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Cover image: ‘Facing Eternity’ by Del Parson

My understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ has grown slowly, layer upon delicate layer, over the decades of my life—sometimes through pearls of wisdom shared by wise gospel teachers, and other times through serious personal study. But the richest, most exquisite layers of understanding have come through experience, often my own, but also through witnessing, and even participating in, the spiritual growing seasons of the people around me. For the past several Easter seasons my heart has recalled one such event which forever changed the way I view the gifts of the Savior:

Belinda entered our neighborhood like a fresh spring breeze. She was vibrant, and funny, and friendly—and, like the Savior, she went about doing good. (Acts 10:38) For nearly three years she served her new friends in meaningful ways, touching many hearts. Then suddenly she was gone. Following a minor surgery just after Christmas, she unexpectedly collapsed, and suddenly our lovely friend was in the hospital on life support. Our congregation fasted, thousands of prayers were sent up by family and friends, but Belinda did not live to see her fiftieth birthday. She died on the last night of the year.

On New Year’s Day her family awoke to a life they had never imagined—a devastating loss, a palpable grief. The suddenness of Belinda’s passing left them reeling. Throughout the month of January my aching heart was filled with images of her bereft husband, six children—two of them still quite young—and her sweet grandchildren. My husband put my own thoughts into words as he confided in me one evening that he found himself wondering, “What was God thinking?”

Weeks later, my ward choir director invited me to write a sacred song for our choir to perform on Easter Sunday. This invitation proved to be a significant blessing to me as I immersed myself in the words of the prophet Jacob in preparation for writing. “…save it should be an infinite atonement…this flesh must be laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more…For behold, if the flesh should rise no more…our spirits must have become like unto [the devil], and we become devils…to be shut out from the presence of our God…” (2 Nephi 9:7-9)

As I studied these words of scripture, I began to see more clearly what the Atonement of Jesus Christ saves us from: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster…death and hell…” (2 Nephi 9:10)

As the Primary teacher of Belinda’s youngest son, I had a front row seat each Sunday to the shell-shocked expression on his face. Wrapping my arms around this motherless boy and contemplating his life changing loss, I understood as never before the phrase “this awful monster…death and hell…” The awful monster that would separate us—forever—from Heavenly Parents, and from those we love best on earth.

Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, not only would our bodies return to the dust and our spirits be consigned to dwell with the father of lies, but we would actually become like him—devils ourselves. Thankfully, however, Jesus Christ offers us an escape, with the breathtaking prospect of living in His presence and becoming like Him. Is it any wonder Jacob exclaimed:

“O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!
O how great the plan of our God!
O the greatness of the mercy of our God…”

As I began writing lyrics for an Easter song, I felt compelled to borrow a few of Jacob’s beautiful words and combine them with my own testimony of Jesus Christ:

“O how great the goodness of our God,
the wisdom that conceived the beauty of His plan.
O how great the the goodness of our God,
the mercy which has sent a Savior unto man.”

Only because of Jesus Christ and His atoning power could Belinda’s grieving husband stand in church the day after his wife’s funeral, and testify that though his family’s world had shattered, and he knew the road ahead would be tremendously difficult, he had a testimony of the Savior and could trust in His plan. “O How great the goodness of our God.” (2 Nephi 9:10)

O How Great the Goodness of Our God

Music and lyrics by Lynne Perry Christofferson
Vocalists:
Tammy Simister Robinson, Carlie Riding,
Caleb Jardine, Lucas Robinson
(free sheet music download at: www.lds.org/music/library/search?query=o+how+great+the+goodness+of+our+god

Even in our darkest hour
when shame within us burns,
when we are afraid
for mistakes we’ve made,
every sinner has a place to turn.
Though our mortal fight with sin
cannot be won alone,
when the flesh is weak
we can humbly seek
grace from One with power to atone.
(chorus)
O how great the goodness of our God,
the wisdom which conceived
the beauty of His plan.
O how great the goodness of our God,
the mercy which has sent
a Savior unto man.

As we face the painful truth
that death will come to all,
stricken in our grief,
we can seek relief
through the One who overcame the Fall.
Though we ache when those we love
have sighed their final breath,
through our living Lord
victory is assured,
granting all deliverance from death
(repeat chorus)
Overcoming death,
conquering our sin,
O how great our debt to Him!
(repeat chorus)
How great the goodness of our God.