Trying to fully explain the wondrous and miraculous gift that was given to all the world through Jesus Christ’s Atonement is like trying to explain the unexplainable—it can’t be done. However, each individual can honor that Atonement by keeping the Lord’s commandments and living His gospel to the very best of her/his ability.
In my own case, and in the words of the hymn, “I Stand All Amazed,” I literally marvel and can hardly believe “that He would descend from His throne divine, to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.” (Hymn #193). Yet Jesus, the God and creator of every living thing, the only perfect and sinless individual to walk the face of the earth, willingly took upon himself the sins of the entire world. He had the power to back out anytime if He wanted, but chose not to because He knew His full purpose, and fulfilled it.
Jesus endured it all, unfathomable pain, and both physical and mental anguish. We can recall a crown of thorns, a brutal beating with thick corded bands of leather with metal balls at their extension, a spear thrust in his side, nails driven into his hands and feet, the shrill voices of mockery and scorn, and a sponge of vinegar thrust to His lips when He said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28) All because He came to give us life, and life “more abundantly.” (John 10:10).
16 For behold I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16,18)
The scriptures are the lexicon of the Lord. Throughout them He asks us to be three very distinct things, all of which He is—“sanctified,” “holy,” and “pure.” Those words are striking, and I am taken aback at how bold they are. There comes a stark realization of how mentally and spiritually tough we all need to be to strengthen ourselves to become any of them, and to be at one with Christ.
For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy. . . . (Leviticus 11:44)
And in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 43:
Bind yourself to act in holiness before me.” (v. 9); “Purge ye out the iniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me (v. 11). Then in verse 14 He clarifies His purpose in asking this of us—“that I may reserve unto myself a ‘pure’ people before me” (v.14) (Doctrine and Covenants 43:9,11,14)
These are not at all short term propositions, or even suggestions that we are looking at here. They are commandments that will require a lifetime of obedience. To achieve them alone is utterly impossible without grasping a hold of Christ’s atonement, mercy, and grace.
In one of his addresses, Elder David A. Bednar emphasized that the atonement of Christ is both for “sinners” who have need of repentance for wrong-doing, as well as for “saints” who want to be better people. Serving others is sometimes daunting. It can seem, or in reality be, way beyond our limited capacities.
To this he stated:
It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us, but also to empower us. . . . The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity (Elder David A. Bednar, The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality, Ensign (Apr. 2014)).
On one occasion while at our family’s storage unit, I was approached by the lady who works there. She and her husband oversee the facility and live in an attached apartment. She asked if she could step outside and talk to me, not wanting her husband to overhear what she would ask.
Normally, I am an individual who will jump at a chance to help someone if I possibly can, but I felt hesitant as I had been sick myself that day and actually for many months. I was weak from a chronic illness that left a lingering fatigue after several rounds of antibiotics for a severe infection.
She started to cry as she told me a few days prior her husband had been diagnosed with an advanced form of terminal cancer from which he was not expected to recover or survive. They had little to nothing in finances or in the way of medical insurance, and she had no family or any other support system in our town. Already feeling emotionally and physically spent for the day, how was I going to do anything to really help her?
As she requested, I went to a nearby grocery store and picked up an over-the-counter medicine that she felt she needed just to get through the day. Not feeling well, and in my haste of wanting to get home, I picked up the wrong item, not the one she had specifically requested. She asked me if I could return and exchange it. I peevishly accommodated.
When I went back, the pharmacy assistant and I hunted and hunted for the correct item she assured me was there, but to no avail. As the assistant went to ask the store manager, I felt light-headed having missed lunch, frustrated, and burdened. Though it seemed a bit silly to pray over such a thing as finding a vitamin energy supplement on a shelf, I knew I needed help and strength beyond my own, so I prayed.
The correct item she wanted was finally found in a tiny, almost hidden from view, sales rack. I will never forget her profuse and ebullient expressions of thanks over receiving what seemed such an unlikely long-term or beneficially significant favor.
I was to learn two important lessons:
- None have to serve in a massive, elaborate, or world renowned philanthropic way for us to please God;
- No matter how big or small a circumstance, or even if we deem it too trivial or cumbersome a matter to be bothered with or attended to, the Lord always sees the bigger picture in an otherwise crowded framework.
With our desire to do the right thing, the Lord will purposely use us in all our frailties, insecurities, and imperfections to rise above ourselves and go the extra mile to help someone else. He knows what those intercessions can do to refine us and put us on the path of becoming more like Him.
All around us there is an inordinate amount of discussion, debate, and argument over whether God even exists, and if determined that He does, endless doubt about how truly meaningful or relevant He should be.
To be frequently mocked and ridiculed for believing in and serving the Master of us all in this predominantly amoral world that thinks so little of Him or His teachings, is commonplace, accepted, and condoned. It doesn’t make it at all easy to follow His way, or His will.
Most disconcerting is the ever-growing dissention among the believers of Christ over how much power and control the Lord should have over them. Some even question His commandments that in their view limit their freedoms and enjoyment of life. They may choose to eliminate altogether what they see as the Lord’s “restrictions,” or persistently and incessantly demand their own brand of revision and reform to what they criticize as only questionable, foolish “dogma.”
In reference to this, Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated,
Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler “who meets their needs when summoned” or a therapist whose role is to help people “feel good about themselves.” It is a religious outlook that “makes no pretense at changing lives.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten, Apr. 2011 General Conference).
Certainly the Lord did not “walk the path,” “tread the way,” or suffer a brutal crucifixion for that kind of ideology to take root.
If what we want is to have a fervent and deep-seated relationship with Christ, we will do what it takes to live His gospel and serve others. A willingness to check and adjust our selfish attitudes and self-serving natures, repentance for our error, and course correction as needed and applied liberally, becomes requisite.
Acknowledging the fact we lack credibility and are not the ultimate teacher, advisor, or consultant for anybody, especially ourselves, shows wisdom as well. The ability to be humbly submissive, prayerfully ask direction, and take counsel from the Lord and from those He has placed in His stead, is not optional, but imperative.
There is a better way to live than constantly focusing on what will only entertain us instead of elevate us. Becoming sanctified, holy, and pure may not require taking drastic measures, but rather consistent ones. Speaking to this President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated:
Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Of Things That Matter Most, Oct. 2010 General Conference).
Her hobbies include cooking (southern of course- please pass the cornbread with butter, no margarine please), and learning how to garden in a colder climate without killing a sweet pea. She is an avid reader of the scriptures and anything from British classic literature. Her favorite novel is "Our Mutual Friend," by Charles Dickens. With any spare time left over, a fun pastime is viewing and analyzing Korean/Taiwanese drama with English subtitles. She loves the sound of "kamsahamnida."Susan and her husband of 37 years live in Great Falls, Montana and are the parents of two grown children and the grandparents of two adorable grandsons.
Latest posts by Susan Porter (see all)
- Pressing Forward with Family: Keeping Our Faith and Declaring Our Witness until the End - June 26, 2015
- Russell M. Nelson: Sabbath Is A Perpetual Covenant - April 26, 2015
- Honoring Christ’s Atonement by Living His Gospel - March 30, 2015