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Three Blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

My dear brothers and sisters, Aloha! It is wonderful to be with you on this beautiful campus at this important time in your lives.

When I was about ten years old I visited my grandparents one summer. They lived on a farm and they had a big barn with lots of hay and pitchforks. One day I took a pitchfork and thrust it into the hay with all my strength. Unfortunately, I forgot that my left foot was in that hay protected only by my sneakers. That old, dirty, pitchfork plunged into my foot. Oh, that hurt. I was so embarrassed I did not tell anyone what had happened.

The next day I went down to the local pond with some of my cousins hoping my foot would start feeling better. But alas, it did not; it felt worse and worse, and I could see red streaks in the skin from my foot into my left leg. It hurt to walk. When my dad saw me limping and asked what was wrong, I told him what had happened and he hustled me into the car and drove me to the hospital right away. The doctor there gave me a giant shot of penicillin in my left arm. That arm stiffened up and hurt for two whole weeks.

I know life can be wonderful, and full of good things, happiness and joy. But as I found out, it can also be hard. Sometimes like that pitchfork in my foot we cause difficulties for ourselves when we make mistakes or sin. Sometimes difficulties come just because this is mortality and hard things happen to us. Like the bacteria from that pitchfork the difficulties we face can cause pain and suffering. We may feel lonely, worried, discouraged, uncertain, afraid and even alone.

My dear brothers and sisters, I bear you my witness that you are never alone in the storms of life. Jesus Christ is always there, and in Him there is hope, and peace and joy. He is the light and the life of the world. He suffered and overcame all things. He can redeem us from sin, comfort, heal and strengthen us in our mortal infirmities and help us become like Him. If we turn to Him and do His will, He will bless us with peace and joy in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. All good things, now and forever, come through the Lord Jesus Christ. [1]

I pray that the Lord will bless us today as we consider together the Atonement of Jesus Christ and three of its marvelous blessings – personal redemption, divine succor, and light. I will speak about these blessings individually, but they are deeply and intimately connected. It is my prayer that each of us will know and feel the Savior’s love more deeply, grow in our faith in Him and in our commitment to live His gospel more fully, and receive these blessings now, and forever.

The Blessing of Personal Redemption

I begin with the blessing of personal redemption.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is at the very center of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. The plan is beautiful. It is both perfectly just, and perfectly merciful. Heavenly Father prepared His Only Begotten Son from the foundation of the world and all through His mortal experience to complete the great atoning sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God, our Savior and Redeemer. [2] Consider, for example, three of His essential mortal experiences:

First, Jesus was born of Mary. Because His mother was mortal He could experience everything mortal beings enjoy and everything mortal beings suffer. He could be tempted, and He had the ability to sin.

Second, Jesus was the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He received from His Father life in Himself. [3] He had the power to lay down His life and He had the power to take it up again. [4] He could endure any suffering of any intensity and not die until His atoning sacrifice was complete.

Third, Jesus was pure and holy, without sin. [5] From His birth until His death, He paid no heed to temptations, and did not sin. He was, therefore, the perfect Lamb of God. [6]

Jesus Christ was prepared, but He had to choose to use the power and capability conferred upon Him to endure suffering and complete His atoning sacrifice. As the Savior revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the suffering was intense:

“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” [7]

The blessings of the Savior’s Atonement are magnificent. Some of those blessings are freely given to all of God’s children born into mortality. Think of it – the Atonement of Jesus Christ redeems all mankind from the physical and spiritual death caused by the Fall of Adam. [8] All receive the Light of Christ, [9] and all “become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.” [10] All will be resurrected, [11] and all will be brought back into the presence of the Lord at the day of judgment. [12]

These are the universal blessings we all enjoy, but some of the Savior’s blessings are very personal and depend on our desires and our behavior. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, and all of us commit sin. But Jesus did not. In His pure and sinless soul, He suffered the full weight of divine justice for your sins and for mine. [13] Moreover, Jesus descended below all things. [14]

The great atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming power is, therefore, intimate and very personal. As Elder M. Russell Ballard taught:

“Brothers and sisters, I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God.

Sadly, in today’s world, a person’s importance is often judged by the size of the audience before which he or she performs.

Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, there may be only one size of audience that is of lasting importance—and that is just one, each one, you and me, and each one of the children of God. The irony of the Atonement is that it is infinite and eternal, yet it is applied individually, one person at a time.” [15]

With permission, I share now a story that underscores the personal, intimate nature of the Savior’s redeeming power.

Ephraim Martey grew up in Ghana. When Ephraim was three years old, his father and mother separated, and his mother left the family. Ephraim’s father put him in the care of a family in their village, promising to return. Three years later, when his father had still not returned, this family kicked him out. At the tender age of six, Ephraim found himself a homeless orphan living on the streets around Accra, begging and working odd jobs for food. As a young child, Ephraim was alive in Christ because of the redeeming love of the Savior. Ephraim was not perfect, but as he grew he followed his conscience and tried to avoid anything illegal. And the Lord blessed him. For example, Ephraim loved to learn, and he managed to go to school even though he was not officially enrolled. [16]

One evening when Ephraim was 11 years old he was wandering the streets hoping to find something to eat. The churches in the area would sometimes provide snacks for children, so when he came across a church, he walked in. He found no one there, but he did find a loaf of bread. He ate the whole thing and fell asleep on a couch in the foyer.

Early the next morning, two missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to the meetinghouse to play basketball, and much to their surprise found Ephraim. He was afraid, but they were kind and invited him to come to church. Ephraim started attending and became very active in the branch. He participated in seminary and read the Book of Mormon. The major turning point in his spiritual journey, however, was being present when President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Accra Temple. The Spirit bore witness to him that this man was a prophet of God. Ephraim began needed repentance and sought baptism. When he was 13, a family in the branch agreed to sponsor him and he was baptized, received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the Aaronic Priesthood, and was ordained a deacon. [17]

I will pick up Ephraim’s story a little later in my talk.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ knew this homeless child named Ephraim and led him to the missionaries, and He knows you. The Lord took upon Himself Ephraim’s sins and He will do the same for you. He watched over and blessed Ephraim and He will watch over and bless you.

Long before you were born, Jesus walked your path, and He offers now to walk your path again to help you come unto Him. As King Benjamin taught, if you turn to Christ the Lord, He will help you “…[put] off the natural man, and [become] a saint through [His] atonement…submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.” [18] You will be forgiven of sin, cleansed from all unrighteousness, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. [19] If you are true and faithful to your covenants, you will retain a remission of your sins. You will grow in righteousness and holiness. You will receive the blessings of exaltation and eternal life through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ.

These are the blessings of your personal redemption. You are not trapped by your past. You are not lost. You are not alone. Please trust in Jesus Christ and His redeeming love -- and follow President Nelson’s counsel to “Think Celestial” and make daily repentance an important part of your life.

The Blessing of Divine Succor

I turn now to the blessing of divine succor.

Alma taught that Jesus chose to suffer what we suffer in mortality, that He might:

“...go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; …and…take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” [20]

The word succor means to provide assistance or additional strength to those in need. [21] Jesus not only suffered, but also overcame our infirmities. Because of His atoning sacrifice He has the power to succor us with perfect mercy, empathy and love. [22]

Thus, the succor Jesus Christ provides is divine. He comforts, heals and strengthens us perfectly. [23]

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

“Our Savior experienced and suffered the fulness of all mortal challenges ‘according to the flesh’ so He could know ‘according to the flesh’ how to ‘succor [which means to give relief or aid to] his people according to their infirmities.’ He therefore knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, and our suffering, for He willingly experienced them all as an essential part of His Atonement. And because of this, His Atonement empowers Him to succor us—to give us the strength to bear it all.” [24]

When we turn to Him and act with faith in Him to repent of our sins, Jesus uses His power to strengthen us through the ministry of the Holy Ghost. Thus, the succor He offers us can nourish, lift and strengthen us spiritually.

We see that power in Ephraim’s experience. Redemption and salvation did not begin for Ephraim in the meetinghouse. Years before that the Lord watched over him, protected him, and blessed him with courage, and resilience, and a talent for learning. After Ephraim was baptized he became a faithful, active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He experienced many tender mercies, even miracles. For example, He found work at a car wash where he met a couple of taxi drivers. They saw potential in Ephraim and taught him how to drive. This enabled Ephraim to work as a taxi driver at night. That job gave him enough income to rent a place to live and pay for his education and graduate from high school. He still faced many challenges, but the Lord knew Ephraim’s sorrow and pain intimately because He had experienced it too. He also knew Ephraim’s potential and He knew how to strengthen Ephraim and heal his heart and soul perfectly. As a result, Ephraim had no bitterness or anger in his heart about the mistreatment by others in his past. In fact, one of his great desires was to make the restored gospel of Jesus Christ available to his ancestors, including his mother and father. Truly, the Lord Jesus Christ lifted Ephraim up and helped him become a mighty elder in Israel.

Our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, chose to suffer and overcome your infirmities and the consequences of your sins in the flesh. He has the power to succor you in a perfect, godly way, with perfect empathy, mercy and love. He knows you, your pain, your fears, your sorrows – and your divine destiny. Turn to Him, humble yourself before Him and call on His holy name continually. [25] He will comfort you, heal your heart and protect you from evil. [26] He will draw you closer to Him and bless you with His love. [27] When your infirmities threaten to overwhelm you and make you vulnerable to temptations, He will strengthen you with His almighty power.

These are blessings of divine succor through the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. I hope this promise of the Lord will help you always remember that He is always there for you. Imagine in your heart the Savior giving this promise to you, by name: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left and my Spirit shall be in your heart and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” [28]

The Blessing of Divine Light

We come now to the blessing of divine light. The Savior’s experience in Gethsemane and on Golgotha is a wonderful example of the blessing that divine light can be in our lives.

It is both miraculous and instructive that our Redeemer, the perfect Lamb of God, satisfied what justice demanded for the sins of mankind, and took upon Himself every mortal infirmity. He overcame what had to be overcome, endured all that awful evil and pain, and yet, remained pure and holy through the whole ordeal. We do not know How He did that, but He has blessed us with some insight in the revelations He has given us.

Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world.” [29] He is the source of the light that enlightens the mind, and quickens understanding. That light carries law, life, power and truth through all of God’s creations. [30] This is the Light of Christ. It is a precious gift to all of God’s children born into mortality. It is manifest in part in the conscience and leads all of us away from evil and toward what is right. It inspires and motivates righteousness, goodness and beauty, and brings joy to the soul. The Book of Mormon teaches about the incredible blessing of the Light of Christ in the experience of Lamoni, a Lamanite king, when Ammon taught him the plan of salvation:

“Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God.” [31]

Mormon’s description of the light and its influence is inspiring – the light of the glory of God, the light of His goodness, the light of everlasting life lit up Lamoni’s mind, infused joy into his soul and dispelled the cloud of darkness and the dark veil of unbelief. This is the Light of Christ.

In the midst of incomprehensible agony and pain, facing “…the awesome power of the evil one….” [32] Jesus Christ had that light in Him. With that light He could choose to see what is good, righteous and holy. He could see the eternal purposes of His suffering. And He could comprehend goodness and righteousness, evil and wickedness, with divine clarity and strength because the light was in Him.

With that light Jesus was filled with mercy and love for every one of us. He felt our pains and our grief and sorrow. Jesus was “…wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities….”, not for His own, because He had none. [33] In His suffering, Jesus never exercised His will in any way that was contrary to the will of His Father. He did not shirk or shrink. He never let unrighteousness into his heart. Evil and wickedness never stained His soul. He did the will of His Father, and the light and power were in Him. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” [34] Indeed, He is “…the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” [35]

There is, therefore, in the enduring holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ through that horrible suffering a powerful lesson full of hope and encouragement for us.

As the Lord Jesus Christ taught the Prophet Joseph:

“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” [36]

This is a beautiful description of the Lord and Savior’s own experience. In the midst of all the wickedness and evil, all the terrible infirmities of mortality that He felt and suffered, the Savior’s eye was single to the glory of His Father. His body was filled with light, and there was no darkness in Him. He suffered, He endured, and He completed His great atoning sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God.

Because He overcame all things, the light and power that is in Jesus Christ, can also be in you. Divine light dispels darkness. It helps you avoid unrighteousness and evil. It blesses you with greater faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if you are true to your covenants the Lord will bless you with more and more light. You will receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost. This is a supernal gift. The Holy Ghost witnesses of the Father and the Son, [37] and teaches you of all truth. [38] Through the Holy Ghost you have access to priesthood power in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. [39] The Holy Ghost blesses you with revelation and spiritual gifts, [40] and purifies and sanctifies your heart. [41]

In all these ways, “the Holy Ghost will confirm truth to [your] heart and will ignite the Light of Christ in [your] soul.” [42]

And then, this promise of the Lord will be yours: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” [43]


I return now to Ephraim’s story. We have already seen in this story that Jesus Christ is a God of miracles. Sometimes, He works His miracles through angels. Ephraim was called as a missionary and assigned to labor in the South Africa Cape Town Mission. His third companion was from Bountiful, Utah. Every preparation day his companion wrote his parents an email. One preparation day he wrote to his parents, “Do you have time to write to my companion? He doesn’t have anyone to write to.” They did. In fact, they wrote to Ephraim every week through the rest of his mission.

When Ephraim completed his mission he went back to the streets of Accra, looked for work, and hoped to get more education. The angel parents of his missionary companion from Bountiful, Utah made arrangements for Ephraim to come to their son’s wedding, and then decided to sponsor him for a student visa that would allow him to study in the U.S. This was an important step in Ephraim’s dream to attend college. Eventually, Ephraim was admitted to Ensign College, and met and married his wife Alexis. In 2022 they welcomed a baby boy into their family, and Ephraim graduated as the Ensign College valedictorian with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. And then another dream came true: he was offered a scholarship to do a master’s degree in accounting at BYU. He completed that degree and graduated from BYU in 2023.

From the time he was a boy, through his teenage years, through his mission, and in his college years, the Holy Ghost ignited the Light of Christ in that young man. His understanding was quickened. His natural gifts and talents were magnified. His capacity to receive revelation increased.

The story of Ephraim Martey is a wonderful account of the love, mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is not unique. There are stories like this happening every day in the Lord’s true and living Church. All across the earth the Lord is working with love and power to bring to pass miracles in the lives of hundreds and even thousands of God’s children, every single day. I know there are many, many such stories in this audience today. You are the Lord’s work, and you are His miracles. It is such a great blessing to live in a day of miracles. The gifts and blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ are all around us, as the Lord gathers scattered Israel and prepares us and His Church for His return. I rejoice to live in this day.

Brothers and sisters, I leave you with my witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Living Son, of the Living God. He is the Great Deliverer. I have seen Him work, I know His power, and I know He lives and loves us with a pure and never-failing love. I love Him with all my heart. And I hope with all my heart that you will trust Him, turn to Him and act with faith in Him to repent, to seek His divine succor, and to receive His glorious light in your heart and soul. I know if you do, He will continue to work miracles in your lives. I so testify, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] See Moroni 7:22,24
[2] See John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 13:8; 1 Nephi 11:21; Moses 4:1-2
[3] See John 5:26
[4] See John 10:18
[5] See Doctrine and Covenants 45:4; Hebrews 4:15
[6] See 1 Peter 1:19
[7] Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19
[8] See Bible Dictionary entry for “Atonement
[9] See Moroni 7:16
[10] 2 Nephi 2:26
[11] See 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Nephi 9:11-13; Alma 11:42-45
[12] See Helaman 14:16-17
[13] See Alma 34:15-16
[14] See Doctrine and Covenants 88:6
[15] M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul”, Ensign, May 2004.
[16] This was possible because the schools Ephraim attended were held outside or in partially completed buildings.
[17] Because Ephraim was an orphan and homeless he had no guardian to approve his baptism and take responsibility for his activity in the Church.
[18] Mosiah 3:19
[19] See Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9; Alma 7:14; Doctrine and Covenants 76:41; 3 Nephi 27:20
[20] Alma 7:11-12
[21] "succour, n.". OED Online. June 2017. Oxford University Press. (accessed July 10, 2017).
[22] In the context of providing succor, “know how” is much more than cognitive understanding; it is the capacity to take action. What Jesus gained through suffering and overcoming our infirmities was capacity and power to assist us and strengthen us in our mortal probation.
See Neal A. Maxwell, “O, Divine Redeemer,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 1981: “Can we, even in the depths of disease, tell Him anything at all about suffering? In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by Him even before these were borne by us. (See Alma 7:11–12; Matt. 8:17) The very weight of our combined sins caused Him to descend below all. (See D&C 122:8) We have never been, nor will we be, in depths such as He has known. Thus His atonement made His empathy and His capacity to succor us perfect, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as He tutors us in our trials.”
See also Matthew 5:48 and 3 Nephi 12:48; and D&C 88:6.
[23] Because of His suffering, Jesus has perfect empathy for our personal infirmities. He not only knows what we need in a cognitive sense, but He has a perfect understanding of our emotional and spiritual state, because He has walked in our footsteps. He has felt what we feel.
[24] Dallin H. Oaks, “Strengthened Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ”, Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015.
[25] See Alma 13:28
[26] See Doctrine and Covenants 95:1; Doctrine and Covenants 62:1; 1 Corinthians 10:13
[27] See Alma 58:10-12 for the experience of the army of Helaman in a time when fear and uncertainty gripped their souls.
[28] Doctrine and Covenants 84:88; italics added.
[29] Doctrine and Covenants 11:28
[30] Doctrine and Covenants 88:11-13
[31] Alma 19:6
[32] See Boyd K. Packer, “Atonement, Agency, Accountability,” Ensign or Liahona, April 1988: In his masterful work on the life of the Savior, Elder James E. Talmadge, taught this about the Savior’s battle with Satan in Gethsemane: ‘In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’, could inflict. The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil.’ James E. Talmadge, “Jesus the Christ,” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 2006), p. 661.
See also Doctrine and Covenants 76:29, Doctrine and Covenants 10:27; and Joseph Smith-History 1:15-16 for additional insight into the war that Satan wages against the Father’s plan.
[33] Isaiah 53:4-5
[34] John 8:12
[35] John 1:9
[36] Doctrine and Covenants 88:67
[37] See 3 Nephi 28:11; Moses 6:66
[38] See Moroni 10:5; John 16:13
[39] Doctrine and Covenants 121:37; Doctrine and Covenants 84:20; see also: Russell M. Nelson, “Spiritual Treasures,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2019
[40] Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-33
[41] See 3 Nephi 27:20; Helaman 3:35
[42] See M. Russell Ballard, “One More,” Ensign or Liahona, April 2005; See Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2005
[43] Doctrine and Covenants 50:24