18 March 2013

How can the scriptures teach me about the atonement of Jesus Christ? [Mosiah 13: 33-35] by David Marsing Billikopf

[Talk given yesterday by my son, 17 March 2013] Good afternoon Brothers and Sisters. It is good to be here with you and I am sure Brother Peebles is especially grateful to not be setting up an internet broadcast from my hospital room. I do look so dreadful in those gowns. I must say that I felt blessed to be preparing a talk from my sickbed the week before last. I had been feeling so ill and also so scared about the future, and yet the opportunity to read about the atonement was exactly what I needed. I started my search on lds.org by clicking on a Mormon Message entitled “Mountains to Climb.” The video showed various people who were all suffering in their unique ways. Over these images was the voice of President Eyring. The recording was from the General Conference message he gave by the same title in April of 2012. As I listened to President Eyring speak, the pain and fear I had been feeling came pouring out and at the same time an overwhelming sense of comfort overrode those fears and pain. Of course I understood that this comfort was being delivered by the Holy Ghost. He was bringing me the comfort that only the atonement brings.

What is this atonement? The scriptures can teach us about the different aspects of the atonement. First the scriptures tell us what it is. In Mosiah 13: 33-35 we read Abinadi’s words: “For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things? Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth? Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?”

Here we are given some insights into the atonement. We learn that Christ, the Messiah, would be oppressed and afflicted that we might be redeemed and resurrected. The resurrection is a gift of that atonement that we all receive. Amulek taught that “all shall rise from the dead” (Alma 11:41). This gift of the resurrection can give us peace about the future. The bodily cares we face can be faced with grace when we remember that they are only temporary. For example, as part of my health problems I am faced with a daunting solution to one problem. I was speaking with my youngest sister and she was even more scared than I. The knowledge of the resurrection allowed me to face the problem, and add a bit of my peculiar brand of humor. I told my sister that I was going to have my large intestine removed and that it could sit in a landfill and think about what it had done wrong until the resurrection. The knowledge that eventually I will have a body free of pain and illness is a wonderful thing. In fact Amulek also spoke to this saying, “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame...” (Alma 11:43). Nephi’s brother Jacob also taught us about the resurrection, “the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls (2 Ne 9: 13)” I truly look forward to that day when I will be resurrected and my spirit and body are reunited. I look forward to that future of perfect health. The scriptures testify that we will be resurrected because Christ died and was resurrected for us.

But, what then did Abinadi mean by redemption? In the Book of Mormon we can read the words of Lehi to his son, “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. (2 Ne 2: 7)” We begin to see that what happened so many years ago outside Jerusalem was more than for our bodies. We see that it had also to do with the fate of our souls. Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for us before the eternal laws of the Father. Lehi continues: “there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the eatonement— (2 Ne 2: 8-10)” We learn from Lehi again of the Messiah and His purpose. Christ not only came to Earth to rid me of my aches and pains in the next life, but even more wonderfully, to give me a chance to return to my Father in Heaven. Christ makes an intercession on our behalf and that is the central part of the atonement. To have happiness in the presence of God we must do it through the Savior.

The scriptures tell us what we must do to receive this intercession. The Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon testify of Christ over and over again. They teach us we must repent and follow Christ. We are blessed to have prophets on the Earth today to teach us this as well. The Doctrine and Covenants also contains this message. In D&C 19 Christ gave a very direct message to Marin Harris through the prophet Joseph Smith. This message is just as important to us. “For behold, I, God, have asuffered these things for all, that theybmight not suffer if they would crepent; But if they would not repent they must asuffer 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: 16-19)”

Christ tells us that we must repent. If the atonement were only about the resurrection or a free pass to salvation then Christ would not command us all to repent. The scriptures tell us of the agony in Gethsemane and Golgotha, but here Christ tells us himself of his suffering. It is because of this moment in time when Christ did not shrink, but drank the bitter cup, that we all have a hope for the future. Later in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord promises us “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. (D&C 58: 42).” Many times in my life I have needed this aspect of the atonement. Realistically, this is the part that matters to me the most. I am grateful that the Lord has made it possible for me to repent and have my sins forgiven. We all have need for repentance. It has been my need for repentance that has actually given me the strongest testimony of the Lord. It has been through scripture, both modern and ancient, that I have over the years come to appreciate just how much I need the atonement. I have been blessed to be driven to repent by the words of prophets and felt the healing peace that comes from the Lord. The very fact that I was able to repent and feel that change of heart and peace from God testifies to me that there is a God and that His Son is the Christ.

The scriptures are full of examples of how to repent and enjoy the fruits of the atonement. Enos, Alma, Alma the Younger, Corianton, Zeezrom, Amulek, the sons of Mosiah, King Lamoni and his father are just the tip of the iceberg of examples of repentance. From the experience of King Lamoni’s father we learn the essence of repentance: we must be willing to give up all our sins (Alma 22: 18). When we give up our sin we can have the sweet comfort of the atonement. We can have the hope for the future that will sustain us in times of trial. There is one more aspect of the atonement that the scriptures teach us. When Joseph Smith and the early saints were being persecuted and driven from to place to place they faced many hardships. In fact Joseph Smith was incarcerated at one time and he called out to God in a prayer that began in the following manner: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? (D&C 121: 1-3)” Joseph Smith recorded the response to his prayer and it teaches us much about the atonement: “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give theeeexperience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their cbounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore,efear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122 7-9)”

Christ, through the atonement, has descended below all our problems! He will be with us forever and ever, so why should we fear? A similar message was given to the Nephites being led by Alma and persecuted by Amulon. “And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. (Mosiah 24: 13-14)”

It was this last aspect of the atonement that overwhelmed me on my sickbed the week before last. My body wasn’t healed. Instead, when I needed comfort and my burdens eased, the Man—my Messiah—who has suffered my every fear and my every pain—even the ones I have yet to feel—came to my rescue. He eased my burden as only He can. He gave me “hope in the future and peace to the soul” (my Patriarchal Blessing 29 June 1994). This hope and peace is what I needed right then. This hope and peace is what I have right now.

Because of the effects of the atonement in my life, I join with my fellow Latter-day Saints in standing with the ancient and modern prophets, so that “we [too may] talk of Christ, we [too may] rejoice in Christ, we [too may] preach of Christ, we [too may] prophesy of Christ, and we [too may] write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins (2 Ne 25:26)” and for comfort in their trials. I would like to bear my testimony that I know God lives because I have felt His blessings. I know that He sent His son Jesus Christ to suffer, die and live for me because I have felt the comfort of His forgiveness and the healing of his comfort. I know that Christ has restored his church on the earth in these latter-days because I have been blessed by the teachings of His modern prophets. I know the scriptures to be the Word of God because I have tested them and been blessed. I know all these things are true through the Holy Ghost. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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