An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by Deseret Book.
Remember the Lord’s teaching to Adam: As thou hast fallen…thou mayest be redeemed. And remember how I mentioned earlier that, as this teaching implies, the atoning act that restores man’s agency parallels the act that precipitated its loss. If that is true, and it is, then the Savior had to endure what Adam did after his Fall, and then redeem man from the effects of it.”
“What does that mean, Grandpa?”
His grandfather looked solemnly at Rick. “In order to redeem mankind from the predicament of our captivity to sin,” he began, “the Savior had to take upon himself that captivity-in its fullness-and then find a way to break free from it. Because of the power that Satan obtained through the Fall over the will of the flesh, man’s agency could be redeemed only if all the powers of captivity that had been hardwired into the flesh by every sin of mankind could be overcome by an opposing power-by someone who could take our captivity upon him and yet escape from it, thereby providing a way of escape for us. This is what the Savior did, Ricky. In order to free us from the captivity of sinfulness, he took upon himself all the sins of mankind, the iniquities of us all.
“Do you understand what this implies?” his grandfather asked, an air of urgency in his voice.
At this point, Rick knew he had no idea.
“It implies that in order to redeem us from the chains of sin, the Savior had to take upon himself all of the chains that bind us to sin-in the words of Paul, to be in all points tempted like as we are. He had to shoulder the burden of the combined weight of the sins of the world-our sinful desires, our predispositions and addictions toward sin, our darkened hearts. The scriptures declare that he suffered as well everything that might lead us to sin-our pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind-so that he might blot out [our] transgressions according to the power of his deliverance. It was as Paul said: He who knew no sin’ was made to be sin for us.
“With all of this sinfulness heaped upon him, he then had to withstand the unimaginable onslaught of the entire power and fury of the forces of hell, and do so, as Paul described further, yet [remaining] without sin. For Satan knew that if he could wield the power of his captivity-the chains of our sinfulness that lay ready to bind the Savior-and entice the Savior to sin, he would bring the Savior into his captivity as well. Then the destruction of agency would be complete, and mankind would be left without a way for their hearts to be purified and cleansed. There would therefore be no way for any of us to return to the Father, where only the clean and pure can dwell.
“Is it any wonder, Ricky, that Satan looked up and laughed when he held the entire earth in his chains? On this night in Gethsemane, Satan is only one sin away from holding all creation in his hand.”
Grandpa Carson looked grimly toward the Garden but couldn’t hold the gaze. He turned his face away in pain.
“Even now,” he whispered, a tear trickling down his cheek, “the powers of darkness are upon him in full force and fury. The term Luke used to describe this assault-the Greek word agon, translated as an agony’-means, literally, a contest, struggle, or fight, facing an opponent. And that, my son, is what Gethsemane was. Or, rather,” he said, glancing painfully again toward the Garden, “is. It is what latter-day prophets have referred to as indescribable anguish’ and overpowering torture,’ a supreme contest with the powers of evil,’ an hour of anguish when Christ had to meet and overcome all the horrors that Satan could inflict. And he suffers all this, Ricky-and never forget this-for us.
“This means that he is taking upon himself all the sinfulness of your heart, Ricky. You feel fairly compelled to argue with Carol, to rage in your heart against her, to be soured by disappointment and despair. This night in Gethsemane, the Lord is taking upon himself all of the specific chains that bind and lead you captive. As he takes upon himself the desire to argue with Carol, and then breaks free from it, he will provide the way for you to break free as well. Your rage, your disappointment, your despair-the Lord will overcome all tonight and forge for you a new heart-clean, pure, undefiled, free.
“And he does the same for all-the addict, the abuser, the chronic complainer, those whose spirits are depressed. His struggle tonight is for all of mankind, but only because it was for each of us, individually and specifically.”
Grandpa Carson paused for a moment, and the pain fled from his face. “But praise be to God!” he exclaimed, triumphantly. “The Savior has withstood in the aggregate what no man has been able to withstand individually: He refused to submit to Satan’s will even though he was fully subject to it. Even with all of the mortal effects of our sins heaped upon and pulling at him, and with Satan and his hosts attempting to drag him down by that power to sin, the Savior was able to withstand and resist.
“The captivity of sin has been broken! The Lord God Almighty has risen with healing in his wings. He stretches forth his arms to the world, feeling after them with his Holy Spirit. He comes to each of us, posing the question he posed to Jonah, pleading with us, as Abigail did, to forgive, and literally dying to give us his Spirit and the new heart he has forged that will free us from the chains of our sins. If we harden not our hearts and stiffen not our necks against him, he will facilitate the breaking of our sinful, stony hearts and will give us what Ezekiel called his new heart of flesh, saving us from all our uncleannesses. This is the miracle of Gethsemane.”
His grandfather’s words filled Rick with gratitude and wonder. In all of his years attending Church and reading the scriptures, he had never really considered what it meant for Christ to suffer for our sins. And now that he had been given a glimpse of its meaning-however small a glimpse it was-he was overcome.
He stood shoulder to shoulder with his grandfather, looking out over the valley Kidron, too grateful to desecrate Gethsemane with his gaze.