We were asked to speak as a family on the Atonement & Restoration. I chose to speak on the Atonement, and left the Restoration to my husband. We asked our daughter to share her testimony as well. Below is a copy of my talk.
Good Morning Brothers & Sisters. We are truly humbled at the opportunity given to us to share our thoughts and testimonies with you on such an exceptional sabbath day. No words could express the love and gratitude we have for our Bishopric and this Ward. We're not necessarily new here. We've been in the ward for quite some time and most of you may still not know who the Magalei's are, so I wanted to share a few things about us.
I was born here in Utah to Salote Schwenke & Loloa Tuha. I grew up in California, but moved back to Utah shortly after meeting my husband. My husband, Sherwin Magalei was born and raised in Compton, California to Uainafou Tapusoa & Losifafo Magalei. Regardless of the hard surroundings of Compton, my husband comes from a long line of great men who served diligently in the gospel. I, too was born in the gospel and brought up by great parents and other great influences.
17 years ago, in 1994 I met my husband, at a youth dance in California. We dated off and on. We knew we loved each other from the moment we met, but fate would have us experience life apart, many times, only to guarantee the survival of our love, through all trials and tribulations met in our marriage. Our love became exclusive and official when we settled down together, only 2 years after the birth of our daughter, Alana Magalei. Our family was sealed for time and all eternity, only 3 ago, in the Salt Lake City temple. We're here, because we live and love the simple and quiet life, Lehi has to offer us. Our family, like many others here, have experienced many struggles and afflictions that has granted us salvation by the grace of the Atonement.
My father passed away in 1995, only a year after taking my mother and our family through the Los Angeles Temple to be sealed for eternity. Although, I understood the plan of salvation, I rebelled with great rage. It seemed easier to coop with my loss & grief with sin, in my attempts to have no feelings or emotions. However, the life style I chose then, cost me pain, even hurt my friends & family. These circumstances were forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. During my ups and downs a little poem stayed with me through out the years.
I walked a mile with pleasure, she chattered all the way,
but left me none the wiser, with all she had to say
I walked a mile with sorrow, and never a word said she
but oh the things I learned from her, when sorrow walked with me.
Brothers and Sisters, I've never understood this so clearly as I do now. Elder. Boyd K. Packer once said that, "There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ"
The risks of becoming distant from Heavenly Father and Jesus are extensive and temptation is constantly around us. Fortunately, for us the Atonement was meant for all of these situations.
In (2 Nephi 9:7), Jacob described the Atonement as “infinite”, meaning without restriction. That is why the Atonement is so important for us to know of and understand. Because of the Resurrection, all of us will have immortality. Because of the Atonement, we will all be able to not only experience but enjoy Eternal Life.
Let's take Nephi for example. He was a great example of someone who knew and understood the Atonement. Nephi had the ultimate attitude of gratitude. His life was not easy, nor did he live in the comfort that most of us take for granted now. He lived in the wilderness for many years before even reaching the promise land. He and his family suffered hunger and danger. He had serious family issues. Family that he couldn't trust, nor feel safe around. Those of who he had to separate himself from. In the difficulty, Nephi was able to say, (2 Nephi 5:27) “ And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness”.
He truly understood that there is a pattern for living that results in happiness, regardless of the difficulties, challenges, and disappointments that come into all of our lives. He was able to focus on the big picture of God’s plan for him and his family. He was able to avoid being brought down by his frustrations or by the very thought that life just isn't fair. And as I have read and understand, life for them was not fair, but Nephi and his family were happy. They understood that an Atonement would take place, and they had confidence that it would include them.
As we look forward to the promises of the Atonement through baptism, repentance or even partaking of the sacrament, we must also be mindful of the process. Yes, the blessings, privileges, power and exaltation are within every man's reach, but only through the Atonement. However, it becomes our duty to enquire what is required of man to place him or her in possession of them.
We must always keep in mind, the things we must do to receive such blessings. We must be obedient in continuing to repent for our sins. The conditions required of us to enable us to obtain the atonement makes it possible for us to receive, are:
1. Believing in God, Jesus Christ.
4. Holy Ghost.
Know that we're not all perfect. I know I am far from perfection. However, our loving Savior did what he did because he truly loved us. All of us have sinned and need to repent to fully pay our part of the debt. When we sincerely repent, the Savior’s Atonement pays the rest of that debt. He did what he did, not only because of the plan or because our Heavenly Father expected him to. He suffered and made the ultimate sacrifice because of his undying, unwavering & unconditional love for each of us. He completed the task because of his profound devotion to our Father.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said, "We must never forget that through the Atonement, the Lord Jesus Christ paid a great price for the redemption of each one of us and concluded his mortal ministry with the single most compassionate and significant service in the history of the world: the Atonement."
Now, the Atonement applies and is extended to all woman and men of every nation. As we continue to exercise our agency, we must also remember that because of the restoration of the gospel, a route & guide was provided for us to properly atone for our sins and draw closer to our Heavenly Father.
Shortly before the death of President Taylor, he wrote the following to his family members, expressing the hope he had through the Atonement:
“I pray God the Eternal Father that when we have all finished our probation here, we may be presented to the Lord without spot or blemish, as pure and honorable representatives of the Church and kingdom of God on the earth, and then inherit a celestial glory in the kingdom of our God, and enjoy everlasting felicity with the pure and just in the realms of eternal day, through the merits and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, in worlds without end.”
Jesus Christ was appointed and foreordained to be our Redeemer before the world was formed. With His divine son ship, His sinless life, the shedding of His blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, His excruciating death on the cross and followed by his bodily Resurrection from the grave, He became the author of our salvation and made a perfect Atonement for all mankind. "Literally, the Atonement means to be “at one” with Him".
Years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.
“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’
“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.
“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’
“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’
“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.
“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.
“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”
President Hinckley then quoted Isaiah:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. …
“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the allowance of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
No one knows but can only imagine the full weight of what our Savior suffered, but by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know of the gift He gave us. In the words of our sacrament hymn:
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
He suffered so much pain, “indescribable anguish,” and “overpowering torture” for our sake. His profound suffering in the Garden, where He took upon Himself all the sins of all others, caused Him “to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit.” And in an agony he prayed,” saying, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” He was betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. He was mocked by the chief priests and officers; He was stripped, smitten, spit on, and scourged in the judgment hall to feel our pain and walk with us even in our darkest hours. I want to also share with you one of my "Favorite" essays written by a boy named Brian, called. . .
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read 'Girls I have liked.' I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.
This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
A file named 'Friends' was next to one marked 'Friends I have betrayed.' The titles ranged from the everyday to the complete weird 'Books I Have Read,' 'Lies I Have Told,' 'Comfort I have Given,' 'Jokes I Have Laughed at.' Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: 'Things I've yelled at my brothers.' Others I couldn't laugh at: 'Things I Have Done in My Anger', 'Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.' I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.
When I pulled out the file marked 'TV Shows I have watched', I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.
When I came to a file marked 'Lustful Thoughts,' I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.
I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them! In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.
And then I saw it.. The title bore 'People I Have Shared the Gospel With.' The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.
And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt.They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.
No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.
He seemed to naturally go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. *No!* I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was 'No, no,' as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.
He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, 'It is finished.' I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.
Lastly, the Atonement not only benefits the sinner but also benefits those sinned against—that is, the victims. By forgiving “those who trespass against us” the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort to those who have been innocently victimized by the sins of others.
My father whom I had previously mentioned was an alcoholic for 15 years before his return to the fold. During his drunken days, he became abusive to my mother and my youngest brother. These were the scariest times of our childhood. My mother had enough and took all she could bear, sending him off on a one way ticket back to the islands. He worked and sent money home. One of the Christmases we spent without him was one of the best Christmases we had ever had in our childhood. I say this, because my father was the type of drunk to only beat my mother during holidays, birthdays and special occasions. A few months after his death I had spent some time in Tonga with my grandmother. She could recall the Christmas we spent without him, because my father was with her. She told me of how much fun Christmas was in Tonga and especially the last Christmas she had with my father. She said that by the end of the day, he was sitting in a corner, with his arms folded, sobbing. She asked him, why is he crying like a baby and not enjoying the festivities like a man. He told her that he loved and missed his wife and children so much and could not bear another year without us. My grandmother cried as shared my father's words and express his love for us. She told him that the family would only help him pay his fair home, if he promise to make things better.
He returned home. Although advised by his doctor, not to, he did, and quit cold turkey. It was rough. He became very ill. The brethren from our Tongan Branch, were aware of our situation and came to his side and assist him in the process. I cannot believe that without the Atonement, he would have made his big come back. He repented, was re baptized, received his priesthoods and took our family to the temple. Years after his death, I took a trip to California. Made a stop to visit our old Branch President. We talked about my father. He wept as he told me about his repentance process. He told me that my father struggled but was determined to overcome his addictions. He explained that my father understood the Atonement. He understood the plan and saw the big picture. I can only pray that I have such a full understanding to become one with Christ, in His divine presence.
I know without a shadow of doubt he died for us to Atone for our sins. I testify that he lives. I know our Savior lives. I love my family and pray that they too feel his love. His love for us allows my husband and I to continually pray for forgiveness. To strive to be better parents to our daughter, friends to our neighbors, to forgive or seek forgiveness and to love our family and all around us, without fail nor judgement. Although, I stand before you feeling inadequate to share the overwhelming message of the Atonement. It is simply the perfect love the Savior has for each and all of us. It is a love which is full of mercy, patience, grace, equity, long-suffering, and, above all, forgiving. Through our repentance and the gift of the Atonement, we can prepare to be worthy to stand in His presence. I testify in the name of our beloved and Atoning Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.