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What an ancient tool for mourning can teach us about the Savior’s Atonement

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Sunday on Monday is a Come, Follow Me-based podcast where host Tammy Uzelac Hall and her guests really dig into the scriptures each week. In a recent episode, Tammy showed her guests a tear jar—an ancient tool used during times of mourning—and described the symbolism of what it can teach us about the Savior.

This podcast excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Tammy Uzelac Hall: There’s something significant about tears in scripture, and I brought something that I want to show you. This is called a tear jar. Tear jars date clear back to the time of ancient pharaohs in Egypt and in Middle Eastern societies. It was a very common practice to collect the tears of people who mourn. In fact, at funerals, there would be professional mourners and people who would collect your tears in these bottles. And then you would stop them at the top with something, and you’d bury the dead with all of the tears that were shed for them. Or you would also collect the tears for times in your life during depression or any type of grief.

For example, in Luke 7:36–38, the sinful woman enters the home of the Pharisee, and she’s weeping and she’s going to bathe the Savior’s feet with her tears. Some scholars believe she brought her tear jars, and she emptied them on the Savior’s feet. So she literally bathed His feet with the tears she had collected from all of the sin and sadness and sorrow and grief she experienced in her lifetime.

Now I want us to go to Psalm 56:8. One of the things that David does throughout the book of Psalms is he speaks messianically. As I read this verse, I want you to think of the Savior entering Gethsemane: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?”

If you’re wondering what tears in a bottle have to do with the Savior, here’s what author and scholar Dr. John Lund teaches: “One of the most touching references to the Savior’s supernal Atonement and His suffering for the sins of the world was recorded in these words: ‘Put thou my tears into thy bottle’ (Psalm 56:8). The moving and tender request that Heavenly Father not forget the tears of the Savior is consistent with Jesus acting as the great Advocate for mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane.”1

When Jesus entered Gethsemane, He felt “sorrowful” (deep grief in Greek), “very heavy” (depressed in Greek) and “exceedingly sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:37–38). He knew the gravity of what was being asked. He felt and understood the sorrow, sadness, depression, grief, pain, and the tears of water and blood that would be shed for us. It’s no wonder that three times he asked: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). Jesus’s reference to removing “this cup” in Greek is a vessel, or figuratively “my lot” or “mission.” Isaiah calls it “a cup of trembling” (Isaiah 51:17; 22) and the Savior himself called it “a bitter cup” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).

Christ knew He had to drink from that trembling and bitter cup so He could truly succor His people in all of their infirmities. That bitter cup conquered sin and provided a way for the return of the children of God. Dr. Lund teaches that it’s possible that when Jesus said, “remove this cup,” or “let this cup pass from me,” He may have meant the amount of grief and sorrow—you’re asking me to carry a tear cup larger than I can bear. However, Dr. Lund continues, “There was no other way for God’s will; the cup could not pass from Him. He drank from the cup of trembling tears, even the dregs of the sinful tears of all humanity, and fulfilled His divine mission. In a very literal way, Jesus both drank the cup of trembling and filled the cup with His tears for the sins of all God’s creations.” And I’d add that in addition to sin, He drank the cup of grief, sorrow, depression, and pain—truly a bittersweet cup.

Find the full episode transcript on Sunday on Monday.

Tammy Uzelac Hall received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from BYU. She was a social worker before becoming a full-time seminary and institute teacher.


1. “Put Thy Tears into My Bottle,” December 2, 2018,

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