Our talks went well today. I thought Tim's was great, and I was left feeling a little "undone" with mine. Just too much information and not enough time to convey it all :)
I am posting her the basic plan I meant to follow. Didn't really stick to it - but then again, I never do.
Good morning, and Happy Easter,
It has been a very interesting week for me. As I have been studying and preparing to give this talk today, I feel I was blessed to have an increase of the Lord’s spirit with me, which lead to an increase in understanding regarding the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His great love for us. In this regard - it was a wonderful week! On the other hand, it was also a rather challenging week. Tim and Aaron were gone to California on a school field trip, and it was left to me to take care of everything here at home. School easter parties to plan and host, carpools to drive, soccer games and practices, fulfilling my primary calling responsibilities, preparing meals, regular housework, overseeing and checking all the homework, making pinewood derby cars, and more. one night in particular, the weight of everything was just too much, and I could not sleep. THe next day, as I stood at my sink washing dishes in a sleep deprived stupor, the thought came to me, How does the prophet ever sleep? If the weight of a kindergarten Easter party, preparing a talk for sacrament meeting, the upcoming pinewood derby, and my children’s homework are enough to put me in this state, how does President Monson ever sleep? He has the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. Now I haven’t taken the opportunity to confirm this with President Monson, but I am pretty sure that while he probably does have a few sleepless nights here and there, I believe the reason he can sleep at night is because he has a great understanding of the role of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. I believe he draws daily from the power and strength that is available through the atonement.
As I have studied this week, it became clear to me that I have not applied myself to understanding or utilizing the Atonement in my life as much as I should. Yes, I know the basics. Probably even one step above your basic “sunday school” answers, I was living off of the basic “missionary discussion answers” from 20 years ago. Back in the days before “Preach My Gospel,” we used a set of discussions that we memorized. The second discussion was all about the role of Jesus Christ in the plan of salvation. I would teach it this way:
There are two obstacles that stand in our way of becoming like our Father in Heaven. The first is physical death. Because we each have mortal bodies, at some point we will all die. Our bodies will remain here on earth, our spirits will move on to the spirit world. This separation of our bodies and spirits is called physical death. The second obstacle is spiritual death. Spiritual death is the separation of us from God because of our sin. No unclean thing can dwell with God, so because of our sins, we cannot return to live with Him unless we are first forgiven and cleansed.
Because Jesus triumphed over physical death and was resurrected, all of us will be resurrected. Resurrection is a free gift to each of us, regardless of whether we have done good or evil in this life. Jesus also made it possible to overcome spiritual death. Through the grace of Christ, we can become clean from sin. As part of the plan of his Father, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. We are forgiven when we accept Christ, repent, and follow his commandments. In this way, we are cleansed of our sins. We can become worthy to return to the presence of God. The triumph of Jesus over physical death and spiritual death is called the atonement. Through the atonement we can return to live with God.
“In paying for the penalty for our sins, Jesus did not eliminate our personal responsibility. WE must take certain steps to show that we accept him and that we will follow his commandments. We call these steps the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.” we then went on to teach about Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then ENDURING to the end in obedience.
Now while there is nothing doctrinally incorrect in what I was teaching those 20 years ago, (or quite frankly what I have been teaching since then…) I am afraid that I was very limited in my scope and understanding. My limited understanding of the atonement has also been a key factor in my feelings of inadequacy and continually falling short. I have a good friend, a super achiever of a woman, who several years ago just kind of gave up. She said to me, "I just figured that as long as I’m never going to be “good enough” I might as well stop killing myself trying." Now she just kind of “goes through the motions,” but without the hope and joy that that the savior has to offer. I have to admit, that I have shared her feelings at times. With my understanding of “resurrection is a free gift, but there are certain things we have to do to “earn” forgiveness.” It was easy to always feel like I didn’t quite measure up. Now pay attention there - I just used the word “earn.” If you were listening closely before, the true doctrine of the atonement from my old missionary discussions never used the word “earn”. Somehow in my brain, I changed a few words, and I am not alone in this ‘rewriting of doctrine.” Many people in the church have adopted a skewed idea of the atonement. Somewhere along the line we convinced ourselves that we have to “earn our way” to heaven. I am going to attempt today to shift that thinking just a little bit.
About a year ago I was doing some work around the house, and ended up in my room folding laundry. The TV was on an Caleb was watching channel 11 PBS kids. At 11:00 the kids programming turned off and the daily BYU devotional came on. I was about done folding the clothes and was going to turn off the TV and get back to work, but as the speaker began, I was caught by his words and sat down to listen. about 40 minutes later I was still sitting there, tears running down my face, and new understanding of the atonement starting to take root in my mind. The talk was by Brad Wilcox, and is titled “His Grace is Sufficient.” I would love to read the entire talk to you, but I realize that would be a less effective use to my time, but I encourage you to go home and pull it up online and listen to or read it in it’s entirety. In this talk, Brother Wilcox gives an analogy that I can totally relate to and understand. The analogy of the piano lessons.
"Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing, perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original).
President Spencer W. Kimball’s said it this way, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change."
The teacher gives the student a piece of music. The student practices it until they have mastered the skills necessary to “pass it off.” are they then finished and they graduate from piano lessons? NO. the teacher gives them a new piece to learn. Maybe a little harder than the last one. Maybe a piece that is a review of past skills they’ve learned. The teacher is continually pushing them to improve.
As a child I took piano lessons. HATED it! I saw practice as a punishment, not a pathway to change. The rule at our house was 30 minutes of practice every day. I had to sit on that piano bench and “practice” for 30 minutes! I regret to tell you that I did not use my practice time to change for the better. I sat there, fiddling around, but not really progressing. Now, as an adult, I look back and wish I had taken advantage of that opportunity.
A common question asked by those who question our faith is “Have you been saved by grace?” The answer is YES - ABSOLUTELY. The follow up question SHOULD be , have we allowed ourselves to be CHANGED by grace? We are not earning our way to heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”
“A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48).
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). The scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, indeed, no unchanged thing will even want to.
Here is where I ran out of time for writing, so you just get to imagine how I wrapped things up... here are a few jumble of thoughts and quotes that I though I might need:
Redeem: to make better or more acceptable, to change for the better. Christ did not just atone for us so that we could be saved. He atoned for us so that we would could be saved AND redeemed. That we could be made BETTER.
This is the role of Christ as our Redeemer. He is giving us the chance, each day - to PRACTICE being like him. And just like anything you really practice at - we can improve, a little bit each day. I love my daughters piano teacher, Sister Walker. She does not give her students a set time they need to practice. She gives them sills to practice. She teaches them HOW to practice. how much time is takes to practice is really up to them.
Story about choir - the difference between hearing something and being touched by it, vs making it a part of us. SPadafora story.
Richard G scott, october 2013
One virtuous young woman asked me what I feel is the most important thing they should be doing in their lives right now. I suggested they learn to recognize the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives.
Challenge. To spend the week preparing a talk on the atonement. To dig a little deeper.