Sunday, August 14, 2011

What’s Infinity, Anyway?

A memory from childhood, as I talked with an older girl I knew when we were at a swim meet together, standing in front of a vending machine with change from her mom for us to share a drink:
Her: “Let’s guess numbers to see who gets to choose the soda.”
Me: “Okay.”
Her: “You can go first.”
Me: Okay . . . mmmm . . . “500”
Her: “Infinity.”
It took her a minute or two to convince me that infinity was bigger than any number I could think of, and therefore she won the right to pick the soda.  And so I entered into the knowledge of the infinite. ;o)
I’ve had cause to think about the nature of the infinite, as “Infinite Atonement” comes up regularly in Sunday School and spiritual discussion.  I’ve heard lovely, wonderful sisters in the Relief Society weep as they speak of all of the pain in our loving Savior’s Atonement that they, personally, have been responsible for . . . feeling a great deal of shame and responsibility for increasing the burden He had to bear.  Once quite a while back, when someone I loved dearly shared that same feeling during a lesson she gave in Relief Society, the unsettled, not-quite-right feeling I had always had when I heard something like that distilled into a clear concept with a nudge from the Spirit.
Raising my hand, and wanting more than anything to help ease her heartache, I began speaking, not really sure which words would come out.  It was something like this:
“Rhonda,” I began, “the atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite.  It covers everything, everywhere, for everyone.  We don’t, and can’t, understand infinity . . . it’s so far beyond what our limited minds can grasp.  But when you divide infinity, you’re still have infinity.  When you add or subtract any number to infinity, infinity remains.  I don’t believe it’s possible to divide up the atonement into slices, like a pie, saying ‘This is my piece, and this is yours; I’m responsible for this bit, and here’s yours.’  Infinite and complete, nothing we do will add to or take away from what He suffered so willingly for us.  The atonement covers all of us, but was performed for each and every one of us as if we were the only one for which it was done.  Jesus would have willingly suffered exactly the same if you, or I, were the only one who needed it.”

What a wondrous, glorious, loving truth to know . . . that not only does the Atonement of Jesus Christ confer power upon the Savior of the world to forgive sins and judge mankind, but best of all it stands, both infinite and complete, above our actions, unchanged and unchangable.

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