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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.
What Is the Significance of the Atonement?
A Doctrine for All Seasons
A person studying the Atonement is somewhat like the man who retreats to his mountain cabin to enjoy the scenery. If he looks out the window to the east, he will see the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies; but if he fails to examine the view on the west, he will miss the crimson-streaked sunset on the horizon; if he neglects the scene to the north, he will never see the shimmering emerald lake; and if he bypasses the window on the south, he will fail to witness the wild flowers in all their brilliant glory, dancing in the gentle mountain breeze. Beauty besets him in every direction. So it is with the Atonement. Regardless of our vantage point, it is glorious to behold. Every principle underlying it, every consequence flowing from it rewards our intellect, animates our emotions, and enlivens our spirit. It is a doctrine for all seasons.
An attempt to master this doctrine requires an immersion of all our senses, all our feelings, and all our intellect. Given the opportunity, the Atonement will invade each of the human passions and faculties, and in so doing will invite an exhaustion of each in order to more fully grasp its meaning. Those who have refined their cultural sensitivities will approach the Atonement with a more heart-felt empathy for the tenderness and compassion it represents. Those who have sacrificed their lives in service will stand in even greater awe of him who sacrificed his all. Those who have perfected the powers of reason will probe with even deeper insight into the “whys” and “hows,” not just the consequences of this intensely sublime doctrine. And those whose spirits are pure and lives are clean will feel a closer kinship to him whose life they have but in small measure mirrored.
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 pursuit of this doctrine requires the total person, for the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most supernal, mind-expanding, passionate doctrine this world or universe will ever know.
The Most Important Event in History
The final week of the Savior’s mortal ministry had arrived. For four thousand years prophets had preached and prophesied of the events that would culminate in this particular week. All events in history, memorable as they had been or would yet be, paled in comparison to this moment. This was the focal point of all history.
He who had created worlds without number was about to enter a quiet, secluded garden, a humble plot of ground in his vast cosmic universe. There was no fanfare, no pressing throng to witness the most profound event his creations would ever know. This was a moment so sacred, so sublime, that no human eye could fully pierce, no human mind could fully comprehend its transcending importance. Only three other mortals—Peter, James and John—would be near, and even their witness would be tempered by the twilight and shrouded by sleep.
The appointed hour was at hand. The Son of God stood alone in all his majestic power against all the artillery of the Evil One. Here was divine love in its consummate expression battling diabolic evil in its cruelest proportions. This was the place and the time for the atonement of Jesus Christ.
If a survey were taken of history’s most significant events, common answers might include the harnessing of fire, the discovery of America, the splitting of the atom, landing on the moon, or the invention of the computer. Each is a wondrous event, but absent the backdrop of the Atonement each is of but transitory importance—no more than a shooting star illuminating the sky for a brief moment, and then vanishing into the night. The Atonement gives purpose and potency to every event in history. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of its relationship to other events in world history: “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace.”1 This was not just another great event in the chronicles of history. It was, as Hugh Nibley observed, “the one supreme reality of our life upon this earth!”2
The prophet Alma shared this belief. He had stepped down as chief judge so he might fully devote his time to the ministry. With prophetic vision he looked down the stream of time and saw “many things to come” (Alma 7:7), and then concluded, “there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people” (Alma 7:7). Elder Bruce R. McConkie added his testimony to that of Alma: “The most transcendent event in his entire eternal existence, the most glorious single happening from creation’s dawn to eternity’s endless continuance, the crowning work of his infinite goodness—such took place in a garden called Gethsemane.”3
All other events, doctrines, and principles are subservient to and appendages of that godly act. That is what the Prophet Joseph taught: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”4
Lehi knew of the Atonement’s preeminent status among gospel principles. Sensing the end was near at hand, he delivered his final sermon to his sons, and in so doing laid out in masterful simplicity the essence of the Fall and Atonement. He then concluded, “I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part” (2 Nephi 2:30).
The “good part” of the gospel and, indeed, of all history is the Savior and his atoning sacrifice. The Atonement of Jesus Christ outweighs, surpasses, and transcends every other mortal event, every new discovery, and every acquisition of knowledge, for without the Atonement all else in life is meaningless.
Elder McConkie pays fitting tribute to this noblest of all deeds: “Nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest.”5 That being the case, one would think that all the world would anxiously turn to the Savior. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The Savior observed, “I . . . came unto mine own, and mine own received me not” (D&C 6:21). Nephi foresaw this deplorable state of affairs: “The world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught” (1 Nephi 19:9). What a tragic observation. It is serious indeed to reject the Savior, but to ignore him, to snub him, to consider him “a thing of naught” is most displeasing to the Lord. There is no mistake about his position on this subject: “I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou are lukewarm . . . I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16).
In striking contrast to the room-temperature saints so abhorred by the Lord, Nephi spoke of his people’s passion to “talk of Christ . . . rejoice in Christ . . . preach of Christ . . . prophesy of Christ . . . that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26). Such rejoicing was prompted by their absolute trust in Christ’s future Atonement. They knew it was the only event in history that could save them, and thus, for this reason—the redemption of man—the Savior would make his entry into mortality.
The Savior’s earthly experience can be conveniently divided into three categories, namely his message, his ministry, and his mission. Only the events associated with his mission, however, required his personal appearance, and thus, his mission, the atoning sacrifice, became the compelling reason for his condescension.
The Savior’s message, meaning the gospel of Jesus Christ, had been preached before the meridian of time and would yet be preached again. From the lips of Adam the pristine gospel truths had been declared millennia before the Savior’s ministry. The Lord made it clear that “the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning” (Moses 5:58). Enoch, Noah, and Abraham also preached the gospel in their dispensations. In post-meridian times the Prophet Joseph would restore the gospel in its fulness, for, as promised to him by the Lord, “This generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:10).
Certainly it was a great blessing to have the Savior personally preach his gospel message, but that was not the essential reason for which he came. Others have been his spokesmen, both before and after his mortal advent. Of these spokesmen the Lord declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). The Savior’s message was essential to our salvation, but his personal exposition of it was not. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. gave this caution:
“Brethren, it is all right to speak of the Savior and the beauty of his doctrines, and the beauty of the truth. But remember, and this is the thing I wish you . . . [to] always carry with you, the Savior is to be looked at as the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world. His teachings were ancillary and auxiliary to that great fact.”6
The Savior’s ministry included the working of miracles, but Enoch, Moses, Elijah, and others had performed similar wonders before his birth. Peter, Paul, and others would perform like miracles after his ascension.
Among the miracles performed by the Savior was his mastery over the elements of nature. Who is not struck when he reads of the Savior’s confrontation with the tempest on the Sea of Galilee? The winds had whipped up in a frenzied fury. The waves thrashed against the small fishing vessel with reckless abandon. All hope seemed to be lost. “Master,” they said, “carest thou not that we perish?” Then Jesus arose, and with a voice that pierced the troubled elements, cried out, “Peace, be still.” In response, those inexorable forces of nature, those forces that seemingly know no restraint, calmed in humble submission. So overwhelming was this display of power that even his disciples cried out, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:38–39, 41).
The Savior’s mastery of nature and the elements was not unique to him, however. Acting with divine power, Joshua bid the sun to stand still and it was done. At Moses’ inspired command the Red Sea parted. Upon the spoken word of Enoch the mountains moved, the rivers changed their course, and the earth trembled. Did such power over the elements cease after the meridian of time? Mormon asked a similar question: “Have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven?” Then came the unequivocal response, “Behold I say unto you, Nay” (Moroni 7:27, 29). The Savior promised the believer of future generations, “greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).
The Savior raised the dead on multiple occasions, but he was not alone in this extraordinary feat. The scriptures record that Elijah raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:20–22). Peter and Paul restored the dead to life (Acts 9:39–41; 20:9–13). Joseph Smith spoke to Elijah Fordham on his deathbed, “Brother Fordham, in the name of Jesus Christ, arise and walk.” History recounts that Brother Fordham then leaped from his bed in instantaneous recovery.7 Certainly the powers over death were not restricted to the mortal ministry of the Savior alone.
The Savior had the power to supersede the laws of gravity—he walked upon the water; but this was not a first. Had not Elisha, centuries before, caused an iron axe-head to float so it might be retrieved for the grieved borrower (2 Kings 6:5–6)?
Have not the healing of the blind, the lame, the leper all occurred in other dispensations? The power underlying every miracle performed by the Savior has been present in every dispensation of the gospel, and rightfully so. One of the signs of the true church is to have the same power, gifts, and miracles as existed in the primitive church.
The Savior’s ministry included the performance of sacred ordinances (JST, John 4:1–4), as well as miracles, but did not his apostles also baptize, give the gift of the Holy Ghost, and perform every other essential gospel ordinance? The Lord’s mortal ministry left us with a wonderful legacy of compassionate deeds, miracles, and priesthood ordinances, but such acts were not confined to his ministry alone.
While others could preach the Savior’s message and even perform a ministry of miracles and priesthood ordinances, only he could accomplish that divinely appointed mission, namely the redemption of the world. No proxies, no substitutes, no surrogates, not even heaven-sent angels or prophets would or could do. The Atonement required the life and power of a perfect being. He was the sole candidate, the only “name under heaven . . . whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is the prime reason he came to the earth: “Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin” (3 Nephi 9:21; see also D&C 49:5; 76:40–42).8 Matthew, quoting the mortal Messiah, recorded the same truth, “The Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11; see also Mormon 7:6–7). As important as were his personal message and ministry, they were secondary to his mission—the atoning sacrifice.
The Heart of the Gospel
The Atonement is not just a prime teaching of the gospel; it is the heart of the gospel. It infuses life into every doctrine, every principle, and every ordinance, transforming what might otherwise be a lofty but nonetheless lifeless ideal, to a vibrant spiritual truth. So essential is the Atonement to a purposeful life that on occasion it is referred to as “the gospel.” While expounding to the Nephites the Savior confirmed this: “This is the gospel . . . that I came into the world to do the will of my Father. . . . And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross” (3 Nephi 27:13–14). This same doctrine was audibly declared from the heavens to the Prophet Joseph: “This is the gospel, the glad tidings . . . that he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world” (D&C 76:40–41). The LDS Bible Dictionary 9 defines the gospel as “good news” and then adds, “The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement.”10
In a more expansive sense, the gospel is referred to as all those principles and ordinances that comprise the plan of salvation (see D&C 39:6). Even when used in this latter sense, however, we must remember that those principles and ordinances have life and efficacy only because of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. That is exactly what Enoch taught: “This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten” (Moses 6:62). The Atonement is the lifeblood that quickens every gospel precept. It is, as President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “the keystone in the arch of the great plan.”11 Without it all else collapses.
No doctrine supersedes or even approaches the Atonement in importance. It is the grandest miracle to have ever occurred. C. S. Lewis observed that if one takes away the miracles attributed to Buddhism, there would be “no loss” to the religion. If all miracles were eliminated from Islam, he adds, “nothing essential would be altered.” Then this striking observation: “But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion” that Christ came “into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing Nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.”12
The Atonement is, as Elder McConkie observed, “the center and core and heart of revealed religion.”13 It is indeed the keystone of Christianity and the foundation of a spiritual life. It is the beacon light for a benighted world. It is the fountain from which all hopes spring. Any theology, any philosophy, any doctrine that teaches contrary to the Atonement is built on sand. Brigham Young taught: “The moment the atonement of the Savior is done away, that moment, at one sweep, the hopes of salvation entertained by the Christian world are destroyed, the foundation of their faith is taken away, and there is nothing left for them to stand upon.”14 The Atonement is our singular hope for a meaningful life.
. President Joseph F. Smith spoke of another reason Christ came to earth: “Christ came not only to atone for the sins of the world, but to set an example before all men and to establish the standard of God’s perfection, of God’s law, and of obedience to the Father.” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 270). This is consistent with the observation of Peter: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
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