Often when we think about the Atonement of our Savior, we think about how we can more fully use its power in our lives. But Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently shared on Facebook how the Savior's Atonement can change how we understand our roles as disciples of Jesus Christ:
I’d like to address the topic of the Savior’s Atonement. If I understand the doctrine properly, in the experience of the Atonement, Christ vicariously experienced (and bore the burden of) the sins and sorrows and troubles and tears of all mankind, from Adam and Eve to the end of the world. In this, He Himself did not actually sin, but He felt the pain and consequence of those who did.
He did not personally experience a broken marriage, but He felt the pain and consequence of those who do. He did not personally experience rape or schizophrenia or cancer or the loss of a child, but He felt the pain and consequence of those who do, and so on and on through the litany of life’s burdens and broken hearts.
That view of how the Atonement works suggests the only divine example of empathy the world has ever known. Obviously no word does justice to the universe’s most consequential act, but I don’t have a better substitute so I will use it.
Empathy is defined as “the action of understanding … and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present.” As already noted, that is actually a reasonably good statement of the atoning process, especially if we add “future” to “past” and “present.” To feel what He felt, to walk where He walked, to face what He faced and care the way He cared is the only kind of discipleship I understand. May we strive to be such disciples.