The LDS Bible Dictionary gives the definition of Atonement as: “…the setting ‘at one’ of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement, and therefore the purpose of atonement is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin. From the time of Adam to the death of Jesus Christ, true believers were instructed to offer animal sacrifices to the Lord. These sacrifices were symbolic of the forthcoming death of Jesus Christ, and were done by faith in him.”
Even though this definition claims that the Atonement “denotes the reconciliation of man to God” it goes on to explain that Christ’s Atonement doesn’t apply to each person’s individual sins: “All are covered unconditionally as pertaining to the fall of Adam. …The atonement is conditional, however, so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned, and touches every one to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, and obeys the gospel.”
But, if the Atonement does not cover every single sin you have ever committed, then you are not reconciled to God! Your sins remain and you cannot come into God’s presence! Growing up LDS I was very familiar with the word “Atonement”. I understood the differences between the unconditional and conditional “gifts” of Christ’s Atonement. I believed that Christ’s Atonement gave me the opportunity to overcome the consequences of my many sins. I knew I was unclean and could never enter God’s presence until I washed myself clean through my own works; doing the process of repentance. I desperately clung to the hope that one day I could gain forgiveness.
Years after I left the Church I was surprised to find that the word Atonement wasn’t commonly used by Christians. This got my curiosity up so I started asking questions and searching the Bible for answers. What I found surprised me. The word Atonement appears to have come about in the sixteenth century during the translation of the Bible into the English King James Version. It was created because of the lack of an English word which could explain the Hebrew term which fully encompassed what Christ’s sacrifice accomplished: 1) through the sacrifice of Christ’s body, an atonement (appeasement) was made for all sins, which 2) caused God to forgive all sins, and 3) accomplished the reconciliation of man to God. In essence, “atonement” defines the work that Jesus did when He took care of the problem posed by the sin of man.
The most important truth I learned about the Atonement is what thrilled me!! I discovered that Christ’s Atonement is an accomplished fact! Christ atoned for our sins (paid the penalty due us) over two millennia ago. Through it, we have been given so much more than bodily resurrection and the opportunity to prove our worthiness. Christ’s blood covered over all of our sins and we are forgiven! Because of that accomplished fact—we have been reconciled to God. We can now boldly enter into His presence because through Christ’s sacrifice, He has made us holy and perfect! We read many times in the New Testament that Jesus’ followers knew their sins were forgiven and that they had been reconciled to God. They understood that to qualify for this gift one merely had to be a sinner and thereby be in need of it. They knew that Christ’s blood covered ALL sins, not just Adam’s!
The Apostle Paul testified to the Romans: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (5:10). To the Corinthians he declared: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5). In these words we see the fact that reconciliation was an accomplished fact through Christ’s Atonement!
The LDS teaching that the atonement is conditional “so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned” is a false teaching! But, thank God that His faithful Prophets and Apostles have faithfully proclaimed His truth! Their testimony can be found on the pages of the Bible! They proclaim that Christ’s Atonement covered over all of your sins! Your sins have been forgiven and you have been reconciled to God. Through faith in Christ’s Atonement, you will have eternal life! All of these gifts are accomplished facts granted through Christ’s Atonement! Please don’t reject these amazing gifts from your Savior. I implore you “be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”