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LDS Object Lesson Idea: Teaching about the Atonement

I think that it can sometimes be difficult to clearly explain the law of justice and the law of mercy, and how the atonement fits into this. It’s kind of deeper doctrine that can seem a little abstract. Anyway, I found this object lesson to be quite clever- a great way to help visualize these concepts and make the principles more concrete.  This idea came to me while reading Alma 34:16 on my mission, and it just clicked, so I wanted to share.

Hopefully I’ll explain it in a way so it’s easily understood. If you have any questions or insights to add, please comment below!

balloon tape object lesson

 

What you’ll need:
A balloon
A pin
Masking tape

What each object represents:
Pin = Sin (Law of Justice)
Tape = Atonement of Jesus Christ  (Law of Mercy)
Balloon = Your eternal potential (Ability to become like & return to live with Heavenly Father)

*I’ll expand on this later in the post

Scriptures to prayerfully study:
Mosiah 15 & 16
Alma 34 (especially verses 8-17 & 30-34)
Alma 42

The Importance of the Atonement

I think whenever we teach about the atonement it’s important to emphasize the crucialness of the atonement, by somehow painting a picture of what things would be like without it. This is exactly what many prophets in the Book of Mormon did, such as King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma, etc.

It’s important because, if we truly understand the needfulness of the atonement, it makes us more likely to exercise the faith and repentance necessary to make the atonement work in our lives. But if its importance doesn’t sink deeply enough into our hearts, we’re likely to take it for granted and not be as motivated to take the steps to apply the atonement to ourselves.

It is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.” (Alma 34:9)

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use the terms Atonement and Mercy synonymously here (since the atonement is what brings about the law of mercy).

Balloon & Tape Object Lesson

Important Principles to Understand:

1. The Law of Justice

lds object lesson atonement

What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:25)

God abides by the law of justice. This is His law.

The law of justice is like the law of gravity or any other law of physics. When you walk off a diving board, there’s a natural consequence. When you put a pin through a balloon, it pops. You can’t avoid the consequence- it’s inevitable. Likewise, if we sin, there is a punishment: separation from God’s presence, because “no unclean thing can enter into the presence of God.” (1 Nephi 10:21)

Let’s suppose for a minute that there were no atonement. If you made a mistake, even once, in your life, you would be banished from Heavenly Father’s presence forever. You blew it- no second chances. That’s how the law of justice works.

(To demonstrate this, you might even want to have two balloons, so that you can pop one and use the other later).

2. The Law of Mercy

Thankfully, there is an atonement. We all have sinned, but because of the atonement, there is a second chance. The law of mercy can balance out the law of justice.

Put a piece of masking tape on the balloon and ask someone to stick the pin through the balloon where the tape is. (The balloon should not pop).

Pin in balloon doesn't pop balloon tape experiment

Explain that the tape represents the atonement and then discuss the following scriptures:

  • Alma 34:15-16

This being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.”

“And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety”

(I love this! It fits so perfectly into the balloon analogy!)

  • Mosiah 15:8-9

And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”

Explain that the tape is what protects the balloon from being “exposed to the whole demands of the law of justice,” just as Jesus Christ, through his atonement, stands between us and justice, if we will take advantage of his atonement.

3. We Must Do Our Part

It’s important to emphasize that–even though Christ atoned for our sins– if we don’t repent and take the steps required to access God’s mercy, it’s as if there were no atonement made.

Suggested scriptures to read/discuss:

  • Mosiah 16:4-5

But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God”

  • Alma 34:16

And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.”

  • Alma 11:41

Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made”

Explain that not repenting of our sins is like having the masking tape right in front of us, but not applying it to our balloon. It is then exposed to the whole law of justice because there is no safety net. The atonement takes absolutely no effect in our lives if we neglect to do our part.

You could end by bearing testimony and expressing gratitude for the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Balloon tape object lesson

*                    *                        *                    *

One other thought I had to expand on this –

If you use a helium balloon it makes the analogy even more powerful. Because, if you let go the balloon will float heavenward, symbolic of our ability to return to God’s presence and reach our full potential! (Does that make sense?) You could even take this object lesson outside for more of a dramatic effect. Once the tape is applied, show that, despite our inevitable mistakes, the atonement makes it possible for us to still be able to return home.

 

—————————————————————————–
Disclaimer: I’m not claiming that this is a perfect analogy. (I think any analogy can probably be extrapolated too far until it no longer makes sense). But I do think it does an excellent job of getting the message across of the basic concepts of the atonement, the laws of justice/mercy and how they work together for our good.

Have you ever used this object lesson before? How did it go? Any thoughts?

31 comments

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  1. G-mom vkbc

    Good analogy! It’s nice to read your mommy ideas ! Keep on radiating the glorious gospel light! Hugs!!

    1. Rebecca

      Thanks! Love you Grandma!

  2. Veronica

    Really love the idea. Great object lesson.

  3. Danielle

    This is an awesome way to explain it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Camila

    Thank you! Very simple and powerful. I will be using this is my Sunday School lesson. :)

  5. Del Skinner

    I really love this concept. I hope you don’t mind but I am going to use this in Sharing time next week. I think that this will go well as part 2 in the sharing time lesson. Thank you so much.

  6. Amy

    This is such a great analogy! I learned last minute I would be teaching sharing time and have been a panicked mess. This is exactly what I needed! The simplicity, and using the scriptures to teach is wonderful. Thank you so much for posting this!

  7. Bernadette

    This is an awsome object lesson. I plan to do this for primary on Sunday.I tried to do this last night at home but when we put the pin to where the masking tape is, it still pops. How do you get it not to pop?

    1. Rebecca

      Oops sorry I didn’t see this sooner to reply! Hmmm. It usually works, but I once did have that same problem- it was while I was in the Philippines. It could have had something to do with the tape I used- maybe it was old or made out of different stuff. Humidity or air pressure might have had something to do with it too- I’m not sure. Also, I’ve found that it needs to be a pin, not a needle or anything thicker. Good luck, I hope you were able to get it to work :)

  8. Heidi

    I was just praying this morning, how can I explain the Atonement to my Sunday school class (12-13 years old). It can sometimes be a tricky topic, as I teach I usually like to teach on a basic level as to get the concept of the topic across. I was struggling with the Idea of Justice and Mercy. So I turned to Pintrest…and there you were( well I first turned to the scriptures). I am feeling more confident in my lesson today. I am thankful that the Spirit guided me to you!

  9. Deanna

    Thank you – I’m using this for my Young Women’s lesson today.

  10. Kaneki

    Great object lesson. I will be using this in YW tomorow. Thank you for a great idea!

  11. Marta

    Omgoodness.. I loved the idea!! I did it for fhe lesson in my family!! The result wasn’t that good… The balloon exploded and the pin got stuck in my hand.. :/ That was a painful lesson.. I think I did something wrong..

  12. Amy

    I really like this idea. I am always looking for object lessons for Sunday School since the youth already know their stuff and I don’t want things to get boring. I was just thinking how the tape is there to protect us, but also about the repentance process afterward. We couldn’t remove the pin (sin) by ourselves, but with the help of the bishop ( another student in class) they could remove the pin and patch it with another piece of tape. I don’t know if it would work, but it might add to the interest of the lesson :)

    1. Amy

      Well, I just tried it. Took me a few times to get the balloon to the right fullness that it wouldn’t explode. But my idea doesn’t work becAuse it really doesn’t take two people to patch it. I imagined the balloon quickly losing air as you pull the pin out, but it is a very slow leak. Oh well. I love your idea, though!

  13. Nicki

    Thank you! Great idea! I’m using your idea for my SS class tomorrow. I’ve enjoyed teaching the Atonement this month, but I just needed something to help them to apply it and ‘see’ it…this works beautifully! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Jenny Wang

    thank you for sharing in the website.this object lesson just make it become much much simple to teach and learn.

  15. Robynne Boysen

    Thank you!

  16. JoAnn

    Did this for my 16-17 Sunday School class and it worked great! I did use Duck brand packing tape because I found that it worked better. It was great because I popped the first balloon and asked if any could put it back together. Of course the answer was no. Christ was the only one to give us the free gift of the resurrection as well as the gift of Forgiveness

    1. Rebecca

      I love that. Thanks for the tip!

  17. Kim

    My primary class is learning about the Atonement this week. I love this idea and plan to give a balloon as a hand-out to each child.

    One idea to help the balloon not pop: talk about the steps to repentance (feel sorry, ask for forgiveness, right the wrong, don’t do it again) and write each step on a strip of masking tape. To represent the atonement, layer each piece of tape on the balloon. This should create a pretty thick barrier to keep the balloon from popping, and reinforce with the kids the four steps of repentance.

  18. Roger

    Gonna be using this today! Hanks for sharing your idea. Hopefully the deacons will remember it and can use it on their missions someday. Thanks!

  19. Janae

    Thanks for the idea! Using it in relief society this week!

  20. Lorna Miller

    This is awesome. Love that it is complete with scriptures and great teaching, not just the analogy. So excited to use it. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Christine Morishita

    I love this! It’s inspired for sure!

  22. Ilse

    Love it, thank you! all the way from South Africa:)

  23. Penny

    Put the tape on the opposite end of where you blew up the balloon. (the bottom) It works then.

  24. Bro Simon Says

    Interestingly, the Hebrew word for Atonement is KAPHAR, meaning “to cover”. This seems to relate well to using tape to “cover” the balloon. President Russell M. Nelson taught:
    “Rich meaning is found in study of the word atonement in the Semitic languages of Old Testament times. In Hebrew, the basic word for atonement is kaphar, a verb that means “to cover” or “to forgive.”19 Closely related is the Aramaic and Arabic word kafat, meaning “a close embrace”—no doubt related to the Egyptian ritual embrace. References to that embrace are evident in the Book of Mormon. One states that “the Lord hath redeemed my soul … ; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”20 Another proffers the glorious hope of our being “clasped in the arms of Jesus.”” (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996)

    1. Rebecca

      Wow, that’s really cool! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Preston

    I like this object lesson. As I was reading it, I was thinking of the youth I work with. I could have the ballon present, I could ask kids to put a piece of tape on the balloon indicating mistakes they have made or continue to make (sin). Then I could proceed with the lesson and have them poke the balloon user their tape and see what happens. It would be then that I could tell them that the tape represents the atonement and Christ’s desire to intercede on our behalf. This will take a run through on my part before I take it to the kids, but, off the cuff, i like this tweak. Thank you for your efforts.

  26. Zahara

    Thank you for this! I loved it so much. It strengthened my testimony and knowledge of the atonement so much and I hope i can use what I have learned from your guidelines to teach the young women. Thank you for taking the time to share this!

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