Important Thoughts 3.0

Here's my important thought for today: I've been listening to talks that people give about the Atonement, and I've noticed a trend. The trend: people speaking about the Atonement always include an explanation about how the word "atonement" literally means at-one-ment, that is, the state of being at one, or in harmony, reconciled. And I've been thinking that these people are crazy. Okay, so not crazy. Just not well-informed. "Haven't they ever heard of word roots?" I would ask myself. "Trying to make sense of atonement by breaking it up is like trying to make sense of butterfly by breaking it up. Butterflies have nothing to do with butter or flies, and the connnection between atonement and at-one-ment is just a coincidence." A cute and insignificant coincidence -- that's what I thought.

But I was wrong. I first began to doubt my conviction that the concept of at-one-ment was a hoax when I recently heard a quote from President James E. Faust's talk, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope. In it, he states, "Understanding what we can of the Atonement and the Resurrection of Christ helps us to obtain a knowledge of Him and of His mission. Any increase in our understanding of His atoning sacrifice draws us closer to Him. Literally, the Atonement means to be at one with Him." When I heard this, I was stumped. It was easy for me to believe that the speakers in Sacrament Meeting were fooled, but much harder to believe that a General Authority got it wrong.

I decided to put the issue to rest. I went the source of all wisdom, and looked up "atonement" on Wikipedia. (You can read the full article here; it actually includes a detailed description of how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints differs from mainstream Christianity on the issue of Christ's Atonement, which I found very interesting.) Wikipedia told me that the word atonement was created by a man named William Tyndale, a 16th-century Protestant reformer who translated the Bible into the Early Modern English of his day -- most of his translation eventually made its way into the King James Version of the Bible, which was published in 1611 and which we use today. Tyndale wanted a word to explain the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, which accomplished both the remission of sin and reconciliation of man to God, so he created the word "atonement." His word comprises two parts -- "at" and "onement," meaning a reconcilliation and also a covering, as in a covering of sin. While grateful for William Tyndale's work in bringing the word of God to the people of 16th-century England, I feel like he could have made better use of his knowledge of Latin word roots. He would have saved me a lot of embarrassment.

Thanks a lot, William Tyndale.


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