An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by Deseret Book.
Grandpa Carson, his countenance shining with compassion, looked at Rick with understanding.
“You suffer, Ricky. Until now your suffering was in vain, for it was only for yourself. Now you suffer for others-for Carol, for your children, for all who are around you. You are pained by the pains they feel-the pains you have helped them to feel. Your heart is near to breaking.
“Blessed are you in this new suffering, for we truly are responsible one to another, just as you are now feeling. And our hearts must be broken in just this way, for we must be cured of the vanity of the sufficiency of our own hearts.
“As you come to feel fully responsible for the sufferings of those you love,” he continued, “the Lord will take the pain of it from you. He has suffered everything, that we might be spared that fate.85 Where the pain deserves to be, you will find his love in its place.
“Do you know the extent of his love, my son?”
“I don’t believe I am worthy to.”
Grandpa smiled. “For just that reason, you will know.”
Rick suddenly found himself on a rocky hillside. Some fifty yards below he could make out the shapes of dozens of squat, ancient trees, their age evident in the gnarled shape of the branches that probed at the night air.
“The Garden of Gethsemane,” spoke his grandfather beside him.
He continued: “After the Fall, the Lord said to Adam, As thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed,’86 signifying the parallel relationship of the Fall and the Atonement. And so it is no accident that the Atonement will begin, as did the Fall, in a Garden. And it is no accident as well that the individuals in those gardens were each sinless, or that the events in those gardens centered on their exercise of agency-for Adam, whether he would partake of the bitter fruit, and for the Savior, whether he would partake of the bitter cup. The Savior and Adam faced a similar choice: If they did not partake, they would become lone men in paradise. Both partook that man might be. And by partaking of that bitterness, Adam came to know good and evil, and the Savior came to know all of the good and evil that had and would transpire in the hearts of men through all generations of time.
“And so, Ricky, you are about to witness an undoing of what had been done-a new exercise of agency, set in a garden, that rescues us from the captivity of sin, a captivity that entered the world through a prior exercise of agency in a garden of old. Agency will be redeemed tonight, and with it, all mankind, even as many as will.’87 Because of the Lord’s redemption, the children of men will be freed from the clutches of sin-to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.’88
Beyond the trees, and walking toward them, was a party of twelve. Only their cloak-draped outlines were visible under the blackened night sky. They carried no torches but seemed to know the path well, as none stumbled in the darkness. They walked in silence as they ascended stone steps that rose from the bottom of the valley below-the Kidron Valley, as Rick remembered. Across that valley, and set on the hill on the other side, stood the great walls of the temple and the holy city, Jerusalem.
Near the beginning of the ancient olive trees, One at the front of the procession gestured for the others to sit. Eight of them did so, while the first, and three others-Peter, James, and John, Rick knew from his study of these events-continued into the garden and among the trees. Rick strained for a look at them as their forms passed behind the branches and immense trunks for a good two hundred yards. Here, the Lord paused and turned to his companions.
What is it he said to them at this point? Rick strained to remember.
“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,'” his grandfather whispered. “Tarry ye here, and watch with me.'”89
The figure who was Christ passed beyond his three disciples and from Rick’s sight.
“And he went a little further,'” came this voice from Rick’s youth, now so soft it was almost inaudible, “and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.'”90
And then his grandfather fell silent, and the night air stood still.
“What happens now is not for mortal eyes to witness,” his grandfather said, in his more normal voice. “But it is most surely for human minds and hearts to understand.”
“What do you mean, Grandpa?”
“Ricky, you need to understand what happens here tonight. Everything in your home, your heart, and your life depends on it.”
“I think I understand, Grandpa. Here in Gethsemane, Christ pays for the sins of mankind. He suffers so terribly that blood runs from every pore.”91
“Yes, Ricky, true enough. But how short that understanding still falls.”
“Then tell me more,” Rick pleaded. “What happens here tonight?”
“That is the beginning of it. It only happens here tonight’ from the limited view of man.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that our appreciation for what Christ did for us will fall abysmally short if we think that he fell on his face merely at the prospect of suffering for a few mortal hours, however excruciating that suffering might be. Both in impact, kind, and degree, what happens in Gethsemane cannot be marked merely by the clock of this fallen realm. Indeed, its impact could be felt from the days of Adam and Eve, even though by the reckoning of this earth it hadn’t yet happened. The atonement happened as much outside this time as within it, though what was outside we cannot hope to grasp. It was and is an infinite and eternal act, unbounded by the limitations of mortality. No wonder the Savior trembled at the thought of it, and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
’92 Mortal minds, with their earth-bound limitations, cannot comprehend the immensity of it.”
Grandpa Carson paused for a moment to collect his thoughts.
“And what was the nature of that suffering?” he mused. “You say, He suffered for our sins,’ but how glibly we can say it. Just what does it mean?
“Remember, the problem of sin is only partially that we engage in sinful acts. The far deeper problem is that by choosing to engage in sinful acts, our hearts become sinful. And when they do, Satan gains power over us to lead us captive at his will, to lead us into deeper and darker resentment, bitterness, anger, and sin. We become unclean, impure, corrupted-unable to abide the presence of God, in whose presence only the clean and pure can dwell. And we end up losing the very thing that is essential if ever we are to be able to be cleansed and find our way back to him: the desire and ability to choose to follow the Lord.
“Our hands are filthy from sinful acts, to be sure, Ricky, but our greater problem is that our hearts have become unclean as well. As Paul exclaimed, I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’93 If ever we are to stand in glory before the Father and the Son, the wicked spirit’ that inhabits our hearts must, as the father of King Lamoni pleaded, be rooted out’ of our breasts.94 Unless someone can overcome for us the captivity of our hearts and make us free from our bondage to sin,95 we will be damned forever.”
“You’re saying that’s what the Savior did? What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane was that the Lord overcame the captivity of our hearts? That is what is meant by his paying for sin’?”