The Atonement of Christ

Your purpose as a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them accept the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. If missionaries are to help other people receive salvation through the Atonement of Christ, then they really should understand it themselves. This article aims to help missionaries and future missionaries understand what the atonement of Jesus Christ is and how it applies to missionary work.

What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

President Russell M. Nelson, in his talk from the April 2017 General Conference called Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives, gave one of the best definitions I have heard of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He said, “As Latter-day Saints, we refer to His mission as the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which made resurrection a reality for all and made eternal life possible for those who repent of their sins and receive and keep essential ordinances and covenants.”

His mission is the Atonement of Jesus Christ Nelson

That’s it. It’s just that simple, yet that huge. The the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the mission of Jesus Christ. From start to finish, Jesus’ atonement is His mission and his mission was to be the Savior, to create this earth, to come to earth himself, to show us the way, to heal the sick, to teach the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, to offer himself as the great atoning sacrifice, and to be resurrected on the third day. And I would say Jesus’ mission is not over and continues today as He leads His restored Church on the earth and is paving the way for His second coming. Perhaps this is why some authors have called it the continuous atonement.

The Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

I think it is very important that we not to equate “the atoning sacrifice” of Our Savior with “the atonement” of Jesus Christ. Christ’s atonement includes much more than the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. The atoning sacrifice was certainly part of His atonement or mission, but it was not all of it. I don’t wish to diminish in any way those events and what He did for all humanity by suffering and dying and resurrecting for us. It is just that the the atonement of Jesus Christ includes more than the atoning sacrifice and I think it leads to confusion and limits our ability to draw the power of Jesus Christ into our lives when we misuse the terms.

President Russel M. Nelson, in the same talk referenced above, made some similar remarks to help us as a Church begin the process of better drawing on the power and blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ when he corrected our language around the use of the word atonement. He said:

It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as “the Atonement” or “the enabling power of the Atonement” or “applying the Atonement” or “being strengthened by the Atonement.” These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ….There is no amorphous entity called ‘the Atonement’ upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come” (Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives by President Russell M. Nelson).

“Atonement, an accepted theological term, comes from neither a Greek nor a Latin word, but is good old English and really does mean, when we write it out, “at-one-ment,” denoting both a state of being “at one” with another and the process by which that end is achieved.”

To atone, the root word of atonement, means both a state of being “at one” with God and the process by which that is achieved (see The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 1 by Hugh W. Nibley). Jesus taught that He and the Father are one and that each of us should be one with them (see John 17: 11, 21). In a miraculous and unfathomable way, Jesus Christ has made atonement for us and has made it possible, through His mission and atoning sacrifice, that we can be one with God some day. Because of Christ’s Atonement, all people will be resurrected and live forever, and those who obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel will receive the greatest of all gifts, eternal life with God (see Article of Faith 3.

The least understood of all our revealed truths

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important doctrine of the restored gospel, yet perhaps also the most difficult to comprehend. True understanding of this topic will only come after much study, meditation, and prayer. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“The atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived. May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement” (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane).

The Infinite Atonement

One of the reasons why the Atonement is difficult to be understood is that we are mortal beings with finite thinking, yet Christ’s Atonment is infinite. Amulek, the missionary companion of the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon, said: “there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.” (Alma 34:12) The prophet Jacob, the brother of Nephi, in the Book of Mormon also spoke of the infinite atonement:

“For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption.” (2 Nephi 9:6-7)

What is the Gospel? The Good News of Christ’s Atonement

The full-time missionary guide is called Preach My Gospel which begs the question, what is the gospel of Jesus Christ? The LDS Bible Dictionary says that the word “gospel” means good news and the good news, specifically, is “that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement.”

3 Nephi 27: 13-14 gives a similar definition of the gospel: “And this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father.”

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ died for us and atoned for our sins and has made it possible that we can repent and return to live with our Father in Heaven.

How the Atonement of Christ relates to missionary work

Atonement and Missionary Work Quotes from Hunter and NelsonElder Russell M. Nelson explained the relationship between understanding the Atonement of Christ and having a desire to serve a mission. “That is why we have missionaries; that is why we have temples—to bring the fullest blessings of the Atonement to faithful children of God. That is why we respond to our own calls from the Lord. When we comprehend His voluntary Atonement, any sense of sacrifice on our part becomes completely overshadowed by a profound sense of gratitude for the privilege of serving Him.” (The Atonement, Oct. 1996)

As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the “great . . . importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:8). Here are some examples of the natural desire to do missionary work growing as people come to understand the significance and blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

  • The Sons of Mosiah:  They desired to “go up to the land of Nephi that they might preach the things which they had heard, and that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites—That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God,…that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, …Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish.” (Mosiah 28: 1-3)
  • Lehi in his vision of the Tree of Life: “And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also.” (1 Nephi 8:11-12)
  • President Howard W. Hunter: “What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others. . . . A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.” (“The Atonement and Missionary Work,” seminar for new mission presidents, 21 June 1994)

Greater love hath no man

Heavenly Father and Jesus showed their love for all of mankind through the mission and atonement of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Charity is defined in the scriptures as the pure love of Christ. How was that loved manifested? The pure love of Christ is seen through the Savior’s willingness to pay the ultimate price and to make a selfless sacrifice to fulfill the Atonement.

I testify that Christ lived on this earth and performed the great atoning sacrifice. I know that through faith in him and by following his ways, we can be cleansed of our sins. This is the greatest miracle of all of God’s miracles. Through faith, repentance, baptism, and the other ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we can be made whole, worthy, and able to return to our Heavenly father’s presence and partake of the greatest gifts, exaltation and eternal life. I pray that all the young people reading this will study and pray and gain a testimony of the Atonement of Christ, and then show your love  and gratitude for the Lord by being a missionary and bringing souls unto Him.

The “Why” of Keeping the Law of Chastity

Summary: Understanding why keeping the law of chastity is important will help young people see the divine purpose behind this commandment and inspire them to live it.

In the April 2012 General Conference, in a talk called The Why of Priesthood Service, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard… [The what] teaches us what to do. The why inspires our souls. The what informs, but the why transforms.”

Keeping the Law of Chastity

Why is the law of chastity so important?

In his April 2013 General Conference talk titled, We Believe in Being Chaste, Elder David A. Bednar posed the question: “Why is the law of chastity so important?” His answer had several components:

  • It is part of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. “The eternal importance of chastity can only be understood within the overarching context of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for His children…The Father’s plan enables His spirit sons and daughters to obtain physical bodies, to gain mortal experience, and to progress toward exaltation.”
  • Physical limitations prepare us for eternity. “Our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies…Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6Alma 7:12–13).
  • The power of procreation is divine. “Marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel…Specific guidelines for the proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father’s plan. How we feel about and use that supernal power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity.”
  • We are on earth to be tested. “The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19)? That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
  • Being chaste brings blessings. “Alma counseled his son Shiblon to “bridle all [of his] passions, that [he] may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). Significantly, disciplining the natural man in each of us makes possible a richer, a deeper, and a more enduring love of God and of His children. Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsive indulgence…Obedience to the law of chastity will increase our happiness in mortality and make possible our progress in eternity…Chastity and virtue are now, always have been, and always will be “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9).

Discussing “the why” of keeping the law of chastity is a topic Elder Bednar has also spoke about in years past. In his June 1998 Education Week talk titled Teach Them to UnderstandElder Bednar spoke about the importance of understanding “the why” of gospel commandments.

“In the times in which we live, only the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to the why questions that matter the most…It concerns me as I see young people in our Church who know all the correct things they should do and do not have a clue as to why. They have a check-list mentality. “Say my prayers morning and night. Read the scriptures.” Why do they do these things? “Because I am supposed to. Because the prophet said. Because my mom and dad will jump my case if I don’t.” …[But] do we understand why? If we do not understand the why, then the power available to us through the doctrine of Christ will not be evident in our lives.”

“This is particularly true with young people pertaining to the law of chastity. They know they shouldn’t, but do they know why they shouldn’t?…I do not know a young person who truly understands the doctrine related to “the seed of Abraham” who would violate the law of chastity. We were foreordained in the premortal existence to the blessings associated with birth through a particular lineage, even the chosen lineage of Abraham–not because we are better, not because we are more special, but because we have particular responsibilities that we covenanted we would fulfill. Therefore we came to the earth through a lineage with the birthright blessing of the priesthood. Every man who holds the priesthood was foreordained to that very responsibility in the premortal existence. Does a young man who understands that doctrine have a choice to go on a mission? He made that choice before he was ever born.”

“…As I have opportunities to visit with young people, I like to talk about what it means to be the “seed of Abraham.” Hoping that the Spirit of the Lord will touch their hearts, I highlight the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau gave up his birthright blessing for a bowl of red bean soup. Now a question directed to the young people: Would you really want to forfeit your birthright as the seed of Abraham–foreordained in the premortal existence, living on the earth at this particular time to bless the families of the earth, the most glorious spiritually destiny you could ever hope for? Do you really want to give up those blessings and opportunities for a few minutes of messing around? If we understand the doctrine of who we are and why we are here, then that understanding changes the way we do things.”

I pray that all future missionaries will study, ponder, and prayer about why this commandment is so important and the ways in which keeping the law of chastity will bless their lives. Understanding these things will give them added strength in fighting the many temptations that bombard our youth today.

The Worth of Souls is Great

missionaries teaching in the streetA couple of months ago, I conducted a survey asking reasons why some young men don’t serve a mission. One of the top responses was that other priorities (like college, sports, work, girlfriends, etc.) keep young men from serving missions. So lately I have been thinking a lot about how to motivate young men, and help them see that there is no greater priority than bringing souls unto Christ through full-time missionary service.

Recently, I read a talk by Elder H. Bryan Richards from the October 1998 General Conference in which he addressed this very topic. This is what he said:

“The doctrine that will change the behavior of our young men regarding missions is understanding the worth of a single soul. Jesus Christ paid the supreme sacrifice in providing the infinite Atonement, which provides the only way for us to return and live with our Heavenly Father. When parents, bishops, and our young men understand this true doctrine, our young men will be prepared and have a desire to serve” (from “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord”).

What is the worth of a soul?

In section 18 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonishes us to “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;… And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18: 10, 15-16)

As Elder Richards indicated, the Savior loves all of us and understands our eternal value as children of God. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Because of the Savior’s great love for us, He drank the bitter cup, suffered for our sins, and died on the cross. He “suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). When young men truly understand that doctrine, they will have the desire to share that message with the world, go wherever the Lord would have them to go, and bring souls unto Christ.

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

Perhaps the best way to motivate young men to serve a mission is to help them understand these and other gospel doctrines. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is like unto it, to love your neighbors (see Matthew 22: 36-39). What greater motivation can a young man have to serve a mission than sincere love of God and love of neighbors. What Christ suffered on our behalf helps us understand our worth and how much He loves us. When young men realize the value of a soul, and gain that love for their fellow beings around the world, they will be willing to sacrifice. They, like the Savior, will say “not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42), and they will put a full-time mission on the top of their priority list.

I Love Loud Boys

Here is a video excerpt from another good talk from October 2009 General Conference on the subject missionary preparation.  This one is from Elder Yoon Hwan Choi of the Seventy and his talk is called I Love Loud Boys.  Elder Choi has a thick accent and can be difficult to understand at times, but his message is very relevant to young men and their leaders, so please read along with the transcript of the talk below if necessary.

“I would like to tell you about a group of loud young men who came into my life when I was a young bishop in Seoul, Korea, many years ago. These were boys who lived in the neighborhood. Only one or two of them were members of the Church at the time. The boys who were members were the only members in their family. They were all friends, and they came to the church to play and to be together. They liked to play Ping-Pong during the weekdays, and they liked to have fun activities on Saturdays. Most of them were not good students in school and were considered by many to be troublemakers.

“I was a young father of two sons, who were seven and nine years old at the time. I did not know what I could do for these young men. They were so rowdy that once my wife, Bon-Kyoung, asked me if we could move to another ward so that our sons could see good examples from other young men. I pondered and prayed to Heavenly Father to help me to find the way to help these young men. Finally I made the decision to try and teach them how they could change their lives.

“A vision came upon my mind very clearly. I felt that if they were to become missionaries, their lives would be changed. From that moment on, I became very excited, and I tried to spend as much time as possible with them, teaching them the importance of missionary service and how to prepare for a mission.

“At that time Elder Seo, a full-time missionary, was transferred to our ward. He was one who had grown up in the Church and as an Aaronic Priesthood youth had participated in a young men’s singing group with his friends. He met those boisterous boys in our ward. Elder Seo taught those who were not members the missionary discussions, and he also taught them the songs he used to sing. He made a triple quartet with those loud boys and named them the Hanaro Quartet, which means “be as one.” They were happy to sing together, but we all needed “big” patience when we listened to their singing.

“Our home was open to the members anytime they wanted to visit. The boys visited our home almost every weekend and even on some weekdays. We fed them and taught them. We taught them the principles of the gospel as well as the application of the gospel in their lives. We tried to give them a vision of their future life.

“They sang together every time they came to our home. Their loud sound hurt our ears. But we always praised them because listening to them sing was far more enjoyable than seeing them get into trouble.

“Through the years these activities continued. Most of these young men matured in the gospel, and a miracle happened. Over time nine of the boys who were not members were baptized. They changed from loud, rowdy boys into valiant stripling warriors.

“They served missions, met beautiful young sisters in the Church, and married in the temple. Of course, there were different challenges for each of them as they served missions, attended school, and got married, but they all stayed faithful because they wanted to obey their leaders and please the Lord. Now they have happy families with children born in the covenant.

“Nine loud boys have become 45 active members in the Lord’s kingdom, including their wives and children. They are now leaders in their wards and stakes. One is a bishop, two serve in bishoprics, one is serving on the high council, and two are Young Men presidents. There is a ward mission leader, an executive secretary, and a seminary teacher. As a group, they still sing together, and the other miracle—they actually sound good! …

“Dear young men, let us obey the leaders of the Church and be like Adam, who didn’t always have to know the reason why but was just happy to be obedient. And please faithfully attend your Church meetings. If you do this, you will learn how to prepare for your future, and you will be successful. To young boys who were born in the Church and also to those who have joined the Church, you are the army of the Lord. You will become wonderful missionaries and righteous fathers to your families. Heavenly Father will bless you to have a happy family. You have a bright future in the gospel, and like the sons of Helaman, you will bring eternal joy to all of us.”

Mission Papers

missionary-recommend-packet-at-LDS-StoreMission Papers for missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were once a paper or PDF form known as the Checklist for Full-Time Missionary Recommendation or the Missionary Recommendation Form. It is the application missionary candidates, young and old, fill out to initiate the process of serving a mission. Though we often call it paperwork, nowadays, it is almost always filled out electronically through a web-based application known as the Missionary Online Recommendation System. If you do not have access to complete the application online, you may be able to fill out the physical paper forms. Talk to your bishop and he may be able to order the paper forms from the Church.

Digital Mission Papers – Missionary Online Recommendation System

You must get access to the online version of the mission application from your bishop. The Missionary Online Recommendation System, that’s that official name of the website for the online mission papers, can be accessed at In order to get past the login screen, though, your bishop must first go into the site and get the process started and grant you access. He will let you know when that is done so you can login and begin to fill out the information.

Related Articles

The Mission Call Process is one of the most frequent topics that people ask me about. Below is a summary and links to other articles I have written on the subject.

  • Mission Call Process Overview: This article gives answers to questions about the Mission Call Process from meeting with your bishop, to submitting the mission papers / application, and then receiving the call letter.
  • Mission Application Timeline: In this article, I give details about the steps involved in the mission call process with particular emphasis on when to begin, and how long to expect each step to take.
  • Mission Application Form: This article talks in detail about the sections of Checklist for Full-Time Missionary Recommendation. It will give you a good idea of the information and other things you will need to do to fill out the papers. 
  • Missionaries Are Called by God: In this article, Elder Ronald A. Rasband explains the Mission Call Process, particularly, how missionaries are called by God through inspiration to our living prophets.
  • Mission Call Letter: Two to four weeks after the Church receives you mission application, you will receive your call packet in the mail. This packet will contain your mission call letter from the prophet, as well as other materials, including a list of mission clothing and other items to bring. Read this article for more detail on the contents of the call packet.
  • Latter-day Saint Mission Cost: How much does a mission cost? Missionaries pay their own expenses: $500 a month for young people from the United States (that’s $9,000 for sister missionaries who serve for 18 months, and $12,000 for men who serve two-years). Read the article for more detail.
  • Day of the Week Mission Calls are Issued and Mailed Out: Future missionaries often wonder what day of the week mission calls are issued and mailed out. The answer is it depends, though the most common scenario has the call issued on a Friday and the call letter being sent out from Church headquarters on a Tuesday. Check out the article for more detail.