The word Atonement, literally, can break down as At-one-ment . . . pause and reflect on that a moment.
Mormons believe in the full scope and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Modern day prophets and apostles have given us great insight into this sacred gift given to us by our Lord, Savior and Redeemer.
Each of us makes mistakes in life. They result in broken eternal laws. Justice is that part of Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness that maintains order. It is like gravity to a rock climber, ever present. It is a friend if eternal laws are observed. It responds to your detriment if they are ignored. Justice guarantees that you will receive the blessings you earn for obeying the laws of God. Justice also requires that every broken law be satisfied. When you obey the laws of God, you are blessed, but there is no additional credit earned that can be saved to satisfy the laws that you break. If not resolved, broken laws can cause your life to be miserable and would keep you from returning to God. Only the life, teachings, and particularly the Atonement of Jesus Christ can release you from this otherwise impossible predicament.
The demands of justice for broken law can be satisfied through mercy, earned by your continual repentance and obedience to the laws of God. Such repentance and obedience are absolutely essential for the Atonement to work its complete miracle in your life. The Redeemer can settle your individual account with justice and grant forgiveness through the merciful path of your repentance. Through the Atonement you can live in a world where justice assures that you will retain what you earn by obedience. Through His mercy you can resolve the consequences of broken laws. (Richard G. Scott, “The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 40–42)
John 17:11 tells us specifically what the Savior is talking about with At-one-ment: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Every purpose for Jehovah to descend from His heavenly throne, take on the mantle of mortality and give Himself up for payment to satisfy the demands of eternal justice and law was to this end . . . to make us one with Them, in heart, mind and purpose.
The full scope of the Atonement is something rarely understood, even by Mormons across the globe. If the weight of all the children of God’s burdens caused Jesus Christ, even the Son of God, to bleed from every pore, how enormous was that burden? We, as mortals, will never be able to understand the depth and breadth of that price, but I invite you to understand a little more about what you’ve been given.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle of the Lord, helps us to understand the importance of the Atonement in mortality:
Nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest. (Elder Bruce R. McConkie as quoted by Tad Callister in The Infinite Atonement, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 2000 4)
And Brigham Young, the second called prophet, seer and revelator in this modern age, tell us:
The moment the Atonement of the Savior is done away, that moment, at one sweep, the hopes of salvation entertained by the Christian world are destroyed, the foundation of their faith is taken away, and there is nothing left for them to stand upon. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 14:41)
Our eternal salvation and happiness is based on that loving and, words fail me here, incredibly giving act of the Atonement paid by Jesus Christ.
You cannot descend below where the Son of God descended on that night in Gethsemane. There is no sin, save sinning against the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ will not forgive. You may wallow in sin for a time, eschewing all you have been taught, and still Jesus Christ descended below even that so every man, woman and child, from the expulsion from the Garden of Eden forward, could, if they so chose, step on that path, once again, which leads us back to our heavenly home and the presence of our Father in Heaven and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Men have stood at pulpits and elsewhere–great men–and have testified that their knees have never buckled, that as one said of another, “He had nothing to hide.” We have had monumental men who did not need redemption as much as they needed power, and who never fell very far from the communing light of which I have spoken. I cannot bear that kind of testimony. But if there are some of you who have been tricked into the conviction that you have gone too far, that you have been weighed down with doubts on which you alone have a monopoly, that you have had the poison of sin which made it impossible ever again to be what you could have been–then hear me.
I bear testimony that you cannot sink farther than the light and sweeping intelligence of Jesus Christ can reach. I bear testimony that as long as there is one spark of the will to repent and to reach, He is there. He did not just descend to your condition; he descended below it, that ‘He might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.’ (D&C 88:6) — Truman Madsen as quoted by Tad Callister, The Infinite Atonement, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book 2000 81)
But there is more to the Atonement than that. Many trials and tribulations wrack our lives. Some are given to us to refine us, burning out the dross and leaving the refined spirit behind, completely dedicated to God. Other trials come our way, just because. And yet others come specifically because of choices we’ve made. For example, you decided to try drugs and now your addicted. Your trial? Fighting and overcoming the addiction and then continuing to fight it and the physical outcome for the rest of your natural life. That’s a trial you brought on yourself.
There is no load or burden we are asked to carry alone. He loves us that much. There is nothing that He will not take on to His shoulders and help us carry, we have only to ask.
In and through His Atonement, He has asked us to become one in mind, heart and purpose with Them, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. At one with God. He suffered, He bled, He died so that you might live, forever. And you will. Upon His resurrection, He broke the bands of death, enabling all of us, after a period of separation, to be reunited with our perfected, and immortal, physical bodies . . . but from there, it’s up to us. The Atonement allows us to achieve spiritual perfection, if we so desire.
Will you avail yourself of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, living your mortal life accordingly to the magnitude of the Gift you have received or will you walk away?