Is the Atonement of Jesus Christ about individual salvation or about collective salvation?
Through the Savior’s Atonement, we can each individually be purified—our sins can be washed away and we can be made worthy to return to God’s presence. Because we must each choose to receive that gift, we can’t do it for anyone else, and no one else can do it for us. It is an individual responsibility.
But none of us is an island. We interact with one another. We influence one another. Our sins harm other people, often in ways that we can’t repair and that we may not even be aware of.
When Alma the Younger lay in a coma after being called to repentance by an angel, two thoughts filled his soul with dread. First, he was horrified by the thought of returning to God’s presence in his current sinful state. Second, he was distraught about the people he had led away from God by persuading them to abandon the teachings and the practices of the church. He put it dramatically: “I had murdered many of [God’s] children, or rather led them away unto destruction” (Alma 36:14).
But when he remembered the saving power of Jesus Christ and pleaded for mercy, his pain was replaced by joy.
As Elder James A. Rasband explained last Sunday, Alma felt peace and joy not only because he was personally healed but also because he knew that the Savior could heal the people he had harmed:
Was Alma’s joy focused solely on himself—on his avoiding punishment and his being able to return to the Father? We know that Alma also agonized about those whom he had led away from the truth. But Alma himself could not heal and restore all those he had led away. He could not himself ensure that they would be given a fair opportunity to learn the doctrine of Christ and to be blessed by living its joyful principles. He could not bring back those who may have died still blinded by his false teaching.
As President Boyd K. Packer once taught: “The thought that rescued Alma … is this: Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ.” The joyous truth on which Alma’s mind “caught hold” was not just that he himself could be made clean but also that those whom he had harmed could be healed and made whole.
(“Ensuring a Righteous Judgment,” General Conference, April 2020)
Today, I will remember that the Savior can not only heal me personally, but that He can also heal people I have harmed. I will repent and seek His grace, not only on my behalf, but also on behalf of those who have been affected by my poor decisions.