Elder Jeffrey R. Holland illustrated the significance of the Atonement with the story of two brothers named John, 19, and Jimmy, 14, who began a climb up a sheer canyon wall in southern Utah's Snow Canyon State Park without any climbing gear. At one point near the top of the climb, they reached a ledge that they couldn’t climb up or go back down. John managed to help his little brother up to safety, but remained stuck. In a last-ditch effort, he made a vertical jump, knowing that if he missed, he would not survive the fall. He jumped, but his hands slapped down on loose sand on a flat stone. John said his last prayer, felt his fingers begin to recede slowly and knew his life was over.
John said, “But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size.” His brother caught him and pulled him up to safety.
Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, mankind was born into an inevitable fallen state. However, the Atonement of Jesus Christ serves to save all men from the Fall, Elder Holland said in his Sunday morning general conference address.
“Today is Easter Sunday. [T]his is the most sacred day of the year for special remembrance of brotherly hands and determined arms that reached into the very abyss of death to save us from our fallings and our failings, from our sorrows and from our sins,” Elder Holland said.
Understanding the Fall of Adam and Eve is required to adequately comprehend the significance of the Atonement, Elder Holland explained. “Because we were then born into that fallen world and because we, too, would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced.”
This fallen state would leave all men without hope of immortality or eternal life. “What a plight!” Elder Holland said. “The entire human race in free fall — every man, woman and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish.”
However, Elder Holland said, a Savior was prepared to overcome the Fall through the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son. “That Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments.”
Elder Holland declared that Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior of the world who accomplished the Atonement. “So today we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced — to say nothing of resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins,” he said.
Of the Savior’s sacrifice, Elder Holland said, “That first Easter sequence of Atonement and Resurrection constitutes the most consequential moment, the most generous gift, the most excruciating pain, and the most majestic manifestation of pure love ever to be demonstrated in the history of this world.”