Suffering Unrelated to Sin or Transgression

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(This is an excerpt from The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister.)

Jacob placed no qualifiers when he said the Savior would suffer “the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21). These were pains both related and unrelated to sin or transgression. In other words, the Savior voluntarily took upon himself not only the cumulative burden of all sin and transgression, but also the cumulative burden of all depression, all loneliness, all sorrow, all mental, emotional, and physical hurt, and all weakness of every kind that afflicts mankind. He knows the depth of sorrow that stems from death; he knows the widow’s anguish. He understands the agonizing parental pain when children go astray; he has felt the striking pain of cancer and every other debilitating ailment heaped upon man. Impossible as it may seem, he has somehow taken upon himself those feelings of inadequacy, sometimes even utter hopelessness, that accompany our rejections and weaknesses. There is no mortal condition, however gruesome or ugly or hopeless it may seem, that has escaped his grasp or his suffering. No one will be able to say, “But you don’t understand my particular plight.” The scriptures are emphatic on this point—“he comprehended all things” because “he descended below all things” (D&C 88:6; see also D&C 122:8).

All of these, Elder Neal A. Maxwell explains, “were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement.” President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “There is no human condition— be it suffering, incapacity, inadequacy, mental deficiency, or sin— which He cannot comprehend or for which His love will not reach out to the individual.” This is a staggering thought when we contemplate the Mount Everest of pain required to make it so. What weight is thrown on the scales of pain when calculating the hurt of innumerable patients in countless hospitals?

Now, add to that the loneliness of the elderly who are forgotten in the rest homes of society, desperately yearning for a card, a visit, a call— just some recognition from the outside world. Keep on adding the hurt of hungry children, the suffering caused by famine, drought, and pestilence. Pile on the heartache of parents who tearfully plead on a daily basis for a wayward son or daughter to come back home. Factor in the trauma of every divorce and the tragedy of every abortion. Add the remorse that comes with each child lost in the dawn of life, each spouse taken in the prime of marriage. Compound that with the misery of overflowing prisons, bulging halfway houses and institutions for the mentally disadvantaged. Multiply all this by century after century of history, and creation after creation without end. Such is but an awful glimpse of the Savior’s load. Who can bear such a burden or scale such a mountain as this? No one, absolutely no one, save Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of us all.

The prophets have long testified of the Savior’s infinite, suffering nature. Years before his birth, Isaiah declared, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), and later, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9; see also D&C 133:53). Alma understood the extent of the Savior’s descent when he observed, “He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; emphasis added). So extensive would be this descent that King Benjamin observed, “He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer” (Mosiah 3:7). No one in the limited experiences of mortality will scratch the surface of pain laid upon the Infinite One. He carried it all, even that aggregate of pain that has no origins in sin or transgression.

The Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister, pp. 111-13

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