Asia Area Leader Message
Elder Steven L. Toronto Of the Seventy
It was very late at night. A beloved mother, grandmother and nurse was returning home. She had spent that night helping the sick. She was compassionate, loving and faithful. Her life exemplified selfless service. As she was traveling home, a young man was also driving home. He was drunk and was driving a car illegally. He did not see the red traffic light and did not notice a car already crossing his path. He sped into the intersection and hit the other car with great force. The woman in the car was hit, injured very seriously. She was taken to a hospital where doctors performed many surgeries to try to keep her alive. She struggled for her life for many weeks. She suffered great pain at that time and for many years after. Her medical costs were very high. The young man suffered only minor injuries. He was convicted of drunk driving and spent time in prison. This young man had committed a terrible sin.
Sin is part of our mortal existence. We all commit sin at some time in our lives. The consequences of sin to the sinner are significant and eternal. Without repentance, sins keep us from the presence of God.[i] The Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us the ability to repent of our sins, be clean and return to our Heavenly Father.[ii]
The Savior teaches how to receive the blessings of His Atonement. He says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[iii] If we have heavy burdens of sin, we can “come unto Him”. As we “learn of Him”, we can leave our heavy burdens of sin with Him but must be willing to take upon ourselves HIS yoke and HIS burden. His yoke and burden is the process of repentance. Compare＂ to our heavy burdens of sin, the burden of repentance is “light” and is easy to carry when we are “yoked” together with the Savior and His Atonement.
The Atonement clearly helps sinners remove their burdens of sin, but what about victims of sins? What about the wonderful nurse? This good woman suffered greatly. She continues to be afflicted with physical, economic and emotional consequences of the young man’s sin. His actions created many heavy burdens for her to carry. This woman’s family also suffered greatly. They experienced severe anxiety, worrying whether Grandma would live or die. They spent many hours helping and comforting her. Their lives were disrupted. Their physical, economic, emotional and spiritual burdens were very heavy.
There were other victims of this young man’s sin. The young man’s parents, family and friends experienced the anguish and shame of these acts. They had to worry about legal costs, manage his personal affairs and participate in his trial. Their lives were interrupted while they shouldered many additional burdens related to his sin.
Where can these victims of sin turn for strength, comfort, peace and healing? They, too, can turn to the Savior and His Atonement.
Elder Oaks recently taught “In mortality we have the certainty of death and the burden of sin. The Atonement of Jesus Christ offsets these two certainties of mortal life. But apart from death and sin, we have many other challenges as we struggle through mortality. Because of that same Atonement, our Savior can provide us the strength we need to overcome these mortal challenges.”[iv]
As we understand fully the power of Christ’s Atonement we begin to understand why it is described as “infinite and eternal”.[v] Infinite means extending without limit. Eternal means extending without end of time. Imagine such a gift and power!
The Prophet Alma explains that the Atonement not only enables us to be forgiven of our sins. He teaches that through repentance, the Savior 'will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people . . . he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death . . .he will take upon him their infirmities . . . [and] take upon him the sins of his people.” [vi] The Atonement extends well beyond the sinner to include those who suffer pains, sicknesses and infirmities because of someone else’s sin.pains and the sicknesses infirmities
The Atonement can help victims of sin in many ways. Sometimes, the Atonement gives us strength to bear our burdens. The people of Alma experienced this when they had heavy burdens placed on them by a wicked king. After they prayed to the Lord, He promised that, “I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs . . . that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”[vii] While the Atonement does not remove all burdens it can increase our ability to bear them.
At other times, the Savior provides us with spiritual and emotional comfort. The Savior taught, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”[viii] He is ready to comfort our anguish and wipe away our tears. Through the Atonement, the Savior can also speak peace to our souls. The Savior is known as the Prince of Peace.[ix] He promises to give us peace that our hearts might not be troubled or afraid.[x]
Of course, sometimes the Atonement is able to completely heal us. When the Savior visited the Americas after His resurrection He asked those who “were afflicted in any manner” be brought to Him. He then healed them “every one”[xi] - without condition, without payment, without requirement. Sometimes He is able to heal us directly, taking away physical, emotional or even spiritual afflictions as a kind gift from a loving Savior.
Victims of sin may access the blessings of the Atonement in the same way sinners do. They only need follow the Savior’s direction to “come unto me” and “learn of me”. As the “learn of him”, they too must then be willing to lay down the burdens they carry – often burdens of bitterness, anger, self-doubt, fear and hate. We “come to him” in many ways. We come to Him in personal prayer as the people of Alma did. We come to Him when we read about Him and His teachings in the scriptures. We come to Him when we attend Church and listen to inspired talks given by our leaders and friends. We come to Him when we serve others, either in our callings or through simple acts of kindness and charity.
Perhaps we most easily come to Him when we partake of the sacrament each week. In that special moment as we partake of the bread and water we are reminded of Him and of His Atonement. As we partake of the bread, we think of His bruised and broken body. We remember the pains and afflictions that He suffered for us. As we drink the cup of water, we remember the cool, cleansing and healing power of His Atonement. We remember how it not only washes away sins from the sinner but also strengthens, comforts, brings peace to and heals those suffering from the burdens of others’ sins. We are reminded that we can always have His spirit to be with us.
The wonderful nurse found the strength to set down her burden of anger by genuinely forgiving the young man. She drew closer to the Lord at this difficult time through her prayers and the prayers of others on her behalf. She returned to a life filled with service, helping heal the sick, giving her handmade clothing to the poor, working on holidays so that others could enjoy being home with their families and performing many other acts of kindness. The Savior’s Atonement did not heal her completely but brought peace to her soul and gave her strength to withstand the pain and discomfort of a body that will never completely heal.
To those injured by others, to those who suffer through no fault of their own, to those who are afflicted in any manner, the blessings of the Atonement are available to you – infinite and eternal. ■
Caption: Elder Steve
[i] See 3 Nephi 27:19.
[ii] See D&C 58:42.
[iii] See Matthew 11:28-30.
[iv] See Dallin H. Oaks, “Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ” Ensign, Nov. 2015, 61; General Conference October 2015 https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/strengthened-by-the-atonement-of-jesus-christ.
[v] See Alma 34:14-15.
[vi] See Alma 7:11-13; emphasis added.
[vii] See Mosiah 24:12-15.
[viii] Matthew 5:4; see also 3 Nephi 12:4.
[ix] See 2 Nephi 19:6; Isaiah 9:6.
[x] See John 14:27
[xi] See 3 Nephi 17:9