It is a difficult undertaking to write and describe the events of our Beloved Savior’s suffering and sacrifice as He completed His Infinite Atonement. He is my Savior and Redeemer and yours. He has paid the price for you and me. He did all of this because He loves us with a perfect love.
He suffered, bled, and died so we might not only be forgiven of our sins, but also have everlasting, eternal lives. He put us beyond the reach of death and hell—even the monster Satan himself—if we choose to follow and obey Him. I remind myself that this is all made possible by the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who was ever seeking to please His Father.
The Atonement: An Invitation to Happiness
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of God the Father, came to earth to do the will of His Father. He is the Anointed One—the Messiah. He became the Christ. He fulfilled the infinite Atonement through His suffering, by sacrificing in Gethsemane, allowing Himself to be crucified on the cross at Golgotha, and rising triumphantly from the Garden Tomb.
He established the Kingdom of God and sought only to please His Father in all that He did (see John 8:28-29). Christ, ever the obedient and submissive Son, gave His will to His Father saying, “Thy will be done.” Jesus was lifted up on the cross that He might draw all mankind unto Him that you and I might partake of the love of God through the infinite Atonement.
The gospel is not only the good news that Christ came and provided the way to eternal life, it is literally the plan of exaltation and happiness. One of the Lord’s purposes in making the ultimate sacrifice of the Atonement was to draw us to Him, for He is the only way back to the Father. There is no other way (see John 14:6).
The power and desire to draw near to the Lord is brought about by the enabling power of the Atonement, according to the power of the Father. As we draw nearer to the Lord, gratitude should and will begin to swell within our beings and the love of God will fill our souls. We will be happy.
If you have never been acquainted with gratitude, you will never know happiness, because happiness can only be found in receiving and acting upon the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ gives all humankind the opportunity to return to our Father and find peace and rest. We must come unto Him.
This phrase occurs over and over again in the scriptures. It is not a casual invitation. It is the ultimate request of the Lord and Redeemer of the world. No better example is found than when the Savior said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). The Savior not only invites us to come, He literally comes to us and knocks at our hearts, inviting us to come unto Him and open our hearts so the Lord can be with us. Can there be any greater expression of love than that? Our Savior is offering us life eternal as we “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32).
Gratitude Is How We Accept His Sacrifice
The Savior was required to suffer in agony [which means, by definition, intense emotion, great pain and anguish, even suffering to that of preceding death], starting in Gethsemane and ending with His horrific death on the cross at Golgotha. His suffering was immeasurable and infinite. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
No one in all of history except our Savior has been known to sweat blood from every pore. This condition, in medical terms, is called hematidrosis and can only occur under extreme stress. The stress that the Lord suffered was for every sin committed upon the earth since the beginning of time. This is incomprehensible for the finite mortal mind. Only a God could comprehend and have the power to suffer so greatly. And Christ the Lord did. He suffered in every way possible: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Our finite mortal minds cannot grasp or even begin to understand the suffering of the Lord.
When I try, however, to understand and appreciate the suffering of my Savior, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and thanksgiving. Gratitude is what the Lord wants us to feel. Our gratitude begins to draw us to Him (3 Nephi 27:14). It is gratitude that lets the love of God (the giving of His Son that we might have everlasting life) into our hearts. Surely this is why we were admonished by Moroni to ponder about the Lord and His goodness in our lives. Gratitude must be felt in order for us to accept the Atonement. If it were not so, we could not have the love of God within our souls and enjoy the happiness that love was designed to bring.
Don’t Be Casual About the Ultimate Gift
To help us better understand and appreciate the suffering of the Lord, He describes His own suffering as well as the consequences for those who do not “come unto Him” and repent and partake of His infinite Atonement. The Lord is seeking desperately to help us understand the purpose and effect of the Atonement and what is expected of us in order for it to empower our lives. He said:
“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; 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 19:15-19).
This scripture helps me grasp the significance of the Atonement. We cannot be casual about this ultimate gift that required so much. My heart aches as I share my feelings of what my Beloved Savior has done for me and for all of us.
He has saved the world! His grace is sufficient. And it is that grace, when accepted, that can propel us forward to good works (see Eph. 2:8-10).
If our hearts could feel of His ultimate sacrifice for us, surely we would change. We ought to pray for a broken heart and contrite spirit so that we can feel of His ultimate sacrifice and goodness and be motivated through gratitude to do good. Then we will “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Nephi 31:20). This steadfastness in Christ is expressed through our repentance and is the premise for the test of life. This is why the prophets were exhorted to preach nothing save it were, “repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people” (Mosiah 18:20).
Changing Our Lives for the Better
Our gratitude to the Lord will increase as we come to understand and appreciate the suffering and sacrifice Christ made for our sins and the sins of the world to provide the way back to the presence of our Father. As we learn to appreciate this gift, we will come to feel a deep gratitude for the love of God, which will eventually take root in the depths of our souls and change us for the better.
As a father, mission president, temple president, and priesthood leader, I have seen countless examples of how the Atonement has transformed lives. I have witnessed this healing of souls and changes of heart.. I have seen sins literally removed and guilt swept away. I have seen forgiveness cleanse the soul of a victim of abuse. I know behavior can change as gratitude for the Savior brings commitment into others’ lives because I have seen the value of covenants made and kept by the enabling power of the Atonement. I bear witness that the Lord’s Atonement is not only the center of the gospel; it is the center and strength of our very lives. As we come to understand and appreciate our Beloved Savior Jesus Christ and His immeasurable suffering and sacrifice, only then can we really begin to become even as He is.
For more insights and encouraging stories about successfully applying the Atonement, check out Ed J. Pinegar’s new book Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Garden Tomb: The Sacrifice of the Exalted Son of God.