Everything Flows from the Atonement: An Interview of Judge Thomas B. Griffith
By G.G. Vandagriff
When my husband, David, was called to be a bishop in the BYU 9th Stake, then Stake President Thomas B. Griffith told him that the stake had an “agenda” known by the acronym APRIL – Atonement, Pure Religion, Integrity, and Love. It was expected that every lesson and every talk would flow out of the “Root of Christian Doctrine,” or the atonement. (See “The Root of Christian Doctrine,” Thomas B. Griffith, BYU Magazine, Fall 2006 and “The Mediator,” Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1977, p. 56).
This was a new, but welcome concept to us and we eagerly undertook this new stewardship. We had no inkling of the incredible changes it would bring about in our personal lives, or in the lives of the members of the BYU 28th Ward. A study and application of the atonement has changed literally everything in our lives – from my healing of twenty-five years of depression to our relationships with everyone in our family and all of those we meet.
It All Begins with the Sacrament
President Griffith is now an appellate court Judge in the Fifth Circuit (Washington, D.C.) and is only in Provo for brief periods, but recently granted me an interview. I asked him specifically how we could apply the atonement in practical ways in our lives. He replied that it all begins with the sacrament.
The sacrament is the weekly ordinance that we partake of to pledge our lives and hearts to our Savior. It is the time when we complete our repentance, when we call upon God for His enabling power to be present in our lives, when we return and report on our efforts that week to take upon us His name. It is Judge Griffith’s feeling that we as Latter-day Saints are not comfortable with contemplation. Many of us have not internalized the meaning of the sacrament as we should.
I remember one talk he gave when he pointed out the likeness of the sacramental table to a body under a shroud. This is a thought that deserves some consideration. We enter the chapel, and there awaiting us are the emblems of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us, underneath a “shroud.”
He tells of the absolute shock he felt when he was baptized into the Church and was told that it was to be his duty to actually bless those emblems in behalf of Jesus Christ for the members of the congregation.
When he served later as bishop, he instituted a prayer meeting fifteen minutes before sacrament meeting, attended by all those who would be participating in preparing for the sacrament ordinance – the deacons who would pass, the teachers who would prepare, and the priests who would bless. They prayed that they would be able to do their part to make this as sacred and transcending experience as possible for the members of the congregation.
No Three-Hour Block
It is Judge Griffith’s opinion, that there is no “sacrament portion” of our meetings. He believes that the three-hour block of meetings should be dedicated to study of and remembrance of the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior. It is our purpose in life to come to know Him. Surely, our church meetings should reflect that. Everything should flow out of the covenants that we make during the sacrament to take upon ourselves His name and to always remember Him.
If we look at our church calling as flowing from the sacrament, we will see our hands and hearts as Christ’s hands and hearts, our service as His service. This gives greater meaning to our callings as visiting and home teachers. As quorum leaders and auxiliary leaders, we stand in His stead as shepherds over His flock.
Elder Eyring once made the statement that President Hinckley’s great concern was to get the gospel down into the hearts of the people. This is the strength of the Church – individual conversion, conviction, and action.
As the world encroaches on us, the only way we will survive spiritually as individuals is by a powerful vertical connection with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no greater tool to affect that connection than by worthily and intentionally partaking of the sacrament each week, literally partaking of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
2007 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.