The Atonement of Jesus Christ
A. God governs the universe by law.
1. To bring about his eternal purposes, God instituted laws to govern his children (see D&C 130:20–21; 132:5; 2 Nephi 2:13).
2. Sin is the willful breaking of the law (see 1 John 3:4; James 4:17).
3. God’s justice requires that a penalty be paid for every sin (see Matthew 5:26; Alma 42:16–18, 22–26; D&C 19:17).
4. All of us sin and are therefore fallen and subject to justice (see Alma 34:9, 16; Romans 3:23).
B. Because we are fallen, we have need of an atonement.
1. All of us would suffer an everlasting physical and spiritual death without Christ’s atonement (see 2 Nephi 9:6–12; Helaman 14:16).
2. Because all of us sin, we would have remained subject to the devil forever without the atonement of Christ (see 2 Nephi 9:8–12; Alma 34:8–9; Romans 3:23).
C. Only Jesus Christ possessed the qualifications and attributes necessary to perform an infinite atonement.
1. As the Only Begotten Son of God, the Savior inherited the capacity to suffer for the sins of all the children of God (see Jacob 4:5; D&C 20:21; 19:18; Mosiah 4:7).
2. The Savior was free from personal sin (see 1 John 3:5; Hebrews 4:15; D&C 45:3–4).
3. The Savior had power over death (see John 5:26; 10:17–18).
D. By means of his divine attributes and the power of the Father, Jesus accomplished the infinite and eternal atonement.
1. Jesus submitted himself to the will of the Father in performing the Atonement (see Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; John 4:34; 8:29; Mosiah 15:7).
2. The Atonement was an act of pure love on the part of God the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ (see John 15:13; 3:16; 1 John 4:7–10).
3. The atonement made by the Savior began in Gethsemane and ended at the empty tomb (see Matthew 26:36–46; Luke 22:39–44; Mark 15:25–37).
4. The Savior descended below all things in taking upon himself the sins of all the children of God (see D&C 122:8; 88:6; 2 Nephi 9:21).
5. The suffering endured by the Savior was beyond what any mortal could endure (see Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:15–20; 1 Nephi 19:12).
6. The infinite atonement affects worlds without number and will save all of God’s children except sons of perdition (see Alma 34:9–10, 12; D&C 76:22–24, 40–43).
E. The atonement of Christ harmonized the laws of justice and mercy.
1. Mercy cannot rob justice (see Alma 42:13–14, 24–25).
2. Justice is satisfied by the Atonement, and thus mercy can allow our souls to be cleansed through repentance (see Alma 42:13–15, 22–25; 34:15–16; Mosiah 15:9).
3. Jesus stood as a mediator, or intercessor, for all the children of God in satisfying the demands of justice (see Alma 34:10–16; Mosiah 15:7–9; Isaiah 53:12; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Timothy 2:5–6).
F. The atonement of Jesus Christ is essential for the salvation of all the children of God.
1. The Savior overcame physical death and secured a resurrection for all the children of God (see Alma 7:12; Mosiah 16:7–10; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22; Mormon 9:12–14).
2. The agony and suffering of Christ made it possible for all of us to escape eternal punishment if we repent (see Alma 7:13; D&C 19:15–19).
3. Little children are redeemed through the atonement of Christ (see Moroni 8:8; D&C 29:46–50; Mosiah 3:16–18; 15:25).
4. The atonement of Christ brings everyone back into the presence of God for judgment (see 2 Nephi 2:10; Helaman 14:16-17; Revelation 20:11–15).
G. We must do the will of the Father and the Son to receive the full benefit of the Atonement.
1. The Savior came to save all who would obey him (see Hebrews 5:9; 2 Nephi 9:21; Mosiah 3:19; Alma 11:37).
2. If we do not keep God’s commandments, we must suffer for our own sins (see Alma 11:41; D&C 19:15–20).
3. Mercy is extended to those who keep God’s commandments (see Daniel 9:4; Hosea 10:12; Psalm 103:17–18).
Selected quotes on the Atonement of Jesus Christ
1. “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.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, pg. 85)
2. “This chapter [2 Nephi 9] is one of the most enlightening discourses ever delivered in regard to the atonement. It should be carefully read by every person seeking salvation.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:57)
3. “This truth [atonement] is the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.” (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1977, pg. 56)
“Now, the atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, May 1985 pg. 10)
4. “We may never understand nor comprehend in mortality how He accomplished what He did, but we must not fail to understand why He did what He did. All that He did was prompted by His unselfish, infinite love for us.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg. 15)
5. Another question is sometimes heard: Why should Christ have volunteered to make this sacrifice? What was the motive that inspired and sustained him from the time of that council in heaven until the moment of his agonized cry ‘It is finished’? (John 19:30).
The answer to this question is twofold: first, his undeviating devotion to his Father’s will. He said: ‘…My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.’(John 4:34)
“Second was his supernal and all-embracing love for mankind, who, without his mediation, would have remained in the total gloom of desiring without hope throughout eternity.” (Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, April 1962, pg. 108)
6. “Our Lord descended in suffering below that which man can suffer; or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be.” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 5:2)
7. “He was in all respects subjected to every mortal failing experienced by the human family. Not once did he raise the shield of godhood in order to soften the blows. Not once did he don the bulletproof vest of divinity. That he also had godly powers did not make his suffering any less excruciating, any less poignant, or any less real. To the contrary, it is for this very reason that his suffering was more, not less, than his mortal counterparts could experience. He took upon him infinite suffering, but chose to defend with only mortal faculties, with but one exception-his godhood was summoned to hold off unconsciousness and death (i.e., the twin relief mechanisms of man) that would otherwise overpower a mere mortal when he reached his threshold of pain. For the Savior, however, there would be no such relief. His divinity would be called upon, not to immunize him from pain, but to enlarge the receptacle that would hold it. He simply brought a larger cup to hold the bitter drink.” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, pg.119)
8. “We are accustomed to saying that the Atonement took place in Gethsemane. In a literal sense this is true, since it was in Gethsemane that Christ took upon himself the full burden and weight of the sins of the world. But the trial of Jesus in Gethsemane would not have been possible and could not have occurred had not it been preceded by a lifetime of sinless virtue, accomplished in the face of the most vehement spiritual opposition.
All this he did with the knowledge that one misstep would mean creation’s doom! For had he sinned even in the smallest point or slightest negligence of thought, the Atonement would have become impossible and the whole purpose of creation frustrated. The burden of the whole world weighed upon him through every moment of his life.” (Bruce D. Porter, The King of Kings, pg. 92)
9. “Again, on Calvary, during the last three hours of his mortal passion, the sufferings of Gethsemane returned, and he drank to the full the cup which his Heavenly Father had given him.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, November 1982, pg. 33)
10. “In Alma 7:12, the only place in scriptures, to my knowledge, that it appears, there seems to have been yet another purpose of the atonement, speaking again of the Savior and his suffering, ‘and He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy,…’ Have you ever thought that there was no way that Jesus could know the suffering which we undergo as a result of our stupidity and sin (because he was sinless) except he near those sins of ours in what I call the awful arithmetic of the atonement?” (Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Old Testament Address, , pg. 24-25)
11. “Can we, even in the depths of disease, tell Him anything at all about suffering? In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by Him even before they were borne by us. The very weight of our combined sins caused Him to descend below all. We have never been, nor will we be, in depths such as He has known. Thus, His atonement made perfect His empathy and His mercy and His capacity to succor us, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as He tutors us in our trials. There was no ram in the thicket at Calvary to spare Him, this Friend of Abraham and Isaac.” (Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am, pg. 116)
12. “I testify that no one has or ever will experience any set of circumstances, be they disappointments, betrayal, pain, persecution, suffering, or whatever, that cannot and is not swallowed up in the Savior! You can feel no hurt, emotional or physical, that he has not already felt! There is no combination of human emotions, or physical illness, or suffering that cannot find refuge in the Savior’s sacrifice for us.” (John H. Groberg, CES Fireside, May 1, 1994, pg. 6)
13. “The King of Kings descended beneath and overcame every act of iniquity in human history: every murder ever committed, every act of torture and perversion, cruelty and abuse in all their forms; violence, anger, lust, betrayal, deception, theft, envy, and the whole sorry parade of human pride and vanity, in their endless forms… from the slightest shadow of sinful desire to the grief and horror of every war ever fought; Christ, paid the price for it all.” (Bruce D. Porter, King of Kings, pg. 102-103)
14. “He, by choice, accepted the penalty for all mankind for the sum total of all wickedness and depravity; for brutality, immorality, perversion, and corruption; for addiction; for the killings and torture and terror, for all of it that ever had been or all that ever would be enacted upon this earth.” (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1988, pg. 69)
15. “The Savior’s atonement is…the healing power not only for sin, but also for carelessness, inadequacy, and all mortal bitterness. The Atonement is not just for sinners.” (Bruce C. Hafen, Ensign, April 1990, pg. 7)
16. “The Atonement will not only help us overcome our transgressions and mistakes, but in His time, it will resolve all inequities of life, those things that are unfair which are the consequences of circumstance or others’ acts and not our own decisions.” (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 1997, pg. 54)
17. “Therefore, one of the most powerful and searching questions ever asked of all of us in our sufferings hangs in time and space before us: ‘The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?’ (D&C 122:8) Jesus plumbed the depths and scaled the heights in order to comprehend all things. (See D&C 88:6) Jesus, therefore, is not only a fully atoning but He is also a fully comprehending Savior!” (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1990, pg. 35)
18. “As part of His infinite atonement, Jesus has borne the sins, griefs, sorrows, and, declared Jacob, the pains of every man woman, and child. Having been perfected in His empathy, Jesus thus knows how to succor us. Nothing is beyond His redeeming reach or His encircling empathy. Therefore, we should not complain about our own life’s not being a rose garden when we remember who wore the crown of thorns!” (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1987, pg. 72)
19. “Elder Talmage used the word succor. Do you know its meaning? It is used often in the scriptures to describe Christ’s care for and attention to us. It means literally to run to. What a magnificent way to describe the Savior’s urgent effort in our behalf! Even as he calls us to come to him and follow him, he is unfailingly running to help us.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, April 1998, pg. 22)
20. “In the garden and on the cross Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us.” (Merrill J. Bateman, Ensign, May 1995, pg. 14)
21. “The Savior, as a member of the Godhead, knows each of us personally. Isaiah and the prophet Abinadi said that when Christ would ‘make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed’ (Isaiah 53:10, Mosiah 15:10). Abinadi explains that his seed are the righteous, those who follow the prophets (Mosiah 15:11). In the garden and on the cross, Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us….
The Savior’s atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person’s pains, sufferings, and sicknesses. Consequently, he knows how to carry our sorrows and relieve our burdens that we might be healed from within, made whole persons, and receive everlasting joy in his kingdom.” (Merrill J. Bateman, Ensign, May 1995, pg. 14)
22. “Alma reveals to us the process by which the master learned perfect empathy in the flesh. He experienced not only our sins but also our pains, sufferings, temptations of every kind, sicknesses, infirmities, and weaknesses. He also experienced death in order to loose the bands of death for his people. Consequently, if one of us has a special problem, it is not possible for him or her to say, No one knows what I’m experiencing. No one understands my pain or suffering. The Lord knows. He not only knows the depth of your experience; he knows how to succor you because of his suffering. I testify that he knows each of us, is concerned about our progress, and has the infinite capacity not only to heal our wounds but also lift us up to the father as sanctified sons and daughters.” (Merrill J. Bateman, BYU Speeches 1997, pg. 10-11)
23. “I ask, is there a reason for men and women being exposed more constantly and more powerfully, to the power of the enemy, by having visions than by not having them? There is and it is simply this: God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove they will keep their covenants with Him, and keep in remembrance what He has shown them. Then the greater the vision, the greater the display of the power of the enemy. And when such individuals are off their guard they are left to themselves, as Jesus was. For this express purpose the Father withdrew His spirit from His son, at the time he was to be crucified. Jesus had been with his Father, talked with Him, dwelt in His bosom, and knew all about heaven, about making the earth, about the transgression of man, and what would redeem the people, and that he was the character who was to redeem the sons of earth, and the earth itself from all sin that had come upon it. The light, knowledge, power, and glory with which he was clothed were far above, or exceeded that of all others who had been upon the earth after the fall, consequently at the very moment, at the hour when the crisis came for him to offer up his life, the Father withdrew Himself, withdrew His Spirit, and cast a veil over him. That is what made him sweat blood. If he had had the power of God upon him, he would not have sweat blood; but all was withdrawn from him, and a veil was cast over him, and he then plead with the Father not to forsake him. ‘No,’ says the Father, ‘you must have your trials, as well as the others.’” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:205-206)
24. “His Father looked on with great grief and agony over His Beloved Son, until there seems to have come a moment when even our Savior cried out in despair: My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles until even he could not endure it any longer; and, like the mother who bids farewell to her dying child and has to be taken out of the room so as not to look upon the last struggles, so He bowed His head and hid in some part of His universe, His great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for His Son. Oh, in the moment when He might have saved His Son, I thank Him and praise Him that He did not fail us, for He had not only the love of His Son in mind, but He also had love for us. I rejoice that He did not interfere, and that His love for us made it possible for Him to endure to look upon the sufferings of His Son and give Him finally to us, our Savior and our Redeemer. Without Him, without His sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into His presence. And so this is what it cost, in part, for our Father in heaven to give the gift of His Son unto men.” (Melvin J. Ballard, Crusader for Righteousness, pg. 137)
25. “Having bled at every pore, how red His raiment must have been in Gethsemane, how crimson that cloak! No wonder, when Christ comes in power and glory, that He will come in reminding red attire (Doctrine & Covenants 133:48), not only signifying the winepress of wrath but also to bring to our remembrance how He suffered for each of us in Gethsemane and on Calvary!” (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1987, 72)
26. “He showed condescension in his patience and restraint when brought before men for judgment (1 Nephi 19:9). The God who created everything was judged to be nothing! And yet he endured it with complete patience. Imagine the Being whose power, whose light, whose glory holds the universe in order, the Being who speaks and solar systems, galaxies, and stars come into existence – standing before wicked men and being judged by them as being of no worth or value! When we think of what he could have done to these men who took him to judgment, we have a new and different sense of his condescension. When Judas led the soldiers and the high priests to the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus could have spoken a single word and leveled the entire city of Jerusalem. When the servant of the high priest stepped forward and slapped his face, Jesus could have lifted a finger and sent that man back to his original elements. When another man stepped forward and spit in his face, Jesus had only to blink and our entire solar system could have been annihilated. But he stood there, he endured, he suffered, he condescended.” (Gerald Lund, Sperry Symposium , pg. 85-86)
27. “[Christ] was walking the fine line that separates death from life, consciousness from unconsciousness. From Satan’s perspective, the time of vulnerability was here. No wonder Satan came at such a propitious moment, spewing forth his insidious temptation through the lips of his mortal pawns: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross (Matt. 27:40). The Savior’s body writhed in pain; his pure, spotless spirit revolted in violent reaction to sin and its consequences that Satan came at such a moment on the cross is indicative that the Savior was reaching the threshold of his pain, the climax of his mission. This was Satan’s last chance, his final desperate hope to frustrate the redemptive plan. It was now or never. There was no angel to strengthen the Holy One, no sustaining influence of the Father. Surely Satan liked the odds. This was the showdown: Satan, accompanied perhaps by his legions of nefarious forces, against the Savior in all his compelling loneliness- the Savior in his weakened, almost lifeless condition battling a universal accumulation of suffering. Satan’s timing was impeccable.” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, pg. 136-138)
28. “Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (Luke 22:43)
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins – past, present, and future – pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement.” (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1985, pg. 72-73)
29. “However dim our days may seem, they have been a lot darker for the Savior of the world. As a reminder of those days, Jesus has chosen, even in a resurrected, otherwise perfected body, to retain for the benefit of His disciples the wounds in His hands and in His feet and in His side- signs, if you will, that painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect; signs, if you will, that pain in this world is not evidence that God doesn’t love you; signs, if your will, that problems pass and happiness can be ours. It is the wounded Christ who is the captain of our souls, He who yet bears the scars of our forgiveness, the lesions of His love and humility, the torn flesh of obedience and sacrifice.” (Jeffery R. Holland, CES Address, August 2000, pg. 9)
30. “There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of human kind. That he is by spiritual birth Brother to the rest of us is indicated in Hebrews: Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17). Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any and all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.” (The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (June 30, 1916), Improvement Era, 1916, August, 1916 pg. 934)
31. “I once wondered if those who refuse to repent but who then satisfy the law of justice by paying for their own sins are then worthy to enter the celestial kingdom. The answer is no. The entrance requirements for celestial life are simply higher than merely satisfying the law of justice. For that reason, paying for our sins will not bear the same fruit as repenting of our sins. Justice is a law of balance and order and it must be satisfied, either through our payment or his. But if we decline the Savior’s invitation to let him carry our sins, and then satisfy justice by ourselves, we will not yet have experienced the complete rehabilitation that can occur through a combination of divine assistance and genuine repentance. Working together, those forces have the power permanently to change our hearts and our lives, preparing us for celestial life.” (Bruce C. Hafen, The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences, pg. 7)
32. “One of the greatest sins, both in magnitude and extent, for it enters into the lives of every one of us without exception to some degree, is the sin of ingratitude. When we violate a commandment, no matter how small and insignificant we may think it to be, we show our ingratitude to our Redeemer. It is impossible for us to comprehend the extent of his suffering when he carried the burden of the sins of the whole world, a punishment so severe that we are informed that blood came from the pores of his body, and this was before he was taken to the cross. The punishment of physical pain coming from the nails driven in his hands and feet, was not the greatest of his suffering, excruciating as that surely was. The greater suffering was the spiritual and mental anguish coming from the load of our transgressions which he carried. If we understood the extent of that suffering and his suffering on the cross, surely none of us would willfully be guilty of sin. We would not give way to the temptations, the gratification of unholy appetites and desires and Satan could find no place in our hearts. As it is, whenever we sin, we show our ingratitude and disregard of the suffering of the Son of God by and through which we shall rise from the dead and live forever. If we really understood and could feel even to a small degree, the love and gracious willingness on the part of Jesus Christ to suffer for our sins we would be willing to repent of all our transgressions and serve him.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things, p. 199)