“Lesson 2: Our Need for the Atonement,” Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 2,” Missionary Preparation
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan of salvation. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s purposes by redeeming us from spiritual and physical death, satisfying the demands of justice, and cleansing us from our individual sins on condition of repentance. The Savior also comforts us in our infirmities, gives us strength to accomplish things that we would not be able to do on our own, and gives us hope that we can return to live with Him and Heavenly Father. Full-time missionaries participate in the work of salvation by helping others learn how to access the blessings of the Atonement through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, confirmation, and enduring to the end.
Study Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 8–15.
Begin by asking students the following:
How do people come to understand that they need the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives?
Next, display the following statement:
“Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.
“No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind” (President Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning , 33).
What are we referring to when we talk about the Fall of Adam?
Display the following quote and have a student read it aloud to the class:
“Because Adam and Eve … partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were cast out from the presence of the Lord (see D&C 29:40–41). In other words, they experienced spiritual death. They also became mortal—subject to physical death. This spiritual and physical death is called the Fall. …
“As descendants of Adam and Eve, we inherit a fallen condition during mortality (see Alma 42:5–9, 14). We are separated from the presence of the Lord and subject to physical death. We are also placed in a state of opposition, in which we are tested by the difficulties of life and the temptations of the adversary (see 2 Nephi 2:11–14; D&C 29:39; Moses 6:48–49)” (True to the Faith , 56).
Help students identify doctrines taught in this quotation by asking:
How does the Fall of Adam affect each of us as descendants of Adam and Eve? (Like Adam and Eve, we too are subject to both physical and spiritual death. We live in a fallen world and are subject to the difficulties of life and temptations of the adversary. We have been cut off from the presence of the Father and need the help of the Savior in order to return to Him.)
Write the following scripture references on the board, and give students a few minutes to study them:
As they study, encourage students to look for how each of us is affected by the Fall of Adam and Eve.
How do these scriptures explain how each of us is affected by the Fall of Adam and Eve? (As students respond, write their answers on the board. Though their answers may vary, they may look like the following: We all sin and become unclean in the sight of God; because we sin, we are cut off from the presence of God; we will experience physical death; we live in a fallen world and must overcome the “natural man” [Mosiah 3:19].)
Ask students what questions they have about the doctrines and terms they identified. Allow for class discussion to explore these questions. Then ask:
How do these scriptures help explain why we all need Jesus Christ? (The Atonement of Jesus Christ redeems us from the Fall of Adam and from our own acts of disobedience.
Explain that as part of God’s merciful plan, the Atonement of Jesus Christ permits us to escape the “monster” of death and hell (see 2 Nephi 9:10), meaning physical and spiritual death. We will all be resurrected. Through Jesus Christ’s Atonement, we can be washed clean of our sins as we repent. Without Jesus Christ, we would not only perish, but we would be subject to the devil for all eternity.
Share a brief testimony of the wisdom and mercy of God’s plan. Assure students that all of the results of the Fall can be overcome through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“As you remember the Resurrection and the price paid and the gift given through the Atonement, ponder what the scriptures teach of those sacred events. Your personal witness of their reality will be strengthened. They must be more than principles you memorize. They must be woven into the very fiber of your being as a powerful bulwark against the rising tide of abomination that infects our world. …
“Without the Atonement, Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness could not have been placed fully into effect. The Atonement gives all the opportunity to overcome the consequences of mistakes made in life. When we obey a law, we receive a blessing. When we break a law, there is nothing left over from prior obedience to satisfy the demands of justice for that broken law. The Savior’s Atonement permits us to repent of any disobedience and thereby avoid the penalties that justice would have imposed.
“My reverence and gratitude for the Atonement of the Holy One of Israel, the Prince of Peace and our Redeemer, continually expand as I strive to understand more about it. I realize that no mortal mind can adequately conceive, nor can human tongue appropriately express, the full significance of all that Jesus Christ has done for our Heavenly Father’s children through His Atonement. Yet it is vital that we each learn what we can about it. The Atonement is that essential ingredient of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness without which that plan could not have been activated. Your understanding of the Atonement and the insight it provides for your life will greatly enhance your productive use of all of the knowledge, experience, and skills you acquire in mortal life. …
“There is an imperative need for each of us to strengthen our understanding of the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that it will become an unshakable foundation upon which to build our lives. …
“Profound personal pondering of the scriptures accompanied by searching, heartfelt prayer will fortify your understanding of and appreciation for His priceless Atonement” (“He Lives! All Glory to His Name!” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 75–76).
Help students analyze Elder Scott’s statement by asking questions like the following:
What parts of Elder Scott’s address emphasized the importance of understanding the Atonement? (Make sure students identify statements like the following: the Savior’s suffering “will affect us not only in this life but throughout all eternity”; “His Atonement made fully active the plan of happiness of His Father in Heaven”; “Jesus administers the balance between justice and mercy conditioned upon our obedience”; “the Atonement gives all the opportunity to overcome the consequences of mistakes made in life”; and “your understanding of the Atonement and the insight it provides for your life will greatly enhance your productive use of all of the knowledge, experience, and skills you acquire in mortal life.”)
Elder Scott stated that the principles of the Atonement “must be more than principles you memorize. They must be woven into the very fiber of your being.” How can a prospective missionary make this happen?
Many young people do not understand the blessings, other than forgiveness of sins, that come into their life through the Atonement. To help deepen students’ understanding of these other blessings, give the class a few minutes to study the following scripture passages, looking for blessings that come through the Atonement of Jesus Christ: Mosiah 3:19; 4:3; 24:12–15; Alma 5:12–13; 7:11–13. After sufficient time, ask students to explain some of the many blessings of the Atonement. Summarize their responses on the board.
Display the following quote and have a student read it aloud:
“As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase” (Preach My Gospel, 2).
Help your students better understand this principle by asking:
Why would a person’s desire to share the gospel increase when he or she understands the Atonement?
Assign students to work with another member of the class to take turns reading aloud 1 Nephi 8:10–12; Enos 1:5–9; and Mosiah 27:34–36 and 28:1–4. Have them look for a pattern found in these passages. After sufficient time, invite a few students to explain the pattern they found. (After Lehi, Enos, and the sons of Mosiah had experienced the blessings of the Atonement, they felt a desire to share the gospel and help others receive the same blessings.)
To help students feel the truth and importance of the principle you wrote on the board, ask the following:
If not too personal, what experiences have you had with the Atonement that motivate you to share the gospel with others?
How do your knowledge of and feelings about the Atonement motivate you to bring others closer to Jesus Christ?
Give students a moment to ponder whether their understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is part of their motivation to serve a mission and what they might do to increase their level of gratitude for what Jesus Christ has done for them.
Tell your students that no doctrine they will teach as missionaries is more important for both investigators and missionaries to understand and accept than the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Have students study 2 Nephi 2:6–8 and look for what Lehi taught we should do with our knowledge of the Atonement. After a few students have responded, help them understand the need for investigators to understand and accept the Atonement by displaying and reading the following statement from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“In zone conferences, which are some of the greatest teaching moments we as General Authorities have with these young elders and sisters, I have asked missionaries what it is they want investigators to do as a result of their discussions with them.
“‘Be baptized!’ is shouted forward in an absolute chorus.
“‘Yes,’ I say, ‘we do want them to be baptized, but what has to precede that?’ …
“… Almost never do the missionaries get around to identifying the two most fundamental things we want investigators to do prior to baptism: have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Yet ‘we believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; [then] third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost’ (A of F 1:4; emphasis added).
“A convert’s new life is to be built upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming sacrifice—a conviction that He really is the Son of God, that He lives this very moment, that He really is the door of the sheepfold, that He alone holds the key to our salvation and exaltation. That belief is to be followed by true repentance, repentance which shows our desire to be clean and renewed and whole, repentance that allows us to lay claim to the full blessings of the Atonement” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 10–11).
What must an investigator do to lay claim to the full blessings of the Atonement? (Have faith in Jesus Christ, repent, and be baptized.)
Explain to students that Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 describes the qualifications for baptism. Have students read the verse and look for what investigators should do before being baptized. Ask:
What are some things investigators should do that show they are developing faith in Jesus Christ? (They will humble themselves, repent of their sins, manifest good works, and so on.)
What role do missionaries play in helping investigators meet the qualifications for baptism? How does this relate to your purpose as a missionary? (If necessary, remind students of the principles from the last lesson.)
On the board, write the following question:
Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 18:11–14 and look for the answer to the question on the board. Discuss students’ responses to the question, then ask:
On the board, write the following answer to the question that is already displayed:
Divide the class in half. Have half of the class study the section titled “The Atonement” on pages 51–52 of Preach My Gospel. Have the other half of the class study the section titled “Through Christ We Can Be Cleansed from Sin” on pages 60–61 of Preach My Gospel. Give students several minutes to read and to prepare to teach a two-minute overview of the material they read. As part of their overview, encourage students to (1) identify and explain the essential points of the doctrine, (2) share a personal experience or scripture that supports the doctrine, and (3) bear testimony of what they teach. Summarize these three steps on the board.
After students have had sufficient time to prepare, you might have students from the first group pair up with someone from the other group and take turns teaching each other. After every student has had the opportunity to teach another class member, you might invite a student to volunteer to come to the front of the class and teach his or her overview to the class. After the presentation is finished, compliment the student who presented and ask the class for any feedback on the experience. Ask if they have any questions, and then ask:
How did it feel to teach and bear testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
What are some things you discovered that might help you when you teach investigators about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
Why are you looking forward to teaching the Atonement of Jesus Christ to others?
Explain to students that as missionaries, they can teach with greater power when they use the scriptures. Have half of the class search the scripture passages in the “Atonement” section of the Scripture Study box on page 52 of Preach My Gospel. Have the other half of the class search the scripture passages in the Scripture Study box on page 61 of Preach My Gospel. Encourage students to select a passage about the Atonement of Jesus Christ that they understand and would feel comfortable bearing testimony of. After allowing sufficient time for students to share, ask:
How might you use the scripture you selected to help someone better understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (Encourage several students to respond.)
Why do you think it is important for missionaries to use the scriptures when they teach?
Have students turn to the section titled “Use the Scriptures” on page 180 of Preach My Gospel. Have a student read the first paragraph, including the four bulleted points, and then ask the class members to consider how their ideas about the importance of using the scriptures match with the statement in Preach My Gospel.
Tell your class that in a few minutes they will teach another student, using the scripture on the Atonement that they selected earlier. Explain that there are principles in Preach My Gospel that will help them as they teach. Have a student read aloud the subsection titled “Introduce the scripture” on pages 180–81 of Preach My Gospel. Ask if students have any questions about this step, and give them a moment to consider how they would introduce the scripture they selected.
Next, have another student read aloud the subsection titled “Read the passage” on page 181 of Preach My Gospel. Give students a moment to silently read their selected scripture passage and identify any words or phrases they may need to explain to an investigator. Then have a third student read aloud the subsection titled “Apply the scripture” on page 181. Again, ask students if they have any questions.
To help students be successful in teaching from the scriptures, you should model the skill for them. Consider choosing a verse or two from Mosiah 3:7–11 and 16–19 to teach so that you do not use one of the scripture passages that students selected. Be simple and brief as you demonstrate the three steps: introduce, read, and apply the scripture passage. This demonstration will help students to not feel overwhelmed by what is expected of them. When you are done, ask students if they have any questions.
Give students a few minutes to prepare to teach their selected scripture passage using the three steps found in Preach My Gospel. Then pair each student up with another member of the class, and have them teach each other. When students have finished teaching, assure them that as they study the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, their ability and confidence in teaching the gospel will increase.
To conclude today’s lesson, ask your students if any of them would like to share their feelings about Jesus Christ, especially about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Invite your students to do one or more of the following to help them better understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
During your personal scripture study, mark or highlight passages that help you to understand Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Share your testimony of the Atonement with someone at home, at church, or online.
As circumstances allow, bear testimony of the Atonement during a teaching appointment with the full-time missionaries.
Take time each day to study the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the scriptures.