President's Pen 8-24-15 (Applying the Atonement)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Elders & Sisters, we love you, we look forward to another great week in Texas Houston South.  What a blessing it is to serve with and for you!  Remember that school is in session starting tomorrow, be safe on the roads!

I thought I’d take a different approach in my email this week based on a question that manymissionaries have asked me over the last few weeks… How do I apply the Atonement and how do I feel it working for me?  While my email won’t address every possible answer to this central and important message we teach, I thought I’d share what has come to me personally as I respond… 

For many the Atonement centers on the suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Savior.  We recognize that Gethsemane is where the Savior endured our sins and pains, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. We also know that the Savior was crucified and then raised on Easter Sunday so that all might be resurrected.   These are important doctrinal points that save us from physical death, as well as both spiritual deaths, separation from God and sin (if we repent).   This might be described as what we know and understand in our minds, but how does it translate to our hearts?

As many of you have asked me, “How do I apply the Atonement and how do I feel it?”,  I’ve pondered the same questions to understand how I apply it to myself and how I personally feel it.  I've tried to simplify it in my mind recognizing that the depth, breadth, scope, and infinite nature of the Atonement is so far reaching that it can be one of the reasons why its personal application can feel distant at times.  I've come to know that I can apply and feel it as I consider the following…

I first apply the Atonement by having a desire, hope, belief, and faith that the Savior is real, that He lived, and that He lives again.  If I don't believe He is or was the Son of God, then trying to apply his sacrifice becomes hollow.  I truly have to have enough faith that He lives and exists.  This is something ultimately that has to come spiritually, not through temporal evidence or physical proof.  I love the passage of scripture where the Savior asks the apostles a question about who he was… "When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."  Here's what I love… Peter had walked, talked, taught, and saw all of the miracles Jesus performed, but it wasn't the physical presence that told Peter that he was the Christ, it was a spiritual witness from the Father.  The same has to be true for me, I need to believe and pray for a spiritual witness or I can't apply the Atonement.  How do I feel as I apply the Atonement through faith in the Savior; hopeful.  I hope, I don’t despair, I believe he will save and redeem me and I know He lives. 

My faith in the Savior allows me to believe in the resurrection.  The most simple way I apply the Atonement is when I experience death of loved ones.  I either have hope and belief that I will see them again as resurrected beings, or that life comes to an end.  I apply the Atonement by believing the resurrection will come to all and most importantly to those I love.  How do I feel as I apply the Atonement's power of overcoming physical death; total peace.  I feel peace that I'll live again and that all around me will be blessed to do the same. 

Once I have sufficient faith that Jesus is the Savior, then I can begin to apply the Atonement through repentance.  Faith leads me to repentance, as I now believe that I'll receive a remission of sins as I ask for forgiveness.  When I recognize that I have sinned, I apply the Atonement, when I feel sorrow, preferably Godly sorrow, I apply the Atonement, when I try to make restitution, I apply the Atonement, when I confess, I apply the Atonement, when I forsake sin, I apply the Atonement.   Repentance is a remarkable and powerful way to apply the Atonement every day.  How do I feel as I apply the Atonement through repentance; clean.  Not perfect, but clean.  My burdens are lifted, my conscious is clear, I am made to feel new.   

As I repent I'm then able to make covenants like baptism and those made in the temple.   If I apply the Atonement, I make covenants and strive to keep them, in a word, I ACT.  I apply the Atonement every week when I partake of the sacrament by promising to remember the Savior, take upon me His name, and keep His commandments.  The sacrament then cleanses and renews me as I recommit each week to be better.  I apply the Atonement as I keep covenants to obey God, sacrifice, live the laws of the gospel, remain chaste, and consecrate all that the Lord has given me.  Covenants inspire me to act, serve, bless, and commit to loving God.  How do I feel as I apply the Atonement through covenants; faithful.  Faithfulness keeps me loyal, constant, and steadfast. I want to feel that I'm doing well, covenants give me that assurance as I keep them.

Covenant keeping allows me to feel the Spirit.  When I apply the Atonement I desire to have the Spirit with me.  The Spirit then guides me, comforts me, teaches me, and brings the Savior to my remembrance.  The Spirit helps me remember to apply the Atonement as I listen to His still, small voice, keep covenants, repent, and have faith.  Feeling the Spirt takes work, it doesn't always come easy and many times I believe God needs us to wrestle, this is when I rely and apply the atonement when I feel like I'm on my own. How do I feel as I apply the Atonement using the Gift of the Holy Ghost; close to God.  Like Peter, it's the only way I come to learn that He exists.  Some days I feel it as peace and light, other days as joy and goodness, some days I wrestle.  The Spirit testifies to me that the Atonement is real, it's ultimately how I know it was for me and that I can apply it. 

I most effectively apply the Atonement when I combine faith, repentance, baptism (covenants), and the Holy Ghost as I endure.  Enduring life requires the Atonement, it's what allows us to get out of bed every day and breathe.  Applying the Atonement enables me, empowers me, causes me to think and act beyond the natural man.  I apply the Atonement by simply choosing to serve God instead of man.  I fall short, but the Atonement keeps giving me hope.  How do I feel as I apply the Atonement as I endure; motivated.  I need motivation to stay on the path and hold onto the iron rod.  Life is a test, it's not easy, and we have to work at it every day, but the Atonement at times is all I can rely on and that's when I see God's hand manifested in my life.  

As I have reviewed my thoughts on how I apply and feel the Atonement, I am amazed to find them directly tied to the truths taught in the Doctrine of Christ; faith in the Savior, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  This doctrine is not only plain and precious, it is the perfect path for me to apply and feel the Atonement.  The beauty in this doctrine is it is not only our purpose, but it is the only way back to the Father.  We are blessed to find, teach, and invite all to come unto Christ and help them apply and feel it in their lives.  

The greatest blessing of coming to appreciate the Atonement is the recognition that His grace will be sufficient for me.  Justice will be satisfied, mercy will be extended, but His grace will ultimately save and redeem me.  I have come to know that as I apply the Atonement it literally changes my heart.  The people of King Benjamin felt this change of heart so powerfully that they no longer had a disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.  I am striving to get to this point. 

How are you applying and feeling the Atonement in your life? My prayer for each of you is that you will not only seek to understand, but you'll personalize how you apply and feel it.  I encourage you to do what I have done, write down what you know, and then ponder how you're applying and what you're feeling.  Include in your study other doctrinal points such as: forgiveness and obedience, not to mention all the scriptures that help us more fully understand the doctrine.  I testify that the Savior lives, the Atonement is personal, and that you can apply and feel it.  We love you!

I encourage you to print and read this great talk from Elder Holland, Missionary Work & The Atonement — Read the last section if you don't have time to read the entire talk. 

Weekly Mission Update

We have had 25 souls enter the waters of baptism this month to receive a remission of their sins.  What a blessing we each have to see our brothers and sisters make these sacred covenants.  Are you striving and planning to achieve the Standards of Excellence each week?   Keep in mind why we have them, to bring souls unto Christ.  Do the best you can each and every day, doubt not, fear not, the Lord is with us!

Saludos y abrazos, have a great week!

President Hall