Two Ways We Ask for and Receive the Atonement

Last night I was up with my newborn daughter. She had awoken at 2:30 for her regular feeding, but she only nursed for a short seven minutes before she unlatched and started showing signs of discomfort. Over the next forty-five minutes she spat up and vomited all the milk she had just consumed.

In my concern I took to Google for answers. I’ve come to the conclusion that her little body has been reacting negatively to the milk proteins I’ve been consuming.

My baby eventually drifted back to sleep but I couldn’t. I continued researching and mentally planning how I would cut dairy from my diet.

I turned to Heavenly Father in prayer. I prayed that my milk would be compatible with her small body, that it wouldn’t be rejected. I prayed that I could accommodate her with my diet, for diligence and selflessness to make this major diet change. I prayed for rest for both of us when it seemed slow-coming.

As I concluded my heart-whispered prayer I recognized the voice of the adversary in my mind.

How audacious to ask these things. How am I worthy of such spectacular displays of Godly power? I am literally asking him to change the composition of my milk and my child’s body. Who am I to do so? Who am I to ask for diligence and discipline when those gifts certainly must be earned?

Not a second later another voice countered these malicious thoughts and filled me with marvel and gratitude.

You are asking for the Atonement.

I was struck. I hadn’t seen it from this perspective before – but I truly was asking for the Atonement.

I was asking for Christ’s enabling power to make more of my milk and my child’s body than they were on their own.

I was asking for Christ’s enabling power to make more of myself than I was on my own, despite my own personal development efforts and desires. I knew I needed him.

And I knew then too that God is anxious to answer our pleas for the Atonement and we will not be denied regardless of the enormity or outlandishness of what we feel we have asked.

But how was it that God could grant me my ask?

How interesting is it that while God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34) He does respect people’s agency?

God respects our ability to choose so much that He will force neither trial nor blessing upon us without our consent.

We are able to receive our asks of the Atonement by giving our consent to be blessed in two primary ways:

1. We give consent to be blessed through our obedience to commandments and through keeping our covenants.

In Doctrine and Covenants 82:10 we read:

I the Lord am bound when when ye do what I say…

We literally bind the Lord to bless us as we follow his commandments. I have seen ample evidence of this in my life and it makes my heart sing that it is a pleasure to keep the commandments of God.

We also give consent as we make and keep sacred covenants.

The covenants of baptism, priesthood ordination and temple ordinances all come with specific blessings which we become worthy of as we hold to those covenants. This is elaborated in Doctrine and Covenants 130: 18-19:

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in Heaven Before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated –

And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

The opposite of this also holds – if we are disobedient or fail to live our covenants we give consent to be tried by consequences. For the Lord has said …”if ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10).

2. We consent to be blessed when we ask for blessings.

The Lord delights to bless us. The “work and [the] glory” (Moses 1:39) of God is centered solely in exalting His children.

When we ask for blessings, we more easily allow God to meet His purposes. He sent his Son for that very reason – and when we ask for blessings we are utilizing that precious sacrifice by them both. It is because of this we are assured:

Ask and ye shall receive, seek and he shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.

When the Spirit spoke to me in the night, I was reminded of these truths. I was asking for the Atonement – and Heavenly Father loves when we ask for the Atonement to take effect in our lives, either by our actions or by speaking the desires of our hearts. He will not turn away any who worthily and humbly seek to be blessed through the unrivaled gift of our Savior.

Finding Joy in Death

Last week, a good friend of a good friend passed away. This young man had bravely and faithfully fought cancer for five exhausting years, almost since he and his wife had been married.

The news of his passing left us – virtual strangers to him – in tears. We mourned for his wife and 3-month old twin sons. We were shaken by the gap left by his singular life in the world.

It struck me how it was likely that this man and his family did not know how far he reached in impacting the lives of those around him. We knew him from our home Stake but had never personally been close to him. Still we knew his story. We had heard through various sources and mediums of his courage and humor and goodness in the face of pain and suffering and personal loss. He brought faith to a hopeless situation. It was undoubtedly what caused him to live long enough to see the birth of his little sons.

In contemplating more, a couple realizations struck me of tender mercies we experience through death.

1. Rarely do we admit it but the power is in each of us to have dramatic impact on others’ lives. The choice is not whether or not our lives leave a mark, but rather what kind of mark we allow them to leave. Do we leave the world bitter and indifferent at our passing? Or do we leave it rejoicing in the fact that we had lived?

We find joy in the passing of our loved ones when it becomes clear how their lives positively influenced others. This is their legacy. And we have been blessed with additional hours and days to build ours.

2. The beauty in death comes especially as we take that next step out of this world and into the arms of our Savior. In our sorrow, it took concerted effort to turn our minds to thoughts of this man’s reunion with a loving Savior.

“While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.” Alma 28:12

What a meeting that must be – for us to finally fall at the feet of our Rock, the Being who made life for us not just endurable but exalting. I long for my opportunity to tell my Savior in person that whatever goodness I felt or helped others feel was all from Him. That if I had kept the faith and finished my course, it was all and only His doing.

3. Joy is found in death as we are released from sorrow, pain, and affliction by virtue of our Savior’s sacrifice. President Uchtdorf taught in this last General Conference that “…your death will be temporary. Your spirit one day will reunite with your body. This resurrected body will not be subject to death, and you will live in the eternities, free from pain and physical suffering.” There isn’t much room for our personal mourning when we contemplate how much we each carry through life as our burden and that we finally, through our passing, can lay it down at our Redeemer’s feet and say “It is finished”.

May we all build a legacy founded on and pointing to Christ, and retain a primary remembrance of the joys that come from the reunion we hope to have with our Savior; the knowledge that life is temporary – everlasting joy and happiness need not be. As we do, there can be no sting in death, our own or those of our righteous fellow disciples.