Happy Easter to all of you! The Easter season is the most sacred part of the year for Christians because it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are all part of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is the most important event that has ever occurred in all the history of mankind. It has been said that no one really understands their need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ until they understand the Fall of Adam and its effect on all mankind. As part of Heavenly Father's plan of salvation for His children, the Atonement of Jesus Christ was necessary to counteract the effects of the Fall of Adam.
The Fall of Adam brought two kinds of death into the world: physical death and spiritual death. Physical death is the separation of the body and the spirit. Spiritual death is separation from God. The Atonement of Jesus Christ overcame both kinds of death. Without the Atonement, our bodies and spirits would separate at death and never be reunited. Without the Atonement, we would never live with Heavenly Father again.
As a visual for the Fall of Adam, imagine a man falling into a very deep pit. The man tried to climb up the very steep side of the pit but kept slipping back to the bottom. He searched around in the pit and discovered some sticks and poles. He took the scarce materials and made the longest ladder possible with what he had available. He stood the ladder on end and leaned it against the side of the pit. With great excitement, he climbed the ladder to the very top - only to discover that he was still far below the rim of the pit. He knew that he had done all that he could do, and now he understood that he could not save himself. He became very discouraged and resigned himself to being in the pit for the rest of his life. This man represents all mankind after the Fall of Adam.
The man stayed in the pit for a long time. Then one day another man came along the same path and saw the huge pit. He carefully crept to the edge of the pit and looked down into the pit. There he saw the first man sitting in the bottom of the pit. He also saw the ladder leaning against the side of the pit. He recognized that he could save the man by using the rope that he carried and the ladder that the other man had built. He called down to the man and explained his plan. He secured one end of the rope and then threw the other end down to the man. The man in the pit climbed to the top of his ladder and then grabbed the rope. Working together, the man in the pit was able to climb out of the pit. He was very grateful for the man who saved him and remembered him for the rest of his life. This second man represents our Savior and his rope represents the grace of God. As I mentioned earlier, no man, woman or child realizes his or her need for the Savior until he or she recognizes that the Fall of Adam plunged all of us into a very deep pit!
Our loving and wise Heavenly Father prepared a wonderful plan to save us from the effects of the Fall of Adam, which are physical and spiritual death. He planned for a Savior to come to earth to pull mankind out of the "pit" of mortality. This Savior came to redeem us from our sins and from death. We could not redeem ourselves because of our sins and the weaknesses of our mortal bodies. (See Alma 34:10-12.) Jesus Christ was sinless, and He had power over death because He is the Son of God. He is the only one who did not fall into the "pit."
Jesus Christ was the only person who could be our Savior for numerous reasons. The first reason is that Heavenly Father chose Jesus to be the Savior. A second reason is that Jesus was the Only Begotten Son of God; therefore, He was the only one who had power over death. No one could take His life from Him unless He allowed it. A third reason is that He is the only person to live on earth who did not commit any sin. He alone was worthy to make a sacrifice to pay for the sins of others.
I personally do not fully understand how Jesus Christ suffered for all our sins, but I know that He did. I know that He atoned for my sins and for your sins as He suffered in Gethsemane and gave His life on the cross. The weight of our sins caused Him to feel such pain in Gethsemane that He bled from every pore. He suffered through painful death on the cross and died from one of the cruelest methods of death that are known to man.
The suffering of Christ through both physical and spiritual agony shows the great love that both Heavenly Father and Christ have for all mankind. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Heavenly Father sent His Beloved Son to earth to suffer and then stood back and let His Son suffer. As a parent, having some experience with watching my children suffer great pain, I have some understanding of the great sacrifice Heavenly Father made as He allowed Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of mankind. I believe that it is essential that we understand this truth as well as the fact of Christ's suffering for us. None of us have a right to complain about the suffering we have to endure.
Jesus Christ became the first person to be resurrected when He took up His body again on that third day after His crucifixion. The wonderful news was proclaimed by an angel to Christ's friends, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said" (Matthew 28:6). His spirit re-entered His body and would never separated from it again. By His resurrection, Christ overcame death and made it possible for all mankind to be resurrected also. (See 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.) Just as Jesus was resurrected, our spirits will be reunited with our bodies and will never experience death again. (See Alma 11:45.) All people who have ever lived on earth will be resurrected. (See Alma 11:44.) This condition is called immortality and is a free gift to all mankind from Jesus Christ.
Just as the resurrection of Christ made it possible for all mankind to overcome physical death, the Atonement of Christ made it possible for us to overcome spiritual death. This gift is conditional on our acceptance of Christ's Atonement on our behalf.
We accept Christ's Atonement when we put our faith in Him. We show our faith in Him when we repent of our sins, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and obey His commandments. When we do those things, we become His disciples, and we receive forgiveness and cleansing from sin in preparation to return to Heavenly Father's presence to live forever.
President Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve Apostles told a story - a parable - that illustrates how Christ's Atonement made it possible to be saved from sin IF we do all we can do. The parable can be found in Ensign, May 1977, 54-55, but a summary of the parable follows.
There was a man who wanted something, badly enough to go into debt for it. He always knew that he had the debt, but he didn't get around to paying it. Then the bill came due, and the man had nothing to pay it. There was a discussion about justice and mercy. The creditor could not extend mercy to the man and still receive justice. The man was headed to prison for not being able to pay his debt until his friend came to help. The friend paid the creditor and gave him justice. The friend then extended mercy to the debtor. He set the terms for repayment of the debt, terms that were possible but not easy. Justice had been satisfied, and mercy was extended.
When we sin, we go into spiritual debt. Jesus Christ is our Friend who paid our debts and offered us possible terms for repayment. He is our Savior and our Mediator. His terms are repentance and obedience to the commandments. If we keep His terms, we will qualify to return to live with our Heavenly Father again.
Jesus Christ gave mankind two gifts. The first gift is that we will be resurrected and become immortal. It is given freely to all mankind. The second gift is the Atonement. It gives us eternal life IF we accept the terms offered by Jesus Christ: Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receive the Holy Ghost, and keep the commandments for the rest of our lives.
"Behold, I have come unto the world … to save the world from sin.
"Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved" (3 Nephi 9:21-22).
Jesus Christ lives!