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We need to turn our children to the Savior so that whether their problems are at school, with friends, or with health, they’ll learn to go to Him.
“And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen” (Alma 33:23)”
Written by Ronald E. Bartholomew, author of True Versus Truth.
I know you have burdens that you think are insurmountable. They aren’t. That would be to say that there is a power greater than the Atonement, but there isn’t. They are within the reach of the Savior, which is why His Atonement is infinite and eternal. This is not an idea. It is a way of life. Where is the source? Jesus. Everywhere. Always. It doesn’t matter what it is.
It is very possible that the thing most of us need to repent of is not turning to the Savior enough and relying wholly on the Atonement. Somewhere we got the idea that repentance is for bad people and is something you do when you do something wrong. In reality, repentance simply means changing your course and becoming more and more like Him, with Him, through Him, and of Him.
If you don’t believe that the Atonement can help you, even in your situation—if you aren’t willing to plant that seed in your heart—then you won’t look. If you don’t look, you won’t be healed. But if you will look, the Savior can heal you. That is what He does. He is mighty to save. He is merciful in every situation. It is not outside the realm of the Atonement, which is for everyone, everywhere, all the time. Let that seed of Jesus grow into that tree in your heart. Then your burdens will be lightened.
Do you know how many people are afraid of Jesus? They have this weird, satanic paradigm about Jesus as the Judge executing the law of justice right now in the most painfully excruciating way that He can. Are you going to run to the arms of Jesus if you’re are afraid that you’ll get stabbed in the back when you get there? He has what we need. We need Him. It isn’t about Him being mean or upset at you. He isn’t mad at you. He is standing here with His arms open and waiting. Just like the prodigal son’s father—waiting for you to come to yourself.
What happens when the prodigal son returns and runs to his father? He has this little speech memorized that he is going to say: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). What does the son not believe about the father? He doesn’t believe in mercy or grace. He thinks he is in trouble because he blew the family inheritance. So he memorizes a speech. He says it over and over to himself. Then he gets there, and what does the dad do? He does what the Savior wants to do for you and your family members: embraces him and forgives him.
“But what if they aren’t worthy?” you might ask. That is exactly who the Atonement of Jesus Christ is for: people who aren’t worthy. So cross that off your worry list. The father throws his arms around his son, and just as he starts to say his memorized speech, “I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:21), the father cuts him off, kisses his neck, and calls for the fatted calf. “This is my boy. I love my boy.” That is what Jesus is like. The thing that makes Heavenly Father angry is not our sins—it’s that we won’t look to the Savior and live.
Our beloved President Russell M. Nelson clarifies the Savior’s role in our salvation:
“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.
Under the Father’s great eternal plan, it is the Savior who suffered. It is the Savior who broke the bands of death. It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance. It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death.
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. The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him. (“Drawing on the Power of Jesus Christ in our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017)
“Brother Bartholomew, will the Atonement of Jesus Christ help a loved one of mine who won’t turn to the Savior?” Before I answer that, let me explain the backdrop of the question. If you have a loved one who needs Jesus, but they won’t turn to Him, do you know why they don’t turn? It’s probably because we don’t talk to them about Jesus. Instead of saying, “Turn to Jesus,” we beat them over the head with some commandment they aren’t keeping like, “Well, if you would just go to church! If you would stop sinning!”
Is that going to save them? No. Now, if they go to church, they might think about Jesus and that might help. If they stop sinning, that’s a good thing. But instead of seeking Jesus, we tell them to do things that they don’t want to do or feel like they can’t do. So, they find themselves where? Outside of the gospel. “Well, that’s for perfect people. Those are the people that can do all that stuff. I’m not one of those people that can do that stuff.” As a result, they don’t turn to Jesus.
So, stop it! Stop beating them over the head with stuff they aren’t doing right! Don’t you think they know they aren’t on track? That they are miserable? Of course they know. What is it they obviously don’t know? They don’t know about Jesus. They think Jesus is mad at them because of this performance standard they’ve heard about all their life. Have they heard about Jesus and the Atonement? Not enough. Instead, they have heard about all “the stuff.” Right? And they aren’t doing “the stuff,” so they don’t feel one with “the stuff.” So instead of “the “stuff,” could we talk more about Jesus, His infinite and eternal love for all of us, and His desire to save us, to rescue us, and to love us like the father of the prodigal son?
Say things like this: “Did you know Jesus isn’t mean?” What if you were to say to your loved one who is struggling with church inactivity or pornography or whatever, “Did you know that Jesus isn’t mad at you?” They might not believe you. “Well, everybody else is!” Well, He’s not. What if we were to lead them to the Living Water? Or to the tree that Alma is talking about with the fruit on it? What if they could taste it? Instead of pulling the iron rod off the stand and beating them to death with it, what if we were to use it for what it was originally intended to do: leading people to the tree where the fruit is? The tree is Jesus. The fruit is the Atonement. “But they are getting off the path!” you say. “Oh, the great and spacious building! Let’s build barricades! Let’s bring dump trunks in and fill the river of filthiness with dirt so they can’t fall in it. Let’s burn down the great and spacious building!”
No, no, no. The tree is the tree. It has the fruit. How much fruit is growing in the great and spacious building? How much fruit is in the river of filthiness? How much fruit is in the mists of darkness? There is only fruit on the tree. It doesn’t need help—it just needs to be seen. You just need to point them to it. It isn’t about rules. It isn’t about commandments. It isn’t about how you are this bad person breaking the commandments. It’s about how Jesus is merciful and kind and mighty to save. And the only thing that upsets Heavenly Father, according to Alma and Amulek, is that people won’t go to Him. They won’t turn to the Savior who is the fountain of truth and love and all those kinds of things.
“Jesus is not in the commandments. He is not in the temple. He is not in the books. And He is not in the buildings. Jesus is a being. The only reason we have any of those things—temples, scriptures, and meetinghouses—is so we can get to the tree. So we can get to Him so He can save us. So, if those things are disconnected from the Atonement, then they are just things—hollow and useless, even wasteful. If you aren’t going to the temple and seeking Jesus in everything you do there, if you aren’t going to church and seeing the Savior up on the sacrament table with the burial cloth on Him, if the Atonement is not connected to your scripture study or your prayers or your family devotionals, then it is just stuff—things we are doing. Everyone, everywhere, always.”
“President Nelson continued,
As we invest time in learning about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, we are drawn to participate in another key element to accessing His power: we choose to have faith in Him and follow Him. True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous. . . . Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. (“Drawing on the Power of Jesus Christ”)”
Written by Ronald E. Bartholomew, author of True Versus Truth.