g [Conference Cud] The Atonement: Take a minute to marvel in it. - Believe and Know

[Conference Cud] The Atonement: Take a minute to marvel in it.

28 June 2015

NOTE: I know everyone is piped up over Friday's Supreme Court ruling right now. I am too. And I do have a post somewhat in the works. But I'm just a little too sick of it right now to sit down and re-live it again right now. It's too aggravating. Too portentous. Too many nauseating rainbow-overlaid profile pictures.

So, here's another Conference Cud post revisiting two of my new favorite talks from the April 2015 Conference. About the most pure, perfect love that has ever been. A love that needs no stamp of federal approval. The atoning love of Christ.

First, let me express my bias. If there was any general authority past or present who I resonate most with, it's Elder Holland. His general conference talks of years past have changed my mission, and they have changed my life (more on that in another post). He's seriously awesome, and this talk was no exception. Go listen to it or watch it again.

My thoughts:
  1. Worry about your salvation more than about heights
    I get dizzy when I climb ladders. My breath went shallow when I stood overlooking the Grand Canyon. I feel faint looking down from tall bridges. So even though I've read or listened to this talk several times since April, I still start sweating when Elder Holland describes the 14 year old boy hanging at the edge of the cliff. Of course, he perfectly ties this boy's predicament to the plight of humanity:

    "What a plight! The entire human race in free fall—every man, woman, and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish. Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever?"

    The thought then occurred to me: Here I am, nervous about this boy in a story I have already heard. When was the last time I actually worried like this about my salvation? When was the last time I anxiously went before God to "know of my state and standing before Him?" When was the last time I took a sobering inventory of my spiritual state, and "work[ed] out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling?"

    I'm not sure I'm excited about my answers to those questions. I bet many of us aren't.
  2. Easter is victory over every fear
    I love Elder Holland's perspective on Easter-- it really opens up what I think is probably a holiday that's taken for granted far too often:

    "Today we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced."

  1. The more you know, the more you marvel

    e must never lose our sense of awe and profound gratitude for the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God. The Savior’s Atonement cannot become commonplace in our teaching, in our conversation, or in our hearts... I marvel to think that the Son of God would condescend to save us, as imperfect, impure, mistake-prone, and ungrateful as we often are. I have tried to understand the Savior’s Atonement with my finite mind... [but] I cannot even begin to estimate 'the breadth, and length, and depth, and height … [of] the love of Christ.'"

    As with Elder Holland's talk, this left me wondering: Do I ever take the Atonement for granted? Pres. Packer testified last year, "As one of the Twelve Apostles, I bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ... He presides over this Church. He is no stranger to His servants."

    So, Christ is no stranger to His servants, and yet His Apostles cannot even begin to understand His Atonement (which Joseph Smith called "the fundamental principles of our religion," to which all other truths are "only appendages"). Seems the more you know, the more you don't know. Or rather, to use Pres. Uchtdorf's words, the more you "marvel" (Bonus: also check out Bishop Caussé's talk from earlier that day where he highlights that if we ever stop marveling, that's a very, very bad sign).
  2. Grace: You need it. Seriously.

    This talk is a wonderful response for the many Christians of other faiths (or even Latter-Day Saints) who believe that our faith somehow believes in saving one's self by works or outside of the grace of Christ. I think sometimes in our meetings we talk too much about what we need to do and how to do it better. We fuss so much about retention, home teaching, Scouting, and so many other activities and programs of the Church that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and inadequate.

    We desperately need to stop, take a step back, and focus less on what we need to do, and instead consider what has already been done for us. Yes we have children to raise, lives to bless, and so much to do in the Lord's Kingdom. But the really important piece, our salvation, has already been worked out for us (again: marvel).

    "Are we confident and comfortable in our good deeds, trusting in our own righteousness? ... Do we understand our indebtedness to Heavenly Father and plead with all our souls for the grace of God? When we kneel to pray, is it to replay the greatest hits of our own righteousness, or is it to confess our faults, plead for God’s mercy, and shed tears of gratitude for the amazing plan of redemption?"

    Followed by this somber reminder: "Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God."
  3. Opening the Windows of Heaven

    I sometimes feel robbed when I hear a talk on the Atonement that doesn't mention what has been called "the enabling power" of the Atonement. We focus so much on the forgiveness of the Prodigal that we forget that the Atonement blesses his faithful brother, too. In addition to cleansing us from our sins, the Atonement also gives us strength to improve.

    I heard the analogy made of a farmer who had a tree that was too supple. With each stormy wind, the tree would bend and touch the ground, caking its leaves in mud. The farmer kept rinsing off the leaves after every storm, but the next storm would cake them again with mud. After several rounds of this, his neighbor, seeing his exasperation cam to offer the advice, "You need to strengthen the trunk. Then the leaves will stay clean."

    In a like manner, the Atonement not only cleanses us from sin, but also makes us more resilient, more obedient, and more able to withstand temptation:

    he grace of God does not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. If salvation means only erasing our mistakes and sins, then salvation—as wonderful as it is—does not fulfill the Father’s aspirations for us. His aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him. With the gift of God’s grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backward; it leads upward...

    [Through grace] God pours out blessings of power and strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise would be far beyond our reach," including temporal blessings, spiritual gifts, and eventually, perfection.
Summary: The Atonement. Take a minute to marvel in it.

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