The Meaning of the Atonement
As we come to the conclusion of this beautiful Sabbath day, I want to express my personal appreciation for the privilege of being a guest in such a pleasant place with such a sweet spirit, and this beautiful music sung concerning one of our favorite scriptures is so appropriate for the subject that I would hope to have a blessing of the Lord in discussing tonight.
It was Alma's declaration that he wished he had the voice of an angel so he could just sound like a trump and stop people in their tracks, so that after everything the four sons of Mosiah had done to convert thousands of Lamanites, kings, queens and just thousands of them that they had brought over to join the Nephites, he just wished he could stop the Lamanites from coming in and attacking them. That he had the voice of an angel to just trumpet to them to repent like their brothers had. And then he said, "Well, I shouldn't be wishing for something beyond what God has called me to." Then the war occurred. It was the worst war in the history of the children of Lehi.
As I was sitting here I could not help but think of the voice of another angel that spoke to you from this pulpit, I think Dec. 19, 1971. That angelic voice could hardly express itself. It was almost difficult to understand. It had undergone a very severe operation that had almost robbed that voice of articulation. He was so weak in speech that the First Presidency didn't even want him to come, but this was his stake and he wasn't going to miss the dedication of this beautiful stake center in his stake. So he came here, his throat all sore from cobalt burns and so forth, and he spoke the very best he could. His heart was so bad he had to sit up all night. You wouldn't have known that because he was so spry and enthusiastic and expressed himself the best he could. he just wouldn't have missed this.
In talking to President Wrede today, and President and Sister Lyons, they told me some of the beautiful and exciting things that happened here behind the scenes. This wonderful man thought he was coming here to tell you farewell, He thought that was the end. he was leaving here to have his open-heart surgery. His voice was almost gone, and when it was suggested to him that he might yet serve the Lord as Prophet, he said, "No, no, Brother Lee is next and he will live a long time, outlive us older Apostles."
Almost three years to the week, that angel's voice was called to speak to every nation, kindred, tongue and people as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He grew up in this valley. He has your spirit, this valley has his spirit. I feel it here, you have his spirit.You were a blessing to him and he was a blessing to you. I honor the name of President Kimball this night, for the voice that is one of the most effective, penetrating calls to repentance this generation has ever heard.
I have to smile at my students, when President Kimball comes to BYU they can hardly wait. They want to get out early from class so they can be sure to get a seat, because when he speaks at BYU we always have 2000 more turn out than the Marriott Center will hold, so everyone waits to get a seat instead of a step. I don't think the Fire Marshall ever comes to these meetings. I think he listens to it on the radio so he won't embarrass anybody.
Well, anyway, it's kind of interesting to watch. They go enthusiastically, they want to hear the Prophet. They love Brother Kimball. Then as he comes in he waves to the students, so full of good will and love towards them.
Then he starts in on the miracle of forgiveness. I've never counted how many sins there are that he knows about, I don't think he has left any of them out. It's amazing what happens to you—everybody loves to hear the gospel. Me, I just love to hear a talk on repentance, just don't be too specific. The general thing is beautiful, but when you start getting a prophet going down though the elements of misfeasance and malfeasance and all the things that are possible, you just realize that we are imperfect human beings. And while we are living some things pretty good, over here there's a great big area that needs attention.
So I notice and say to my students, "My, you were sober when you went out of that meeting and your 'Amen' was kind of quiet," but that is because he touches them. Our people are becoming stronger, more spiritual because of the voice of that angel.
When he was having his larynx operated upon in New York, the doctor said, "Don't worry about it, we will take care of it. It's a little inconvenient not to have your voice, but we will work up something as a substitute, it isn't that big a thing."
The Prophet looked at him and said, "Doctor, how would you like to lose your hands!"
The surgeon said, "I apologize, I apologize. It is a great loss, But we will do everything that we can to save that voice."
And so, while it his been strained—I noticed at conference in October, especially at the Sunday morning session, he was just barely able to get the energy to make that instrument in there work. But, my, we prayed for him, we pleaded with the Lord to give him the strength to be able to finish the conference. Sweet Spirit.
Now, tonight, I would like to share with you some things that are beautiful and powerful and almost lost to the church, which President Kimball introduced at the Priesthood meeting on Saturday night, the Second of April.
There are many profound and beautiful things that have been restored with the Gospel that are not often discussed. Sometimes when they are discussed you will hear people say, "Well, then why don't the Brethren talk about that more?" Well, the Brethren, usually, when they are heard at conference, are talking to the world, if you get the Brethren in a cloistered setting of priesthood, such as were here Saturday night, you'll hear it. And we will be getting to hear more and more of it. If there are a group of missionaries with one of the general authorities, they'll open up on the great, profound truths of the Gospel that are not generally discussed when the Brethren are talking to the world. They are very sacred.
President Kimball introduced one Saturday night that I want to comment upon tonight briefly, because it's the whole foundation of Easter that's never discussed. We just don't talk about it, and we are the only people that have got the book that talks about it. And we've almost lost it as a doctrine in the Church. So I was quite thrilled when President Kimball introduced it.
He said, "You know, I want everyone to understated that in this life we have a very limited amount of Priesthood authority to function with. There are many ordinances that as yet must be given to us in the next world. One of them will be the ordinance of resurrection."
We're not allowed to perform that ordinance here. It's an ordinance of the Priesthood. We'll get it over there; over in the next life we will also have the ordinance of begetting spirit children with our resurrected bodies. That's something that we have no capacity or power to do here; physical bodies, yes, but not spirit.
Then he got on to a theme that I'm sure may have sounded a little strange to some ears. Then he said that you will be able to have access to the intelligences in the universe and organize them and make planets and organize kingdoms. Now this is a beautiful doctrine. It's time we discuss it a little bit more, because if we understand this principle, it will help us to comprehend why there had to be an atonement.
I don't know whether this bothers you or not, but as I was a little boy sitting in Sunday School in Canada, and they talked about the terrible suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, I would say to my Sunday School teachers, "Who wanted that? What was all that suffering for?"
Everyone talks all about the suffering, what was it for? Who was it to Satisfy? And my teacher said it was to satisfy Heavenly Father. That didn't answer my childish questions either. It seemed like if Heavenly Father wanted us to come down on this earth, after we'd repented, he'd just say, "Come on back up, you did the best you could." What did we need all that suffering for? And all my life, at least until I went on my mission, I asked those questions.
One day I was riding along with President Widsoe in charge of the European missions. I was only seventeen when I was called on my mission, and I thought this was my chance to ask Brother Widsoe all those questions that had been on my mind since a little boy. So I asked him, "Why did Jesus have to suffer on the cross?"
He said, "Who told you to ask me that question?"
I said, "Well, I've always wondered it, nobody told me, I just wondered it."
He said. "Is this your question?"
I said "Yes," and I thought maybe I had violated a mission rule.
He said, "if it is your question, I'll answer it. This is the most profound question of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it shouldn't be answered unless people are capable of at first wondering about it so they can hear the answer."
Then he said, "I'll tell you where to start studying and where to start reading."
So I did, and when I began to get the picture, It was mostly in the Book of Mormon. Nearly all of it was in the Book of Mormon. So I read quite a bit, and towards the end of my mission I thought I had it pretty well figured out, and I got a chance to ask Brother Widsoe, "Can I report to you on my studies of the Atonement?"
"Yes," he said, "you can. Let me hear it."
So I reported.
"Well, you see," he said, "you need about four more passages and they will tell you this and this and this."
"Oh," I said, "that's wonderful. I've been spending so much time on this, I'm awfully glad I asked you. Where are they located?"
He said, "I wouldn't deprive you of the thrill of finding them."
"President Widsoe, you mean I have to dig these out?!"
He said, "I'll tell you the general area. Now this first one is in the first half of the D&C, and another one is found in the middle of the Book of Mormon...."
Well, he had them all spread out so that I had to read practically the whole standard works again. It took me seven years to find them and it was so thrilling when I finally found them, and he said, "Yes, that's the picture."
It was so thrilling and this, the general theme and foundation of it, was what President Kimball was talking about at Priesthood. He didn't identify it and associate it with the subject of the Atonement per se, but it's the foundation of it.
Now this isn't written up in many places in Church literature so if you have a piece of paper, I'll give you all of the references so it won't take you seven years. however, should you look all of these up, you'll appreciate it much more than if you just said, "Now I know where." Actually read each passage and you'll begin to see what a marvelous motion, an avalanche, a veritable waterfall of truth that has been poured out upon the Saints In the Latter-days. We've allowed some of it to run off without really appreciating what it represented.
Now first of all it's 2 Nephi 2:14 and here's what you'll read:
"And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hat created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon."
Father Lehi says that everything in the Universe is made of two things. This is where we get the building blocks concept "Something to act and something to be acted upon."