Good morning brothers and sisters. I’m very grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to speak to you today. In the back of my mind, I always knew this day was coming, but I never thought it would get here this fast. That being said, I can’t think of a better time for me to fulfill my priesthood duty and serve a mission. Today, I will be speaking on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it can be used in missionary work.
The Atonement of Christ is the most important event in human history and one of the key foundations of the Gospel and life on earth. Christ took upon him the sins of the world so that we may return to the presence of God the Father. While I’ve been preparing for my mission, I have studied the Atonement and had some realizations that I’ll share with you.
The first realization I had about the Atonement was it’s sheer magnitude. We have often heard of the Atonement referred to as the infinite Atonement because Christ took upon him the sins and pains of everyone that’s living, has lived, or will ever live. I don’t think that we understand the sheer amount of pain the Savior went through to fulfill His calling. I want you to imagine every sin that you have ever committed in your life: every unclean thought, every lie, and every hurtful word you’ve ever spoken. Now imagine every sin that you will ever commit in your life; if you’re anything like me, that’s a lot of sins to have. Now I want you to look at everyone in attendance today and factor in all of their sins and misdeeds. It seems almost like too much for any one person to go through, let alone endure, but Christ went beyond that. Let’s expand a little bit.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of the state of Utah is roughly 2,800,000 people. That’s 2.8 million unique individuals each with their own set of sins and trials. The same census puts the population of the entire United States at just over 308,000,000 people, which for it’s enormous size is only a small fraction of the population as a whole. Worldwide data collection estimates the population of the planet around 7,300,000,000 people. Imagine, seven billion people just like you, putting all of their faults and flaws onto one man. A task of such quantity seems almost impossible for our brains to understand, but we must remember that Christ took upon him the sins of ALL. Estimations of population growth put the number of people to ever live on this earth at approximately 110 Billion people, and that’s a number that is growing at an exponential pace for everyone of god’s children that have yet to live on this earth. 110,000,000,000+ sons and daughters of God, all with lives full of sins, pains, and trials that were put upon the shoulders of the Savior. Such a volume of action and emotion seems almost impossible to imagine, it’s a number so large that we cannot grasp it, it seems never ending. Infinite. The infinite Atonement. The Atonement was an act so incomprehensibly difficult that it took the Son of God to perform it, and even this God, the architect in the creation of the world, ask His Father if there was any other way, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
The needs for this infinite Atonement are explained in 2 Nephi 9:7
7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
With the Atonement’s reach in perspective, it may be difficult to understand how the Savior must have felt and what he experienced while he suffered, but this leads me to my next realization, which is how incredibly personal the Atonement is. We have been taught in this church that God knows us personally; he knows us so perfectly that he knows every choice that we will make; he knows our strengths and our weaknesses better than we do and will give us comfort and strength when we need it. God loves us so much that he sent his only begotten, the only person who lived without sin and could return to live in his presence, to suffer and die so that all mankind may have the opportunity to repent and return to live with him again.
D&C 18: 10-11 we read:
10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
When Christ took the sins of the world upon Him, He felt everything that you and I have ever felt, every instance of physical pain, every outpouring of emotion, every sickness, every hateful thought, every trial, and every single sin ever committed by everyone who has ever or will ever live. Man or woman, young or old, good or evil, Christ took EVERYTHING on his shoulders. This event was so great that the physical pain caused Jesus to sweat great drops of blood from every pore, but the love of God and the love of the Savior is so great, that Christ endured it for us. In the book of Luke, Christ gives the parable of the one lost sheep. This parable reads:
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance
This parable reflects one of, if not the most important aspects of the gospel, love; love for one another, the love that God has for his children, and the love the Christ had to take the ultimate sacrifice. This principle of love is explained wonderfully in Elder M. Russell Ballard’s 2004 General Conference talk titled “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul”
Brothers and sisters, I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. At the heart of the English word atonement is the word ONE. If all mankind understood this, there would never be anyone with whom we would not be concerned, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or social or economic standing. We would strive to emulate the Savior and would never be unkind, indifferent, disrespectful, or insensitive to others.”
The last realization of the Atonement I want to talk about came to me at the temple. About a month ago, I had the opportunity to take out my endowment at the Bountiful temple with my family in attendance. Being able to more fully understand the gospel of Christ in the house of The Lord was one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had in my life. Before our session started, I was able to meet with President Garff, the temple president, where he shared insights of symbolisms in the gospel. He noted that everything that we learn about in the temple, and every aspect of the church leads back to the atonement. The one symbol that the president shared with us that struck me the most was that of the olive. When an olive is put under extreme pressure in an olive press, it yields oil. During Christ’s ministry on earth and even today, olive oil is used to anoint priesthood acts in the name of Jesus Christ. President Garff explained that the olive represents the savior and his atonement. The oil shed by the olives is representative of the blood the Savior shed and the sacrifice he made for us. By using his blood, or his atonement, and having faith in Christ, men might be healed, comforted, and reach eternal salvation. At this moment, I realized that we should not be ashamed to use the Atonement of Christ.
When I’ve learned more about the Atonement, I at first felt a sense of guilt. I felt that the Savior had to suffer pains because of me and my unworthiness. These feelings caused me to not feel like I could use the atonement to repent and better myself. This is not how we should treat the Atonement. We should never feel like we are too unworthy to utilize the great power of the Atonement. The Savior’s Atonement and the sacrificing of his life was the greatest gift ever given to mankind. Without using the power of the Atonement, not one person could be made clean and return to the presence of God. Without the Atonement, the Gospel as we know it is not possible. We would not be sealed to loved ones for time and all eternity, we wouldn’t be able to use the power of the Priesthood, and we would not be able to repent of sins we’ve made and achieve eternal salvation. To not take advantage of Christ’s sacrifice for us is to not be grateful of that sacrifice. One of my favorite Hymns, I Stand All Amazed, reflects how we should treat Christ’s sacrifice for us. From the third verse and the chorus,
3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt! Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget? No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat, Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me Enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
Brothers and Sisters, the power of the Atonement is not something we should shy away from, rather, we should use it’s power to perfect ourselves in Christ and treat is humbly as the great gift it is. The Atonement is, like stated in the hymn, wonderful, and should be a key part of our everyday lives. I am so excited to be able to teach the people of Oregon the Atonement. Acting as a representative of Christ, I can show people the light of the gospel, and bring families, and souls back to God.
I bear my firm testimony on the power of the Atonement; there is no way that we can survive without it. Without the Atonement, I would not be standing in front of you today. The Atonement can and does change lives; I’ve seen it. I know that because of the Atonement, all other aspects of the Gospel, the restoration, the ordinances in the temple, the Book of Mormon, and every aspect we believe in is true, because the Atonement is true.
I would now like to take a moment to thank those that got me to this point. I would like to thank my wonderful leaders and teachers for always keeping the gospel focused in my life, and all of the members in this ward that have extended hands of fellowship to my family and myself. I’d like to thank all of the elders who have gone before me, like Elder Hall, for setting such a great example for me. I hope that my example can touch those around me like theirs have touched me. I would like to thank my great friends and Wardies for always being there for me and keeping my life on the track and keeping me close to the iron rod. I would like to give a special thanks to my family, to all of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, for being such amazing examples of Christ in my life and teaching me so much. There’s no way that I could be here, the almost-man I am today, without my loving family; my brothers and my sisters, for giving me a reason to better myself always, my dad who’s been the greatest teacher and example of the Priesthood in my life that I could ever ask for, and to my amazing mom, my rock and my best friend. I love them so much and am so grateful for the sacrifice Christ has made so that we could be together forever.
Brothers and sisters, I know this gospel is true and I’m so grateful for the guiding light it has been to me. I know that my mission now is what our Father in Heaven has called me to do and I couldn’t be more excited to serve. I know these things to be true, and share them with you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.