A month ago I had the opportunity to speak in sacrament. As talks usually go, it was more of a reminder and learning experience for me than anything else. I figure now is a good time to post it and add to my blog. As this year comes to a rapidly approaching end, it is difficult not to reflect on the past - and more specifically this past year. There will most definitely be more posts to come, but for now, let this suffice.
Sunday, November 11, 2012 - "The Atonement, and what it means in my life..."
" "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."
Earlier this week I received a phone call from Brother Cox asking if I would be willing to speak in sacrament meeting. I was told that the bishop "special requested" that I speak on the topic of "The Atonement, and what it means in my life". He kindly assured me that it only needed to be 7 minutes, give or take, but shortly after hanging up the phone my two thoughts were: 1) How do you speak on a topic as important as the Atonement in only 7 minutes and 2) The Atonement is such a personal and important part of my life, how do I even begin to explain to a congregation the meaning and impact it has had and continues to have on my life?
First of all, I do want to thank the bishop for the the opportunity to share my thoughts today and it is my prayer, although I'm sharing with you the influence the Atonement has had in my life, that I may be an instrument in the Lord's hands and deliver the message and say the words He would want me to.
I've thought all week about what I could say, or how to even begin to start to explain the meaning of the Atonement in my life. I searched general conference talks, personal letters that I've written, journal entries, scriptures, anything to help me summarize such a powerful part of my life. And through all of that research, there are a few thoughts and experiences that I'd like to share with you.
The first experience I would like to share is when I first realized how much I was in need of the Atonement. It was a probably a little over one year ago. My mom and I had spent the night out at a sporting event and she was taking me back to my house. We were headed south on the I-15 freeway, a drive I had made plenty of times. As you're driving, it is usually quite easy to look south east toward Draper and see my favorite temple standing on the hill - at night it is brightly shining and one of the most beautiful sites of the valley. Well, the two of us had been in conversation about how life was and I was thinking about my summer and things I had done while almost completely inactive from the church. Anyways, as we drove I looked toward the hill and couldn't see the temple. I looked and looked and there was a void on the hill - it was completely dark. I had made that drive too many times to just not know where to look, the temple was missing, at least from my site, and the only thought that came to mind was a simple quote, "You are never lost when you can see the temple." And it was at that moment that I realized just how lost I had become. This past conference Elder Boyd K Packer gave an incredible talk titled, "The Atonement", he said, "If you have made no mistakes, then you do not need the Atonement. if you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness. Jesus Christ is the light and the life of the world. As we fix our gaze on His teachings, we will be guided to the harbor of spiritual safety."
It was around this time that I met with our then, newly called, bishop. And boy did he have a project to start after, I think, one week of being called. I met with him week after week and was reminded each time that repentance is a process. (Which I didn't always like to hear). Elder Packer also included in his talk a quote by Joseph F Smith, "Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins. Men can stop sinning and can do right in the future, and so far as their acts are acceptable before the Lord become worthy of consideration. But who shall repair the wrongs they have done to themselves and to others, which it seems impossible for them to repair themselves? By the atonement of Jesus Christ the sins of the repentant shall be washed away; though they be crimson they shall be made white as wool. This is the promise given to you." Enos wrote of "[his] wrestle" with God "before [he] received a remission of [his] sins. (Enos 1:2-6) "And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, [Enos], knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away." It was through this wrestle, through this process, and through the Atonement, that I was able to eventually and at last become "at one" and find solace with my Savior.
In an email I had written to a dear friend of mine earlier this year, I titled the subject as, "The power of the atonement is real." I was able to share very personal experiences of just how I had instituted the Atonement in my life and the changes I had made. Part of my letter read, "Sometimes I wonder if people know the whole story, or if they can even begin to understand the changes I have gone through (both good and bad) and then I realize that it doesn't matter any more. What matters is what my Savior knows. It is a beautiful thing to me that the Atonement can cleanse someone so completely and that Christ will never hold those past things against you. We are "at one" with Him. I think sometimes we forget how merciful of a Father in Heaven and Brother that we have. He is our Father, and just like any earthly Father - desires only for us to be happy and will support us in worthy desires."
So, the Atonement and what it means in my life...to me the Atonement is not just a one time sacrifice and reparation that Jesus Christ made for me. It is something I am constantly in need of. It is an ongoing process of repentance and promises to do better and devote myself to becoming a disciple of Christ. The Atonement, to me, is a second chance to correct and better myself.
In closing, I share a similar testimony of the Atonement as President Uchtdorf. As he shared in this past conference, "It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes - if we have made choices that we now regret - there is the precious gift of Christ's Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent. The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and a determination to do better and especially to become better." Brothers and sisters, I do have a testimony, as well, that although we may make mistakes, find ourselves in the deepest depths of darkness, and find ourselves lost and in grief - there is hope. There has been an Atonement made for us and, most importantly, for our use. It is a gift and a blessing. A way that we can take an eraser to our past and find our way back to Him. I stand here today as a living breathing example of a change of heart. Not only a witness, but a personal testament to the reality of the Atonement. I can't thank my Heavenly Father enough for the daily strength to continue to press forward. Jesus Christ is my brother, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my rock. Of all the changes we make and go through, the Lord is constant -even if we are not. We are never alone, He is always there to lift us, guide us, strengthen us - and welcome us back into his loving arms and this gospel. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon, the truth it contains. For this restored gospel and for the knowledge we have of such an amazing gift of the Atonement. I'm grateful for a loving family that has continually supported and encouraged me through my personal conversion."
I leave this talk to all those that may read it as my testimony - sealed in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.