(This is an excerpt from The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister.
What do the Book of Mormon prophets mean when they refer to an “infinite atonement”? Jacob taught, “It must needs be an infinite atonement— save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption” (2 Nephi 9:7). Nephi prophesied that the Atonement would be “infinite for all mankind” (2 Nephi 25:16). And Amulek similarly taught, “It must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. . . . Therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world” (Alma 34:10, 12). Again and again, the key word is “infinite.” The phrase “infinite atonement” or “infinite sacrifice” may refer to an atonement or sacrifice by a God, a being who is infinite in knowledge, power, and glory. Amulek makes that connection when he observes that the “great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:14). Accordingly, the Atonement is “infinite” because its source is “infinite.”
But the Atonement is infinite in other ways as well. B. H. Roberts, in referring to the use of the phrase “infinite atonement” by the Nephite prophets, comments, “I think they sought to express the idea of the sufficiency of it; its completeness; the universality and power of it to restore all that was lost, both spiritual and physical, as well as to express the rank and dignity of him who would make the Atonement.”1 Nephi was referring to the effects of the Atonement, rather than its source, when he observed, “The atonement . . . is infinite for all mankind” (2 Nephi 25:16). The word infinite, as used in this context, may refer to an atonement that is infinite in its scope and coverage, or to an atonement that simultaneously applies retroactively and prospectively, oblivious to constraints and measurements of time. It may refer to a sacrifice that has no bounds, no outer limits, no final extremities as to the suffering that would be endured. It may refer to an atonement that applies to all God’s creations, past, present, and future, and thus is infinite in its application, duration, and effect. Elder McConkie seems to support all these views: “When the prophets speak of an infinite atonement, they mean just that. Its effects cover all men, the earth itself and all forms of life thereon, and reach out into the endless expanses of eternity.” The Atonement seems infinite, as so designated by the Book of Mormon prophets, for at least the following eight reasons, as further discussed in chapters 9 to 23:
First, as Elder Maxwell has suggested, it is “infinite in the divineness of the one sacrificed.” The title of that stirring song, “O Divine Redeemer,” is an apt reminder that he who brought about the Atonement is the consummate expression of godliness.
Second, it is infinite in power. The Savior went from grace to grace until he “received all power, both in heaven and on earth” (D&C 93:17).
Third, the Atonement is infinite in time. It applies retroactively and prospectively through time immemorial.
Fourth, it is infinite in coverage. It applies to all God’s creations and all forms of life thereon. Elder Maxwell called it “infinite . . . in the comprehensiveness of its coverage.”
Fifth, it is infinite in depth. It is infinite not only in who it covers, but in what it covers. “The Son of Man hath descended below them all” (D&C 122:8).
Sixth, it is infinite in the degree of suffering endured by the Redeemer. It was that suffering that caused “even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore” (D&C 19:18). Seventh, it is infinite in love. The words of the hymn “He Died! The Great Redeemer Died” are a powerful reminder of his boundless love:
Here’s love and grief beyond degree; The Lord of glory died for men.5 Eighth, it is infinite in the blessings it bestows. The blessings of the Atonement extend far beyond its well- known triumph over physical and spiritual death. Some of these blessings overlap; some complement and supplement each other; but in the aggregate the effect of this event so blesses our lives in a multiplicity of ways, both known and yet to be discovered, that it might appropriately be said to be infinite in its blessing nature.