Good Thursday

As I was readying bible stories with my daughter tonight, I was pondering on how we as Christians often focus so much on Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that we forget what happened to Him the day before that all-important day. In some ways, perhaps, what happened on “Good Thursday” was even more important than what was to follow on Friday. Jesus Christ had two primary missions to accomplish on this earth that related to our eternal salvation: to overcome sin or spiritual death, and to overcome physical death. Through His death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday, He overcame physical death and made it possible for all of God’s children, each of us, to return to the presence of God one day. However important and transcendent the resurrection of the Savior was, that miracle would have been incomplete without the miraculous atonement that He began on Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane and completed through His suffering and death on the cross.

Jesus praying in Gethsemane
Jesus praying in Gethsemane

In the garden on that all-important night, Jesus Christ, the Son of God willfully took upon Him the sins of all living persons.

“The Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.” (Alma 7:13)

lost-lamb-art-lds-425852-tabletThe Savior Himself described the experience this way:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (Doctrine & Covenants 19:18-19)

 

In addition to taking upon Himself the sins and transgressions of all people, He also suffered the pain and afflictions of all men. Because Christ completed His atonement, He is perfectly able to succor each of us in our times of trial.

“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. . . And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)

I know that the atonement of Christ is real. I am far from a perfect person, but I have felt the effects of the atonement in my life when I have repented of my sins and tried to follow Christ’s teachings. I have also felt the power of the atonement helping me through some of the darkest and most trying times of my life. I am grateful that Christ completed His mission both on Thursday and on Friday so that our sins can be forgiven and so that we may return to live with God after this life is over.

The Christmas Spirit

Intentionally focusing on the true meaning of Christmas draws us to Christ

ChristmasTree2013

I must admit, I’ve been struggling with this a bit this year. I’ve had a lot on my mind these last few days and have been feeling discouraged about what I see going on in the world. I’ve been concerned with the reaction of A&E to the “Duck Dynasty” guy. I’ve been a bit upset about the actions of a federal judge in Utah declaring that same-sex marriage can occur in the state. I worry about the erosion of religious liberty that I keep seeing around the world. Many of you know how I stand on issues such as these, but I was thinking about my attitude tonight and decided that I don’t want to let these issues distract me from what is really important about this season of the year.

I got to spend the day at home with my beautiful family today. I want them to know me as a Christian that lives his beliefs, and I want them to know how important Jesus Christ is to me in my life. I don’t know everything, but I wanted to share a few things that I do know and that I want to focus on (despite the news) this Christmas season.

The whole point of this season of the year is to remember Christ’s birth. His birth is important because of how He lived, what He taught, what He showed by His example, and most importantly, what He did for all of us by performing the atonement in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. I think that the statement at the end of this video says it perfectly.

To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ. — Thomas S. Monson

At this busy season of the year may we try a little harder to feel and show the spirit of Christ. May we be more kind to those around us. May we show more love to our families. May we serve those that are in need. May we strive to better understand and apply the atonement in our lives. May we pray for the heavenly gift of Charity — perhaps the most important characteristic of Christ.

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—but charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. — Moroni 7:44-48

I know that Christ lives. I know that He came into the world to fulfill the will of His father. I know that He loves and knows each one of us individually. I know that through His atonement I can be forgiven. I know that it’s not always easy to follow Him, but I know that when we do we are happier and live more fulfilling lives. I am grateful for this Christmas season that helps me to remember Him better. I hope and pray that I can be a better follower and a better Christian.

MerryChristmas

The Immediate Atonement

“Verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” How many of us have longed to hear those words? How many of us feel that we don’t deserve to have our sins forgiven? I know that I have felt this way in my life. It can often be difficult as a believer in Christ to understand the principle of forgiveness as it relates to the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I was taught that God loved me and that I could be forgiven of my sins if I repented. I was taught that repentance consists of recognizing sin, confessing our sins, making restitution for our sins to those harmed, and forsaking the sin.  Jesus has taught “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).

I know that this doctrine of repentance is true. I also know that forgiveness comes to those that repent. However, for a long time I struggled to feel that forgiveness and the resulting closeness to the Savior because of my continuing imperfections. I was also taught that the Lord has said

“And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto the soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 82:7)

I often used to feel that this scripture condemned us as imperfect humans to live in a perpetual state of lacking forgiveness because each time we made any mistake, all of the former mistakes we had made would return to us again. I imagined to myself a God who was anxious to pile the guilt and sin on me. Through personal experience and study I have gained a deeper, if not yet perfect, understanding of the doctrine of the Atonement and forgiveness.

I know that my Heavenly Father is a just God and “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16); however, I also know that God is merciful, kind, loving, and most importantly forgiving.

I believe that God is anxious to forgive us. He wants us to live free from the burden of sin. He wants us to overcome our weaknesses and come closer to Him. He does not want us to suffer. He wants to forgive us and allow us to return to Him quickly. The atonement of Jesus Christ enables all of these things to happen.

When we have made a mistake, we need not feel that we must suffer for some arbitrary amount of time before we seek the forgiveness of God. When we have made a mistake, the best thing to do is to immediately go to Heavenly Father in prayer and begin the repentance process. God is ready and anxious to receive us back into His presence when we have wandered astray.

This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. Recall that the prodigal was the son of a wealthy man who took his inheritance early and squandered it in evil, riotous living.  When his earthly pleasure was over, he realized that he had left the only source of goodness in his life–his father. He decided to return and become a servant in his father’s house. When we are as the prodigal son, desiring to return to God, it is important to remember the attitude and character of the father.

“But when [the prodigal] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. . . . the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:11-32)

The prodigal’s father was waiting for him. He saw him and ran to him while he was “yet a long way off.” Our Heavenly Father always has this attitude towards us. God always wants us to return. When we turn around a “long way off” and start to return to His arms, He will run to us and embrace us.

I know that the Atonement has the power to begin to heal us immediately when we decide that we need its power. The return journey may still take time, but the process begins immediately when we start to return to God.

The following scriptures illustrate this point further:

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31)

“And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.” (3 Nephi 10:5)

I know that God loves us. We are His literal children and He is anxious to bless and forgive us. I know that the atonement is real and literally has the power to cleanse us. I know that this power is immediately accessible by us when we begin to repent and return to God.