"As Latter-day Saints, we refer to His mission as the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which made resurrection a reality for all and made eternal life possible for those who repent of their sins and receive and keep essential ordinances and covenants.
"It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as 'the Atonement' or 'the enabling power of the Atonement' or 'applying the Atonement' or 'being strengthened by the Atonement.' These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
"Under the Father’s great eternal plan, it is the Savior who suffered. It is the Savior who broke the bands of death. It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance. It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death.
"There is no amorphous entity called 'the Atonement' upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come. The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk
President Russell is now 92 years old, and is the oldest of the current general authorities (three years older than President Monson). Yet he continues to teach with insight and power. I thought this talk was among the most instructive of the recent conference; it is full of nuggets of clarification and inspiration.
This explanation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ was particularly helpful to me. As we discuss that event and consider how to draw benefit from it, we sometimes do speak as if the event itself takes on power and life. But President Nelson explains it's our connection to the One who performed the action that is the crucial aspect we need to focus on. We must never forget:
- It is the Savior who suffered.
- It is the Savior who broke the bands of death.
- It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance.
- It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death.
With that clarification, President Nelson then teaches:
How grateful we are, not just for the Atonement, but for the Atonement of Jesus Christ! What a marvelous thing to ponder in the coming week as we approach the Easter commemoration.