02 June 2012

The Meaning of the Atonement

Moses 5:4 tells us that Adam and Eve offered prayer after they left the Garden of Eden:
And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.
In answer to their petitions, Adam and Eve heard the Lord’s voice calling them back from their place of exile on the fallen earth. Later, He gave them additional instruction and commandments in order to set their feet back on the way toward the Garden of Eden—which is, of course, the path that terminates in “the way of the Tree of Life.” In a passage from the Midrash Tehillim, the Hebrew term teshuvah, which denotes “return” but scripturally means “repentance” or “conversion,” is used to describe the way back to the Garden, signifying “the movement that brings every thing and every being back to its supernal origin,” the “return to the celestial abode.” The spiritual movement of turning away from the sinful world and back toward mankind’s heavenly origins is mirrored in the layout of ordinance rooms in some modern temples.

A return to the presence of the Father is predicated on our oneness with Him—which presumes, in turn, oneness with our brothers and sisters: “be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” Simply put, this kind of oneness is the ultimate meaning of, and the eventual result of, the Atonement of Christ.

After a brief discussion about the meaning of the Atonement, this article explores two forms of imagery for the Atonement that can be found in scripture. The first kind of imagery has to do with prayer. John Tvedtnes has written that “prayer opens the veil to allow one to enjoy the presence of God.” Similarly, prayer might be understood as a preparation for the enjoyment of eternal companionship between a glorified man and woman. The second form of imagery for the Atonement has to do with the symbolism of homecoming—for example, the welcome given by the father of the prodigal son.


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