After reading the atonement section on the LDS website, my understanding is that the atonement of Christ was not exclusively fulfilled in the Garden of Gethsemane, but was also partially fulfilled through the crucifixion.

By [Jesus'] selection and foreordination in the Grand Council before the world was formed, His divine Sonship, His sinless life, the shedding of His blood in the garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross and subsequent bodily resurrection from the grave, He made a perfect atonement for all mankind.

Despite this, my feeling is there is a sort of "focus" among Latter Day Saints on the portion of the atonement accomplished in Gethsemane (i.e. in many paintings and hymns).

In the LDS Church, is there an explicit theological emphasis on the atonement in Gethsemane? Or is the emphasis more cultural than doctrinal?

Edit: Added the atonement reference source

  • I’d suggest that you cite whatever you were reading so you can get a better answer.
    – Luke Hill
    Mar 3, 2022 at 2:43

1 Answer 1


A 3-part definition

Preach My Gospel (the instruction manual for the church's missionaries) offers the following definition:

The Savior’s Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection. Though He suffered beyond comprehension—so much so that He bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him—He submitted to the Father’s will in a supreme expression of love for His Father and for us. This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

This definition includes:

  • His suffering in Gethsemane
  • His suffering and death on the cross
  • His resurrection


We notice what is distinct

It is not uncommon for groups to be distinguished by & focus on features that are unique to them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' distinct teachings about what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, then, often do elicit a great deal of attention, because they are different.

It is also true that this painting by Harry Anderson, of Jesus kneeling in Gethsemane, is an absolutely beloved favorite piece of artwork adorning many Latter-day Saint buildings (incidentally, though, Harry Anderson was not a Latter-day Saint).



The suffering of Jesus in Gethsemane played an essential role in the Plan of Salvation. Two of the more poignant passages describing this are:

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. (Mosiah 3:7)

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (Doctrine & Covenants 19:18-19)

(compare also to Luke 22:44 & Alma 7:11-13)

We believe that in Gethsemane Jesus was not just contemplating with anguish the pains He knew would come a few hours later at the hands of the Romans--Jesus experienced something considerably worse. He took upon Himself all of the pain, all of the sorrow, and all of the grief all of humanity would ever feel. He suffered the penalty for all of humanity's sins.

We believe that Jesus descended below all things (see Doctrine & Covenants 88:6-7, 122:8). Other men have experienced the pains of crucifixion, and other men have sacrificed their lives for another, but no other has borne the pains & the penalties of all of humanity.

Speaking of the events in Gethsemane, James E. Talmage (an apostle of the church) wrote:

Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause...He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing...In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan...could inflict (Jesus the Christ p.613).


The cross

The death of Jesus on the cross played an essential role in the Plan of Salvation; His anguish & sacrifice were certainly not complete after Gethsemane.

This emphasis is clearly found in the Book of Mormon. For example:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil (3 Nephi 27:13-14)

It is also found in our hymns, including:

Many additional scriptures & hymns could be cited.

Some wonder why Latter-day Saints do not (usually) wear a cross nor adorn their buildings with crosses. There is a separate question on this site addressing this topic, including the following statement by former church President Gordon B. Hinckley:

I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian colleagues who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ.


the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. (source)

The absolute centrality of what happened on the cross was underscored by apostle Jeffrey R. Holland:

Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

...that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone. (source)



  • Do Latter-day Saints place tremendous emphasis on what happened in Gethsemane? Yes
  • Do Latter-day Saints treat as secondary or separate-from-the Atonement Jesus' death on the cross? No

The Atonement of Jesus Christ & how it transforms us is the central message of the Book of Mormon. Through His sacrifice at Gethsemane and Golgotha, Jesus perfectly understands our every struggle, and has made an infinite & eternal atoning sacrifice for all mankind.

Disclaimer: my comments are the product of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • The Mosiah 3:7 quote reads like a prophesy. When was it written? Mar 3, 2022 at 13:10
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    @MikeBorden Short answer: No. Long answer: The events of that chapter supposedly happen ~124BC, were recorded (we don't have the manuscripts), then collected abrigded around 400-420AD by the prophet-historian Mormon. This is what is on the Golden Plates that were translated by revelation by Joseph Smith in the 1820s. Several people besides Joseph testified they saw and touched them. The Gold plates were taken back by the angel, so these we don't have either. The earliest manuscripts we do have are the english ones from when Joseph translated them.
    – kutschkem
    Mar 4, 2022 at 15:13
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    @MikeBorden if you're interested in the chronology, this passage is dated in the following manner (we'll assume an AD 33 crucifixion of Jesus, shift everything 3 years if you want to assume AD 30). Mosiah 6:4 dates these events to 476 yrs after Lehi left Jerusalem. 3 Nephi 1:1 dates the birth of Christ to 600 yrs after Lehi left Jerusalem, and 3 Nephi 8:1 dates the death of Christ 33 yrs & 3 days later. AD 33 - 33 years - 600 years + 476 years = 125 or 124 BC (several of the dates don't come with months so that's about as close as we can get). Mar 4, 2022 at 22:44
  • 1
    Most New Testament events cannot be directly dated on Roman or Greek calendars either (see a few exceptions here), so we use the internal chronology of the NT to figure out how far it is from an event that can be reasonably dated on the Julian calendar. If you're interested in an absurdly deep dive on the subject, see my video series here Mar 4, 2022 at 22:45
  • 1
    @MikeBorden what 1st century NT manuscripts did you have in mind? (P52 is usually dated to the 2nd century). I realize you do not believe the Book of Mormon was written in antiquity, but I'm not sure how the chronology discussion is relevant to the OP. That said, I'm always up for talking scriptural chronology =) Mar 6, 2022 at 2:29

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