According to Bruce R. McKonkie, the Atonement, “…is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the Gospel and all other things rest.” (MD p. 60) Joseph Smith said of the Atonement, “…all things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (TPJS p. 121.) The Atonement gives life to all Gospel doctrines. And what is the Gospel?

3 Nephi 27: 13-14: “Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants verses 40-42, “And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness, that through him all might be saved whom the Father hath put into his power and made by him.” The Atonement is the Gospel.

The Atonement is so important that all of the prophets down through time have taught of Christ. Lehi was very clear in 2 Nephi 2: 6-9: “Redemption cometh in and through the holy Messsiah, for he is full of grace and truth. Behold he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto those who have a broken heart and contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.”

The Atonement is infinite and eternal. Amulek in Alma 34: 10-12, explained, “For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another… Therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.”

It also applies to God’s children on other worlds. Joseph Smith wrote in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 22-24: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bear record that his is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” So there are many other inhabited worlds with God’s children on them, and they are covered by the Atonement as well.

The Fall of Adam is also an important part of the Plan of Salvation. Without the Fall, the Atonement wouldn’t be necessary. Since the Fall, if there was no Atonement, salvation would not be possible. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

As we know, the Fall causes both physical and spiritual death. The physical death being the separation of the spirit from the body, and spiritual death being a separation from God. Because Jesus was part mortal and part immortal, he could not be killed. He had to voluntarily die on the cross. Because he was part immortal, He had the power, or keys, of Resurrection. God didn’t resurrect Him. He did it Himself. And in so doing, He has broken the bands of death for all living things, including the animals and the earth. It is a universal resurrection, or return to life. We owe Him an incredible debt of gratitude that someday, in the flesh, we shall see God.

Dallin H. Oaks in the Nov. 2011 Ensign wrote: “We understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to overcome the spiritual death that results from sin and, through making and keeping sacred covenants, to have the blessings of eternal life.” So we have to make and keep sacred covenants with God in order to qualify for the Atonement, that will allow us to receive Eternal Life.

The best part? Through the Atonement, He has paid the penalty for all of our sins. If we repent, we can be forgiven for all of our sins, overcome the spiritual death, and return home to our Father in the Celestial Kingdom. We can have the same kind of life Father has. We can be joint heirs with Christ of all of the knowledge and power that Father has. That makes all the wealth, power and glory of this earth seem trivial.

The Lord said to Moses, in Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Immortality is achieved through the Resurrection. Eternal Life is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

A fear of death is pretty much universal. The “great unknown” is a heavy burden for many. An even greater burden is the burden of guilt from sin. It is probably the greatest burden of all. Alma the younger, along with the sons of Mosiah, did many bad things and caused many problems for the Church back in Book of Mormon times. Alma was visited by an angel because his father had prayed for him. Alma became painfully aware of all of his sins. He put it this way in the 36th chapter of Alma, starting with verse 12: “I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”

The Atonement can wipe away the terrible burden of guilt that comes from sin, instantly. It worked for Alma. It works for all who truly repent of their sins, have faith in Jesus Christ, and are baptized by someone having the proper authority.

The Savior Himself described the need for the Atonement, in Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 16-19. “For behold, I God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; 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—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” Those who do not accept and qualify for the Atonement, will pay for their own sins, suffering like the Savior suffered, and then spend the rest of eternity in the Telestial Kingdom, not in God’s presence. They will escape the first death, but not the second.

What if there was no Atonement? In 2nd Nephi 9:7-9 Jacob explains: “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 judgement 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. O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.” Without the Atonement we would be subject to Satan and live with him forever, rather than with God

Spencer J. Condie in the Jan. 1996 Ensign, wrote, “After Aaron had taught the father of King Lamoni about the fall of man and of the plan of redemption and the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, the king prayed to God: ‘I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.’ (Alma 22:18) That is precisely what each of us must do to become reconciled with our Savior: we must give away all our sins. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has explained that ‘real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!’ {Ensign May 1995, p. 68}”

Luke quoted Jesus as saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) The pain of our sins was so great that He wanted not to have to endure it. He did endure it, though, because He submitted His will to the will of the Father in all things. To take advantage of the Atonement, we must also submit our wills to Heavenly Father.

How do we do that? King Benjamin counseled his people to yield to the enticings of the Holy Ghost, “put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord, and become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.”

Russell M. Nelson put it this way: “The Savior’s gift of immortality comes to all who have ever lived. But His gift of eternal life requires repentance and obedience to specific ordinances and covenants. Essential ordinances of the gospel symbolize the Atonement. Baptism by immersion is symbolic of the death, burial, and Resurrection of the Redeemer. Partaking of the sacrament renews baptismal covenants and also renews our memory of the Savior’s broken flesh and of the blood He shed for us. Ordinances of the temple symbolize our reconciliation with the Lord and seal families together forever. Obedience to the sacred covenants made in temples qualifies us for eternal life—the greatest gift of God to man—the ‘object and end of our existence.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996, p. 35.)

Jesus said, “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” The only scriptures at the time were the Old Testament. There are many prophecies of the Messiah, and many types of His sacrifice in their rituals. For example: the selection of the firstlings of the flock, without blemish; the sacrifice of the animal’s life by the shedding of its blood; death of the animal without breaking a bone; one animal could be sacrificed as a vicarious act for another; the scapegoat that carried away the sins of the congregation; the brazen serpent raised up on a pole in the desert to save lives; the Passover where the lives of the people were protected from the angel of death by the blood of a lamb. These and others were things that pointed forward to the coming Messiah. Our ordinances today also remember Him symbolically.

To have the power to provide the Atonement, Jesus had to live a sinless life, a life “without blemish”. During his mortal life, He was tempted by sin but remained sinless. D & C 20:22 gives a great insight. “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” It’s like they went in one ear and out the other. He did not dwell on them to give the temptations power. When we get to that point, we can be sinless.

Jesus can do more for us than provide the Resurrection and forgiveness of sins. Because He experienced mortality, He is able to comfort us in marvelous ways. He experienced hunger, thirst, physical pain, spiritual separation from God on the cross, he was ridiculed, disbelieved, scorned, beaten, spit on, laughed at, lied about, and tortured to death. He can help lift our burdens and comfort our souls, because He has experienced it all. He has descended below them all. When He asks us to take His yoke upon us, He isn’t asking us to help carry His burdens. He is offering to help carry ours.

Yoshiniko Kikuchi of the 70 in the March 2011 Liahona wrote: “I have learned that the Savior can heal wounded hearts, misunderstanding, and hatred if we look to His word and His Atonement. He heals us the same way He healed the Israelites of serpent bites. ‘It is the pleasing word of God which healeth the wounded soul.’ (Jacob 2:6)”

Bruce Hafen in the April, 1990 Ensign said: “Each of us will taste the bitter ashes of life, from sin and neglect to sorrow and disappointment. But the Atonement of Christ can lift us up in beauty from our ashes on the wings of a sure promise of immortality and eternal life. He will thus lift us up, not only at the end of life, but in each day of our lives.” He quoted Isaiah 40:28-31: “Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God…giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength…They that wait upon the Lord shall…mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”

So how do we participate in the Atonement?
1. By having faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior and
Redeemer of the world, the Holy Messiah, our personal Savior.
2. By continuing to repent daily for our sins and misdeeds.
3. By being baptized, ordained, endowed, and sealed by one having the
proper authority.
4. By being valiant in our testimony of Christ.
5. And by enduring to the end in a clean condition.

The more of us who qualify for the Atonement, the greater His return on investment. He would like for everyone on this planet to go back home and live with Father. For it to work for us, we have to want it, too.

In closing, I would like to share with you how Boyd K. Packer felt about the Atonement. He said, “I cannot with composure tell you how I feel about the Atonement. It touches the deepest emotion of gratitude and obligation. My soul reaches after Him who wrought it, this Christ, our Savior of whom I am a witness. I testify of Him. He is our Lord, our Redeemer, our advocate with the Father. He ransomed us with His blood. Humbly I lay claim upon the Atonement of Christ. I find no shame in kneeling down in worship of our Father and His Son. For agency is mine, and this I choose to do!” (Ensign May, 1988, p. 72.)

I also have faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I will be eternally grateful for His sacrifice on my behalf, and for all those I love. I am grateful that I have the hope of living once again with Him and our Father in Heaven, along with my family and ancestors. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.