That We May Be Made Perfect In One

Almost exactly 38 years ago today, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave his final public address to the membership of the Church. In this talk, which he titled The Purifying Power of Gethsemane, he made this declaration:

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.

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.

In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.

True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.

On this Easter Sunday, I wish to echo Elder McConkie’s testimony and, much like him, I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets because, just like Elder McConkie said, they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in all the history of mankind. It is through our Saviour’s atoning sacrifice, his suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross on Golgotha, that he took upon himself the pains and sufferings of all mankind, not just those associated with sin, but all pain and all suffering, thus bringing to truth His proclamation that those who take His yoke upon themselves with find rest to their souls (see Matthew 11:28-30). By descending below all things He was able to rise above them, breaking the bands of death and hell and making it possible for all of our Father in Heaven’s children to return to live with Him in His celestial kingdom on high (see Doctrine & Covenants 88:6-13).

It seems odd, therefore, to realise that the word “atonement,” in our English translation of the New Testament, appears just one time, in the fifth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans. How blessed we are, then, as Latter-day Saints, to have so much more than the words of Christ’s disciples in Israel in the first century after His birth, to guide and instruct us! Through the Book of Mormon, truly another testament of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible, and the teachings of latter-day prophets and apostles we are able to come to know the one true God and Jesus Christ, whom He had sent (see John 17:3).

What, exactly, is atonement? It is, in actuality, a word that defines itself: atonement is the process of being at one.

At one with what, though?

Our Saviour answered this question in His great Intercessory Prayer, recorded in John 17:21-23:

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we may be one with Him, one with our Father in Heaven, and one with each other.

And how do we achieve this perfect unity? Mormon, that great Nephite prophet and historian of old, in a sermon given to the few remaining faithful followers of Christ following the destruction of their society, taught this:

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

It is my testimony that the only way to “be made perfect in one” with our Father, our Saviour, and each other, is to be filled with charity, which is the pure love of Christ. (How we can do this is surely another topic for another time!)

I close where I started, with the words that Elder McConkie spoke on that April morning nearly four decades ago:

… 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.

But 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 so testify in the name of the Holy Messiah, who is full of grace and truth, even Jesus Christ.


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