|Alabaster Box by J Kirk Richards|
A good friend (in every sense of the phrase) asked me for suggestions to help her study the Atonement of Christ in the Book of Mormon, something we were encouraged to do by Elder Bednar.
Here are my initial suggestions:
Studying the Atonement in the Book of Mormon
1. Look for what Christ DOES: notice the VERBS – then copy those actions in your life Alma 7:11-12
2. Look for what Christ OFFERS: look for covenants and the BLESSINGS promised for obedience 1Nephi 2:20
3. Look for mentions of rituals, gatherings and/or ordinances. Pay particular attention to symbolic actions. Ask what we can learn about Christ and the Atonement by looking deeply into symbols and metaphors. 2 Nephi 25:26, 1 Nephi 2:7, (see quote below from Elder Bednar, October 2014 gen conf.)
4. Look for the OPPOSITES of each of the first three suggestions: remember, the opposites are, by definition, ANTI-CHRIST 1 – SIN
2 – CURSES
3 – PRIESTCRAFT
Recognizing opposites of truth helps us better understand the boundaries of goodness.
Bednar quote: “And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
“And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also” (1 Nephi 8:11–12; emphasis added).
Bednar cont. : The greatest manifestation of God’s love for His children is the mortal ministry, atoning sacrifice, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fruit on the tree can be considered a symbol for the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.
Bednar cont. : Lehi’s instant response to partaking of the fruit of the tree and experiencing great joy was an increased desire to share with and serve his family. Thus, as he turned to Christ, he also turned outward in love and service.
Another important episode in the Book of Mormon describes what happened to a man named Enos after his earnest and pleading prayer was heard and answered by God.
“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.
“And I said: Lord, how is it done?
“And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. … Wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
“Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (Enos 1:4–9; emphasis added).
As Enos turned to the Lord “with full purpose of heart” (2 Nephi 31:13), his concern for the welfare of his family, friends, and associates increased simultaneously.
The enduring lesson we learn from these two episodes is the importance of experiencing in our personal lives the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ as a prerequisite to heartfelt and authentic service that stretches far beyond merely “going through the motions.” Much like Lehi, Enos, and our little boy in the story I recounted, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have felt the anguish associated with spiritual uncertainty and sin. We also have experienced the cleansing, the peace of conscience, the spiritual healing and renewal, and the guidance that are obtained only by learning and living the principles of the Savior’s gospel.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ provides the cleanser necessary to be made pure and clean, the soothing salve to heal spiritual wounds and remove guilt, and the protection that enables us to be faithful in times both good and bad. Elder Bednar, October 2014 gen conf.
An essay by Robert Millet on the Atonement of Christ published by FARMS in 1995
And here are some scriptures to start with, compliled here by Rachel Bruner
An Infinite and Eternal Sacrifice
"And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
"For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; 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.
"For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice." (Alma 34:8-10)
Justice and Mercy
"But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
"But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and 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.
"For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved." (Alma 42:22-24)
A Sacrifice for Sin
"And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified...
"Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
"Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered." (2 Nephi 2:5-7)
Redeemed From the Fall
"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
"And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves 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.
"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." (2 Nephi 2:25-27)
ALL THE PAINTINGS IN THIS POST ARE FROM J KIRK RICHARDS, by his permission.
Go check out all his awesome work on his website: www.jkirkrichards.com