PROVO, Utah — At the Seminar for New Mission Presidents held at the Provo Missionary Training Center in 2000, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered an oft-cited address titled “Missionary Work and the Atonement.” Two decades later, the same apostle spoke in the same setting and revisited the same topics while tying together the Missionary Purpose and the doctrine of Christ.
“Your missionary message is that with a complete offering of His body, His blood and the anguish of His spirit, Christ atoned for the initial transgression of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and also paid the personal price for the accumulated sins of everyone else who would ever live in this world from Adam to the end of time,” Elder Holland said.
He later added: “Thus the Atonement of Christ, which makes that return to the Father possible, is rightfully seen as the central fact, the crucial foundation and the chief cornerstone of the great and eternal plan of salvation — “the doctrine of Christ, which you as missionaries are called to teach.”
Delivering a message titled “Your purpose and the doctrine of Christ,” Elder Holland spoke at the Provo MTC’s Sunday night devotional before 1,499 missionaries and 164 couples — new mission presidents and their companions who will be leaving for their respective fields of service following this week’s 2019 New Mission Leadership Seminar.
Also attending were President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency, all members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, other general authorities and general auxiliary presidency members and their spouses.
The devotional will be viewed by all currently serving mission presidents and their companions as well as at the other missionary training centers worldwide.
The doctrine of Christ is summarized best by “one of the most beautiful chapters of scripture,” said Elder Holland as he linked key phrases from 2 Nephi 31.
“I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ … The Father said: 'Repent ye, … and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.' … And … to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, … wherefore follow (have faith in) me … and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father: 'Ye shall have eternal life. … This is the doctrine of Christ.’” (2 Nephi 31:2, 11-12, 20-21)
The Atonement of Christ lies at the heart of the doctrine of Christ and is found in the middle of the Missionary Purpose, accompanied by the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. It reads in “Preach My Gospel”: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
Underscoring his role as a missionary previously and as an apostle currently in teaching the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Elder Holland noted that 56 years, eight months, two weeks, and six days have passed since his mission — "but who’s counting," he quipped — as well as 25 years to the date and location to his call to the apostleship by President Howard W. Hunter, also during a new mission presidents seminar.
He likened the evening devotional to a massive “zone conference” teaching moment, reviewing how the doctrine of Christ was first outlined by God the Father in a premortal council, with Jehovah and Michael — later Jesus Christ and Adam in mortality — active as the Father’s principal assistants. He also noted that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve realized that transgression would be necessary to get out of the garden and into mortality, with such a step being known as “the Fall of man.”
Elder Holland listed several of the key issues facing Adam and Eve — and essentially all mankind — before and after the Fall: one’s relationship with God, life and death, progression, and family. He then looked at each of the four both before and after the Fall as well as following the Atonement of Jesus Christ, underscoring if there were positive or negative impacts.
Before the Fall
- Relationship with God — in His presence and walking and talking with Him (a plus)
- Life and death — alive and with no death (a plus)
- Progression — none; see 2 Nephi 2:22 (a minus)
- Family — no possible family; see 2 Nephi 2:23 and Moses 5:10-11 (a minus)
After the Fall
- Relationship with God — out of His presence, or “spiritual death” (a minus)
- Life and death — physical death is introduced (a minus)
- Progression — able to progress (a plus)
- Family — able to have children (a plus)
“So, what do we do with this dilemma?” Elder Holland asked. “It’s half and half. We are divided against ourselves. We are in a muddle. Any way you look at it, we have a problem. What is the answer?”
The answer, he explained, is the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, with Adam’s first mission hopeless without a Savior, and Christ’s Atonement without purpose had there been no Fall — and all of this in concert and “under the Fatherhood of Elohim.”
With the Atonement of Jesus Christ
- Relationship with God — not only with God, but like God (a plus)
- Life and death — not only resurrected life, but eternal life (a plus)
- Progression — eternal, celestial and unending progress (a plus)
- Family — the return of our own family, plus eternal progeny (a plus)
The Atonement of Jesus Christ, if understood and honored, will carry not only those whom the missionaries teach but — even more important — the missionaries themselves, said Elder Holland.
“Remember that when you struggle on your mission, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon, and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best person this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have every reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and your afflictions, and that He came to turn every minus in your life into a plus.”
Elder Holland cautioned that missionaries sometimes become so preoccupied with the ordinance of baptism as their purpose that they may slide over effectively teaching the preliminary gospel principles that prepare for baptism as well as why baptism is absolutely essential.
“Elders and sisters, don’t treat lightly the principles of faith and repentance as essential steps to having belief take root in the heart of those you teach. Teach every step on the path of salvation or you may find your friends unprepared to take the big step of baptism.”
Baptism is not primarily for the purpose of joining the Church, he added, but rather comes after faith and repentance and allows one to focus on the Atonement and the opportunity of becoming clean again through baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Elder Holland concluded with a lengthy and powerful testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ — four pointed sentences starting off with “I testify,” two each with “I know” and “I bear witness” and an “I promise” before underscoring his apostolic witness.
“I testify that the living God is our Eternal Father, and that Jesus Christ is His living and Only Begotten Son in the flesh,” he said. “I testify that this Jesus, who was slain and hanged on a tree, was the chief Apostle then and is the chief Apostle now, the Great High Priest, the great chief cornerstone of His church in this last and greatest of all dispensations. I testify that He lives, that the whole triumph of the gospel is that He lives, and because He does, so will we.
“On that first Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene first thought she saw a gardener. Well, she did — the Gardener who cultivated Eden and who endured Gethsemane. The Gardener who gave us the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, the cedars of Lebanon, the tree of life.
“I declare Him to be the Savior of the world, the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, the Bright and Morning Star. I know that our garments can be washed white only in the blood of that Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. I know that we are lifted up unto life because He was lifted up unto death, that He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, and with His stripes we are healed. I bear witness that He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, that He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief because upon Him were laid the transgressions of us all.
“I bear witness that He came from God as a God to bind up the brokenhearted, to dry the tears from every eye, to proclaim liberty to the captive and open the prison doors to them that are bound,” Elder Holland concluded. “I promise that because of your faithful response to this mission call He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free forever. That all flows from the truthfulness of the doctrine of Christ. To teach that good news, to teach those glad tidings, is your missionary purpose and is my apostolic witness to you tonight. I testify of its truthfulness, of its divinity, in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Second Adam, amen.”