Thursday, August 8, 2013

President's Weekly Letter #45

The scriptures are full of teachings about the atonement of Jesus Christ; that great act, planned in the pre-existence, which allows us to overcome physical death and spiritual death.  Amulek taught eloquently in Alma Chapter 11 that Christ would come and redeem his people by taking upon himself the punishment for the sins of those who believe on his name and that all shall be raised from the temporal death.

Before the birth of Christ, the atonement was frequently prophesied.  Prophets taught the atonement would cleanse us of our sins and raise our physical body of flesh and bones from death.  For example: 

Isaiah said: “ 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5)

Nephi prophesied: “12 …the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 9:12)

However, a big part of the power of the atonement is sometimes overlooked.  Jesus Christ suffered the pains, sickness, anguish, regrets, temptations, etc. of mankind so that we can gain relief from these burdens when we take our inevitable turn to suffer with them.  This third gift of the atonement is taught throughout the scriptures but it often goes un-used because it is over looked, ignored, and misunderstood.  A few references to this part of the atonement are:

“18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” (Heb. 2:18)

“1 Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.” (DC 62:1)

“3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…
 4 ¶Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4)

Alma clearly taught this third component of the atonement, when teaching in verses 12 and 13 that Christ will blot out our sins and loose the bands of death.  In verses 11 and 12 he said:

“11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
 12 …and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11-12)

What this says is, the suffering of Jesus in Gethsemane and on the cross exceeded the combined suffering from infirmities of all human beings since the worlds were created.  Somehow he vicariously experienced all the temptations, grief, heartaches, sickness, physical pains, handicaps, emotional burdens, depressions, loneliness, unfairness, etc. of us and all the human family before us and after us.  He personally knows all these things and this suffering because he lived and suffered them in Gethsemane. 

These experiences of pain and suffering that come to all human beings at one point or another cannot just simply be whisked away by us or God.  The laws of this cause-and-effect world do not allow it.  The suffering is a consequence of something.  Through prayer, we can seek relief from burdens, above which we cannot bear.  The burdens do not simply disappear; they are transferred to Christ’s shoulders to bear.  Christ literally knows how to succor his people because he descended below all of us and experienced our infirmities.  This parallels our casting the punishment for sin on Christ’s shoulders through sincere repentance.

A few years ago an LDS author named Stephen Robinson wrote the book, Believing Christ.  One of the theses in the book is that many members of the Church of Jesus Christ “believe in Christ” as the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer.  But, they do not always “believe Christ”; what Christ says and promises. 

Christ says he will succor us and bear our burdens, temptations, and grief, but we often never ask in prayer to use that portion of the atonement but bear those burdens ourselves.  We ask for forgiveness of sin and hope for a glorious resurrection, but forget that through the power of the atonement he also has his hand outstretched and is offering to relieve us from life’s burdens that seem too heavy to bear.

In the Mission and in your life, you may struggle with temptation, sickness and other ailments.  I encourage you to believe Christ and put it to the test.  Ask for relief through the power of the atonement.  The Lord will bless you and answer your request as you strive to live his commandments because he stated:

29 For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings
shall be as a stumbling block before them.
 30 And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison.  (Mosiah 7:29-30)
President Robinson 

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