The Atonement of Jesus Christ is an all-important doctrine for followers of the Savior. Each Sunday, Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) partake of the Sacrament (bread and water), and ponder on the suffering of the Savior in the Garden and on the cross. The emblems of the sacrament symbolize His body and blood, sacrificed for all mankind, and one recalls His resurrection, all combined in the incomparable events known as the Atonement.
In John 17:3, we read: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Why do we need to know Jesus Christ, and why do we need to know that God has sent Him? Because Jesus Christ is actually the Son of God, and He atoned for our sins.
What is the Atonement?
The Atonement of Jesus Christ provides a way for us to return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father and the Savior after our mortal life ends. Through the Atonement all mankind will be resurrected and receive immortal bodies like God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. However, in order for us to live in the presence of God and Christ, we have to keep the commandments to the best of our ability. The Atonement is a gift that we can qualify for through striving to keep the commandments of God and through the mercy and grace of our Savior.
As humans, we all sin, and because no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven we would remain alienated from God. In order to qualify us to be able to return to His presence, an infinite sacrifice was required. Alone, we are unable to pay the price of redemption, so Jesus Christ paid it for us. That is the foundation of the Atonement; it enables us to repent. Only He could do it. An infinite sacrifice was required, because nothing else could reconcile us to God. Had Jesus Christ only been a righteous man, a gifted teacher, or even a prophet, His sacrifice would have been meaningless. As the literal Son of God, His sacrifice was a divine gift to us, and He was foreordained to make this sacrifice for each of us.
The word “Atonement” is defined as the setting ‘at one’ (at-one-ment) of those who have been estranged from God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement. The Atonement of Jesus Christ, therefore, corrects or overcomes the consequences of sin and enables us to become more ‘at-one’ with God.
In the eternities, justice must be satisfied. Once we have transgressed, there is no way we could—by our own efforts—ever become clean again. The stain of that transgression would always remain, even if we were never to sin again, which, for any human, is simply not possible. Without an intermediary, we would never be able to return to live in the presence of God. By sinning, we violate divine rules, and the only way to compensate is through the grace of a divine redeemer.
A Common Analogy
A common analogy to the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that of the young couple who gets deeply into debt. Credit is easy, so they buy a fancy house, furnish it expansively, purchase a new car, and so on. At some point, their creditor comes to them, demanding payment. They’ve been enjoying their luxuries, and haven’t thought much about this day of reckoning. But now that time has arrived. The creditor tells them that if they cannot pay, he will repossess everything. There is nothing they can do; they simply do not have the money. Even though they could plead for mercy, justice must be served. The creditor must either be paid or be allowed to repossess the financed possessions.
Fortunately for this young couple, a dear friend offers to help pay off their debts. The creditor does not care where the payment is coming from. Justice demands that he be paid in full, so when the friend pays him, he is satisfied. But the friend has put some conditions on his payment of the young couple’s debt. He will pay it, but they must agree to do certain things and follow certain instructions that he will set out for them. And he will help them carry out those directives he now requires.
In the context of the Atonement, that friend is Jesus Christ. All mankind has a debt that we can’t pay by ourselves. Justice demands that it be paid, so He paid it for us. In return, He asks, as His stipulation, that we keep the commandments.
In a manner that is beyond human comprehension, Jesus Christ took upon Himself the penalty for our transgressions. This is basic to the plan of salvation. We knew, as spirit beings before our mortal birth, that we would make mistakes in mortality, but we had the assurance that the way back would be provided. The Savior’s sacrifice is that way back.
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can overcome all things. The Savior knows everything we experience – illnesses, sorrows, temptations – because He has borne them all.
Overcoming our Mistakes
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not only for repenting of very serious transgressions. We can and should utilize this great gift always, to assist us in overcoming the little habits we want to rid ourselves of, as well as, when necessary, repenting of more serious sins. We can and should utilize the gift of the Atonement whenever we feel we need extra help with any of life’s challenges, large or small. In Luke 11:11, we read: “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” Heavenly Father and the Savior are not going to turn us away if we ask in genuine need for assistance, regardless of how large or small that need may be.
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Only He, as the literal Son of God, could satisfy the demands of justice, by providing us, God’s children, with the mercy we require. The infinite Atonement—the full comprehension of which is beyond the ability of any mortal to grasp—is His great gift to us.
More about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ” was written by Robert Fantina. “The Atonement of Jesus Christ” is important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links: