The Savior’s Atonement makes it possible for us to overcome spiritual death. Although all people will be resurrected, only those who accept the Atonement will be saved from spiritual death.
We accept Christ’s Atonement by placing our faith in Him. Through this faith, we repent of our sins, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and obey His commandments. We become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We are forgiven and cleansed from sin and prepared to return and live forever with our Heavenly Father.
The Savior tells us, “For behold I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer… even as I” Christ did His part to atone for our sins. To make His Atonement fully effective in our lives, we must strive to obey Him and repent of our sins.
President Boyd K Packer of the Council of the Twelve gave the following illustration to show how Christ’s Atonement makes it possible to be saved from sin if we do our part.
“Let me tell you a story – a parable.
“There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.
“He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to do and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.
“So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn’t worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.
“The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.
“But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.
“Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.
“’I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,’ he confessed.
“’Then,’ said the creditor, ‘we will exercise the contract, take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.’
“’Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?’ the debtor begged. ‘Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?’
“The creditor replied, ‘Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?’
“’I believed in justice when I signed the contract,’ the debtor said. ‘It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.’
“’It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,’ the creditor replied. ‘That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.’
“There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.
“’If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,’ the debtor pleaded.
“’If I do, there will be no justice,’ was the reply.
“Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully serviced, and mercy also?
“There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended – but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.
“The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.
“’I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.’
“As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, ‘You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.’
“And so the creditor agreed.
“The mediator turned then to the debtor, ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’
“’Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor, ‘You save me from prison and show mercy to me.’
“’Then,’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’
“And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken.
“The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was fully satisfied”
Our sins are our spiritual debts. Without Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Mediator, we would all pay for our sins by suffering spiritual death. But because of Him, if we will keep His terms, which are to repent and keep His commandments, we may return to live with our Heavenly Father.
It is wonderful that Christ has provided us a way to be healed from our sins. He said:
“Behold, I have come unto the world… to save the world from sin. Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.” - 3 Nephi 9:21-22
God sent his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin in addition to the obstacle of physical death. We are not responsible for the Fall of Adam and Eve, but we are responsible for our own sins. God cannot look on sin with any degree of allowance, and sin prevents us from living in His presence. Only through the Savior’s grace and mercy can we become clean from sin so that we can live with God again. This is possible through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinners and allowing them to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross. He was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all mankind. He suffered the penalty for our sins in Gethsemane and died on the cross. He took upon Himself the pains, sicknesses, temptations, afflictions and infirmities of us all (Alma 7:11-12)
“11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities.”
As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement of Jesus Christ satisfies the demands of justice and answers the pleas for mercy.
Mercy is the spirit of compassion, tenderness, and forgiveness. Mercy is one of the attributes of God. Jesus Christ offers mercy to us through His atoning sacrifice on conditions of repentance.
In the New Testament there are many accounts of Jesus Christ showing compassion to the sinner. One such account shows the deep compassion that the Savior had toward a woman taken in adultery. (John 8:1-11)
“1 JESUS went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the atemple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a awoman taken in badultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the alaw commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger awrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without asin among you, let him bfirst cast a cstone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own aconscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I acondemn thee: go, and sin bno more.”
As Jesus Christ is our exemplar we are to exercise the principle of mercy and forgive our brothers and sisters. Joseph Smith taught:
“One of the most pleasing scenes that can occur on earth, when a sin has been committed by one person against another, is, to forgive that sin; and then according to the sublime and perfect pattern of the Savior, pray to our Father in heaven to forgive [the sinner] also.”
“Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance, and asking forgiveness; and should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repent or ask forgiveness, our heavenly Father would be equally as merciful to us.”
“Bear and forbear one with another, for so the Lord does with us. Pray for your enemies in the Church and curse not your foes without: for vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay (see Romans 12:19]. To every ordained member, and to all, we say; be merciful and you shall find mercy. Seek to help save souls, not to destroy them: for verily you know, that ‘there is more joy in heaven, over one sinner that repents, than there is over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance.” [see Luke 15:7.]”
We Must Forgive Others
A vital part of repentance is to forgive those who have sinned against us. The Lord will not forgive us unless our hearts are fully cleansed of all hate, bitterness, and bad feelings against other people (see 3 Nephi 13:14-15).
“14 For, if ye aforgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
In September of 1831, Joseph Smith received revelation from the Lord. Part of that revelation included commandment to the saints that they forgive one another, lest there remain in them the greater sin. In Doctrine and Covenants section 64 verses 1-11 we read:
“ 1 BEHOLD, thus saith the Lord your God unto you, O ye elders of my achurch, hearken ye and hear, and receive my will concerning you.
2 For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should aovercome the world; wherefore I will have bcompassion upon you.
3 There are those among you who have sinned; but verily I say, for this once, for mine own aglory, and for the salvation of souls, I have bforgiven you your sins.
4 I will be merciful unto you, for I have given unto you the akingdom.
5 And the akeys of the mysteries of the kingdom shall not be taken from my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., through the means I have appointed, while he liveth, inasmuch as he obeyeth mine bordinances.
6 There are those who have sought occasion against him without cause;
7 Nevertheless, he has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, aforgive sins unto those who bconfess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not csinned unto ddeath.
8 My disciples, in days of old, sought aoccasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this bevil they were cafflicted and sorely dchastened.
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to aforgive one another; for he that bforgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will aforgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to bforgive all men.
11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God ajudge between me and thee, and breward thee according to thy cdeeds.”
In the May 1992 Conference issue of the Ensign Richard G Scott shared the following counsel to those who needed to heal and learn to forgive others of serious injustices:
“Father in Heaven’s children enjoy agency, there can be some who choose willfully to violate the commandments and harm you. Such acts temporarily restrict your freedom. In justice, and to compensate, the Lord has provided a way for you to overcome the destructive results of others’ acts against your will. That relief comes by applying eternal truths…
Know that the wicked choice of others cannot completely destroy your agency unless you permit it. Their acts may cause pain, anguish, even physical harm, but they cannot destroy your eternal possibilities in this brief but crucial life on earth… Your attitude can control the change for good in your life. It allows you to have the help the Lord intends you to receive. No one can take away your ultimate opportunities when you understand and live eternal law. The laws of your Heavenly Father and the atonement of the Lord have made it possible that you will not be robbed of the opportunities which come to the children of God.
During prolonged recovery from massive surgery, a patient anticipates complete healing in patience, trusting in others’ care. He does not always understand the importance of the treatment prescribed, but his obedience speeds recovery. So it is with you struggling to heal scars… Forgiveness, for example, can be hard to understand, even more difficult to give. Begin by withholding judgment... The way to repentance must be kept open for them... As you experience an easing of your own pain, full forgiveness will come more easily.
You cannot erase what has been done, but you can forgive. (see D&C 64:10.) Forgiveness heals terrible, tragic wounds, for it allows the love of God to purge your heart and mind of the poison of hate. It cleanses your consciousness of the desire for revenge. It makes place for the purifying, healing, restoring love of the Lord.
The Master counseled, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Ne. 12:44; italics added.)
Bitterness and hatred are harmful. They produce much that is destructive. They postpone the relief and healing you yearn for. Let God be the judge—you cannot do it as well as he can.”
In The Book of Mormon the account that Enos gave encompasses the full healing power of the Atonement. Enos recognized his weaknesses and presented himself to the Lord:
“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 all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.”
The voice of the Lord came unto him saying that his sins had been forgiven and Enos said:
“And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.”
Enos did not stop with his own welfare. He understood the demands of justice and mercy. He wanted the same salvation for his brethren and he said:
“Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.”
He not only prayed for his brethren the Nephites; he also plead for the Lamanites and again heard the voice of the Lord promising salvation for them all.
The amazing healing power of the atonement is a miracle to both the saint and the sinner. Christ suffered for all pains and anguishes that he of us would suffer in this life. Because he was prepared in the Garden of Gesthemane he is able to wrap his arms around us and provide healing relief. All we need to do is believe him and accept his gift.
I know that God lives! I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that they love us. I know that Jesus Christ will come again unto his people. We will be ready if we seek and follow the counsel of his servants the prophets. I know that Thomas S Monson is a true prophet of God. I know that he speaks with him and receives counsel on our behalf. Listen to the words of the prophets, they will bring you unto salvation.
I bear this solemn testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.