Monday, March 4, 2013

THE ATONEMENT for mom and dad from Rita February 2013

THE ATONEMENT for mom and dad from Rita
February 2013

One of the key aspects of the Atonement is forgiveness. We ALL need it! I need it!

Many people are not happy A LOT…WAY TOO MUCH! At times I take on guilt for the actions of others, my family that didn’t turn out perfect for example. Wow! That’s a lot of burden, but isn’t that what the Atonement is for? I want to challenge each of us to let go of some of that. I want to do for myself what I do for others, accept and love myself a little more, be a little less critical and a little more forgiving of me. Will you join me?

Next of course, I need to talk about forgiveness for sins, shortcomings, etc. Yes, I mean all those things on the list that I didn’t get done every day of my life. Then, there are those pesky faults. I hate to admit that I yell at the people I love. Can you believe it? I’m working on it, though. You know, for sin, I have what I consider the perfect analogy. I’d like you to think of the coin funnels you see in many malls.

You drop a coin (penny, nickel, dime, maybe even a quarter) into a plastic contraption mounted on the side. It shoots on its side onto a huge funnel. I would guess it’s about 5 feet across. As you look down at the funnel, which is about the height of your knees, you watch your coin go around and around. Dropping lower with each round. Until finally, it disappears in the center in a hole only a couple of inches wide. Now, compare that to the progression or course of sin. You begin on the spiral of sin with temptation, just as the coin begins on the funnel. You may then have sinful thoughts; you are dropping lower in the spiral. The thoughts may become more intense and frequent; you’re even lower. You talk about giving in to your desire; lower. Finally, you succumb to the act itself; lower. One act of sin leads to another, and another, taking you lower and lower. The interesting thing about the coin funnel is that at any moment before the coin drops out of sight, you can reach out your hand, stop the coin, and lift it from the funnel. Sometimes, it’s not easy. You may have to drag the coin along the inside of the funnel until it reaches the top where you can pluck it up. If you let go, it slides directly down into the hole at the center. There is no course around and around. In this case, it’s just straight down.

Similarly, we have a Savior who, when called upon, will lift and pluck us from the downward spiral of sin. As with the coin funnel, it may be easy in some cases or difficult in others to be removed from the grasp of sin, and if we slip, the fall is much quicker than the first time. I am grateful for my Savior. I need his help to regain the Father’s presence and blessings. Isn’t that what the Atonement is for? I plan to repent with more care. Will you join me?

Lastly, want to focus on forgiveness from another angle; that is, forgiving others. You may have heard the stories of the shooting of 5 Amish girls by their milkman and the teenager who just for fun threw a 20 pound turkey through the windshield of a car, seriously harming a woman. If not, they are worth looking up and reading for their demonstration of the power of forgiveness.

As I’ve worked through difficult circumstances in my own life, I’ve struggled with forgiving others and myself. I used to think that if I tried hard enough or just did the right thing, I should be able to fix everything. One of the most difficult lessons for me is that not everything is in my control, even though I keep working toward making things the best they can be. Sometimes, the Lord allows us to be tested in the most difficult circumstances. I’ve heard others say, “I don’t know why a loving God would allow that to happen.” The truth is, good people have trials. I’ve seen some of the best people I know have the most severe trials. We are all here to be tested, to learn, and to grow. One of the most difficult trials can be the judgments of others. They may say hurtful things intending to make a point when they have no concept of the situation. I watched a program on abuse where they talked about how our society, also searching for reasons, often puts blame on the victims; those we should be protecting. Anger, guilt, and fear are some of Satan’s most powerful weapons in this war of evil and righteousness that we are fighting each day. He uses these to immobilize us and prevent us from living to our fullest potential. Forgiveness, even when there is no retribution or justice or remorse from your offenders in this life is the solution that will free you from the anger, guilt, and fear.

The Lord sent me an experience allowing me to demonstrate deep forgiveness early in my adult life. My 3rd child was hit and killed by an elderly driver when 19-months-old. In shock herself, she brought my son’s body to the house, spoke with me briefly, and then left the scene. She had been on her way to visit her daughter in Preston, Idaho, and continued there. Although entitled to receive more, we insisted that her insurance company only pay for the funeral and burial costs. When the insurance company then tried to sue this elderly woman,  not only forgave her, but defended her. Although I supported the taking of her driving privileges, I insisted that the insurance company not attempt to hold her financially responsible in any way.

As we grow older, we learn how true it is that each of us is imperfect. We learn to be more tolerant and loving toward each other in spite of our faults. In many cases, to those who others would say do not deserve it. Some would say this is foolish, but I testify to you that they are wrong. I say this service will bring you happiness and peace. Although I often still struggle, consider the following. If I treat others as if they are doing their best and love them, isn’t the rest what the Atonement is for? I commit to be less judgmental and provide more Christ-like service. Will you join me?

So, to me the Atonement is being forgiven, forgiving others, and forgiving myself. It really is love personified as my Savior himself.

Well, who can really leave the subject of the Atonement at one page? I will leave this page here, but my heart flows on and on. I cannot stop on this topic without sharing some of my favorite words. It is true that these words have been said first by others, but they have been solidified into my heart and become my own. I love them. If you choose to read further, you will understand why I say this.

In the name of my loving Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

THE ATONEMENT – More of the Story…

Ah, so you could not stop either. I’m glad you chose to join me in reading from the words of the Prophets and Apostles, but first a quick, personal story.

Years ago, interestingly enough, my daughter’s family took a driving trip across the country stopping at many Church historical sites, including the Carthage Jail. The tour guide at this site told a story of how for years the blood stain of Joseph was preserved on the floor where he was shot. In the early 1980s, President Kimball visited the site and gave instructions to clean up the blood stain. He said that leaving it there kept open the conflict and hurt from years in the past. The tour guide described how perceptions of our Church in that area immediately began to change upon this simple gesture of forgiveness. Her stories of this trip are what instigated my interest in a mission to Nauvoo.

Please forgive me for mixing words, but I find them so beautiful and wanted to combine some of them.

Once or twice in a thousand years—perhaps a dozen times since mortal man became of dust a living soul—an event of such transcendent import occurs that neither heaven nor earth is ever thereafter the same.

Once or twice in a score of generations the hand from heaven clasps the hand on earth in perfect fellowship, the divine drama unfolds, and the whole course of mortal events changes.

Now and then in a quiet garden, or amid the fires and thunders of Sinai, or inside a sepulchre that cannot be sealed, or in an upper room—almost always apart from the gaze of men and seldom experienced by more than a handful of people—the Lord intervenes in the affairs of men and manifests His will relative to their salvation.

The most transcendent of all such events occurred in a garden called Gethsemane, outside Jerusalem’s walls, when the Chief Citizen of planet Earth sweat great drops of blood from every pore as He in agony took upon Himself the sins of all men on conditions of repentance. Yet another of these events, destined to affect the life and being of every living soul, happened in the Arimathean’s tomb when the sinless spirit of the one perfect man returned from the paradise of God to inhabit again—this time in glorious immortality—the pierced and slain body that once was His.

I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Christ.

The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The magnitude of that Atonement is beyond our ability to completely understand. I know only that it happened, and that it was for me and for you. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can comprehend it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind.

It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and his great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life. May God help us to be a little kinder, showing forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, more willing to walk the second mile, to reach down and lift up those who may have sinned but have brought forth the fruits of repentance, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more.

His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.

It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.

Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.

And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory.

I believe in this Christ. I believe that he came to this Earth as an innocent baby. I believe that my Eternal Heavenly Father allowed him to leave this Earth as an innocent sacrifice, to ransom me from my frailties and stubborn errors. I believe that he lives, perfected and glorified. I believe that in a coming day, I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way. I believe He will be my advocate and plead with the Father on my behalf. I love Him.

In the name of our dear Lord, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

When Christ was on the Earth, he taught the principle of forgiveness to those in Jerusalem and those in the Americas. In Matthew 6:14-15 and 3 Nephi 13:14-15, he said,
“For, if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

In our day, the Lord has said in revelation:
“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

The Lord has offered a marvelous promise. Said He, “He who repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Christ taught us to serve even those who some would say do not deserve it because of their actions. I want to share with you what King Benjamin said in the Book of Mormon because he said it so eloquently.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
 17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
 18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
 19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
 20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
 21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
 22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
 23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
 24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
 25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.
 26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
 27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

Sometimes, when we have offended others, it is their unexpected forgiveness that stops our downward descent, and begins our journey back to safety. President Hinckley spoke of such a woman. The story comes from a column in the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen. The column is titled, “Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future.”

“How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal—and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?

“And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? …

“This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime.

“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.

“Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault—the charge most fitting for the crime—he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

“According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’

“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears”

What a great story that is, greater because it actually happened, and that it happened in tough old New York. Who can feel anything but admiration for this woman who forgave the young man who might have taken her life?

President Hinckley went on to acknowledge that not all stories end as well as this one. But he made the point that in many cases, “forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way.”

James E Faust, previous Second Counselor in the First Presidency, told a story in the April 2007 Conference that perfectly demonstrates this principle.

“In the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, a devout group of Christian people live a simple life without automobiles, electricity, or modern machinery. They work hard and live quiet, peaceful lives separate from the world. Most of their food comes from their own farms. The women sew and knit and weave their clothing, which is modest and plain. They are known as the Amish people.

A 32-year-old milk truck driver lived with his family in their Nickel Mines community. He was not Amish, but his pickup route took him to many Amish dairy farms, where he became known as the quiet milkman. Last October he suddenly lost all reason and control. In his tormented mind he blamed God for the death of his first child and some unsubstantiated memories. He stormed into the Amish school without any provocation, released the boys and adults, and tied up the 10 girls. He shot the girls, killing five and wounding five. Then he took his own life.

This shocking violence caused great anguish among the Amish but no anger. There was hurt but no hate. Their forgiveness was immediate. Collectively they began to reach out to the milkman’s suffering family. As the milkman’s family gathered in his home the day after the shootings, an Amish neighbor came over, wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman, and said, “We will forgive you.” Amish leaders visited the milkman’s wife and children to extend their sympathy, their forgiveness, their help, and their love. About half of the mourners at the milkman’s funeral were Amish. In turn, the Amish invited the milkman’s family to attend the funeral services of the girls who had been killed. A remarkable peace settled on the Amish as their faith sustained them during this crisis.

One local resident very eloquently summed up the aftermath of this tragedy when he said, “We were all speaking the same language, and not just English, but a language of caring, a language of community, [and] a language of service. And, yes, a language of forgiveness.” It was an amazing outpouring of their complete faith in the Lord’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

The family of the milkman who killed the five girls released the following statement to the public:

“To our Amish friends, neighbors, and local community:

“Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. The prayers, flowers, cards, and gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.

“Please know that our hearts have been broken by all that has happened. We are filled with sorrow for all of our Amish neighbors whom we have loved and continue to love. We know that there are many hard days ahead for all the families who lost loved ones, and so we will continue to put our hope and trust in the God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives.”

How could the whole Amish group manifest such an expression of forgiveness? It was because of their faith in God and trust in His word, which is part of their inner beings. They see themselves as disciples of Christ and want to follow His example.

Hearing of this tragedy, many people sent money to the Amish to pay for the health care of the five surviving girls and for the burial expenses of the five who were killed. As a further demonstration of their discipleship, the Amish decided to share some of the money with the widow of the milkman and her three children because they too were victims of this terrible tragedy.

Forgiveness is not always instantaneous as it was with the Amish. When innocent children have been molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to “get even” with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family.

Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as it applies to human relationships:

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.

Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic.

Forgiveness comes more readily when, like the Amish, we have faith in God and trust in His word. Such faith “enables people to withstand the worst of humanity. It also enables people to look beyond themselves. More importantly, it enables them to forgive.”

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