PROVO, Utah — Those who have partaken of the Atonement are under obligation to bear faithful testimony of our Lord and Savior to others, said Elder Neal A. Maxwell at a missionary satellite conference Aug. 29.
Elder Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, the concluding speaker at the conference, emphasized that the Atonement is the "central doctrine" of the Restoration and the "central act in all of human history."
"Let the spirit impel the message you give into the hearts and minds of people. . . . because the great things of eternity are being conveyed in some very brief teaching moments," he instructed.
He said that in teaching of the Atonement, "We must never underestimate the power of the Spirit to stir the souls of men beyond any teaching capacity or skills that we might have."
The conference, conducted by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, was held at a gathering of nearly 4,000 missionaries at the Missionary Training Center here. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder L. Aldin Porter of the Presidency of the Seventy also addressed the gathering.
The conference was held for full-time and stake missionaries, stake and ward leaders and members of stake and ward councils. Broadcast over the Church satellite network, the conference was received in the United States and Canada, the Caribbean, and many countries in Europe.
Elder Maxwell said that as missionaries and members teach others of the Atonement, "You're teaching a deep concept, but you should also be sharing a deep conviction about that powerful doctrine as well."
He said: "The most important thing you can do in preparing individuals to receive the full blessings of the Atonement is to understand it and to believe in it yourselves. By understanding and believing in the Atonement personally, you and I can teach and testify of the Atonement with greater gratitude, greater love and greater power."
Because all have sinned, "the need for repentance is universal, and mercifully, Christ's atonement fits sins of all sizes, whether the smaller sins of omission or the major transgressions."
Elder Maxwell said that the word "repentance" can denote a fresh view of God, self and the world, which means a change of life away from sin to be in alliance with God's commandments. Repentance then becomes a continual process in which each one of us needs "to draw on the Atonement for real relief, real forgiveness and real progress."
"Christ gave us freely an enormous and unconditional gift, the universal resurrection. However, Christ's proffer of the further gift of eternal life is conditional. As our lawgiver, He sets the terms for receiving this great gift. Therefore our individual progress toward eternal life requires us to be willing to submit to Christ. Then if we are truly faithful and endure to the end, our wills can finally be swallowed up in the will of the Father."
However, he said, "We must first give away all our sins. And who else, brothers and sisters, will take them anyway, except Jesus?"
He emphasized that forgiveness is correlated with steadfastness in bearing testimony to all the world. The cleansing effect of baptism is required.
After baptism, the Holy Ghost is given to "help us choose the right."
"Given where we must go, we need the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, not just as an occasional influence," he said.
Baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost constitute a process of emancipation and fortification, he said.
"This process of emancipation and fortification is made possible by applying Jesus' atonement to ourselves as well as those we teach and then regularly applying the Atonement for self-improvement and enduring to the end. If we choose the course of steady improvement, which is clearly the course of discipleship, we will become more righteous and can move from what may be initially a mere acknowledgement of Jesus on to admiration of Jesus and then on to adoration of Jesus and finally to emulation of Jesus."
In trying to be more like the Savior, "we turn from transgression and strive to become more loving, more meek, more patient, and more submissive. The remaining sins for most of us are the less visible sins of omission. However, brother and sisters, these, too, also must be given away."
Elder Maxwell encouraged members to seek gifts of the Spirit, such as faith and virtue and knowledge. He said that "in this process of discipleship we must never forget that the Atonement continues to be absolutely vital for all of us."
"As we strive to come unto Him, we come to see how He will then make our weaknesses better known to us, sometimes painfully, in order to help us to progress," explained Elder Maxwell. "Christ even promises us that He will make some weaknesses into strengths. As to our location, nation, time and circumstances in which our personal discipleship is placed, we should, as the scriptures say, be content with the things allotted to us. . . .
"Whether the needed attribute is being of good cheer, having patience, submissiveness, meekness or love, this process requires the steady help of the Holy Ghost. He will prompt us in order for us to repent further, such as when we are too proud, too impatient, or less loving than we should be, including in marriages and in missionary companionships. However, since such progress is not cost free, we also need the Holy Ghost to comfort us as we pay the price."
He said that contemplating the glorious Second Coming will also serve to further remind of the importance of developing the virtues and attributes of Christ.
At the Second Coming, "the mortal explanations and exclamations about Jesus will be words of praise for Him for two of His many attributes — His goodness and His loving kindness. Remember, we are not only to have faith in Christ, but we are to strive to become more like Him in our goodness and loving kindness.
"At that Second Coming, Jesus will not mention His having endured the crown of thorns, the awful scourging, the crucifixion, the vinegar and gall. He will, however, cite His awful aloneness. 'And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, . . . and none were with me.' (D&C 133:50.)
"No wonder the Atonement lies at the very heart of Christ's gospel."
Elder Maxwell said that "Jesus and His Atonement represent the most profound expression of Heavenly Father's love for His children. How important the free gift of the resurrection is for all mankind and the proffer of the greatest gift which even God can give, eternal life for those willing to so live and to so qualify. In this process, brother and sisters, in working out our salvation, adversity will provide part of the perspiration. Again and again for you and me, experience after experience, we will have cause to ponder upon and rejoice in the great Atonement."
This adversity, he said, suggests "customized challenges and tutoring, which will require from us a special submissiveness. Similarly, our knowing of Jesus' perfect empathy for us individually will help us greatly to endure our pains of various kinds."
He said that while some choose not to repent and thus experience despair, "The Atonement, instead can bring us a brightness of hope, even amid our losses, crosses, sorrows and disappointments."
Concluding, Elder Maxwell testified, "I praise Jesus for enduring what He endured and for descending below all things in order to comprehend all things. I praise the Father for all that He experienced as He watched His Firstborn, His beloved, and His Only Begotten suffer all that Jesus suffered, watching the suffering of Him with whom He was well pleased. . . .
"I testify to you that Jesus' grip on Himself in that atoning access between Gethsemane and Calvary — that His grip was really mankind's grip on immortality. Jesus finished His preparations, as He said, unto the children of men. Now it remains for us as mortals to claim the blessings of the great Atonement.
"Our gratitude for Christ and His atonement will grow with the years and the decades. It will never cease growing, and the scriptures foretell that we will praise Him for ever and ever. I so praise Him on this occasion for the glorious and great Atonement and ask Him to bless all of us that we personally and in our ministries will help people claim the blessings of that great Atonement, won at so great a cost, for there was no other good enough to pay the price."