Redemption – Elder Christofferson – April 2013 General Conference

One of the most prominent roles of the savior is the focus of Elder Christofferson’s wonderful talk from the Sunday Afternoon session of conference. The thing that I have appreciated most about his talks in recent conferences is his doctrinal clarity and bold directness. I also love his focus on the savior Jesus Christ. Elder Christofferson has shown  willingness to clearly speak about subjects such as repentance, correction and, in this talk, redemption. His articulate clear pronouncements of truth in many ways remind me of Neal L. Maxwell filled with rhetorical devices and literary allusions.

The talk began with a historical flourish that I truly appreciated as a history buff. Elder Christofferson spoke of “Redemptioners” or individuals who made the passage to the Americas as indentured servants and worked to pay off their own wages. In many ways, we are like these redemptioners. We have been brought with a price as the scriptures suggest. As King Benjamin declared, even if we serve God with all of our hearts and souls we would remain unprofitable servants. Moreover, we are perpetually in God’s debt because as we give back to him he always gives us more than we could ask for.

That however, is the beautiful part of the atonement. Through it, all debts are paid off. More than that, however, Elder Christofferson emphasizes that thanks to the atonement, not only are the natural consequences of the fall atoned for unconditionally, and the indirect consequences of sin atoned for through our faith and repentance, but also ” the Atonement also satisfies the debt justice owes to us by healing and compensating us for any suffering we innocently endure.” The wonderful thing about the atonement, is that it redeems us both from our sins and from our weaknesses. What this ultimately means is that not only do we receive far more mercy than we deserve, but we also receive far more blessings and justice when wronged or injured. God is both perfectly merciful and perfectly just towards compensating and blessing.

One of the best parts about the Church and Gospel of Christ is that we are active participants in his work. We do not go to Church merely to be entertained, but for the opportunity to serve and redeem others.”Inasmuch as we follow Christ, we seek to participate in and further His redemptive work.” Elder Christofferson identifies a few areas where every members can play a redemptive role : Missionary Work, Family History Work and helping the poor and the needy.Obviously, not incidentally, these points echo the four fold purpose of the Church and remind us that Christ’s Church is there to allow us to become more perfected through active service of our fellow man.

I love his description of the work of redemption that we can engage in while on this earth

“This kind of redemptive work means helping people with their problems. It means befriending the poor and the weak, alleviating suffering, righting wrongs, defending truth, strengthening the rising generation, and achieving security and happiness at home. Much of our redemptive work on earth is to help others grow and achieve their just hopes and aspirations.”

To illustrate his point, Elder Christofferson quotes from Les Miserables and recounts the story of Jean Valjean and the Bishop who redeemed him for God. That book and play show that one kind act of redemption can ripple and bless the lives of many. Yet, the actions of individuals are always limited to some degree, and that is truly why God gave us his church

“Some forms of temporal redemption come by collaborative effort. It is one of the reasons the Savior created a church. Being organized in quorums and auxiliaries and in stakes, wards, and branches, we can not only teach and encourage each other in the gospel, but we can also bring to bear people and resources to deal with the exigencies of life. People acting alone or in ad hoc groups cannot always provide means on a scale needed to address larger challenges. As followers of Jesus Christ we are a community of Saints organized to help redeem the needs of our fellow Saints and as many others as we can reach across the globe.”

This reminded me of one of my favorite non-general authority talks: Why the Church is as True As the Gospel by Eugene England. In that article, England similarly emphasizes what an immense impact serving others in the church can have on those that give up their time, talents and energies to serving the Lord.  This church is a transformative force in the lives of those who are active in it. People who drift out of activity because the church does not meet their needs are missing the point entirely. The church is about allowing us to share our talents with others and through service being transformed. This is a multi-dimensional effort which includes temporal and spiritual aid alike.

Elder Christofferson ends with a powerful story about a deaf woman who’se life was transformed and redeemed by the kindness of a member and by the light of Christ. Such stories are common as Christ and his church engage in its work of salvation. May we continue to be disciples of Christ and assist him in his work of redemption.

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