1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
As a Mormon I heard the word atonement used in odd and often confusing ways. Usually during General Conference I learned how I could apply it to my life, how it covered a multitude of things, how it would bring me personal strength, cleanse me and bring me happiness, and lastly how it will help meendure to the end.
Back then I was so clueless as to what the atonement was all about that, as a conversation starter, I asked a Christian woman in my homeschooling group if she believed in it. Looking back now I can’t imagine how bizarre she must have thought I was to even ask her such a question.
The sad truth is I had no idea what the atonement was, nor did I see how God used it in the Old Testament to redeem His people from the penalty for disobeying His laws. I never took the time to study how He used animal sacrifices as a way of atoning for the sins of the people. Sure I knew about, and read about them, but I was never taught how those sacrifices where a foreshadowing of something better to come.
The Mormon website lds.org defines the atonement as:
“to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.”
I can’t help but feel a little sad at how the Mormon doctrine treats the atonement as if it were an ointment that needs to be applied to an infected area regularly, or medication that will make you happy, and help you to endure to the end. When it’s so much more!
As a Christian now I see the atonement very differently. I think a huge difference in how I look at the atonement verse to how I look at it as a Mormon is that I see it in light of the cross. Mormons have a difficult time looking to the cross for any sort of comfort, or help because their doctrine teaches that the atonement took place on the in the garden of Gethsemane.
Why do they believe this? I can’t understand it, but I believe it’s because their church leaders have taken one verse out of context. They’ve taken Luke 22:44 were it says “and being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweatwas as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’, to mean Jesus shed His blood for our sins on that spot. The cross to them is just the place where He died.
If they were to truly study and understand what atonement means, and what it meant for Him to be a sacrifice for our sins they’d see it’s impossible for the atonement to have occurred in Gethsemane.
During His earthly ministry Jesus spoke of the depths of what was going to happen to Him, and how He would be the ultimate sacrifice for sin.
Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
As I’ve replaced all the gobbledy-gook I was taught about the atonement with God’s truth I’ve gained a greater reverence for the cross that I never had as a Mormon. I look at the atonement as not something that makes up for my short comings, or a band-aid. It’s the reason I know I will have eternal life, because Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross I can be secure in my salvation.
Melissa Grimes (firstname.lastname@example.org)