Several years ago, Tad R. Callister’s son and his friends lifted the cloth covering the sacrament table to discover that there was no bread. Searching through the preparation room, they couldn’t find any bread with which to administer the sacrament. They informed their bishop of the situation, who posed this question to the congregation: “How would it be if the sacrament table were empty today because there had been no Atonement of Jesus Christ?”
Brother Callister said, “If that were the case then Dante’s words inscribed on the gates of Hell would be tragically applicable to us all: ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ But fortunately, there is an Atonement and it does bring hope and peace and healing into all our lives.”
Brother Callister, Sunday School general president and author of the book The Infinite Atonement, spoke to LDS Business College students about the infinite power of the Atonement. The devotional was held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on March 24.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ was the suffering of the Savior and His triumph over four obstacles that prevented us from having happiness in this life and eternal joy in the life to come,” he said. The four obstacles are physical death, sin and its consequences, mortal weaknesses and imperfections, and the common ailments of life such as depression, rejection and loneliness.
Some may ask why the Atonement of Jesus Christ is necessary. Couldn’t God just forgive sin and weakness? The scriptures confirm that “a law of justice exists and no fallen man can be saved without the Atonement of Jesus Christ on one hand, and repentance on the other,” Brother Callister said. “They are inseparable partners in the saving process.”
First, Christ overcame death, “for all men through His resurrection,” Brother Callister said. “Paul confirmed this truth: ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Second, Christ overcame sin and guilt for those who repent. Brother Callister said, “If we humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our sins, confess them, make restitution where possible and turn away from those transgressions — in essence we do have a change of heart — then He will wash away our sins and make us totally clean.” Christ is able to do this because He paid the price for all sin by suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.
Sometimes, however, some members believe that their sins are too great for the Atonement to overcome them and help them. They have “innocently, but incorrectly, placed limits on the Savior’s redemptive powers,” Brother Callister said. Christ’s Atonement, however, is “an infinite Atonement because it encompasses and circumscribes every sin, every weakness, every addiction, every wrong and every finite frailty of man.”
When one repents, the memory and pain of the past sin can remain, acting as a spiritual “stop sign” of sorts, Brother Callister said. But the Lord has promised that those who repent will receive a fullness of joy. “Whatever our status in life,” Brother Callister said, “we can be comforted by the truth that God will ultimately judge us by what we become, not by what we were.”
The third consequence of the Atonement is that the Savior can help one overcome weaknesses and imperfections. “We all have weaknesses,” Brother Callister said. “There are some who have social inadequacies, or an addiction, or an abuse issue, or something else. But for every mortal inadequacy there is also a divine remedy.”
For instance, Moses felt inadequate as the Lord’s spokesman because he was slow of speech. The Lord responded in Exodus 4:11, “Who hath made man’s mouth?” Brother Callister said, “Could not God, who created all things, also correct, modify and perfect when necessary all His creations? The Atonement is the means of that correction and perfection.”
How exactly does the Atonement help men overcome their weaknesses? In answer to his question, Brother Callister quoted Moroni, “ ‘Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in him by the grace of God through the shedding of the blood of Christ.’ Somehow the grace of God, which is made possible through His Atonement, gives to us heavenly power, that helps us overcome our weaknesses and converts them into strengths.”
Fourth, the Atonement helps men overcome the common ailments of life. Christ accomplished this by descending below all things, “meaning He descended beneath and suffered the consequence, not only of every sin and weakness, but also of every disease, every rejection, every disappointment and every aliment of every soul who has ever lived,” Brother Callister said. This allows Him to empathize, heal and strengthen all men.