Amulek taught the Zoramites:"For according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made." (Alma 34:9)
Alma taught his son Corianton, "The atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice." (Alma 42:23)
Because each of us has sinned all of us have become unclean and therefore unworthy to live to where God dwells. But, because of the atonement of Christ it is now possible for our sins to be erased as though they had never happened. Thus, it has often been said that when we sin we can apply the atonement of Christ in our life to overcome the effects of those sins. We can think of the phrase "applying the atonement of Christ" in much the same way we think of applying a band aid or ointment to a wound. Properly applied, these items aid in the healing of the wound.
In the same way, when we properly apply the atonement of Christ in our life, it helps salve and heal our wounded spirit. When guilt troubles our mind because of a sin we've committed and feel as though what we've done is so bad that God couldn't possibly forgive us, we need to remember that Christ's death on the cross is able to take away any sin we've committed, if we properly repent of it. On the other hand, if we do not properly repent that's like leaving a wound exposed to dirt and infection or using a small band aid to cover a large gaping wound that needs numerous stitches.
The atonement of Christ can also be applied when death takes a love one from us. Death is nothing more than the separation of the spirit from the body, but, if it wasn't for the atonement of Christ, this condition would be permanent. However, because Christ rose from the grave, He has made it possible for all men everywhere to come forth in the resurrection, reunited with their body forever more.
Thus, when we feel a deep sense of sorrow, grief, and anguish because of the lose of a loved one, especially if they are a young child, we can apply the atonement of Christ in our life by taking comfort in knowing that because of what Christ did on the cross we will someday be able to be with our departed loved ones forever after the resurrection. In situations like this, as we remember the atonement of Christ it can be like a soothing ointment that can bring comfort to our grieving spirit and help in the healing of our broken heart.
However, it has also been said that the atonement of Christ can be applied in our life when we go through such troubles as a serious illness, the loss of a job, relationship problems, or being treated unjustly. But how can the knowledge of the atonement help take away or at least ease the pain of these problems? In other words, how can the knowledge that Christ died to take away our sins and freed us from the effects of death help us with issues that have nothing to do with sin or death?
The answer is found in understanding the broader scope of the plan of salvation.
Before the earth was ever created we lived in heaven with our Father. Then, one day, He presented us with a plan that would allow us to become an exalted being just as He was. At first, we shouted for joy, that is until we heard the rest of the story.
The plan also called for us to become separated from our Father and to be tested. Those who did not pass the test would not have the opportunity to return to live in the celestial world where we then were. In addition to that, we were also told that this testing would not be easy. Once on earth we would experience hunger and thirst, cold and heat, sickness and pain. Back then we had no real concept of what that meant but I'm sure it didn't sound like a lot of fun. We would also experience evil in all of its many forms, including bitterness, jealousy, anger, hatred, and murderous rage. I'm sure that really didn't sound very exciting or appealing to us either.
It was because of all of these unpleasant aspects of the plan that lead Lucifer to offer a much easier and less painful way to become exalted. In fact, one third of our Father's children accepted his alternate plan and when our Father rejected it, a war in heaven broke out. And yet, despite all of this, two-thirds of our Father's children did agree to leave our comfortable heavenly realm and come to earth to experience a hard and trying life. And there was a very good reason why we did that.
After God created the earth He planted a garden and then, after putting the first man and woman there, He told them that they could eat of every fruit of the garden except one - the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In time, they did eat of that fruit, and when they did "the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." (Genesis 3:22)
One of the things we must do in order to become like God is to gain knowledge of both good and evil. But, the only way we can do that is to experience evil first hand. It is by coming face to face with evil, feeling its seductive power and personally seeing the consequences that results from doing both good and evil that we come to know and understand why we should choose one over the other. However, knowledge alone is not enough. To more fully become like God we must also gain the skill to resist evil in all of its many forms and learn how to always choose to do good, even when in the presence of evil.
Jesus taught, "And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same." (Luke 6:33) In the same way, if we do good when there is no temptation to do evil, what benefit is there to that? Even sinners can do good under such circumstances. But to be like God, we need to learn how to do good even when it seems more convenient to do just the opposite.
Therefore, one of the main reasons why God created this earth was so we could live in an environment that allowed us the opportunity to learn about both good and evil. That is why God allows sin to exist in the world.
The Lord explained to Joseph Smith, "if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7)
And part of the experiences that are necessary for our good involves becoming acquainted with sickness, pain, suffering, heartache, disappointments, and frustrations. No matter who we are, everyone has problems in their life. No one is immune from them. Even Jesus experienced sorrow, disappointment, hunger and thirst. He experienced the loss of loved ones, He was falsely accused, misunderstood, mistreated, reviled against, and even had a close friend betray him.
It is from these many and varied experiences that we gain the knowledge of good and evil and learn from experience the painful consequences of our own wrong choices. However, knowledge alone doesn't give us the skill necessary to do what is right. The apostle Paul understood this on a personal level. He wrote, "For I fail to practice the good deeds [that] I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing." (Romans7:19, Amplified Bible). As with many other things, we often learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes, therefore, life on earth is meant to give us ample opportunities to practice and learn how to do good.
Many times people wonder (and often complain about) why God doesn't step in and prevent evil from happening to us. The answer is, if He did He would rob us of the opportunity to learn how to choose good over evil. When bad things happen in our life, it is all too easy to complain and become bitter. For example, when someone has hurt us or has taken advantage of us, our natural reaction is to take revenge or express anger at them. In times like that it is not easy to follow the counsel of the Lord to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39) nor is it easy to be "kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another." (Ephsians 4:22).
But if God were to prevent us from having any kind of bad experiences then He would also be preventing us from learning how to do good under trying circumstances. And if we could not learn to do that then we could not hope to someday become like God because we would not have learned how to do something God can do. This is why the Lord told Joseph Smith that having all kinds of unpleasant experiences was actually good for him. And the same is true for us because without such experiences we could not grow in godly knowledge, wisdom, or skill.
However, there is also a very negative side to all of this. If it is true that we learn from our mistakes, then it is equally true that we have to make mistakes in order to learn. But the very first time we make a mistake in judgment and choose to do evil instead of good, at that instant we have become unclean and therefore unfit to live in heaven. At that point, we have cut ourselves off from God and have become separated from Him for all eternity. This is what happened to Satan and his angels. In that case, instead of becoming like God, we become like Satan. Jacob explained this principle to his people when he said, "And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself." (2 Nephi 9:9)
It is true that any kind of experience gives us knowledge but that knowledge does us no good if we cannot use it. If we were cut off from God forever then we could never become like Him. In that case learning what God knows and being able to do what God can do is of no value to us. And if that were to happen then all the pain, misery, and afflictions we experience in this life would have no purpose to it. It is merely suffering for the sake of suffering.
It is only because of the atonement of Christ that we have any hope of benefiting from our unpleasant experiences. It is only because of the atonement of Christ that gives meaning to our suffering. It is only because of the atonement of Christ that, despite our momentary problems, no matter how great they may be, we have the assurance of achieving a better life. If we focus on the here and now, then the problems of life can be hard to bear, but because of the atonement of Christ, we can say with Paul, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities." (2 Corinthians 12:9) That is why James wrote, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4)
The apostle Paul instructed us to "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) However, without the atonement of Christ, overcoming evil would be of no benefit to us. It is precisely because of the atonement of Christ that we can take comfort in knowing that "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7) "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." (Revelation 2:11) "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life." (Revelation 3:5) "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and will I grant to sit with me in my throne." (Revelation 3:22,21)
Because of the atonement of Christ, when bad things happen in our life, instead of asking, "Why is God doing this to me?" we can ask "What is God trying to teach me? What can I learn from this that will help me become more like God? What is the godly way to handle this situation?"
Therefore, when hard times come upon us we can apply the atonement of Christ in our life by remembering that it was because of what He did for us on the cross that our sufferings have a purpose to them and are for our good. It was the Lord who counseled us to "Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days." (D&C 24:8)
However, many times that is a lot easier said than done. Because we are human and can become spiritually weak now and then we don't always overcome evil with good. In our frustration, disappointment, or pain sometimes we allow ourselves to be overcome by evil. Yet, even when that happens, because of the atonement of Christ, we have the opportunity to repent and have our mistakes wiped away as though they never happened.
Because Christ died for our sins and made it possible for us to rise from the grave, there is no experience in life that cannot be made easier to endure if we learn how to properly apply the atonement of Christ.
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