Several years before Elder Orson F. Whitney was ordained an Apostle, he received a vision of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little … gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
“As He prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to him; I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.
“Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sin upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul—and they could not watch with him one poor hour!
“Returning to his place, He offered up the same prayer as before; then went back and again found them sleeping. Again he awoke them, readmonished them, and once more returned and prayed. Three times this occurred” (Through Memory’s Halls , 82).
President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
“In Gethsemane and on Calvary, He worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It was the greatest single act of love in recorded history. Thus He became our Redeemer—redeeming all of us from physical death, and redeeming those of us from spiritual death who will obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 14).
In Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; and Luke 22:39–46 we can read about the Son of God taking upon Himself our sins and infirmities. It is very interesting that a feeling of sadness and darkness began to overcome both the apostles and Christ. It’s almost like labor comes upon an expectant mother. In a natural birth, the choice of timing is not hers, but nature’s. It overtakes her when it’s time, whether it’s convenient for her, or not. God was imposing the event upon a reticent Christ. It is doubtful that the sleepy apostles could have stayed awake to watch over or attend the Christ, because it was necessary that He experience His suffering with only heavenly help.
In Gethsemane Christ took upon Himself the wrath of God for our sins, all the punishment we ourselves would receive, if we should be required to face God’s judgment for our sins. He also took upon Himself all of our sorrows, inadequacies, fears, despair, and confusion. Somehow, He knew us each individually as He did this. But He shrank. The suffering, He knew, would be so great. And yet, He surrendered to God’s will. Bleeding from every pore, He completed all He promised to do.
Elder James E. Talmage taught: “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, ‘the prince of this world,’ could inflict. … In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 613).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “As part of His infinite atonement, Jesus knows ‘according to the flesh’ all that through which we pass. (Alma 7:11–12). He has borne the sins, griefs, sorrows, and … pains of every man, woman, and child (see 2 Nephi 9:21)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 89; or Ensign, May 1987, 72).
Most Christian religions concentrate on the crucifixion when focusing on the passion of Christ, the necessary atonement to overcome physical and spiritual death, but Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane gave Him perfect compassion. He fully understands every single thing we can possibly suffer in this life. He descended below all things in Gethsemane in order to succor us.
Christ’s suffering is offered to us, in order that we might not have to suffer for our own sins. If we reject Him, we will have to suffer even as He:
Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
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—
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19).