The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ “embraces, sustains, supports, and gives life to all other gospel doctrines. It is the foundation upon which all truth rests and all things grow out of it and come because of it.”1 “The wondrous and glorious Atonement was the central act in all of human history.”2 Because of these statements, all things also point to Christ and His atonement. Those who lived before Christ looked forward to Him and His infinite and eternal sacrifice. Those who live after Christ look back to this greatest of all events and “remember what was done.”3
There were many different ways in which the blood sacrifices before Christ were types and shadows of the great and last sacrifice. Note a few of the details:
First, like Christ, the [sacrificial] animal was chosen and anointed by the laying on of hands. (The Hebrew title Messiah and the Greek title Christ both mean “the Anointed One.”) Second, the animal was to have its life’s blood spilt. Third, it had to be without blemish—totally free from physical flaws, complete, whole, and perfect. Fourth, the sacrifice had to be clean and worthy. Fifth, the sacrifice had to be domesticated; that is, not wild but tame and of help to man (see Lev. 1:2–3, 10; Lev. 22:21). Sixth and seventh, for the original sacrifice practiced by Adam and the most common sacrifice in the law of Moses, the animal had to be a firstborn and a male (see Ex. 12:5; Lev. 1:3; Lev. 22:18–25). Eighth, the sacrifice of grain had to be ground into flour and made into breadstuffs, which reminds us of our Lord’s title the Bread of Life (see John 6:48). Ninth, the firstfruits that were offered remind us that Christ was the firstfruits of the Resurrection.”4
About 74 years before Christ, the prophet Amulek wrote about how Christ’s sacrifice would eventually end blood sacrifices:
It is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice . . .
And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. (Alma 34:10, 14)
Nine years before that, the prophet Alma also testified of Christ,
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11-12)
The Savior of all mankind came and fulfilled the law. He is the great and last sacrifice. The pain that He went through was “so hard to bear” that we cannot comprehend it, and His suffering was so great that He–God, the greatest of all–trembled because of the pain, bled from every pore, and suffered both body and spirit (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).
With His death, the law of Moses was fulfilled. Yet, the law of Moses is not exactly the same thing as the law of sacrifice.5 We still keep the law of sacrifice. The Savior taught concerning the fulfilling of the law and what we are to sacrifice nowadays:
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 9:19-20)
Malachi 3:8-10 is often quoted to motivate us to pay our tithes and offerings. “Will a man rob God?” the record reads,
Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:8-10)
Because one of the offerings we are to give to the Lord is “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” the same principle of blessings applies. I testify that when we offer up to the Lord a broken heart and a contrite spirit that He will pour out a blessing upon us that is so great that we will not have room enough to receive it. Our cup of blessings will fill to overflowing, even so much that those around us will also receive blessings.
Yet, no matter how contrite our spirit or how broken our heart, our sacrifice is nothing compared to the one that happened in the meridian of time. Indeed, there is one offering that pours out a blessing so great upon all of mankind, that none can even begin to comprehend the greatness of it. This offering is so great that it has power to bless—and save—all mankind: “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33).
In conclusion, hear another testimony from another prophet in the Book of Mormon–King Benjamin:
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.
For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned. (Mosiah 3:7-11)
Hence, “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.”6
1 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, 60.
2 Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 70.
3 Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Salt Lake City, 1980, 185.
4 M. Russell Ballard, “The Law of Sacrifice,” Ensign, Oct 1998, 7.
6 Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Ed. Joseph F. Smith, Deseret Book: Salt Lake City, 1976, 121.