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TANYA - What exactly does "apply the atonement" mean? "Apply it to the power of the atonement. Does this actually mean God's power or how does apply "work." I can't seem to get a good handle on this.
JOEL - King Benjamin said:
"O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men." (Mosiah 4:2)
Sometimes people think of the atonement as something that happened 2000 years ago in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus suffered and made payment for our sins and brought about the resurrection. Although these are the most significant effects of the atonement, it can have other eternal effects on the daily lives of everyone past present and future and consists of an actual power of its own that can be used to heal the hearts and spirits of everyone who apply it to their lives. The atonement not only pays for our sins, it also has the power to help us overcome the sins; to strengthen us, and and heal the wounds caused by them.
Elder David A. Bednar said:
"The enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. I testify and witness that the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement is real. Without that strengthening power of the Atonement, I could not stand before you this morning. (In the Strength of the Lord, Ensign, Nov, 2004)
We must humble ourselves to God, repent of our sins, and promise to live His commandments to tap into this power that can help us change and endure to the end.
In the Book of Mormon King Benjamin said that the natural man (who is an enemy to God) can, "becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child." (Mosiah 3:19).
In other words the Atonement is also the agent through which we develop a saintly nature on our road to perfection. When the Savior
accepts our repentance and blesses us with his mercy, he restores our spiritual balance from a negative position to a positive one.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen observed:
"The Savior's victory can compensate not only for our sins but also for our inadequacies; not only for our deliberate mistakes but also for our sins committed in ignorance, our errors of judgment, and our unavoidable imperfections. Our ultimate aspiration is more than being forgiven of sin—we seek to become holy, endowed affirmatively with Christlike attributes, at one with him, like him. Divine grace is the only source that can finally fulfill that aspiration, after all we can do" (Broken Heart, 13, 20).
The atonement is not just for sinners. Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote,
"Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins."
(Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), page 51.)
Jesus not only suffered for our sins He suffered all the pain and anguish that all people suffer just as a consequence of living in this world(Alma 7:11–12; see also D&C 18:11). Because of this we have the comfort in knowing that the one who will eventually pass judgment on our souls has complete empathy for what we have endured in our lives and will therefore be able to more effectively answer our prayers and judge us mercifully. Knowing this brings peace in our lives and gives us hope.
And lastly, the atonement gives us the strength to endure the effects of sins committed by others against us through no fault of our own.
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matt 5:11)
The blessings Jesus is talking about here come through the power of the atonement. As we forgive those who tresspass against us we are blessed with the strength to overcome the pain caused by their sins.
Elder Richard G. Scott said:
"Perhaps you, someone you love, or another you have befriended have experienced the shattering effects of events that are completely unjust and unwarranted. I speak of devastating experiences that at times come through no personal fault. Contrary to what is often taught, I know that the consequences of such events can be healed. That healing comes as a result of understanding how the Atonement of Jesus Christ can resolve the effects of all that is unfair, unjust, and undeserved. (Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy, Richard G. Scott)
These are all ways the atonement can be applied to help us throughout our daily mortal existence.