Coming to know the Atonement

Rebecca Burns is my visiting teacher. She came back to our ward after serving a full time mission and has served sisters quietly and sweetly ever since. She gave this talk in Sacrament meeting yesterday…

I am going to talk to you today about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, specifically my testimony of it. The Atonement is the sacrifice Jesus Christ made to help us overcome sin, adversity, and death. Jesuss atoning sacrifice took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. He paid the price for our sins, took upon Himself death, and was resurrected. The Atonement is the supreme expression of the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Although grateful for the chance I have to be resurrected one day, I want to focus my thoughts today on my testimony of the remission of sins, the love of the Saviour and receiving strength through adversity. I am going to share with you three important learning experiences related to each of these topics which have shaped my testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Experience 1 – developing a testimony of the need for the Atonement

I was a 15 year old with a lot of questions. I had gone through primary, could recite all the articles of faith, attended all my church meetings, prayed and read the scriptures regularly but I wanted explanations and reasons for everything I had always done if I was going to continue. One day my grandparents invited my mum, brother and I to a Family Home Evening at their home. They showed us a video based on a talk by Boyd K Packer called The Mediator which was given in the April 1977 general conference. In the talk He shares a parable which really impacted me then, and continues to help me appreciate the need for the Atonement now.

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 served, 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.

Jesus Christ is our Mediator, God is our creditor and we are the debtor. Through Christ, mercy can be fully extended to each of us when we sin. Without Him, we would be fully exposed to the eternal law of justice and subject to an eternity of suffering the consequences of our mistakes. To access this amazing gift of mercy we must live according to the terms set by Jesus Christ which He outlines in 3 Nephi 11:33 and 37. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptised, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptised in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

This parable helped me to appreciate, at least intellectually, the need for the Atonement. Unfortunately at this time I did not take this lesson away and apply it. Instead I began to make a series of poor choices which lasted for a number of years. However, my Mediator was there when the time came to get my life back on track. It was hard work but I am grateful that He provided a way and still provides a way for me receive mercy and to be forgiven for the things I do wrong. I know that because of his love and sacrifice I can one day face my creditor knowing that my debt has been paid as long as I live my life after a pattern of faith, repentance, renewing my covenants, remaining worthy of the Holy Ghost and keeping the commandments.

Experience 2 – developing a testimony of the love of the Saviour

A few years ago I had a difficult decision to make. I had taken it to the Lord and was beginning to realise what I needed to do but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. I eventually decided to act on the revelation I had received from God but when the time came, I couldn’t do it. I felt like such a failure. I felt like God was disappointed and angry with me and that there would be horrible consequences to my disobedience. It was awful. I discussed the situation with a friend and as I did so a wonderful thing happened. The truth cut through all the lies in my head about the Lords attitude towards me. I felt that He knew that what He was asking me to do was hard – that He was proud of me for trying. I saw in my minds eye a child who was learning to walk, stumble and then fall. No sooner had they fallen than they were picked up and put back on their feet by a loving Father. I knew I would be given a second chance to do what I had not been able to do the first time. Yes, it would be even harder this time, but I felt peace in knowing that the Lord had confidence in me and my ability to do whats right.

I have never forgotten this experience and just how loving our Saviour Jesus Christ is. He experienced all of our trials, hurts, sicknesses, weaknesses so He can be there for us when we stumble. He doesn’t just see the mistake, He truly sees the heart of the sinner because He experienced it all in the Garden of Gethsemane when he bled from every pore on our behalf. Because of this, His love is ever extended towards us and we can have infinite second chances when we sincerely repent.

Experience 3 – developing a testimony of the grace and healing power of the Atonement

I was a brand new missionary recently arrived in Norway ready to serve. However, I started getting plagued with negative thoughts which I thought I had got rid of back in the MTC. At times I could almost hear a voice whispering in my ear, you don’t even have a testimony, you are lying to these people, stop disturbing their happy lives, don’t even bother speaking because your companion can say it all better than you anyway, you should just go home. I recognised what was happening and knew it was in Satans interest to discourage me as a new missionary but the thoughts sometimes seemed so true and I felt powerless to do anything about it. I was just so angry and exhausted. One particularly bad day I had had enough. I didn’t want to feel that way any longer. I stopped my studies, went into another room, got on my knees and prayed. I told God I was angry and didn’t even know if I had faith in what I was doing anymore. I told him how powerless I felt and how filled with doubt I was. I told Him I had learned my whole life that the Atonement could heal and that I needed that healing now. I told him that although I wasn’t sure where my faith was at, that I at least had a hope that this could happen for me – that I could be healed from these negative thoughts. I asked him that if my meagre hope counted for anything, and I had read in the scriptures that it does, could I please be healed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, then I ended my prayer and got on with my studies.

I didn’t receive an answer all at once but in the weeks that followed I looked back and realised that I had not had any bad episodes in a while and eventually pin-pointed the moment of change to this heart-felt prayer appealing for the power of the Atonement to heal me. The thoughts still came but they were quieter and didn’t have the same power over me. It was like an army of angels were around me, arm in arm stopping them from getting too close. How blessed I felt! This wasn’t a sin I was repenting of, this was a weakness, a trial, that I felt powerless to deal with, but when I called upon the one who has all power, who triumphed over death and who will forever be at our aid whenever we sincerely call upon Him, I was enabled and strengthened to bear up my burden with ease, just like Almas people in the Book of Mormon: And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, thank you for allowing me to share some of these sacred, pivotal experiences I have had where my testimony of the Atonement has been added to. I look forward to many more experiences like these in my life to help me understand and better appreciate this wonderful and fundamental gift from our loving Saviour Jesus Christ. He is my best friend, my example, my confidant. I don’t know where I would be without His Atoning sacrifice. Everything we learn about and everything we do here hinges on this gift. May we all ponder in our own lives just how blessed we are to have a Saviour who atoned for us, who was willing to pay the price for each and every one of us.

I would like to close with the words of the final verse of the hymn Reverently and Meekly Now which is as if Christ is speaking to us.

At the throne I intercede;

For thee ever do I plead.

I have loved thee as thy friend,

With a love that cannot end.

Be obedient, I implore,

Prayerful, watchful evermore,

And be constant unto me,

That thy Savior I may be.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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