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"Some things simply matter more than others," writes Robert L. Millet in his foreword to this landmark book. "Even some doctrines, though interesting and fun to discuss, must take a backseat to more fundamental and foundational doctrines. It is just so with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is the central act of human history, the pivotal point in all time, the doctrine of doctrines."
With The Infinite Atonement, Brother Tad R. Callister offers us what may be the most comprehensive, yet understandable, treatment of the Atonement in our day. He thoughtfully probes the infinite scope of this "great and last sacrifice," describing its power and breadth and explaining how it redeems us all.
Using the scriptures and the words of the prophets, Brother Callister explores the Savior's divinity and the depth of his love for mankind. He explains the blessings that flow from the Atonement, providing insight into the resurrection, repentance, and the gifts of peace, motivation, freedom, grace, and exaltation. He explains the relationship of justice and mercy and the importance of ordinances. Through discussing the effects of the fall of Adam and our individual sins, he reminds us in a powerful way of the incalculable debt of gratitude we owe Christ for his unparalleled offering.
"An attempt to master this doctrine requires an immersion of all our senses, all our feelings, and all our intellect," Brother Callister writes, "Given the opportunity, the Atonement will invade each of the human passions and faculties....The Atonement is not a doctrine that lends itself to some singular approach, like a universal formula. It must be felt, not just 'figured;; internalized, not just analyzed....The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most supernal, mind-expanding, passionate doctrine this world or universe will ever know."
With clarity, testimony, and understanding, The Infinite Atonement teaches us rich and wonderful truths about this "doctrine of doctrines." and elevates our spirits as we contemplate the perfect love of Him who gave all that we might receive all.
- Published: March 2002
- Pages: 356
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of discs: 9
- Run Time: Approx. 11½ hrs.
About the Author
Tad R. Callister was sustained October 1, 2011, as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Three years earlier he had been called to the Second Quorum of Seventy, having previously served as president of the Canada Toronto East Mission, as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy, and as a member of the Pacific Area Presidency. Before his call to full-time Church service, Elder Callister was a practicing attorney. He and his wife, Kathryn Saporiti Callister, are the parents of six children and grandparents of twenty-four.
Why Study the Atonement?
Knowledge Leads to Salvation
If the Atonement is the foundation of our faith (and it is), then no one should be content with a casual acquaintance of this doctrine. Instead, the Atonement should be paramount in our intellectual and spiritual pursuits. President John Taylor, who fervently pondered the complexities of the Atonement, observed: “There must be some reason why [Christ] was allowed to suffer and to endure; why it was necessary that he should give up his life a sacrifice for the sins of the world. . . . In these reasons we and all the world are intimately concerned; there is something of great importance in all this to us. The whys and wherefores of these great events are pregnant with importance to us all.”1
Lehi understood the need to both explore and teach the doctrine of the Atonement. While counseling his son Jacob he said, “How great the importance to make these things [the Atonement] known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). Jacob caught the vision of this counsel, for while preaching to his people he thoughtfully asked, “Why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him . . . ?” (Jacob 4:12). The Prophet Joseph spoke of the depths we must plumb to acquire this “perfect knowledge”:
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! . . . must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”2
B. H. Roberts, one of the prominent scholars of the Church, made reference to “the difficult doctrine of atonement.”3 After intense study he wrote: “By deeper delving into the subject, my intellect also gives its full and complete assent to the soundness of the philosophy and the absolute necessity for the atonement of Jesus Christ. . . . I account it for myself a new conversion, an intellectual conversion, to the atonement of Jesus Christ; and I have been rejoicing in it of late, exceedingly.”4
For Elder Roberts, such intense study of the Atonement proved to be both a mind-expanding and soul-stretching experience. The intellectual and spiritual blended in wonderful harmony.
King Benjamin knew that our study of the Atonement was not meant solely as an intellectual exercise to satisfy our mental curiosities, nor was it a doctrine to be comprehended only by an elite few. It was critical to our salvation. His last sermon so states: “I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, . . . and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, . . . and should be diligent in keeping his commandments . . . I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation” (Mosiah 4:6–7). There is no escaping it—our salvation is predicated upon both an understanding and acceptance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
A Misunderstood Doctrine
It seems paradoxical that the very doctrine that is essential to our salvation is also one of the least understood doctrines in the Christian world. The misunderstandings, confusion, and doctrinal heresies associated with this foundational doctrine and its precursor, the Fall, are rampant. The following are examples of such misconceptions taught by many in the Christian world today:5
1. Adam and Eve would have had children in the Garden of Eden if they had been allowed to remain.
2. Adam and Eve were not in a state of innocence in the Garden, but rather were experiencing unparalleled joy.
3. The Fall was not part of God’s master plan, but rather a tragic step backwards. It was a stumbling block, not a stepping stone in man’s eternal journey.
4. If Adam had not fallen, all of Adam’s children would have been born in a state of bliss, to live “happily ever after” in Edenic conditions.
5. Because of the Fall, all infants are tainted with original sin.
6. Grace alone can save (i.e., exalt) us, regardless of any works on our part.
7. The physical resurrection of the Savior was merely symbolic; we will be resurrected as spirits without the “limitations” of a physical body.
8. The Atonement does not have the power to transform us into gods; in fact, such a thought is blasphemous.
Each of the foregoing doctrinal assertions is false. They are not minor issues, but major theological points that strike at the doctrinal core of the Atonement. Without a correct understanding of them one will “end up” with many misconceptions of this central Christian teaching. Fortunately, the truth about each of these doctrinal points is taught in the Book of Mormon,6 with additional support from modern scriptures. (Each of these doctrines is discussed in detail in later chapters.)
There are also many key points of the Atonement that are not incorrectly taught by other religions—they simply are not taught at all. For example, which other religions discuss not only Christ’s taking upon himself all sins, but likewise his assumption of all pains, infirmities, and sicknesses inherent in the mortal experience? Who else preaches of the Atonement’s power to reach those who have no law or of its retroactive effect upon the saints of premeridian times? Who speaks of its power to transcend the grave and redeem spirits in the postmortal realm? Who else discusses the Atonement’s infinite implications as referred to by the Book of Mormon prophets? Ironically, the answers to these questions are not to be found in what many call “mainstream” Christianity, but rather in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
“Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ.”7
Some years ago I had dinner with a retired judge. In the course of our conversation we found ourselves focusing on the Book of Mormon. At one point he made this bewildering statement: “I’ve read the Book of Mormon and there’s nothing new in it that’s not already in the Bible.” I was dumbfounded. It was obvious that he either had not read the Book of Mormon, or he did not understand it. If it were not for the Book of Mormon, we would fall victim to many of the misconceptions about the Fall and the Atonement, as discussed above, simply because the Bible, as inspired as it is, has had “many parts which are plain and most precious” deleted from its original contents. Nephi prophesied, however, that in the last days “other books” would restore “the plain and precious things which have been taken away from [the Bible]” (1 Nephi 13:39, 40). Fortunately, the Book of Mormon has come to our rescue. It clarifies certain doctrinal points that are ambiguous in the Bible, confirms others, and even more importantly, fills in many of the gaps and voids that are glaringly apparent. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said: “Much of this doctrine [of the Atonement] has been lost or expunged from the biblical records. It is therefore of great consequence that the Book of Mormon prophets taught that doctrine in detail and with clarity.”8
Sometimes it is difficult for us as members of the Church to distinguish between our beliefs in the Atonement and those of the rest of the Christian world. Many of us grow up thinking that what we know and believe about this central doctrine is also what the world knows and believes, but it is not so. Without modern scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to grasp many of the basic tenets of the Atonement. Almost two thousand years of Bible interpretation and the varied conclusions arrived at by many in the Christian world should be ample evidence of the need for additional scriptural insight.
For many, the beautiful and deep doctrine of the Atonement is summarily dismissed and placed on the back shelf with the facile response, “Just believe and be saved.” Why such an approach? Perhaps Hugh Nibley best articulates the reason:
“So cool has been the reception of the message [of the Atonement] that through the centuries, while heated controversy and debate have raged over evolution, atheism, the sacraments, the Trinity, authority, predestination, faith and works, and so on, there has been no argument or discussion at all about the meaning of the Atonement. Why were there no debates or pronouncements in the synods? People either do not care enough or do not know enough even to argue about it. For the doctrine of the Atonement is far too complicated to have the appeal of a world religion.”9
Satan has been successful in diverting much of the Christian world’s attention from the one doctrine that can save us, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to the ancillary doctrines that have meaning only because they draw their sustenance from this redeeming event. Like a skilled magician, Satan’s every move is to divert our attention and dilute our focus from the primary object at hand, namely Christ’s atoning sacrifice, in hopes we will turn exclusively to doctrines of secondary and far lesser import. His diversionary tactics have been, and will be, of such global proportions that John tragically exclaimed, “Satan . . . deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9; see also D&C 10:63). After all the sleight of hand ceases and the smoke clears, it is still Jesus Christ, his Atonement, and our obedience to him that saves us—nothing else can do it.
A Source of Faith and Motivation
Some might wonder what difference it makes whether or not they understand the Atonement, as long as they believe and accept its consequences. Such a need is illustrated by an experience of Florence Chadwick, as shared by Sterling W. Sill. It was July 4, 1952. Chadwick, who had previously swum the English Channel, now attempted the twenty-one-mile swim from the southern California mainland to Catalina Island. The water was a freezing 48 degrees. The fog was thick and visibility almost nil. Finally, only a half mile from her destination, she became discouraged and quit. The next day reporters clamored around her asking why she had quit—had it been the cold water or the distance. It proved to be neither. She responded, “I was licked by the fog.” She then recalled a similar experience while swimming the English Channel. Evidently the fog was likewise engulfing. She was exhausted. As she was about to reach out for her father’s hand in the nearby boat, he pointed to the shore. She raised her head out of the water just long enough to see the land ahead. With that new vision, she pressed on and became the first woman to conquer the English Channel.10
That story teaches a magnificent principle: with increased vision can come increased motivation. So it is with the Atonement. As our vision of the Atonement is enhanced, our motivation to embrace its full effects is proportionately increased. President Howard W. Hunter gave this promise: “As we come to understand His mission and the atonement which He wrought, we will desire to live more like Him.”11 The divine consequences of so studying were disclosed by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “The more we know of Jesus’ Atonement, the more we will humbly and gladly glorify Him, His Atonement, and His character.”12 Finally, Elder Bruce R. McConkie shared his testimony of the need for this spiritual pursuit in our lives:
“The atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. But if we are to have faith like that of Enoch and Elijah, we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.
“May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.”13
Every attempt to reflect upon the Atonement, to study it, to embrace it, to express appreciation for it, however small or feeble it may be, will kindle the fires of faith and work its miracle towards a more Christlike life. It is an inescapable consequence of so doing. We become like those things we habitually love and admire. And thus, as we study Christ’s life and live his teachings, we become more like him.
. See Smith, Religious Truths Defined, 99, 353, and 365 for a summary of various Christian misstatements on the Fall and Atonement; see also Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, 345–48, 428; and Smith, Way to Perfection, 35.
First misconception: 2 Nephi 2:23; Moses 5:11
Second misconception: 2 Nephi 2:22–23
Third misconception: 2 Nephi 2; Alma 42
Fourth misconception: 2 Nephi 2:22–23
Fifth misconception: Moroni 8
Sixth misconception: 2 Nephi 25:23
Seventh misconception: Alma 40:23; 3 Nephi 11:13–17
Eighth misconception: 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27; Moroni 10:30–33.
A gospel doctrine must read.
by Customer - reviewed on April 07, 2000
This is a must read for any gospel doctrine student. You will never look at the atonement the same way. If you liked BELIEVING CHRIST, you will love this book!!
by Matt - reviewed on October 11, 2000
From the first page to the last, I was hooked on 'The Infinite Atonement.' Each point made was supported by excellent scripture references or quotes by general authorities. It is the kind of book that makes you stop and think, and ponder on what you are reading. It covers a broad spectrum of how infinite the atonement really is. This book is one of the best I've ever read. 'The Infinite Atonement' has the Matt Macey seal of approval!
by cameron - reviewed on August 05, 2003
First of all this book is awesome!. I learned so much about the atonement through it. Second Elder Callister is not a General Authority, he is an Area Authority Seventy.Although his brother Elder Douglas L. Callister is a General Authority. A must read on the book.
by Jesse - reviewed on September 17, 2008
This book really expands one's view of the Atonement and how far-reaching and truly infinite it is. Tad Callister certainly put a lot of work into this book and provides excellent sources to confirm his points of view. It was no surprise to me that he was called to be a Seventy recently; he writes with the power and authority of one who truly has a testimony of Christ. I have recommended this book to a lot of people.
One of the most important books you'll ever read...
by Customer - reviewed on November 25, 2008
A friend gave us this book and it has been one of the most significant books I've ever read. It deepened so much my understanding and appreciation for the Savior's atonement.
by Rich - reviewed on January 12, 2011
This is the most thorough treatment of the atonement that I have ever read. After reading and highlighting passages over the first 1/3 of the book, I realized I needed to read it again with my scriptures open and adding commentary into the margins for future reference. It will definitely be a book that I re-read several times in the future.
by Matt - reviewed on August 22, 2006
Callister does an outstanding job of describing the Atonement. My understanding of the Atonement and of the passages in the scriptures that teach of the Atonement was broadened. I especially enjoyed the chapters that explain why the Atonement is called 'infinite.' This is a must read.
A top shelf book
by Darren - reviewed on April 16, 2010
There are LDS classics and it would not surprise me if this book becomes one. It has an excellent chapter on the gifts of the Spirit and the exalting and perfecting power of the Atonement. The gifts are essential for our development. If you understand that relationship, it maps out a journey more thrilling than any other earthly adventure could offer. This is a must read book.
The definitive book on the Atonement
by Travis - reviewed on September 29, 2008
This is hands down one of my favorite books that I owe. I have over 200 LDS books on an array of topics, but this is by far one of the real gems. It is doctrinally sound, well researched, and well written. It is a book that can be read over and over again. I highly recommend it to anyone!
A Summary of Belief
by Michael - reviewed on October 10, 2008
The subject matter of this book is the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply defined. It is a wonderful rendition and lesson in that which is most dear to myself as well as every Christian. The Atonement is very well defined and explained. Not only that, but as one reads with a prayer in the heart, one gets a feeling at just how accessible the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ really is. He wants us to use it and come back to Him. This book does a great service to mankind in helping us to grow in our understanding and appreciation of the Atonement. For truly the Atonement is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Atonement. Everything else is an appendage of the Atonement. This book helps us to see that very truth. Great Job!!! tov meod
Best book on antonement!
by Customer - reviewed on November 18, 2008
This book was so easy to read and understand. It goes in depth to explain every aspect of the atonement. It helped me better understand my worth, the deeper doctrine, and how the atonement is truly infinite in every way, for every person.
A real eye-opener!
by andrea - reviewed on December 03, 2009
In reading this book, I feel like I have been on a journey of great significance, interest, and joy. My heart, my knowledge, my hope have all been expanded. I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to make a serious study of the Atonement. You will not be disappointed. Andrea Sloop
Each Chapter is Powerful!
by Jason - reviewed on January 04, 2012
In our gospel doctrine class I recommended 4 books that I believe everyone in the church should read after they have read all of the books in the scriptures. The first was Jesus The Christ by Elder James. E. Talmage. The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister is second on that list. Amazing book. I had to read each chapter one at a time and put it down for a few days to ponder over it. I felt the spirit each time I read and found the doctrine to be clear and accurate. If you are interested the other two books I highly recommend are The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith-another great read with the perspective only a mother and woman could give and Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard L. Anderson. Enjoy!
by Customer - reviewed on November 18, 2009
This book is a MUST READ for Latter-Day Saints. It left me quite speechless. The most powerful book on the subject of the Atonement I've ever read (aside from the scriptures.) Amazing! Thank you, Elder Callister!
The most powerful treatment on the atonement in book for written to date
by Steven - reviewed on November 01, 2009
Other than the scriptures there has not been a more powerful book written on The Atonement written to date. One cannot help but feel the power of the Spirit as he digests the information contained within its pages. Indeed the greatest treatise ever written on the atonement. While we cannot comprehend the depth of the atonement this little volume comes pretty close to delivering what one would need to strengthen his testimony.
by Customer - reviewed on July 20, 2011
This book is absolutely wonderful. It is easy to read, but still took me a long time because it is so deep and I was writing down so many thoughts and new understandings. I suggest this book to anyone who wants to strengthen their testimony of Jesus Christ and His atonement for us.
This book should be in every Christian's library
by Deanne - reviewed on September 09, 2010
Wow!I can honestly say I have never read a more amazing book on the Atonement in my 36 years of being a Christian! I am a newly baptized member of the LDS Church and still have so many questions about LDS doctrine and this book has answered a lot of them. Tad R Callister explains things so simply, but with such depth and beauty.I am so excited about this book I tell every Christian I know about it, regardless of their denominational affiliation, as I believe every Christian could only benefit from the truly inspired insights, on the Atonement, contained in this book.
by Jesse - reviewed on March 11, 2011
There are occasionally those books in life that change permanently the minds and hearts of those who read them. Such is the case with Tad R. Callister’s great work, The Infinite Atonement. Callister’s literary work is both motivational and faith empowering to the Christian reader, as well as insightful and thought provoking to the professed atheist. Anyone who reads it will gain a better knowledge of the important role Jesus the Christ plays, in both the Christian world and our modern day, as one of the great religious leaders of all-time. This literary work teaches of the fundamental doctrine of all dominant Christian belief, the atonement. According to Robert L. Millet in his foreword to the book, “Some things just matter more than others…. The atonement is the central act of human history, the pivotal point in all time, the doctrine of doctrines.” Callister begins by explaining this concept and further by showing, and reinforcing through scriptural text, that the atonement of that carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth, is far reaching and infinite in its ability to save both those who were born before and after the meridian of time. The book is loaded with profound insights into the soul of what the atonement is. In the Author’s own words, “An attempt to master this doctrine requires an immersion of all our senses, all our feelings, and all our intellect.” I must agree that it will challenge the understanding of most and require some soul-searching moments of the reader’s day in order to grasp how it is that one man could perform such a heroic act that would, and does, affect all mankind.
by Eric - reviewed on December 28, 2012
One of the best books I have ever read!! I love how Elder Callister helps bring so many different dimensions to The Atonement that I have never thought of before. Best quote of the book so far, "One of the ironies of life is that we acquire love as we GIVE it away." I love it.
Opened my eyes
by Timothy - reviewed on November 29, 2011
When I was on my mission I was really interested on learning as much as I could about the Atonement, and so my mom sent this book to me. Not only did I learn as much as I wanted to, but it helped me put my life a little more in harmony with the gospel, and took away my desire to sin. I have so much more appreciation for my Saviour and what He's done for me. I am much much closer to Him than I was before