Most religions have a founder or leader. Some consider this leader holy and some consider him (or her) mortal but inspired.
Jesus Christ is the heart of Christianity. He is the only begotten son of God, the Father and the Firstborn of the Father:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, King James translation of the Bible)
Christians know Jesus Christ to be their personal Savior. This was a voluntary decision on His part. He knew that when we came to Earth, we would not be able, as fully mortal beings, to live the perfect life required in order for us to return home to God. Although justice requires perfection, mercy allows someone to take our sins on Himself and suffer for them. This person had to be a perfect being who voluntarily agreed to the sacrifice of his life. Jesus Christ was the only person who could volunteer for this assignment, which means that we are especially indebted to Him. Had He refused, we would not have been able to be saved. He came to earth as both mortal and divine. His mother was a mortal woman and His Father is God. This divine heritage and miraculous conception allowed Him to experience the trials of mortality in order to better understand us but to also have the divinity necessary to be perfect and to overcome death.
Jesus Christ lived His life in a way that set the pattern for Christian living. He devoted His brief three-year ministry to teaching about God and serving others. He asked us to treat others with love, respect, and kindness—even those we don’t like. He was criticized because He associated with those other people didn’t approve of—the sinners, the disabled, and those who were of the lower classes—because they were the ones who really needed to know Him. He performed miracles, healed the sick, and raised the dead.
There are other religious leaders who have preached kindness and morality. There are some who have performed miracles—the Savior Jesus Christ’s own apostles performed many miracles. What follows, however, is unique in that Jesus Christ is the only One who could and did carry out the atonement.
Shortly before His death, He took on our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was an extraordinarily painful process and a very personal one, as He suffered for each sin individually. This would make it possible for Him to know the pain of sin without ever having sinned Himself, and because of it, He is able to understand our suffering when we sin. His sacrifice made it possible for us to choose to repent of our sins and to have them forgiven by and forgotten by God.
In time, He was killed by His enemies. It is important to note that He could not have been killed without His permission. He had prophesied His death and even prevented His apostles from stopping it. He knew it was a necessary part of His mission on Earth. He died on the cross alongside two real criminals. Then He was placed in a tomb.
Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This historical moment broke the bands of death for everyone, allowing us all to be resurrected someday and to live forever. The atonement process is what makes Jesus Christ unique. It assures us someone loves us so much He was willing to suffer beyond measure for each of us and to take on a mission that would offer us the gift of eternal life.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.