Episode 16

The Spirit of Holy Week

Applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ


First and foremost, faith is the power in all things. Christ is our perfect example, and faith is no less a part of that. He is a supreme example of faith. One of the things that I think is so miraculous is, that the Atonement was already active for us. Even primordially. Even when in the chronology of time it hadn’t been performed yet. That is what made agency, repentance, and spiritual resilience even possible for us before we came here. It was a virtual certainty by the merits of who Jehovah was. He was the first born of the Father, with all of the responsibilities and rights that we have learned the birthright son had and in accordance with the temporal and the priesthood roles that it was to be the first born son; to have responsibility for taking care of the family. His premortal example and character was such that we knew he would take care of our human family by making this ultimate sacrifice, performing the Atonement itself was an act of faith. I found this quote from C.S. Lewis that I had rarely thought about before, he is talking about how there had to have been a point when knowledge that this sacrifice had to be made was essentially withdrawn from the Savior. C.S. Lewis said, “It is clear that the knowledge of his death must have somehow been withdrawn from him before he prayed in Gethsemane. He could not, with whatever reservation about the Father’s will, have prayed that the cup might pass, and simultaneously known that it would not. That is both a logical and psychological impossibility. You see what this involves? Lest any trial incident to humanity should be lacking the torments of hope, of suspense, anxiety were at that moment loosed upon him. The supposed possibility that, after all, he might, he just conceivably might, be spared from the supreme horror. There was precedence. Isaac had been spared. He too, at the last moment. He also, against all apparent possibility, but for this last and erroneous hope against hope and the consequent tumult of the soul, the sweat of blood perhaps he would not have been very man to live in a fully predictable world is not to be man.” Lorenzo Snow said “It required all the power that he had and all the faith he could summon for him to accomplish that which the Father required of him.” I find it beautiful and important that Christ was not exempt from exercising his faith in his Father and in his Father’s plan, not to mention faith in himself. The same power that made the Atonement active premortally enabled Christ to fully perform the Atonement in mortality is the power that makes the Atonement now available to us. Merrill J Bateman said, “Faith in Christ is key to receiving access to a fullness of the Lord’s Atonement. Those who inherit the celestial Kingdom are those who receive the testimony of Jesus and believe on his name, enter into his covenants and keep his commandments. In contrast, those assigned to the terrestrial Kingdom, the honorable men and women of the earth receive not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh and are blinded by the craftiness of men. These good people are offered a witness of the truth but do not have the faith to receive it. Just as the Saviour exercised his faith in the Father and submitted his will to God in order to complete his mission so we will accomplish our earthly purposes through faith in them as well.” I love that last part, that this is the very same method that Christ used, that we will each have the opportunity given to also exercise our faith that we may gain the power made available to us through the Savior’s Atonement. 


The next one, obedience, is the price. I heard a phrase once that said, ‘God is God because He is perfectly obedient.’ And that has always resonated with me. I feel like it puts such a different perspective on the importance of faithfully and willingly submitting our will to God. I want to talk a little bit about Peter. So in Luke 22 we read, “Then they took him, the Savior, and led him and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled the fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, ‘This man was also with him.’ And Peter denied him, saying, ‘Woman, I know him not.’ And after a little while another saw him, and said, ‘Thou art also of them.’ And Peter said, ‘Man, I am not.’ And about the space of one hour, after another confidently affirmed scene of a truth, ‘This fellow also was with him, for he is a Galilean.’ And Peter said, ‘Man, I know not what thou sayest.’ And immediately while he yet spake the cock crew. And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ Then Peter went out and wept bitterly.” We often turn to this account, as an example, not of obedience, but of our collective fallenness, our human imperfection. The fact that Peter, who is such a valiant and passionate disciple of the Lord would turn away from him, perhaps in an effort to spare himself, as uncharacteristic as that seems. But I want to shed perhaps a different light on the scripture proceeding this, when the Lord was telling Peter about what was going to happen. This is Matthew 26. “Peter answered and said unto him, ‘Though all men shall be offended because of thee yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, ‘Verily I say unto thee, that this night before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ Peter said unto him, ‘Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.’ Likewise also said all these disciples.” When I was at BYU, I took a New Testament class and I loved my teacher. I think he spoke Hebrew and he spoke Greek and I think he read the scriptures in both,  he was just so magnanimous in his knowledge of the scriptures, especially with the New Testament. And one of the things that he told me is that the word that they used to translate when Jesus said, “This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice,” when Jesus said that word, ‘said’ it could be translated to have also correctly read, “Jesus commanded.” I want you to think about that and how that changes the meaning of this account. What if Peter, instead of denying the Savior in an effort to save himself, again so uncharacteristically. He was ready to go to war with Rome not twelve hours earlier, he had cut off a Roman soldier’s ear in defense of his Lord. What if, indeed, he was just being obedient, at great personal cost? His best friend, the person that he served and worshiped and followed, had to die. And what if, for a brief moment, he understood and submitted his will? It changes everything. It changes everything. And what was bought with the price of Peter’s obedience?  Well, what was bought was a prophet who was the ongoing establishment of the church.  Indeed, it was a continuation of the priesthood, both things that absolutely had to take place in order for the church to thrive and flourish preceding the Apostasy. I herald Peter. I believe he would have died for Christ. But in a moment that showed his maturity and his growth and his submission, he instead chose to follow the Lord. And that made all the difference.

So what are some of the blessings that we purchase with the price of our obedience? Brigham Young said “The difference between the righteous and the sinner, eternal life or death, happiness or misery, is this; to those who are exalted, there are no bounds or limits to their privileges.” Perhaps the greatest gift that I can think of with obedience is freedom. Freedom. From sin, from pain, eventually. Freedom to become who we were meant to be. And 2 Nephi 2:26, it says, “And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because we are redeemed from the fall, we have become free forever, knowing good from evil, to act for ourselves, and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day according to the commandments which God hath given.” I’m so grateful for the price that we’re able to pay because obedience is a sacrifice, and the Lord compensates for that with blessings that far outnumber whatever sacrifice we feel we have given. 


Next one, love is the motive. In Matthew 22, the Savior was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it, love thy neighbor as thyself.’” It made me think about how using the Atonement in our everyday lives shows love for God, love for our neighbor and love for ourselves.  When I think about showing love for God, I think about the best way to show gratitude for a gift that you’re given is to use it. When I was a young woman we had an experience up at girls camp. I had this experience with a particular girl who I knew, we had been in seminary together but we went to different high schools. We were in different wards. We didn’t know each other terribly well but she was having a really, really hard time at girls camp and. I felt impressed to take her aside and just talk to her. And it is one of the few moments in my life that I can look at and say that I was absolutely led by the spirit.  One of the things that I said to her was, and I didn’t know that this was true doctrine at the time, but what I said was that Christ would have performed the Atonement, endured the same agony, if it had just been for her. If it had just been for you. If it had just been for me, he would have done the exact same thing. What does that mean, then? Well, that means that in choosing to use this gift, we are choosing to tell him that we’re grateful. That it matters to us. That we’re not just going to leave an unopened gift of eternal magnitude sitting on the shelf. And in doing that, we show him that we love him. I think of the line from a popular song that said, in talking about the Atonement, asking the question how many drops of blood were spilled for me? Are we going to allow them to have been spilt for nothing? Should Chris’s pain and suffering and sacrifice be for not? No. The more we can use the Atonement, the more we make it matter for ourselves and for him.

 When it comes to loving our neighbor, I think about the gifts of the Atonement, such as forgiveness, repentance and healing. President Nelson shared a post Easter morning about forgiveness, which is enabled by the gift of the Atonement. I think that one of the most meaningful ways that we can show Christ-like love is to allow other people to have space to grow and make mistakes. And to repent and change. When we fail to forgive someone else what we’re really saying is that the Atonement can’t cover you. It can cover me, but what you did? Darn. It’s out of bounds. I’s been helpful for me, in my life, when I’ve had challenges and I’ve had to learn how to forgive other people, to look at it that way, to say, you know, am I really going to let my pride stand in the way of the Savior offering redemptive power to this person? Or healing power to me? So in giving space, I think we show love for our neighbors and then lastly, love for ourselves. We know that the worth of a single soul is great in the sight of God. And if that’s true, then the worth of our soul, we know, is great in the eyes of God. Choosing to allow the Atonement into our lives every day is one of the most eternally important and vital acts of self love that we can possibly conceive of.

All right, let’s talk about the spirit being the key. This ended up being a really great discussion in my Sunday School class because when I thought about it, I was thinking about the spirit and how the spirit is what leads us to repent, it’s what grants us remission of sins, it’s what encourages us to accept sacre ordinances such as baptism and priesthood power and temple covenants and it serves as the key to all of these things. But, in our Sunday School class, someone made a really interesting comment.  They asked if the spirit is the key, then what is the door?  And what are we trying to get to on the other side of the door?  And in answer to that, another person said, “Well, I think that the door is us.  We are the only thing that really stands between us and the other side of the door, which I would suggest is salvation and exaltation. That’s what we’re trying to get to, it’s the full realization of all of the blessings of the Atonement; eternal life and to be like God.  And the suggestion that we are the door, we are the agent that stands in the way, that needs to be unlocked by the power of the spirit to fully come to realize all of those blessings. That was just absolutely profound to me. I think it’s so true, the spirit, indeed, is the key to understanding how to get out of our own way, how to put off the natural man and become a saint.  How to be childlike, how to serve and see others the way that God would. The spirit serves all of these functions. The other thing that we talked about is how a key is really really useless if it’s just hanging on the wall.  We, acting as agents, have to take the key and turn the lock. We are the ones that invite the power of the spirit into our lives, on a daily basis, or not.  And the degree to which we do so is completely in our hands.  But when we do, my goodness! Think of the miracles. Think of the vast array of knowledge and truth and glory that lies before us if we can intentionally take that tool and use it each and every day.


And of course, last, and never least, Christ is the reason. He is everything.  He has always been everything. I love to think about the vision of the tree of life that Lehi and Nephi shared separately; how we know that the fruit of the tree of life represents the love of God, which can be defined as the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But, in addition to that, Christ is also the tree itself. And he is the path. And he is the rod. He is the way, the truth and the life.  He is the bread of life and the living water. He is light.  Indeed, Christ is our all and in all. As we strive to access the power of the Atonement in our daily lives, minute by minute, even, we do so because of him. We do so because he did this for us. Because he loves us. And he felt like we were individually worth the sacrifice.  We do it because he would do it again.  He showed us the path to eternal glory and goodness.  We take advantage of this gift not because we are worthy but because he wants us to be joint heirs with him.  I testify of this and I hope that this gives you some hope and some insight, some specific thoughts on what you can do to better invite the power of our Savior Jesus Christ into our lives every day because this is how we are going to do everything.  Hopefully it’s the way that we are doing everything now. But the work that needs to be accomplished in the days ahead, the challenges that we will face, the blessings that we will have the opportunity to partake of, it’s all because of this.  The sooner and the better that we can learn to invite this power into our lives, the better off we will be. I love all of you.  I hope you all had a wonderful Holy week and I pray that we all can take the spirit of Holy week into every week.
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“What laws governed the inheritance of birthright in the Old Testament?” by Daniel H. Ludlow

“Lessons from the Atonement” by Merrill J. Bateman

“Doctrine of the Firstborn and Old Begotten” by Rodney Turner

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