Episode #205 - The Atonement of Jesus Christ

November 26, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 205
Episode #205 - The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Show Notes Transcript

When we more fully understand the Atonement of the Savior, we can come to rely more fully upon its effects in our lives.

Episode #205 – The Atonement of Jesus Christ.  On a dark night somewhere close to two thousand years ago, a man knelt prostrated in a garden of olive trees.  He had only his three closest friends with him and they were sleeping.  He was racked with pain, that was not his.  He was filled with emotions he had never experienced.  He was for perhaps the first time in his life pushed to the very edge of his abilities and alone in his experience.  He could not fully share his experience without others suffering as he was.  Even his friends who had traveled with him could feel the overwhelming influence of the weight he bore.  Their astonishment caused them, those who knew him best, “to complain and wonder if he be the Messiah.”  And so as he was accustomed to do, he knelt in a Garden where countless times before he had retreated to plead with his Father.  But this time, while his Father could hear his cries and feel his agony, he could not answer but with an angel.  Even that heavenly being could not bear any of the suffering weight.  He had to bear it alone and with all the fortitude he could muster.  Three times he asked the Father to let the cup pass if it could be possible.  But deep within him, he knew the answer, even when the emotional suffering was at its most intense and he sweat great drops of blood.  He prayed more earnestly but knew that this was his cup and only he could drink it.  Finally, the time had come and he was relieved of the most intense emotions for a time.  During that break he would be physically tortured to the point that his mortal strength would fail him, and another would bear his cross to its final resting place.  He would forgive Simon his chief apostle for denying him.  He would forgive the soldier who drove the nails and scourged him.  He would even forgive the two who were crucified with him.  In his last dying act he would commend his mother into the care of one of his own.  He would finish what we refer to as the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Elder McConkie stated in April of 1985 that the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths.” Why is it so?  Why is the Atonement the least understood truths of the gospel?  I have pondered a great deal about Bro. McConkie’s statement.  What is it that we get so wrong or don’t understand about the Redeemer’s sacrifice and the power that it brings into our lives?  I believe sometimes that we simply don’t ask the right questions and allow ourselves to experience necessary trials to come to that understanding.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ can be taught and understood from a logical perspective and those mental exercises are important.  But it is the heart and the mind must come to an understanding for us to comprehend.  It is our personal experiences, our trials and our emotional travail that brings us to a more complete understanding.  Written words cannot provide the necessary training of the heart any more than a book can bring us the understanding of what the ocean smells like, tastes like and feels.  In many ways, we must experience our own Gethsemane to understand the nature of the Atonement and how it interacts with our lives.  Now we will never be asked to experience what the Savior did exactly, nor could we.  What he accomplished was his alone to bear so that we did not have to bear it.  We could not bear it because even if we could serve out our punishment for our sins, it would only leave us punished, not necessarily changed.  The Atonement certainly removes a part of our punishment, the worst part, but its intent is not to simply remove punishment but to cause a change of heart and mind.  The Atonement was not a plan for behavioral modification.  It was and is a plan of revolutionary change.  Its design and purpose was and is to change our very nature not simply our behavior.  When we come to an understanding of what it was intended to accomplish not just in word but by a change of nature we more fully come to understand what the Savior accomplished.

It is also incredibly important to understand how he accomplished it.  At least to the point mortals can.  When we come to a more complete understanding of the inner workings of the Atonement and how it changes and blesses our lives, we can more effectively apply it to our circumstances.  So today, I want to share some insights I have learned about the Atonement.  I will probably not share everything but I want to provide a pathway that you might find deeper understanding of how to apply it in your life. 

To do this I will need to speak somewhat doctrinally for a few minutes.  Once you have this background you can then begin your own journey of discovery.  When we speak of the Atonement, celestial life, exaltation and eternal life, we begin with the idea that all of creation holds our Father in Heaven accountable to his endowment of immense power.  Even the Book of Mormon states that if God were unjust in upholding the laws of celestial life and to favor one individual over another, he would cease to be God.  The great law of heaven is justice and fairness.  All of creation expect our Father in Heaven to be just and fair when it comes to the laws that have been established.  They have come to rely upon him for his justice.  They know fully that he will never allow anyone to have the power he does that will abuse that power in any sense of the word abuse.  Those beings that uphold him as God know with certainty he will keep his word.  Justice is the prevailing law of heaven.  If that is true then this is also.  Anyone given the powers of judgement must also be entirely just.  Because judgement determines who obtains the powers of heaven.  So anyone receiving the powers of judgement must be perfect, otherwise the system descends into chaos.  It can be explained simply in this allegory. 

There was a county judge who was considered just and fair.  He had been a judge for many years and he was known to be absolutely completely fair to anyone who stepped into his courtroom.  He had given many rulings over his years and several of them had been tested by the press and others but each time it was determined that the judge had been correct in his assessment.  He became so well known for his rulings and fairness that many individuals facing court proceedings would seek out his court for their difficulties.  He had defended honorably so many of his rulings that even the relentless press had to give into the idea that this was as close to a perfect judge as one could get.  They eventually moved onto other judges.  One day two young men came into his court room.  Each was about the same age.  Each had a very similar background and education.  Even the crimes themselves appeared to be almost identical.  The first man pleaded his case and after hearing the evidence and the crime, the judge sentenced him to five years jail with five more years of probation.  The second young man also pleaded his case to the judge which was remarkable similar to the first, the judge sentenced this young man to five years probation.  That seemed strange to the individuals, lawyers, press and others who had follow this judge for many years.  However, given his stretch of perfect rulings no individual thought to question why.  Everyone thought that the judge must have had information or seen something they hadn’t.  After some time, one young reporter caught hold of the cases and studied them intensely.  Interviewing everyone he could find about the extent of the crimes and what would have caused this difference in judgement.  He spent weeks and could find nothing.  During one of his final interviews with the young man’s mother who had received the lesser sentence, the young reporter noticed a picture of the judge with his wife and this mother he was interviewing.  He asked about the picture.  The mother hesitated and noted that she was a sister to the judges wife.  But she didn’t think that the relationship had anything to do with the lighter sentence.  When the reporter dug deeper he found that the mother had asked her sister to talk to the judge.  The reporter noted in his article that the only thing he found different in the cases was this relationship.  This caused a deep divide in the community and a loss of trust.  The judge was eventually reprimanded for the issue but that was not the end of the story.  This one moment of weakness caused a cascade of problems for the judge and all his cases began to possess an air of suspicion when none had existed before.  Once he had committed this one error, from then on every one of his rulings was questioned.  A judge under celestial law must be perfect and perfect continuously.  

When we are talking about eternity and the powers of exaltation rather than a few years in jail, one can easily see why perfection was required of the Savior.  The simple fact is that any error would have caused a lack of trust.  The Savior had to be perfect to obtain the keys of judgement.  There was no other way and never has been.  That is the nature of the relationship of spiritual beings to their creator and judge.  He must be perfect in all his judgements.  However, perfection causes a distinct problem.  If every person that obtains eternal exalted power must be perfect in their judgments, then very few if any would ever achieve an exalted life. We know of only one perfect individual so perfection creates serious limitations. However, our Father can’t simply just overlook one sin and not another.  He cannot be preferential in his treatment of sin.  Any broken law would cause a person to be like this judge, untrustworthy to hold the powers of heaven.  The problem is that perfection is extremely rare and just because an individual has broken a law doesn’t mean that with time and learning that could not be brought to a point where they are perfect.  Meaning spirits could learn to be perfect with time and effort but those broken laws would have to be justified.  Or perhaps said differently, the broken laws could be overlooked if an individual ascribed to a plan of training, corrected the natural tendencies that caused the broken law and learned to be prefect in their judgements.  The only problem is that someone would need to certify that the person had learned to be perfect in their judgments.  The only person that could certify this is one who was already perfect.

Now a perfect person also has a distinct disadvantage when it comes to judgement.  How would someone be able to judge the broken law and absolve it without fully understanding the nature of the sin?  Meaning a perfect person could judge perfection but how can they judge imperfection learning to be perfect, if their own learning never involved breaking a law of heaven or imperfection.  A perfect person would lack the knowledge to fully say that a person is justified through learning and imperfection.  This is where the Atonement enters and provides for the answer.  A perfect person does not have to break the law to understand the learning process, if that perfect person can be given full access to the entire sin by a transferal of the entire episode of sin to him through the process of vicarious intercession.  This means in simple terms that the Savior had to fully experience sin from the perspective of the victim and the sinner, physically, mentally and emotionally.  He literally had to take upon himself our sins.  What this means in practical terms is that he must experience the sin emotionally, physically and mentally as though he had committed it.  He had to experience our sin in every detail including the removal of the Spirit.  This is one reason his Father had to fully remove himself from his Son.  The Savior had to descend into the darkest abyss so that not one soul would be left behind.  

This was necessarily that he might fully understand how to judge us but also judge our learning experiences.  Once he fully understood sin vicariously and how to help us learn from sin, he could then absolve us of those broken laws and change our core desires or inner nature.  That change is referred to as sanctification.  He essential pleads before the creations that he has fully vetted the individual and their nature is celestial.  He states that through the process of covenants and repentance, he can change the very nature of the individual and essential declare them perfected.  Because these spiritual beings have full confidence in anyone receiving the keys of judgment from the Father, the Savior is able to change, redeem and perfect our souls.  The key to understanding this is how he in the Garden of Gethsemane experienced our sins from every perspective including the emotion, mental anguish and even the physical consequences and saw how he could make necessary changes in our character and nature to allow for us to become celestial.  So when we say the Savior knows us, he knows us from our very core foundations and soul.  There is nothing about us he does not comprehend because he has been given the keys of judgment from his Father.

In addition to experiencing sin to its darkest heugh, the Savior needed to understand when to intervene in our suffering, trials and pain.  He knew that injustice would come upon nearly every individual who came into mortality.  He knew that sin would cause innocent individuals to suffer.  He also knew that genetics, illness, accidents and a host of events would occur that would create weaknesses and limit our capacities in this life.  Because the Father is perfectly just, every injustice would need to be rectified and be made whole.  For the Savior to rectify these injustices that would occur, he had to fully experience them vicariously or during his mortal life.  He needed to fully understand how to “make up the difference” without causing preferential treatment to one over another.

He also needed to understand how to provide a pathway for us to become perfect.  He needed to see every sin, every flaw and every minute defect in our souls to provide an individually tailored plan for us to learn our perfection and to be cleansed or our souls changed into perfection.  As part of that planning, the Savior had to experience every sorrow, trial, misfortune, depressive episode, emotional pain that could be experienced and how these things might be used to aid us in our learning and cleansing efforts.  Now some of that we know occurred during his life and during the Atonement.  There were things he never experienced personally that he had to experience vicariously.  For instance, we know that he never lost his mother during his life.  He never broke a bone.  He never experienced a miscarriage or the pains of birth.  And yet he fully understands intimately each of our pains and suffering.  Those things he did not experience personally, he had to experience vicariously and so the weight of the darkest sin and the suffering of torture and so many other things he had to experience bore down upon him in that Garden, causing blood to be pressed out his pores.  He had to experience everything so that his judgment could be perfect, injustice could be rectified and his plan of happiness for each of us could be tailored to our needs.  So that he would know when best to heal us, or strengthen us, allow us to suffer a little longer, or be relieved of pain.  During the process of the Atonement he became perfect in his knowledge.  And not just the words or book learning, he became perfect in experience.  Now how that is done is perhaps the mystery in it all.  How he could fully experience my life and everyone else who has lived on this planet and an infinite number of others is perhaps the incomprehensible nature of the task.  However, all we need to know is that he did and that he knows us intimately.  He knows every part of our being and nature and can provide for our perfection.

He fully understands the nature of mental illness because he experienced it in its fullness.  He did not read a book about it, or learn about it from a friend, he experienced it to its fullest extent.  We cannot have experiences he does not understand.  The keys of judgment endowed upon him by the Father require it.  He is fully aware of us, the injustices in our lives, the sorrows, the pains, the hurt and our failures.  Yet because of his atoning experience he can provide a pathway to perfection for every individual.  That was the main point of the sacrifice.  Because he experience all things, he knows exactly what we need to become perfected.  And so as we enter a covenant with him, we accept the atonement and his plan for us individually.  He could turn injustice into a learning experience.  He could turn sin into a moment of education.  He would know when a change of heart was warranted and then purify our spiritual nature line upon line and change of heart upon change of heart.

What we see in his atonement is an individualizing of the plan of happiness to suit our personal needs.  He could view our souls as they are and with our permission through covenants make necessary changes.  What we see in mortality is that the Lord does not rescue us from failure, pains, sorrows, injustice or trauma.  We see that because of the atonement he can use such experiences to create a perfected being.  Yes he could certainly change us in an instant to be celestial at our core.  But he does not.  He uses our experiences to teach and train us and when we are prepared for the change he causes the change of heart to occur.  Thus our agency is not thwarted or removed.  What the Lord can do because of his understanding and knowledge obtained through the atonement is foresee what will occur in our lives and through unseen methods help us to avoid experiences that would be of little value and lead us through experiences that would be most beneficial.  Thus the Lord can tailor our experiences to aid in our progression.

If we have partaken of covenants and are working to live the commandments, then we are under this veil of protection offered by the Lord.  He can tailor our lives to experience those events of greatest value to our salvation.  If we are under this covenant and experience mental and emotional illness, then it is very likely that the Lord sees benefit in our experience.  Because we cannot see the end from the beginning, we are not likely to see the value during the experience but we can trust that the Lord does see that value and understands our limits, capacities and abilities to learn from the experience.  He knows us intimately through the atoning process and knows in every detail how to perfect us through the covenants we have made with him.  He will not put us through anything that does not provide significant value to perfecting our lives.  Mental and emotional illness is not a punishment, although it may seem so much of the time.  The reality is under the guidance of the Savior it is a method of tutoring to bring about our perfection.  Mental and emotional health challenges are in reality what will save and perfect us in the end, if and only if we rely upon the covenants that we have made.

My hope today is that you are able to more fully see how the Savior knows and understands you and the deep love he feels for you.  He does not desire your suffering and he has felt it more deeply than you know.  But he truly loves you enough to allow for your challenges to make those perfecting changes in your life.  He loves you enough to provide a pathway and the strength to walk that path with him.  That I know by experience.  Until next week.  Do your part so that the Lord can do his.