Christ’s Atonement Triumphed Over Four Obstacles
Contributed By Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer
- The Atonement of Jesus Christ was the suffering of the Savior and His triumph over four obstacles that prevented us from having happiness in this life and eternal joy in the life to come.
“Once the Atonement took place, there is no external event, no outside circumstance be it death, disease, disaster or the like that can rob us of our exaltation.” —Brother Tad R. Callister
Several years ago, Tad R. Callister’s son and his friends lifted the cloth covering the sacrament table to discover that there was no bread. Searching through the preparation room, they couldn’t find any bread with which to administer the sacrament.
They informed their bishop of the situation, who posed this question to the congregation: “How would it be if the sacrament table were empty today because there had been no Atonement of Jesus Christ?” Brother Callister said, “If that were the case then Dante’s words inscribed on the gates of hell would be tragically applicable to us all: ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ But fortunately, there is an Atonement and it does bring hope and peace and healing into all our lives.”
Brother Callister, Sunday School general president and author of the book The Infinite Atonement, spoke to LDS Business College students about the infinite power of the Atonement. The devotional was held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on March 24.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ was the suffering of the Savior and His triumph over four obstacles that prevented us from having happiness in this life and eternal joy in the life to come,” he said.
The four obstacles are physical death, sin and its consequences, mortal weaknesses and imperfections, and the common ailments of life such as depression, rejection, and loneliness. Some may ask why the Atonement of Jesus Christ is necessary.
Couldn’t God just forgive sin and weakness? The scriptures confirm that “a law of justice exists, and no fallen man can be saved without the Atonement of Jesus Christ on one hand and repentance on the other,” Brother Callister said. “They are inseparable partners in the saving process.”
1. Physical death
First, Christ overcame death “for all men through His Resurrection,” Brother Callister said. “Paul confirmed this truth: ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22).”
2. Sin and its consequences
Second, Christ overcame sin and guilt for those who repent. Brother Callister said, “If we humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our sins, confess them, make restitution where possible, and turn away from those transgressions—in essence we do have a change of heart—then He will wash away our sins and make us totally clean.”
Christ is able to do this because He paid the price for all sin by suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. Sometimes, however, some members believe that their sins are too great for the Atonement to overcome them and help them. They have “innocently, but incorrectly, placed limits on the Savior’s redemptive powers,” Brother Callister said.
Christ’s Atonement, however, is “an infinite Atonement because it encompasses and circumscribes every sin, every weakness, every addiction, every wrong, and every finite frailty of man.” When one repents, the memory and pain of the past sin can remain, acting as a spiritual “stop sign” of sorts, Brother Callister said. But the Lord has promised that those who repent will receive a fulness of joy.
“Whatever our status in life,” Brother Callister said, “we can be comforted by the truth that God will ultimately judge us by what we become, not by what we were.”
3. Mortal weaknesses and imperfections
The third obstacle that the Savior can help one overcome is weaknesses and imperfections.
“We all have weaknesses,” Brother Callister said. “There are some who have social inadequacies, or an addiction, or an abuse issue, or something else. But for every mortal inadequacy there is also a divine remedy.”
For instance, Moses felt inadequate as the Lord’s spokesman because he was slow of speech. The Lord responded in Exodus 4:11, “Who hath made man’s mouth?” Brother Callister said, “Could not God, who created all things, also correct, modify, and perfect when necessary all His creations? The Atonement is the means of that correction and perfection.”
How exactly does the Atonement help men overcome their weaknesses? In answer to his question, Brother Callister quoted Moroni: “‘Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him … by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ’ (Moroni 10:32–33). Somehow the grace of God, which is made possible through His Atonement, gives to us heavenly power that helps us overcome our weaknesses and converts them into strengths.”
4. Common ailments of life
Fourth, the Atonement helps men overcome the common ailments of life. Christ accomplished this by descending below all things, “meaning He descended beneath and suffered the consequence, not only of every sin and weakness, but also of every disease, every rejection, every disappointment, and every aliment of every soul who has ever lived,” Brother Callister said. This allows Him to empathize, heal, and strengthen all men.
Knowing this, one can forge ahead in life with good cheer despite the various challenges that may come up. “Once the Atonement took place,” Brother Callister said, “there is no external event, no outside circumstance be it death, disease, disaster or the like that can rob us of our exaltation.”
Unlike mortals who have a release valve of sorts when pain becomes too great to handle, Christ’s divine heritage allowed Him to suffer “the pain of all men of all ages of all worlds.” While the divine part of Him could have prevented Him from experiencing that pain, He chose not to. “That is why King Benjamin declared that He should suffer, ‘even more than man could suffer,’” Brother Callister said.