C.T.R. -- Choose the Right
The Power of the Atonement
During the preparation for this talk I went on a short beach trip with two of my best friends. One of my friend’s parents owns a beach house in Delaware where he and his family frequently visit. On the first day we were there we all decided to go down to the beach. As you probably could tell by the weather we’ve been having recently, the weather in Delaware wasn’t exactly Californian in any way shape or form. But, being macho men, we braved the waters of the cold Atlantic. As cold as the waters were, we were having the time of our lives. We realized that the more we got drenched in water, the more we were able to get used to the frigid cold. One of the things I also began to notice however was that, as we got deeper into the ocean, the colder it would get. Also the waves would get a little higher till finally they would come up to chest level causing us to shiver due to the freezing temperatures of the water. One thing I began to notice as well was that every time a wave hit, it would suck the sand from under our feet causing us to stumble occasionally. We eventually grew tired of freezing to death, and ventured along the boardwalk till we finally returned home later that evening.
In the most recent General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen said “More concerning than the prophesied earthquakes and wars are the spiritual whirlwinds that can uproot you from your spiritual foundations and land your spirit in places you never imagined possible, sometimes with your barely noticing that you have been moved. The worst whirlwinds are the temptations of the adversary. Sin has always been part of the world, but it has never been so accessible, insatiable, and acceptable. There is, of course, a powerful force that will subdue the whirlwinds of sin. It is called repentance.”
Repentance has never been easy, but the reward has always been more beneficial than the alternative. In Mosiah 27 of the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger states in verse 29: “My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” We learn from Alma as well as many of the other prophets, that true repentance, comes through forgiveness of Christ, who has the power to forgive since he atoned for the sins of the world through his sacrifice.
As a former Elders Quorum Teacher, my old bishopric, as well as some of the men I would teach asked me a lot of tough questions. I would have to constantly be preparing answers to things I didn’t know so well. When studying the Atonement of Christ, I read over some of the teachings of President Joseph Fielding Smith. From this knowledge, I understood a few things that I would like to share with you all. It is my hope that with this added knowledge, you will begin to be more appreciative of not only the power of the Atonement, but also our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness.
One of the many opinions of my non-member friends is that Adam’s transgression was a terrible thing and that if it had not happened, we would already have achieved eternal life by obeying Heavenly Father’s simple commandment of not partaking of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. While that is a good thought, we often forget that Heavenly Father gave unto them the commandment that they should multiply. Had Adam and Eve not partaken, they would have had no posterity, and the great commandment given to them by the Lord would not have been fulfilled.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said “It is most natural and just that he who commits the wrong should pay the penalty-meaning atone for his wrongdoing. Therefore, when Adam was the transgressor of the law, justice demanded that he, and none else, should answer for the sin and pay the penalty with his life. But Adam, in breaking the law, himself became subject to the curse, and being under the curse could not atone, or undo what he had done. Neither could his children, for they also were under the curse, and it required one who was not subject to the curse to atone for that original sin. Moreover, since we were all under the curse, we were also powerless to atone for our individual sins.” So essentially it had to take someone who was free from sin to atone for the sins of not just Adam, but for the world. It became necessary for Heavenly Father to send his Only Begotten Son, who was free from sin, to atone for the sins of the world as well as Adam’s transgression, which justice demanded should be done. By sacrificing himself, he redeemed us from the fall and from our sins, on condition of repentance.
The next point I want to make involves my first story and its meaning. To discover the need for repentance we need to first recognize the sin. The analogy to ocean waves to me was a perfect example. As I said in the beginning, the waters of the Atlantic were freezing the second we stuck our feet in. All three of us immediately decided to not go in for fear of catching hypothermia. However, the more we stuck our feet in and the deeper we got, the more used to the waters we became. However every time we went deeper, the same cold would hit another level of our bodies. As we got closer, the sand would also start to pull with the waves and sometimes we’d lose our balance. The adversary is a very strategic enemy, yet from the beginning we’ve learned that he is not stronger than our Heavenly Father. However he is stronger if we allow ourselves to be beaten by him. For most of us, when we first witness sin we are disgusted, appalled, and in most cases just avoid it all together. However the curious ones go in a little deeper and get used to it. Bad language, drinking, drugs, and other diseases start to become natural habits as you continue to get deeper. Until finally the strong foundation beneath your feet pulls away and the waves of sorrow and tribulation hit you like a ton of bricks. And the people on the shores behind you watch and hope you can stand up again. While the analogy is brutal the truth is real.
One of the things many people believe is that they are too far away from coming back so they continue down the path of sorrow. One of those people used to be me. About a year and a few months ago I was going through one of the hardest times of my life. For those of you who knew me then, you witnessed a good chunk of it. After finally having enough, I stopped going to church and I cut off contact with many good people. As I lived for the next few months in the basement of my uncle’s house, I realized I had hit my rock bottom. One night while getting into my bed I suddenly felt a wave of emotion come over me. I decided to do something I had not done in many many months. I prayed. To quote one of my friends, “It was like you were slapped in the face by God.” I felt a wave of emotion come unto me and I immediately figured out what was going on. In an ironic twist of events, my uncle and his son had just finished reading Mosiah 27, which is the conversion story of Alma the Younger. I immediately remembered verse 14 which reads: “And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.”
That day I started the repentance process, which brings up my previous point. Repentance is never easy. It is a constant battle with trying to do good, while fighting the urge to do evil. But while the adversary has many tactics and traps, we have access to many allies. Worthy priesthood holders have the ability to help protect us from the adversary through the might of the priesthood. But at the same time, we must be seeking for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father.
We must always remember that we have the ability to be forgiven and not suffer the pain of sin. We also should remember that through Christ’s atoning sacrifice we can be forgiven. The alternative is not that pretty. President Joseph Fielding Smith said “I wish we could impress this fact upon the minds of every member of this Church: His great suffering occurred before he ever went to the cross. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane, so the scriptures tell us, that blood oozed from every pore of his body; and in the extreme agony of his soul, he cried to his Father. O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Because we have the ability to be forgiven we have the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father and receive the greatest of all gifts, which is eternal life. I cannot stress enough however that as we continue on in this mortal life we will be constantly fought, despised, ridiculed, and mocked by others. We may be brought to believe that in our weakened state, we cannot hope to combat the adversary. However as many prophets have said, “…Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness. And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Brothers and sisters let us not allow ourselves to be overtaken by the sins of the world. I testify that if we stay strong, steadfast and immovable on a firm foundation, we can always combat the adversary. Let us always remember that because of the Atonement we can always be forgiven. As long as we are willing to do the work, Heavenly Father will continually bless our lives. I know that this is His plan of happiness and I am so grateful for the ability to teach the message of the restored gospel. I bear my testimony that this church is true and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
With my "brother" cousins at my house right before going to church
(Left to Right: Matthew Anderson, Me, and Michael Anderson)
(Left to right: Michael, Aunt Susan, Mark, Mom, Me, President Wheatley, Matthew -- Uncle Jeremiah kindly took our photo, but he was there, too!)
After Sacrament Meeting, we went to the Oakton Stake Center and met with President Wheatley, who set me apart to serve as a full-time missionary. It was amazing! I was so grateful to Aunt Susan and Uncle Jeremiah, Michael and Matthew for driving 8 hours just to come hear me speak in church and to be there when I was set apart. They had to turn around and drive all the way home afterwards. I love you guys!
This is the Missionary Map of all the missionaries serving around the globe from our stake. You can see how excited I am to point to MY mission--the Tennessee Nashville Mission!
Right outside President Wheatley's office is this amazing painting of two missionaries. That will be me very soon! I can't wait!