Please answer the following, one question quiz, before reading the rest of the post.
Let me illustrate what I mean: If the Lord, at this moment, forgave you of all your sins—you would be guiltless. The scriptures refer to this as a remission of sins.
Does that mean you’re saved, that the Lord is finished with you? No, there is much more that needs to be done. For example, Joseph Smith received a remission of his sins, and shortly thereafter was entangled in the things of the world (D&C 20:5). The Lord was just beginning with the prophet in 1830, the year D&C 20 was given.
“The Atonement is fundamentally a doctrine of human development, not a doctrine that simply erases black marks” (Hafen and Hafen, Belonging Heart, 79).
“The Atonement does more than fix the mistakes. It does more than balance the scales. It even does more than forgive our sins. It rehabilitates, regenerates, renews, and transforms human nature” (Wilcox, The Continuous Atonement, 69. He quotes Millet).
All of this takes time and patience. The bumper sticker that excuses poor driving applies here: Be patient, the Lord’s not finished with me yet. This includes those who have obtained a remission of their sins.
The main point I am bringing to your attention with the quiz, is that the Lord is not at the finish line waiting for us accomplish—“all that we can do”, he is with us continuously, even though we may not be aware of it continually.
Brad Wilcox sums it up well:
…the purpose of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is not just to cleanse and console, but also to transform — and that takes time. Christ is not waiting at the finish line once we have done —all we can do. He is with us every step of the way, and His Atonement will be available as long as the perfecting process takes — continually. “The Continuous Atonement”