The atonement perfects our imperfections

By Scott Livingston

For Mormon Times

Published: Monday, June 13 2011 5:30 a.m. MDT

Anyone with sufficient mortal experience knows the feeling of having done or said something they regret. How often do we end a day tossing and turning in bed while reviewing those cringe-worthy moments in which we lost our temper, said or did something unkind, or were simply less than we should have been?

But making mistakes is just a part of the human condition, isn’t it? After all, there’s nothing we can really do about such spiritual frailties. They’re just a part of mortality.

In contrast, scriptures and prophets affirm that one of the most important purposes of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is to correct all mortal defects, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

The pre-mortal Savior taught Moroni in the Book of Mormon:

“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

The list of our imperfections seems endless. Such deficiencies as anger, jealousy, lust and greed would certainly be included. Selfishness, impatience, vulgarity and fear are also common thorns in our spiritual sides. How is it possible that the Atonement can compensate and even perfect our innumerable imperfections?

The analogy of drafting in bicycling helps to clarify the role of the Savior in converting our weaknesses into strengths. Just as staying in close proximity and alignment behind another bicyclist provides a decrease in wind resistance or turbulence, so becoming “at one” with Jesus Christ provides us with compensating power to overcome our myriad mistakes.

If Jesus Christ really can turn all of our flaws, failings and frailties into strengths, what is our part in this process? What must we do to activate the Savior’s perfecting power in our lives?

In an address titled “Be Strong in the Lord,” given at a fireside at Brigham Young University in March 2002, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve provided the following direction about how to start:

“Are you struggling with some sin or weakness? It can be something as simple as not having the willpower to rise in the morning early enough to have time for scripture study and prayer. It can be something so powerful, such as Internet pornography or lack of moral self-control, that you feel you have been pulled down into an abyss and there is no hope for you. Do you find yourself hating what you are doing but not able to find the willpower to turn away from it? Then reach out and humble yourself. The Lord’s enabling power is sufficient to change your heart, to turn your life, to purge your soul. But you must make the first move, which is to humble yourself and realize that only in God can you find deliverance.”

As with all spiritual progression, the process begins with prayer. Fervent, frequent searching of the scriptures and the words of the prophets likewise provides direction. Diligence in keeping our covenants is also a powerful catalyst in the process of perfection. In our striving to become Latter-day Saints, living the gospel is always the path by which we invite the Savior into a personal partnership with us as we labor to “come off conqueror” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:5).

There is no weakness that Jesus Christ cannot make strong. There is no flaw that he is unable or unwilling to polish into glittering perfection. Truly he has “taken upon him (our) infirmities” that he might both empathize with and also succor us in conquering our infirmities. No matter the extent of our inadequacies or sins, we have a Savior who is able and anxious to assist.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Scott Livingston blogs about creativity at sleye1.com and about the uphill climb of becoming a writer at smashingstories.blogspot.com

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