An Atonement for Every Day

On Sunday, I taught a lesson in our combined meeting with a member of the bishopric about the atonement and applying it in our lives. As I was reviewing it, I realized I really wanted to focus on it again this week as I prepare for Easter. I thought I'd post it here in case it's useful to you. 

It includes a links to talks from Elder Scott, Elder Holland, a big fat quote from Sister Chieko Okazaki, and a bunch of super awesome scriptures. 

I put my personal notes in brackets & grey and I'm attaching the handout I made in case you ever need it in a pinch #resources

Happy Easter!

"On those days when we have special need of heaven’s help, we would do well to remember one of the titles given to the Savior in the epistle to the Hebrews. Speaking of Jesus’ 'more excellent ministry' and why He is 'the mediator of a better covenant' filled with 'better promises,' this author—presumably the Apostle Paul—tells us that through His mediation and Atonement, Christ became 'an high priest of good things to come.'"—Jeffrey R. Holland ("An High Priest of Good Things to Come"[Hebrews 9: 11-12]

from Richard G. Scott's talk "Trust in the Lord":
When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.
To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we knew it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.
Quote from Sister Okazaki
How can we give the answer of faith when adversity seems likely to overwhelm us? Let me share five ways that have helped me.
First, as I’ve already said, we need to acknowledge the emotional reality of what is happening to us. It’s all right to grieve. It’s all right to experience suffering. [Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted"—We cannot be comforted by Christ if we pretend everything is okay.]
But, second, we also need to use our minds. Even if we don’t believe it, we need to tell ourselves: “I don’t know how it will happen, but I know that time will help me deal with this.” We need to set limits and goals for ourselves. I read in a magazine article that one woman, experiencing a shattering divorce, would allow herself to cry when she needed to, but she’d set the timer for ten minutes because she needed to feel that she was stronger than her grief. For her, that was a way of saying that she had a right to grieve but also that she was strong enough to make decisions, not just let the suffering she was undergoing make all decisions for her.  [Matt 1:28-30 "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light) (Moroni 7:40-43 Hope)]
Third, we need to understand the plan of salvation. It may not seem very comforting at times of pain and loss to think about the plan of salvation. It may seem too intellectual, too remote, and too theoretical to be very comforting. But each of us makes sense of our experience in a context. It is wise and truly comforting to see that context as a purposeful and loving plan — and especially as something that we chose.
Francine Bennion, a wise student of the scriptures and of life, explained her perspective in a BYU/Relief Society women’s conference. She said [speaking of the pre-mortal decisions]:
We don’t know if there were several possibilities of which we have no record, but I doubt there was a never-never land where we could have been happy children without responsibility forever. Apparently there was a point at which we had to grow up or choose not to. Our scriptures suggest that there were unavoidable decisions to be made consciously and responsibly by all inhabitants in the premortal council, as in Eden. We could not be mere observers, only thinking about the decision, only imagining what might happen if we made it, only talking about the meaning of it all …
… We wanted life, however high the cost. We suffer because we were willing to pay the cost of being and of being here with others in their ignorance and inexperience as well as our own. We suffer because we are willing to pay the costs of living with laws of nature, which operate quite consistently whether or not we understand them or can manage them. We suffer because, like Christ in the desert, we apparently did not say we would come only if God would change our stones to bread in time of hunger. We were willing to know hunger. Like Christ in the desert, we did not ask God to let us try falling or being bruised only on condition that He catch us before we touch ground to save us from real hurt. We were willing to know hurt. Like Christ, we did not agree to come only if God would make everyone bow to us and respect us, or admire us and understand us. Like Christ, we came to be ourselves, addressing and creating reality. We are finding out who we are and who we can become regardless of the environment or circumstances …

… Suffering is part of the plan. We chose it. We wanted to know it. We understood, in the premortal world, a lesson so powerful that Eve could remember and articulate it even in the moment of terror and shame and uncertainty after she and Adam had partaken of the forbidden fruit. She knew that it was better to pass through sorrow than to remain ignorant of either joy or sorrow. [John 17:3 The purpose of life is to come to know God. (Part of the "intercessory prayer": Last week of Christ's life before the atonement—he is advocating for us. First time we see Christ acting as our mediator and advocate to the Father.)]

Fourth, we can work toward acceptance. I do think we should struggle for understanding just as hard as we can. It’s not showing a lack of faith to say, “I don’t understand this. Tell me how. Explain why.” But at the same time, we also need to remind ourselves — sometimes right out loud — that, as the Lord explained to Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We need to accept and be patient with our lack of understanding. It’s a superb and glowing faith to say, “I don’t understand this and I don’t like it very much, but I accept it. Show me how to live with it, how to deal with it.” The limitations of mortality are so real and so personal that I’m sure one of the things we’re going to do in the next life is laugh and laugh.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “Let go — and let God.” To me it means, “Let go of your way of seeing things. Let go of your way of fixing things. Trust me. Let me do more than fix it. Let me make it wonderful and new for you.” [Mark 9:23-24 With belief all things are possible: "Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief"]

Fifth, we need to actively seek the presence of the Holy Ghost and the spirit of Jesus Christ. We are promised this blessing in each sacrament prayer every Sabbath day. This spirit is a promised presence in our lives, not a rare and exotic visitor. It is a comfortable, reassuring companion, not a confusing and upsetting party-crasher. I know that you know the ways in which we can be worthy of this spirit, and the ways in which we can prepare ourselves to receive it, but I want to urge you to concentrate also on welcoming it. Sometimes we’re so busy serving, going to the temple, reading the scriptures, and preparing, preparing, preparing, that we forget to welcome the guest. I’m talking about simply being aware that the Spirit is with us, interacting with that Spirit so that prayers become almost conversations, and recognizing the feelings of that presence. [John 14:16 The comforter]

I testify to you that the answer of faith is a viable one, even in the most difficult of circumstances, because it does not depend on us — on our strength to endure or on our willpower or on the depth of our intellectual understanding or on the wealth of resources we can accumulate. No, it depends on God, whose strength is omnipotence and who has the will to walk beside us in love, sharing our burden, and whose understanding is that of eternity. Many waters cannot quench his love. (Disciples, pg. 172-175)


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