Brothers and sisters, my letter is “A” to represent the word all, as in all of mankind, who is the recipient of the blessings of the Atonement. So in my few minutes I have three points. The first point is that we know beyond any doubt, on scriptural authority, that people in the Book of Mormon, like Enos, were forgiven of their sins. Enos with the phrase, “Wherefore, my guilt was swept away.”(Enos 1:6) Benjamin’s subjects in Mosiah 4 asked to “apply the atoning blood of Christ” (Mosiah 4:2), and they received a remission of their sins, and they experienced peace of conscience (see Mosiah 4:3).
Those are spectacular examples of the power of the Atonement, but if you look at the date on the bottom of your page, it’s more spectacular when you realize that Enos was a half a millennia before Christ, and Benjamin’s subjects were about 90 years before Jesus was even born. So insight number one: the effects of the Atonement were efficacious before He even came to earth. Perhaps a great insight in how we can define the Atonement as infinite.
The second insight comes in what’s now Alma 39–42, Alma talking to his son Corianton. In the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, this is a single chapter. And if you read it as a single block of text, it’s a little more easy to decipher this evolving relationship between father and son, prophet and sinner, as the dynamic begins to morph and evolve, where all of a sudden you see at least three times words like, “Son, I perceive that thy mind is worried” (see Alma 40:1; 41:1, 42:1) And as that happened, the third time Alma says, “I perceive that thy mind is worried, and that you think it’s an injustice for God to punish the sinner” (see Alma 42:1). It’s like Corianton is saying, “Dad, my buddies aren’t that bad, and God is going to banish them to eternal torment for just being boys?” It’s something that’s really bothering him.
So this perspicacious father/prophet starts to lay out the plan of salvation and teaches so clearly about the Fall and how difficult it is to appease the demands of justice. God Himself, were He to appease the demands of justice in an inappropriate way, would cease to be God, says the textSo having laid that out, Alma then says this: “Son, therefore, God himself will come down and atone for the sins of the world” (see Alma 42:15). Do you see what he is saying? “Son, the only person who shouldn’t suffer, this perfect, sinless individual, is the one who will suffer—for you and for me. And you’re saying He’s not fair? Son, you need to rethink this really quickly.” And so he lays that out. So there’s some remarkable irony with Corianton, with his father Alma. A few chapters later there is a really heart-fulfilling phrase where it says Corianton, along with several others, were labeled as men of God. So apparently, his father’s efforts paid off.
Finally, there is a psalm from which I’m going to apply a verse to the Savior as I conclude. The reason I do this is because the chapter heading says it is a messianic psalm—in other words, a psalm about the Messiah, Jesus. And two different verses, phrases right out of the New Testament, were quoted in the New Testament, so I know that they applied to the Savior Jesus. And so the psalmist says things like this, if you look at the Atonement. He says:
“They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head” (Psalm 69:4). And boy, if anyone was ever hated without a cause, it would have been Jesus. And so, brothers and sisters, as we look at one sad comment, from our perspective at least: this one perfect, sinless person, the one person who shouldn’t suffer, is the one who did suffer. It says, “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none” (Psalm 69:20).
Jesus has trodden the wine press alone. It had to be. And I know that’s true. I know the truths that I’ve reviewed very quickly are true because they come from the scriptures. And I testify that they are true in the sacred name of God’s Holy Child, Jesus Christ, amen.
I have the letter “T,” and I have two words. The first one that I would like to talk about for a few minutes is the word time. I think that the Savior is a great example of someone taking time to care for those who are less fortunate, who are in great need. I’m grateful that the Savior took the time to volunteer to come and to accomplish the great Atonement. I’m grateful that the Savior took the time, as shown in the New Testament, when He blessed the lives of thousands of people by healing them, both spiritually and physically. I’m grateful that the Savior takes the time to know each of us, that each one of us is important in the Lord’s plan, that we have a mission to fulfill, and that He is there to help us. I’m grateful that He offered each of us the time, as stated in the Book of Mormon, that we have time to repent: “Now is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (see Alma 34:32). And because of the Savior’s great sacrifice, we now have a time where we can change our lives and become better people, that we can improve each day and that we can overcome our personal weaknesses.
The other word that I’d like to talk about for just a second is the word treasure. In the New Testament, the Lord says that where your treasure is, is where your heart is (see Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). I hope that each one of us has the treasure of the Atonement in our heart, that each one of us might take the time to repent and improve, and make that sacred treasure effective in our life every day. I testify of the Savior’s reality, that He is our Elder Brother, that He lives. And I am so grateful for Him and His time, and I hope that each one of us will make Him our treasure. And I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
My letter is “O”, so the word I would like to introduce is no. I’m dyslexic. The other word I would like to introduce is also know. This may be a good Tweet. I’ll quote it at the beginning; I will end with it. “No Christ, no joy. Know Christ, know joy.” Elder Richard G. Scott once made this comment: “Now, the most important principle I can share [with you is this]: Anchor your life in Jesus Christ, your Redeemer. . . . [Make this] the most important priority in your life—more important than life itself, more important than a beloved companion or children or anyone on earth” (“The Power of Correct Principles,” Apr. 1993 General Conference). That’s pretty powerful.
President Howard W. Hunter said it this way: “Please remember this one thing. If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel”—his atoning sacrifice—”nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can be permanently right” (“Fear Not, Little Flock,” BYU Devotional, March 14, 1989).
President Hunter also said this, and then I will close the same way I began: “We must know Christ better than we know him; we must remember him more often than we remember Him” (“What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?” Apr. 1994 General Conference). That’s Howard W. Hunter. And then, our introduction: “No Christ, no joy. Know Christ, know joy.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Good morning, brothers and sisters. It’s a privilege for me to be here. I’m the newest member of the faculty—this is my third semester at LDS Business College, and I absolutely love it. I love these dear brothers and sisters that I get an opportunity to rub shoulders with, and work with, and learn from. If you can’t tell, I’m the youngest on the faculty. Despite Brother Meredith’s birthday, he’s still got me by a few years. It’s such a privilege to work with them, and I love them. And I want you to know that I love you. Before I even get to my letter, I just want to share that. And I want to bear witness that the reason I can love them and love you is because of the Atonement. Because as I invite Jesus into my heart, love is an automatic by-product that just naturally comes out as we associate with others, even if we come to know their faults and weaknesses. And I would submit to you that that’s one of the great blessings of the Atonement—that we can love others deeper because we know their faults and weaknesses.
My letter is “N”, and as I’ve thought about this, there are lots of routes that one could go, but two students in particular have jumped to my mind that have reminded me of what “N” could mean with regard to the Atonement. I’m not sure if they are here. Is Lexie Walker here? Does anybody see her? Is Sophia here? Okay, I’m going to share about these two students.
First of all, Lexie said this: “I absolutely love the Book of Mormon. It has changed my life drastically. I have not missed a day of reading since I was in ninth grade, and I firmly believe it was a huge part of my high school experience. There can be a lot of trouble that happens in high school, and I know that from reading every day, it helped me stay closer to my Heavenly Father and make righteous choices that have made my life happy. I’m not a scholar in the Book of Mormon, but I always realize the spirit that it makes me feel, and I’m so grateful for it in the latter days.”
I asked Lexie how old she is now, and she’s twenty, so for about six straight years she’s never missed a day of scripture study. That’s remarkable to me. She even admitted in class that she reads it even on days that she’s sick, and perhaps that’s a great reminder that those are the days, perhaps, when we need to read the most, to draw comfort and peace from. Thank you, Lexie, for your example to each of us to not forget, to never—there’s my letter—to never miss a day of scripture study. Why? Because the scriptures bear witness of Christ and His Atonement.
Jesus is mentioned on average every 1.7 verses in the Book of Mormon. As we daily sup from the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, we come closer to our Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, and we access the Atonement and the power of the Atonement in our lives.
Just briefly, also, I share this from Sophia—and I’m not sure that I’m pronouncing her last name correctly—it’s Irmalinco. Sophia is in one of my classes. Sophia joined the Church nine months ago. She is from St. Petersburg, Russia, and she has a light about her, as all of you do, because she loves the gospel of Jesus Christ. She said this:
“I found out about the Book of Mormon one year ago. My family doesn’t belong to any religion, so it was hard for me at the beginning to understand what it was about since I’d never read anything like it. To be honest with you, I didn’t want to read because I wasn’t sure if I even believed in God.
“I remember the day when elders came to my house. They wanted to meet with my roommate, but she wasn’t home. I felt really bad that they came all that way to our house just for nothing.” Many of you wish you had Sophias to answer the door in your mission experience. “So I agreed to listen to what they were going to teach. At the end of the lesson, we decided to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon. I would be lying if I said that I felt the Spirit right away. I just started reading it as a regular book. However, after reading it a little each day, I noticed that I felt good. Even if nothing special happened during the day, I still felt peace. Right now, the Book of Mormon has a huge impact on my life. I know for sure that when I feel really bad or something bothers me, I can always open the book, pray, and feel better.
“When I read, I have a better understanding of my purpose here on earth. I feel like it brings me closer to God. This book answered many of my questions—things I needed to change about me, how to deal with certain situations in my life, how to become a better person, and many others. Every page of the Book of Mormon is a testimony of Jesus Christ. It shows me God’s love for all of us. Every single item I read, I learn something new—for example, how to trust the Lord, and how to live in harmony with myself and others. I’m happy, and I know that the Savior is there and He loves me.”
I’m reminded of this reference from the book of 2 Nephi chapter 4 that I’ll close with: “And upon these”—Nephi speaking—“I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and profit of my children” (verse 15). And for all of us, brothers and sisters.
I simply leave you with this question: do you delight in the scriptures? If so, I submit that we can access the Atonement more as we never miss our scripture study, and we will partake of the feeling and the power that comes as we daily sup from its pages, particularly that of the Book of Mormon. I add my witness to those that have been shared already. Jesus is the Christ. He is the Son of the Living God, and this is His Church. He performed an amazing, incredible, unexplainable Atonement for you and me, and we are partakers of it. Might each of us share that message with the world, is my hope and prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I have the letter “E”. I want to talk about being encircled with the love of the Savior. If you will note, love also has an “E” at the end. I want to talk about the love of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is a gospel of inclusion, not exclusion. When the Savior was on earth, He spent His time teaching the people, and He specifically spent time with people who were the outcasts of society or who didn’t feel like they belonged in the Jewish society.
There are people in this room that don’t feel like Jesus Christ loves them, but I want to testify that the Savior knows the intimate details of your life, and that He cares. And you can tap into that through the Atonement, through prayer—by praying to Heavenly Father and asking to feel the love of Jesus Christ. He knows what is going on with us. He knows what our struggles are. He knows what our strengths are. He knows who our friends are. He knows the tiny little things that we have to do every day, and He cares. And He will bless you. I testify that He will bless you in specific ways that only you know, that He knows.
We’re working towards this tree of life, and the fruit on the tree represents the love of God and the love of God is Jesus Christ (see “Lesson 3: The Vision of the Tree of Life,” Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 11–15). The Savior has sacrificed for us, and He loves us. He knows us in a way, in a deeper way, that only Heavenly Father knows. I want you to understand that the Savior knows and understands the intimate details of your life, and I testify of that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Letter M. I could start by asking who of us is perfect, who has never sinned, who has no need of the Atonement, but the Apostle Paul has already given us the answer to that question: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans, 3:23). So we have all sinned, and we are faced with choices. We ask ourselves, what do I do now? I’m a sinner.
As I pondered that question, I tried to look at it from God’s perspective. We all have sinned and so God is faced with choices, and He asks the question, “What do I do now?”
What choices does the Lord have when we sin? What will He do next? One of God’s choices is found in D&C 1:3: “The rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.” I don’t think any of us want our iniquities and secret acts posted on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, never to be deleted.
The Lord’s second choice when we sin is found in Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 or Isaiah 43:25 or Jeremiah 31:34 or Ezekiel 18:21–22 or Hebrews 8:12 or Hebrews 10:16–17, all of which teach this principle: “I will put my law into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:16–17).
As we embrace the Savior’s atoning offer, we also influence the memory of a loving Heavenly Father, and we determine which of those choices He will make—our sins shouted from the housetops, or remembered no more.
President Kimball shared an experience that went something like this:
I had just finished performing the holy ordinances in the temple wherein a delightful young couple had been sealed for eternity. The large group of relatives and close friends were congratulating the bride and groom. Having other pressing appointments, I slipped out of the room and started down the hall, and I was startled when someone grasped my left arm. As I turned about, I saw a woman of about 45, who had a pleading look in her eyes. She asked rather abruptly, “Do you remember me?” She was intently looking to see if I would recognize her.
Numerous times this question has been asked me, and though I try to remember those whom I have met, sometimes I fail. Though there was the feeling that I had seen her before, I had to admit with some embarrassment, “I am sorry.”
To my surprise, she whispered with deep feeling, “I am glad you do not remember me. If you can forget me and my transgressions, I have the hope that my Father in Heaven may forget, as he said, ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more’ Thank you, thank you. I’ve hoped and yearned and prayed for the assurance that the Lord had totally forgiven me and forgotten my transgressions, and now that you remember neither me nor my sins, my hope has soared” (see “Do You Remember Me?” Liahona,Jun. 1978).
I testify that when I repent, when I commit, when I covenant, the Lord’s memory of my sins fades away, and He truly and completely will remember my sins no more, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Unlike the rest of my staff, I am not an instructor. I am a support specialist. But it’s a privilege for me to be here, and I want you to know that I not only support them in what they need to do, but my door is always open. You can always come by my office, which is right as you come in the door, and see me and get a smile or a hug or a question answered or a direction. Because I love you. I love seeing your smiles at school; I love seeing you in the hallways. And I want to know how many of you want to live with your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in your families, in the eternities. How many of you want to do that? Me too. My letter is “E” for eternity.
Now, I look forward to seeing my mom and dad again, who I haven’t seen for a very long time. I want to meet my Grandpa Cram, who I have never seen on this earth; and I would like to meet my aunt, who I am named after and who I don’t know; and I want to meet many of my other ancestors who I’ve done temple work for through my family history research. How excited that makes me feel to know that I will be with my family again someday. What a glorious reunion that will be. As I have done many things with my family and many research projects, I have grown to love them even though I have not met many of them.
Now, what is it that is going to get you and me to the celestial kingdom from here? D&C 14:7 tells us, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” So we need to always live the commandments, follow Jesus Christ’s example, keep our covenants, listen to and follow our modern day prophets, and endure to the end. And then, and only then, can we enter into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. Whew. That’s a long list—a lot of things to do.
Now, do you make mistakes? I know I do. Do you get lazy sometimes and say, “Oh, I just don’t want to do my visiting teaching or my home teaching,” or “I think I’m going to sluff today.” We all make mistakes, and we all need to repent. So how are we going to get back home? And the answer is, through Jesus Christ’s Atonement. Without the Atonement, there would be no eternity for any of us. We can and we will make it back to our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and our families through the blessings of the Atonement. The Atonement provides the way for us to be forgiven of our sins and live forever with God.
I asked one of the students what he thought when he heard the two words atonement and eternity. He had a beautiful answer. Caden thinks of his eternal destiny in a celestial family and how that blessing is only possible because of the Atonement. How thankful I am for the sacrament we are able to partake of each week, to repent and to renew our baptismal covenants with Jesus Christ. This is a huge blessing in our lives—yours and mine. I testify to you that I know that through the Atonement, I can live again with my Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, my family, and my friends in the eternities. I look forward to being with you. You are my friends. I love you, and I’m excited that I will be able to see you again in the eternities.
The Atonement that Jesus Christ gave us is the most important gift of all. I know without a doubt. I want you to know that I love my Heavenly Father, and I know He lives, and I want to live with Him someday. But I also know He wants me to be there too. I say these things in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ, amen.
I not only have “N”, but I’ve got the second “N” in the word Atonement. And I’ve got nothing. And brothers and sisters, without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that’s what we would have, and that’s what we would have through the eternities. After all we could do, we would still be nothing, forever. And that’s not the situation because we do have the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 15: “If Christ be not risen”—he’s saying if He is not, if He did not go through the atoning sacrifice and die and raise from the dead—“then is our preaching vain” (verse 14). He goes on: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (verses 17–19).
But then he goes on to bear his testimony and witness that Jesus Christ did atone for us, and that He lives. And because of that, God has promised us all things. There are scriptures that tell us that God is willing to give us all. It’s because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Elder Maxwell, when quoting such a verse, said there is no more. God is willing to give us all (see “Free to Choose,” BYU Devotional, Mar. 16, 2004). We will receive all things from God. We will become like Him because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
My friends, I have the letter “T,” And I will talk a little bit about testimony. I will ask a series of questions, and I hope these questions will help you measure the depth of your embrace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the depth of immersion within your own lives. You won’t likely be able to grasp all of these questions; find the ones that the Holy Ghost pulls toward you. I’ll pause after each question to allow you to think for just a minute and perhaps write down a word of inspiration or invitation.
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, trials and tribulations can squeeze the artificiality out of you, leaving the essence of what you really are and clarifying what you really yearn for?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you will find that it is better to trust and sometimes be disappointed than to be forever mistrusting and be right occasionally?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you have realized that unproductive worry tends to expand to fill the time available?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, just as no temptations will come to you from which you cannot escape or which you cannot bear, you will not be given more trials than you can sustain?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, the only way that the strait and narrow path can be followed is on your knees?
· Can you testify that when your mind and heart truly catch hold of the significance of the Atonement, the world’s hold on you loosens?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you have tired of putting people down and have replaced it with the invigorating feeling of lifting people up?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, your little pebble of seemingly poor performance can help to start or to sustain an avalanche of goodness?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you have found that patience helps you view the imperfections in yourself and others more compassionately?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you have come to realize that in mortal tests and trials there are no exemptions, only variations?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you know that Heavenly Father does not indulge you, but He is incredibly merciful towards your weaknesses as He strives to teach you how to become like Him?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you have realized that God’s anger is kindled not because you have hurt Him when you sin, but because you have hurt yourself?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you are coming to understand that the harrowing of the soul is like the harrowing of the soil—in order to increase the yield, things have to be turned upside down?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you now know that if it’s fair, it isn’t a trial?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, all crosses are easier to carry when you keep moving forward, onward, and upward?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you now see that except you become as a little child, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you are content with what the Lord has allotted you?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, you know that the Lord chastens those whom He loves; therefore you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He indeed loves you?
· Can you testify that through the Atonement, total surrender to Christ must be done on His terms, not yours, and that there is no negotiating?
· Can you testify that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that you will be able to say, under any and every condition you experience in mortality, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”? (See Luke 22.42.)
Brothers and sisters, I testify that because Heavenly Father loves us, He has provided us a Savior, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And everything that He does and teaches, everything that He inspires His living prophets, and seers, and revelators to do, is to bring you and I at one with Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction: Keith Burkhart
Brothers and sisters, as the choir begins their descent back into their seats, I want to introduce what we’re going to do today. A number of years ago when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve began some discussion about the developing what became the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” I think it was Elder Scott who said that President Hinckley had asked the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to develop something on one page that pretty much was a proclamation to the world on families. And there was a lot of discussion about that, and most of the Brethren said something like, “How could you possibly put it on one page?” And President Hinckley retorted, “How did the Lord do it in Moses 1:39 in one sentence?” So as the Brethren began to look through a different lens, they were able to develop what we know today as the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
Additionally, a number of years ago, as President Boyd K. Packer began visiting priesthood leaders around the world, asked on occasion for them to write what the Atonement meant to them on a page. Many of them found that assignment challenging because the Atonement is such a vast, deep, and rich doctrine; to put it on a page means you have to concentrate that doctrine in every way. This assignment for these Institute personnel here on the stage, to actually talk about the Atonement in four minutes might be the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their career. Institute people don’t even get warmed up until about 20 minutes in, and then they’re about ready to get going. So you may see some nervousness in them because they’re a little out of their comfort zone. Let me assure you, however, of two things: Number one, you will see their individual personalities come out. We’re all different, and have unique personalities and teaching styles. But what we are all united and unified in is we have a powerful testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each of these individuals has taken one letter of the word atonement and will teach and testify accordingly. So we’ll start with Brother Kenny Mays.