Reflections on the Atonement

About three weeks ago, in preparation for General Conference, I started some self-reflection and evaluations about how I’m doing with my faith and spirituality. I’ve recently felt so spiritually exhausted and drained and it was actually rather difficult to admit to myself that I might actually be struggling to remember what I’ve always felt and believed. I don’t mean to say that I was doubting my testimony, though I did wonder if that was what was happening. As I thought about how I was feeling, I sometimes felt like running away and just going off to do my own thing rather than what was expected of me. I felt the burden of always being righteous in world that is so painfully moving – sprinting – in the opposite direction.  Yes, I used the word burden. I’ve finally figured out why people might use that word to describe what it’s like to live the Gospel. In my opinion, the Gospel can be a burden, but only if we’re more worried about what the world thinks of us than what God thinks of us. In the words of Elder Lynn G. Robbins: Which Way Do You Face?

It’s easy for us to sometimes turn away from God when we get too many things on our plate that we stress over – school, homework, work, finances, what to make for dinner, and even extracurricular activities and trying to make sure you don’t feel too overwhelmed by all the things you’re REQUIRED to do in the world. Once we’ve got enough of that, we often find ourselves neglecting the truly important things like scripture study and sincere daily prayers. Not necessarily on purpose, but when we do that in the attempt to not feel too overwhelmed by the required items on our list of things to do, ironically enough, we end up feeling more overwhelmed than ever. Not only that, but we also feel farther away from God than ever. At least, that’s how I was feeling.

I received some pretty great insights and revelation while watching General Conference last weekend, but today was also a day for gaining some rather significant insights. The biggest one I’ve been reminded of is that, in my opinion, one of the most important words in the scriptures is REMEMBER. Often the reason we get more caught up in the opinions of others rather than the opinion of God is because 1: We forget who we are and what we’re capable of and 2: We forget who God is and what He is capable of. As we forget those things, we more and more forget why He asks us to do certain things, what covenants we’ve made and why and other extremely important things pertaining to who we are here on Earth and who we are and can be in the eternities. Forgetting is what makes life so difficult.

Today as I sat in sacrament meeting, we were singing hymn 169 “As Now We Take the Sacrament” and I was focused on trying to really internalize the meaning of the sacrament and why it’s so important for us to take that bit of bread and water each week. I watched the Priesthood holders break the bread while we sang and I was struck by these words in the third verse: “Silently we pray for courage to accept Thy will, to listen and obey…” I proceeded to look up the relative scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants and one of them said ” Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” I tried to fully take in the meaning of these things, what it really means to accept the Lord’s will and offer Him everything I have in order to accomplish it. I also tried to look in towards myself and asked if I was really doing that. Do I really have a desire to change and accept the Lord’s will? My first reaction is no. Not really. There are often times in my week where I don’t want to do something – I would rather binge watch movies and TV shows all day or spend hours and hours reading a book instead of doing homework, reading scriptures or whatever else I have to do. And I don’t really want to give up those things. But the more I thought on it and related it to taking the sacrament I realized something: When I take the sacrament each week, that’s what I’m telling the Lord I’m willing to do – I’m promising Him that I will do my best to be better than I was the previous week. So then, have I honestly, truthfully and worthily been taking the sacrament?

As these thoughts came, I was reminded again of my goals and hopes and dreams in life. I have so much I want to accomplish but what is the purpose behind any of them? For me personally, all I really want to do is strengthen others and help them find the same peace and joy that I have in my own life, even with all the ups and downs that happen. So what I’m really trying to find in myself is whether or not my heart is pure and good and honest. When I looked at everything that way, I found that my answer to the question “Do I really have the desire to change and accept the Lord’s will?” change from a reluctant no to a resound and triumphant YES! Yes I do want to change. Yes I do want to follow Jesus Christ. Yes I want to be good and clean and pure. YES YES YES!

My friends, THIS is what the sacrament (and therefore, the Atonement) is for. It’s for us to be able to recognize the need for change and to find a way to accept it as well as do it. It’s for allowing us the chance to admit our weaknesses and get through them. The sacrament is for us to remember the Savior and the path He has made for us to become like Him and our Father in Heaven. The Atonement has changed my life and allowed me to be who I am today. It has allowed me to be strengthened in each trial and struggle. It has helped me to become a better person every day.

I want to share one more thing that has really helped me REMEMBER more often this precious gift. Almost every day, I usually will post on Facebook how I saw the hand of the Lord in my life that day. It’s something we did every night on my mission to start our nightly planning session and it’s something I started up again about a year after returning home because one of the elders from my mission had started doing it on his Facebook page. It started out as really just being those things that made me happy throughout the day like there was a beautiful sunrise or it snowed or I got to see a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time or even something funny that happened that day. Now, none of those things are bad at all and definitely can be considered a tender mercy of the Lord. However, I eventually started paying more attention to what I was writing rather than trying to just think of things that would make other people laugh (which is what I found myself doing a lot). I tried to make it more meaningful in my own life and then post the things that impacted me the most. So now, I still share those fun things and the small and simple things but I also will generally include a lesson I learned from the Spirit. The more I’ve done this, the more I feel myself drawing closer to my Savior and feeling more of His love and mercy every day. The more I can see how things throughout the day impact me spiritually, the stronger my testimony grows. It reminds me of what’s really important and what really will change my life and help me be a better person than I was the day before.

This was what I shared on April 15 and I share it now because it shares my testimony of looking every day for the Hand of the Lord:

“One of my friends shared this Mormon Message Shower of Heavenly Blessings and it reminded me of conversations I’ve had with my mom in recent years. First of all, just a few days ago, I told her I love to share each day what the Lord blessed me with because no matter how much I might want to complain about roommates or schoolwork or finances or whatever else is bothering me, doing this every day reminds me that I really have no reason NOT to be happy. Heavenly Father has always blessed me with things I need or want or even just things He knows will make me happy or make my day just little brighter. My mom told me plenty of times on my mission that she felt like blessings were just pouring down on our family and she had no intention of putting up an umbrella (now you see why this video reminded me of that). Guys… My family had every reason to be sad and grieving while I was on my mission because my brother had passed away and we found out just hours after I had entered the MTC on June 5, 2013. Our world had turned completely upside-down and we were learning how to adjust and turn it over again. We could have cried every day and allowed ourselves to wallow in grief and pain. We could have become angry whenever someone mentioned Tyler’s name or hiking or anything related to him. We could have turned our backs on God and blamed Him for what had happened. But instead, we were able to be strong and find JOY, even after something totally unexpected, unimaginable and seemingly tragic because we recognized the small and simple things, the little miracles, the tiny blessings, the tender mercies that our Father in Heaven had chosen to give us among the hurt we were experiencing. And as my mom said, the were just POURING out of heaven. Heavenly Father reminded us that everything would be okay whenever the sun set on the mountains. He reminded us how much he loves us every time our friends gave us a hug or found a way to serve us. He reminded us that He knows and understands our pain whenever clouds came and rain fell from the sky. There are so many more than that but my point is this: Heavenly Father is in every single second of every single day. It doesn’t matter how difficult life is or what kind of trials you’re facing – He is always there, watching and waiting for us to see the little messages of love and peace and comfort that He sends especially for each of His individual children. So what kind of blessings have you received today? What kinds of miracles did you experience? How did you see the hand of the Lord in your life today? And did you take the time to enjoy it and thank the Lord for it?”

So my challenge to you this week is to recognize those tender mercies, those spiritual lessons. I challenge you to let the Lord be in the details of your life and write them down every day so you don’t forget. Ponder these things and think of ways you can apply what you learn. I promise it will strengthen your relationship and testimony of Jesus Christ. I promise that as you recognize the hand of the Lord in your daily life, you will be able to accomplish your goals and hopes and dreams. quote-uchtdorf-1180910-gallery