus on, both in the church and out.  But nothing else means anything without our relationship to our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As King Benjamin said, “…[T]here shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17)

I know that these things are true.  I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that because of His great sacrifice we can have hope and faith on His name.  And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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