Teachings of the Living Prophets – Theology Essay
Of all the topics previously discussed, I venture to say that, in my own life, this—the Atonement—is certainly the most poignant. I doubt that the case is different for most others, of course—the miracle of the Atonement is probably the single most ubiquitously applicable event in the Gospel.
Numerous general authorities have given extensive talks on this miracle, and it always seems to be the most moving and the most personally applicable subject that they speak about.
James E. Faust says of the Atonement, “This was the most transcendent act that has ever taken place, yet it is the most difficult to understand” (Ensign, Nov 2001). I would concur with President Faust on this matter, although it often seems that the more “transcendent” an event is, the more difficult it is for us mortals to understand.
The Atonement itself is a miracle. Now, I will not delve into the hard-core epistemology or definition of miracles—for a thorough discourse on that subject, read C. S. Lewis’ Miracles—but let us just assume that a miracle is a general event out of natural order precipitated by divine power. Something that God did out of the ordinary. The Atonement certainly fits this category. It was only from divine intervention that it could be performed. James E. Faust continues, in the same talk, “what He did could only be done by Deity. As the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh, Jesus inherited divine attributes. He was the only person ever born into mortality who could perform this most significant and supernal act” (Ibid.).
Before this takes a plunge into an extensive doctrinal discourse of what the Atonement was, let us instead turn our attention to what the Atonement does for us. In other words, how do we regular mortals experience this miracle? First, it is important to explain the two central views that hinder us from seeing the real power and miracle of the Atonement.
The first view comes to the nonmember world quite easily. It is worldly. It is materialistic. It is that the Atonement is not needed and thus to be ignored because it does not really exist, that it is inapplicable, or too difficult to understand. This view leads to immorality, greed, hate, lust, and just about every animal or diabolical sin. Those who are worried about the next immoral romp on the town, the next cunning lie, or even a murder are certainly not thinking about the Atonement and the power it could have on their happiness and well being.
The second view is just as spiritually destructive, and is generally more present among Latter-day Saints. Those of this mindset hold that, because their lives are not perfect and because they do not live up to their covenants in perfect idealism, they do not warrant the Atonement’s power. Christ tells them he can make them perfect, and they tell Him that he cannot. They deny the fundamental of this miracle. Although this view may not lead directly to sin, it certainly leads to unhappiness, the very antithesis of our purpose here on Earth.
Thus, the miracle of the Atonement happens in one’s life when he or she moves past one or both of these views, understands the true purpose of this miracle, and applies it to their life. We do not warrant the Atonement by our righteousness, but we cannot accept it while remaining loyal to wickedness. We must remain loyal to Christ in the sense that we absolutely must desire to progress in virtue, but that virtue does not qualify us further for His blessing.
It must be understood also that the miracle of the Atonement happening in one’s life is not a single event. Renewed commitment to Jesus Christ must happen every single day. Indeed it may be possible for one to isolate a single life-changing epiphany, wherein they were converted from one of the two mistaken views outlined above to the truth of what Christ would have us understand. However, contrary to what many evangelicals may have us believe, one epiphany does not sustain a person to be committed to following the will of God for the rest of his or her life. Indeed, the happiness and peace of mind that flows from living a life “saved” by the Atonement of Christ comes from understanding its foundation of incredible mercy, accepting its boundaries, and applying the miracle to one’s life every day.