Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Today I taught a lesson in my Mia Maid class about the Atonement of Jesus Christ titled, "What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ?" I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for my lesson by reading and listening to scriptures about the Savior's last days in mortality. (See Matthew 26-27.) I also loved reading various Church talks and articles, and watching many Bible Videos—I have come to deeply appreciate them!

(If you've never seen my church's Bible Videos, I highly recommend checking them out, for they are very well done—their dialogue follows the Bible's verses almost exactly! The videos are available for free online and via iOS and Android apps. I love free, don't you?! :) They're also available on YouTube, but I prefer the Church's backgrounds, for they are much less distracting than the endless video suggestions on YouTube.)

We all know the Atonement of Jesus Christ has been talked about for centuries. I've had so many lessons on the topic, I literally can't remember the number! Yet, I don't think we can ever talk about the Atonement enough. In True to the Faith, the first paragraph about the Atonement of Jesus Christ states,
"The word atone means to reconcile, or to restore to harmony. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be reconciled to our Heavenly Father (see Romans 5:10-11; 2 Nephi 25:23; Jacob 4:11). We can ultimately dwell in His presence forever, having been 'made perfect through Jesus' (see D&C 76:62, 69)."
Will there ever be a time in the history of our world when the Atonement isn't applicable? No, there is not. The Living Christ points out, "None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth." Later, The Living Christ continues, "I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father." (D&C 110:3-4) Furthermore, former Church President, Gordon B. Hinkley stated,
"[Jesus Christ] is the chief cornerstone of the church that bears His name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There is no other name given among men whereby we can be saved (see Acts 4:12). He is the author of our salvation, the Giver of eternal life (see Hebrews 5:9). There is none equal Him. There never has been. There never will be. Thanks be to God for the gift of His Beloved Son, who gave His life that we might live and who is the chief, immovable cornerstone of our faith and His Church. 
"We know not all that lies ahead of us. We live in a world of uncertainty. For some, there will be great accomplishment. For others, disappointment. For some, much of rejoicing and gladness, good health, and gracious living. for others, perhaps sickness and a measure of sorrow. We do not know. But one thing we do know. Like the Polar Star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds, there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God, certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives. He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith. 
"In Sunshine and in shadow, we look to Him, and He is there to assure and smile upon us." – Gordon B. Hinckley, We Testify of Jesus Christ, jesuschrist.lds.org
Isn't that quote so beautiful? President Hinckley was such a great wordsmith. I can't adequately explain the fondness and appreciation that fills my soul when I read or hear his words. I attribute President Hinckley's wonderful ability with words to the fact that (I think) he spoke directly from his soul to everyone else's soul! What a marvelous gift his words are to generations of people! :)

Three of the many principles/points I tried to convey to my Mia Maid class were taken from Sister Linda K. Burton's Relief Society talk, "Is Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in Our Hearts?", General Conference, October, 2012:
  1. "All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." [This point was taken from Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 52.]
  2. There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ. [This point was taken from David A. Bednar's talk, "The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality," Ensign, April, 2012, 40-47.]
  3. The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father's love for His children. [See Dallin H. Oaks, Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2009, 26.]
It's just so true: there is truly nothing in, on, or around this earth that shows God's love for us better than the Atonement. Because of our Savior, we can be forgiven of our sins and gain access back into our Heavenly Father's presence!

Speaking of our Savior, I was thrilled to find out that the entire musical production of Savior of the World is available for free to the stakes/wards/members of the Church to participate in and present as a church activity! Wow. I remember seeing the original production in the Conference Center many years ago—it was marvelous and I felt the Spirit so strongly. I remember crying a little bit as I watched certain parts of the musical. It was so very well done. I wish my stake—with its supremely talented members—would do a production of Savior of the World! I would totally participate in it! :)

During my lesson, I showed the stunning painting Peter's Denial, by Carl Heinrich Bloch. I wanted my Mia Maids to see Peter hiding out on the porch, and Jesus looking at him. Can you even imagine what was going through our Savior's mind?! I think there were probably no words. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, He still had human feelings. I imagine His sadness at Peter's denial must have been profound. They both must have been so disappointed by Peter's actions! :(

I then read Matthew 26:33-34 to them:
"33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples."
I continued in Matthew 26:69-74:
"69 ¶Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. [i.e., reveals you]
 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew."
I tried to convey to my Mia Maids the great importance of never denying our Savior or Heavenly Father. I then quoted a portion from the Young Women Theme, "WE WILL 'STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.'" Each Sunday, every Young Women group within the Church stands together and says the YW theme, but I wanted to give my Mia Maids another example of what standing as a witness really means. I hope they have the desire to not be like Peter—at least in this situation. But I also pointed out that even after all that Peter did, he was forgiven because of the supreme gift of the Atonement. :)

Because I ran out of lesson time today, one point I didn't get to make is found in D&C 20:22, "He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them." I'm certain there were endless temptations our Savior could have accepted in His life, yet He chose time and again to ignore every single one of them. And when He could have removed himself from the crucifixion, He chose to bless all of our lives instead. What a fabulous example He is to us! Yes, I have much to work on in my life. :)

Thankfully, I remembered to ask the question, "What can we learn from the Savior's final words he spoke while on the cross, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.' (Luke 23:34)?" I'm so happy my Mia Maids really understand the importance of following the Savior in forgiving everyone—even down to the smallest, most mundane instances in our lives. Granted, I clarified that none of us are perfect. We don't react 100% in the correct way each and every time something bad, sad, annoying, frustrating or catastrophic happens in our lives. That said, my Mia Maids are such strong souls! I have no doubt that if they choose to, they could perfectly follow our Savior's example of forgiveness!

I created this typographic design of John 17:3-4 as my handout for today's lesson. I chose the colors based on what the Savior was wearing in several of the Bible Videos: For God So Loved the World; The Parable of the TalentsRender unto Caesar and unto God.
"3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."
Don't you love Jesus' words?! He clearly and honestly stated that he did everything our Heavenly Father wanted and needed Him to do. What an exceptional example He is for us to follow. If we pray daily to know and do what Heavenly Father desires of us in every circumstance, we will be unstoppable!

I couldn't help but include these wonderful scriptures, for they are exactly what I'm trying to do in my life. 2 Nephi 25:23,26 (emphasis added):
"23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."
Do I do all of that ^ perfectly? Nope, I don't. Yet I try my best every day. I repent when I mess up—which happens a lot, but I just keep swimming in the right direction! Don't you just love that movie?! Finding Nemo, that is. ;)

Anywho, I'm grateful I've been able to study the Atonement of Jesus Christ throughout my life. Knowing what I know makes me happy! I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the Atonement—even though I know my human mind can't possibly comprehend all of it. But hey, that's why we're all here on earth: to keep learning, growing and becoming the people our Heavenly Father knows we can be. I have peace knowing this great plan of happiness (i.e., the plan of salvation) is made possible by our sweet, unselfish, perfect Savior. :)

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