Monday, April 6, 2015

WEEK 87: The Miracle of the Atonement

March 16, 2015

Yesterday, I had the great blessing of going back to my first area in the mission (Fruit Heights) to witness a wonderful friend get re-baptized after 27 years of excommunication. We'll call him Mike. He is an amazing man who would do anything for anybody. He served a full-time mission in California and has taught and showed me many things to use in my teaching that I still use today! It was an incredible service. He had so much support from family, friends, missionaries, and the ward. It just goes to show that people can change. They change by help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, although maybe not completely comprehensible to us at this point, is an incredible and quite fascinating topic of study. The word “Gospel”, as you probably know, means “good news”. We, as missionaries, are going all about the world, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the Gospel or “good news” that we preach and teach? Is it the good news of Christ’s Church being restored in our days? Is it the good news of the Priesthood Authority of God being brought back to the earth? Is it the good news of the accessibility that we now have of Temples and Saving Ordinances? The answer to these questions is no. The Good News we bring to the World, is the knowledge we have of the truth and reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice for our sin. All other doctrines and principles taught in the Church are but appendages of this Great and Final Sacrifice. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, The Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Plan of Salvation, commandments, temples, ordinances, covenants, priesthood power, the sacrament, missionary work, the church organization, living prophets, prayer, fasting, etc. Everything does and should revolve around the single most important event in the history of man’s existence. The Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Over the past 20 months, my simple, weak, foundation of knowing who Jesus Christ truly is, and being converted to Him, has completely changed. I can now say that I know without a doubt that Jesus Christ was a real man. I can also confidently testify that he was and is the Son of God. I have not seen him. I have not heard him. But I have felt his Spirit confirm that truth, and that is enough for me. He suffered beyond measure, to satisfy the demands of justice for very imperfect people like you and like me. That we ourselves might not suffer the penalty of sin, only if we repent, have faith, and strive to do our best in following Him. I know that we do not only suffer physically when we do not obey His commandments, but spiritually also. I don’t know if you can see it, but I can so blatantly see the difference and feeling between those who strive to live the commandments, and those who don’t. There is a different light and happiness that comes with someone who follows Him.  

So many people I’ve spoken to about life see no reason to obey the commandments. For common reasons such as because they “constrain us”, or they don't allow us to have "fun", or because they don't allow us to be "free". Some people say there is no God, therefore, no reason to follow the teaching of the prophets and scriptures. Atheists (or any individual who justifies their sin) are their own gods. They are their highest authority. There is no eternal punishment for doing wrong. This mindset is so appealing to most people because it is a temporary “freedom” from penalty. But in reality, brings misery and sorrow in the end. I can testify of that. I've seen it firsthand. 

"A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist." -Elder Christofferson

Those who live the commandments, are the happiest. It's a fact. I can't deny it, because I've seen so much evidence of it. I've seen so many come back to the Lord when the realize where their disobedience has taken them. They have to find out the hard way. But, it doesn't have to be like that for any of us. Christ made no mistakes, and also was the happiest and most knowledgeable person to come to earth, because He is obedient.

An amazing 3 minute video on how keeping the commandments can bring us happiness:

Keeping the commandments will not bring us temporary worldly pleasure, but eternal Heavenly joy. Can you see this perspective?

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." (Mosiah 2:41)

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is universal and all-reaching. It knows no bounds. The only reason the Atonement would not be able to reach us, would be because of the negative use of our own moral agency. If we wish to feel the enabling power that He has to offer, we must repent, have faith, and obey. There is no other way.

"Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? (3 Nephi 9:13)

On Saturday, we had 3 great lessons on Temple Square. During one of them, a Recent Convert named Craig shared a fascinating experience he had.  He said he asked God to show him what the afterlife is like, and that God showed him a dream. In this dream, Craig was in the afterlife, standing before God to be judged. Another man was also there. This man was someone who Craig knew. Craig had wronged this man (in real life). This man also died in a car wreck (in real life) a few years back. Craig told us that this man was "testifying against" him. 

"Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day." (Mosiah 17:10)

He said that there were no words spoken in the dream, but that this man had a very sad look in his eye as he stared at Craig. Then Craig saw an abyss-like cloud that spirits were entering and "not coming out of".  The man didn't want Craig to go in there, but Craig knew that he had done wrong and he had to pay for what he had done.. But then God let Craig in with him. Craig said he felt very uncomfortable there. And that he didn't like it because the man was there also. He felt guilty.

"Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness." (2 Nephi 9:14)

Craig has only been a member for a few months. He doesn't have a ton of Gospel knowledge. He's always cracking jokes and always has something out the ordinary and crazy to say.. but I have a feeling this was a real message from God. The things he told us lined up so closely to the doctrine taught in the scriptures. Craig has been super flaky and non-committal for the past month or so, and now is ready to get back on board. The Lord truly does come to whatever level of learning we are at to teach us. We just must be willing to act on the revelations we receive.

Elsa was confirmed a member yesterday. She is doing great. Getting her Patriarchal Blessing, and going to the Temple soon too! :) We have taken her teaching and she is fantastic! Thinking about a mission!

The Lord is great. The mission is great. What an incredible experience.

Stay close to the Lord!
~Elder Carroll
"The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
By day and by night his presence is near.
He is my salvation from sorrow and sin;
This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring." -The Lord Is My Light Hymn #89

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