“God So Loved the World—Romney,” New Era, Apr. 1983, 46–47
The atonement of the Master is the central point of world history. Without it, the whole purpose for the creation of earth and our living upon it would fail.
From the scriptures, we learn that from the very beginning of the world, there has been among the Lord’s people a ceremony pointing to the atonement of the Redeemer. When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, the Lord told them to build an altar and offer sacrifice. This they did, and they did it without knowing the reason. I wish every one of Adam’s posterity had the faith to do what the Lord tells him to do without first having to have an explanation as to why he should do it. But to continue with our theme:
“And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
“And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:6–7).
The angel told Adam other things. He told him that in the meridian of time the Redeemer would come into the world, and that until he should come God’s people were to offer blood sacrifices frequently. This they were to do to point their minds forward to the day when the Redeemer would come and be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. Then the angel taught Adam the gospel and told him to repent and be baptized.
From the days of Adam to the days of Jesus Christ, every people who understood the gospel offered blood sacrifices, using animals or birds without blemish. This they did in contemplation of the great event which was to take place in the meridian of time.
When Jesus was about to go through that terrible suffering incident to the Atonement, he took his disciples with him to the Passover. As they sat in an upper chamber, Jesus broke bread and blessed it and gave of it to his Apostles, telling them that this they should do often in remembrance of his body, which was soon to be crucified on the cross for them, and for you and for me. Then he took wine, blessed it, and gave of it to them, telling them to do this often in remembrance of his blood, which was to be spilled for them.
Jesus then went into the Garden of Gethsemane. There he suffered most. He suffered greatly on the cross, of course, but other men had died by crucifixion; in fact, a man hung on either side of him as he died on the cross. But no man, nor set of men, nor all men put together, ever suffered what the Redeemer suffered in the Garden. He went there to pray and suffer. One of the New Testament writers says that it “was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
In this dispensation the Lord, calling upon the people to repent, tells them that unless they repent they must suffer even as he suffered. He describes that suffering in these words:
“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” (D&C 19:18–19).
I cannot here discuss with you in detail what the atonement of the Savior means to us. But without it, no man or woman would ever be resurrected. From Adam’s time to the time of Jesus, men died—millions of them. But not a single one of them ever came out of the grave as a resurrected person until that glorious morning when Jesus was resurrected. Without his victory over death, they never would have come out of their graves, worlds without end. It took the atonement of Jesus Christ to reunite the bodies and spirits of men in the Resurrection. And so all the world, believers and nonbelievers, are indebted to the Redeemer for their certain resurrection, because the Resurrection will be as wide as was the Fall, which brought death to every man.
There is another phase of the Atonement which makes me love the Savior even more and fills my soul with gratitude beyond expression. It is that in addition to atoning for Adam’s transgression, thereby bringing about the Resurrection, the Savior by his suffering paid the debt for the personal sins of every living soul that ever dwelt upon the earth or that ever will dwell in mortality upon the earth. But this he did conditionally. The benefits of this suffering for our individual transgressions will not come to us unconditionally in the same sense that the Resurrection will come regardless of what we do. If we partake of the blessings of the Atonement as far as our individual transgressions are concerned, we must obey the law.
And it is perfectly just that we are required to obey it because through the fall of Adam, man’s free agency was preserved. We had nothing to do with death’s coming into the world; death came as a consequence of Adam’s fall. But we have everything to do with our own acts. When we commit sin, we are estranged from God and rendered unfit to enter into his presence. No unclean thing can enter into his presence. We cannot of ourselves, no matter how we may try, rid ourselves of the stain which is upon us as a result of our own transgressions. That stain must be washed away by the blood of the Redeemer, and he has set up the way by which that stain may be removed. That way is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel requires us to believe in the Redeemer, accept his atonement, repent of our sins, be baptized by immersion for the remission of our sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and continue faithfully to observe, or do the best we can to observe, the principles of the gospel all the days of our lives.
We have in the Church an ordinance which I have explained. It is the sacrament. The Lord has commanded us to partake of the sacrament regularly. Members of his church are by him directed to go on the Sabbath day to the sacrament meeting, and there partake of the sacrament. And what are we to do when we partake of the sacrament? We are to think of all these things above mentioned, and many more. This is what we go to the sacrament meeting for; this is what we ought to do when we are there. Think about it:
“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, …”
What we ought to do when we partake of the sacrament is think of the Redeemer—of his wounded body as we partake of the bread, and of his spilt blood when we partake of the water.
“… and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, …”
A witness is a testimony. We ought, silently, to testify to our Father—
“… that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; …”
And to what end?
“… that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77).
God help us to renew our covenants every week in this manner and to remember the redemption wrought for us by our great Redeemer.