During a Worldwide Face-to-Face video discussion with the youth, President Henry B. Eyring and Elder Jeffery R. Holland answered the question, “What exactly is the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how can I receive its blessings?” An important question, as the answer holds great significance for each of us and for those we love.
Personally, I found their answer to be very straightforward and enlightening. In fact, their teachings caused me to feel that I was gaining yet another layer of understanding about a basic doctrine that I thought, through my past prayerful study and research, I already had a pretty good handle on.
Elder Eyring began answering the question by saying, “The first thing to do is to get a few facts straight. The Atonement was something Jesus Christ did. It’s not a thing itself.” He goes on to explain, “He atoned for our sins, and He paid the price to allow us to be forgiven and to be resurrected. So, it’s what He did that qualified Him to give us forgiveness, to change our hearts. It’s the Holy Ghost doing that, not the Atonement as if it’s a thing itself. And so, when you feel forgiveness, that’s not the Atonement; that’s the Savior giving you a feeling of forgiveness because of the Atonement.”[i]
Consider these important takeaways:
- The central focus is, and should always be, on the Savior and his redeeming and enabling power—the Atonement was a “mechanism” that qualified Jesus to receive that power.
- The Father gave power to Jesus to forgive and strengthen us.
- When we feel forgiven, we are not feeling “the Atonement,” we are feeling the Holy Ghost—who is able to act because of the Atonement.
In the same Face-to-Face discussion, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland commented, “If we understand the Atonement, we’re going to be meek and lowly and very grateful. ‘And because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost.’” Elder Holland continued, “We’ve just been swept right into the celestial kingdom here on the strength of the Atonement of Christ because it made us meek. It made us lowly. It made us grateful. It made us know somebody helped us. And that brings the Holy Ghost. I don’t know that I had ever quite tied the gift of the Holy Ghost as an extension of the Savior’s Atonement.”[ii]
- The gift of the Holy Ghost is a direct extension of the Savior’s Atonement.
- The act of the Atonement was necessary to enable the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- We access the power (and all the blessings) of the Atonement by being meek, lowly, and grateful, which brings the Holy Ghost into our lives.
Additionally, President Nelson taught: “There is no amorphous entity called ‘the Atonement’ upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. . . . [His] atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him.”[iii]
The main point: The Savior should be our focus—everything else is in support of that idea. We find this doctrine reinforced in Jesus’ own invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30) Clearly, the healing, redeeming, strengthening, enabling, cleansing and renewing power resides in Jesus Christ alone—and He is anxious to use, and even share, that power to help us.
But exactly how does the Savior bring that power into our lives? Elder Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of the Church, taught: “The Spirit of the Lord, or the Holy Ghost, is the agent of the Atonement. Thanks to His gentle influence we can feel the love of the Savior and receive His grace in our lives. When the Spirit accompanies us, we become aware of a powerful transformation taking place within us as our weaknesses are transformed into strengths and our natural abilities are magnified and enhanced beyond even what we believe is possible. The Spirit sanctifies us and progressively raises us beyond our mortal condition.”[iv]
Did you catch that? The Holy Ghost is the agent of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That’s an important understanding to help us realize how the Savior generally intends to help us receive His power—through the Holy Ghost. As we seek to follow the Savior’s example, strive to be Christlike—at home, at work, at school, at the theater, driving in the car—in everything, then we put ourselves in a position that allows the Holy Ghost to bring that very real redeeming and strengthening power the Savior possesses into our lives.
I will never forget the time, as a young recently returned missionary, I was attending a local junior college near my parents’ home in Southern California. I had been accepted into BYU’s evening program at the time but had decided not to go. However, after an interview with my bishop where he encouraged me to take the next step in my life, I changed my mind last-minute. (Thank you, Bishop!)
With less than a week before school, no Utah friends I knew of, and no place to stay, it was a total act of faith. The upside, though, is that I did believe this was what Heavenly Father wanted me to do and I somehow just knew things would work out—that miracles, the little miracles I most needed then, were bound to happen if I was doing His will.
I loaded up my little ’72 Opel with everything I owned, duct taped plastic in the driver’s window because it was stuck open, used a gum wrapper to hold up the rearview mirror, and turned toward Utah. I had no idea what I would do when I got there.
It was early evening when I arrived in Provo after a very long day of driving. I stopped at the intersection of Center Street and 900 East, again, with no idea what to do next. As I thought to myself, okay, now what? I glanced over to the southeastern corner of the intersection and noticed what appeared to be a small apartment complex. The strong impression came: “Go there!”
I pulled into the parking lot and found the manager’s door of what was then Fairmount Square. At first, no answer. But with repeated attempts, the manager finally came to the door and asked what I needed. I explained my situation and she began to laugh. “You really plan ahead. School starts next week!” After the heckling, she said, “Well, I do have one bed left. If you go down and meet the roommates and they agree, you can have it.”
As I walked to the apartment, I thought, roommates? At that moment I realized I really hadn’t given any thought as to who I might be living with and began to wonder how that would work out.
Once again, I found myself knocking on a strange door. What was I getting myself into? To my shock and surprise, when the door opened, I came face-to-face with three former missionary friends from the Georgia Atlanta Mission. We had served in the same mission district together and knew each other well. They were equally surprised to see me and asked what I was doing there. I explained that I needed a place to stay. They quickly responded, “You found it!”
As I think back on this experience, I realize that I enjoyed the strengthening and enabling power that the Savior brings as a Deliverer.[v] Think of it: the Lord took me from California, 650 miles to Utah, to one door, one bed, and three friends. He brought real progress into my life as the Holy Ghost guided me to that apartment where I was delivered into the hands of friends, starting me off on a life-long journey that has brought blessing after blessing (important note: with plenty of challenges along the way!). As we focus on the Savior—learning of Him, seeking to be like Him—we will receive real power, through the Holy Ghost, and we will see the divine hand manifest in our lives in ways that are remarkable and even miraculous.
[i] Worldwide Face-to-Face with President Eyring and Elder Holland, March 4, 2017, https://www.Churchof JesusChrist.org/media/video/2017-03-1000-face-to-face-with-president-eyring-and-elder-holland?lang=eng.
[iv] Gérald Caussé, “For When I Am Weak, Then Am I Strong,” BYU devotional, December 3, 2013, https://speeches
[v] D&C 138:23; 2 Sam 22:22