The Atonement

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "The Book of Alma" in the book Verse by Verse: The Book of Mormon.)

Some of the most important purposes of Jesus’ mortality are the following: he came to take upon himself our pains, sicknesses, and infirmities—to learn how to help us through our mortal debilities—and to take upon himself our sins and blot out our transgressions.

How far does the Atonement reach? What does it cover? And for whom? The Atonement is not just for sinners and not just for sins. It is for disappointment, heartache, bitterness over betrayal, unfairness, injustice, loneliness, sorrow of every kind, inadequacy, mistakes caused by unintentional carelessness, our sicknesses—physical and emotional—and many other things. The Atonement is so sweeping that Jesus suffered for his betrayers and executioners; he even suffered the suffering of victims (such as of the Holocaust).

As our colleague Stephen E. Robinson wrote: “All the negative aspects of human existence brought about by the Fall, Jesus Christ absorbed into himself. He experienced vicariously . . . all the private griefs and heartaches, all the physical pains and handicaps, all the emotional burdens and depressions of the human family. He knows the loneliness of those who don’t fit in or who aren’t handsome or pretty. He knows what it’s like to choose up teams and be the last one chosen. He knows the anguish of parents whose children go wrong. He knows the private hell of the abused child or spouse. He knows all these things personally and intimately because he lived them in the Gethsemane experience. Having personally lived a perfect life, he then chose to experience our imperfect lives. In . . . the meridian of time, the center of eternity, he lived a billion billion lifetimes of sin, pain, disease, and sorrow.

“God uses no magic wand to simply wave bad things into nonexistence. The sins that he remits, he remits by making them his own and suffering them. The pain and heartaches that he relieves, he relieves by suffering them himself. These things can be shared and absorbed, but they cannot be simply wished or waved away. They must be suffered. Thus we owe him not only for our spiritual cleansing from sin, but for our physical, mental, and emotional healings as well, for he has borne these infirmities for us also. All that the Fall put wrong, the Savior in his atonement puts right. It is all part of his infinite sacrifice—of his infinite gift.”

Jesus was made like us (mortal) so that he could know according to the flesh how to succor us—to comfort, assist, nurture, and help us. As Paul wrote, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17–18).

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