Nakedness: so often it is used to portray sin, humiliation, vulnerability, and carnal natures. So, why is this image one of the most beautiful associated with the atonement?
In scriptures, the Lord gives us poignant and moving imagery to understand the meaning of the atonement. He tells us he will gives us “beauty for ashes”[i]. He says “the prisoners shall go free.”[ii] He will make the “waste places” and “wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord.”[iii] He will bring us from darkness into the light.
Who doesn’t want beauty for ashes or to have their chains of bondage burst? Who doesn’t want the waste places of their lives to become a well-watered garden? The hardest part for us, who are so fully trained to be residents of a fallen world, is to comprehend that. Who is this God who can give such a gift and what am I to Him that he would extend it to me who so often sits in ashes and chains?
The answer to those questions is found in perhaps the most loving and personal image of the atonement of all. Lehi tells us, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love”[iv] In the face of his weaknesses, Nephi pleads, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!” [v]
We are held in His divine embrace, and the atonement itself is pictured as an encircling robe. I think of an embrace as when I am cold and someone warms me with a blanket or when I am sad and someone comforts me. Or when I am young and someone scoops me into his arms to comfort me.
All those images of comfort are certainly there, but the scriptures take it farther. Encircled in the Lord’s robes of righteousness, our nakedness is covered. We who are fragile and vulnerable, weak and sinful are covered by the Lord’s atonement.