Thoughts on the Atonement

Last Sunday, wrapped up in the coziest blanket I own, I watched a film called The Infinite Gift. It’s a short movie about a seminary class that learns what the Atonement means for them when their teacher presents the class with a rather striking object lesson. You maybe have heard about the doughnut analogy, where a teacher gives a doughnut to everybody in the class, but only when one of their classmates has done ten push ups each to pay for it. This movie puts visuals to that analogy, and I have to say, it left me a little at loss for words.

I won’t spoil it for you, but the ultimate message of the film is left looming there at the end of it as the teacher asks, “What does the Atonement mean to you? You show what it means to you by the way you live every day of your life.” (Paraphrased.)

As I watched the credits file onto the screen, I found myself thinking, Ari, you really don’t know how to internalize the Atonement every day, do you. 

If the Atonement meant everything to me, I’d find reason to hope every day of my life. If the Atonement meant everything to me, I would try harder to love more freely and more often. If the Atonement meant everything to me, I would never forget, at my lowest, loneliest moments, that someone knows what I’m going through and loves me.

The Atonement means so much to me, but does it mean everything? I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point in my life where it does. That’s a humbling and saddening thing to realize.

In the film, there are kids who immediately eat up their doughnuts and laugh and cheer because they don’t understand what it took to pay for them. There are also kids who let it sit on their desks, looking dejected as they watch their classmate do the push ups. I suspect that, running with the analogy, I’m somewhere in between those two kids. I don’t fully comprehend the gift I’ve been given, or some days, I don’t recognize that I’ve been given anything. I, in fact, go through life so overwhelmed by it that I don’t pause to think that maybe, just maybe the only thing I need to do is trust that if the Lord would atone for me, things will work out for me. He didn’t atone for me so that I would be unhappy. Quite the opposite, actually. How often do I recognize that?

As the teacher in the film asks, what does the Atonement mean to me? It means that at the end of the day, things will be okay. It means that even though I am nothing, I am loved by He who created everything. It means that there is hope, even when I fail to grasp that there is.

The Atonement means that I am free to change, to be better, and even though that is its own battle, I’m grateful to have it. 

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