I know my journey from the Mormon Jesus to the Biblical Jesus has been a surprise for me. Even when I learned about the history and theological problems of Joseph’s restored gospel, I believed I had a positive relationship with Jesus and what He did for me in the Garden of Gethsemane.
However, upon reading the Bible, especially the Gospels and Hebrews, I began to learn that, while His praying in the Garden showed humility and subjection to the will of the Father, it had nothing to do with the actual sacrificing and shedding of blood required for the atonement. In other words, if He had not gone to the cross, there would have been no atonement.
Israel was commanded to sacrifice animal blood for the atonement of their sins. This was done once each year by the high priest who would enter through the veil and enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the altar. Jesus was asked to shed his blood, not ‘sweat as it were, drops of blood’. Jesus told Peter on the way out of the Garden in John 18:10 “….the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”. He had not made the sacrifice He needed to make until He was lifted on the cross.
Heb 9:12,16 “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of a testator.”
In order to appreciate the magnificence and unsurpassed depth of the work on the cross, one must understand the fulfillment of prophecy and symbolism associated with the shed blood of Jesus.
Lastly, it is interesting to note the Garden of Gethsemane is not mentioned after the Gospels, but this cross is mentioned at least 11 times.
Conclusion: Thinking Jesus atoned for our sins by praying hard in the Garden of Gethsemane is missing the whole point of the Old Testament, the purpose of temples and the willing, selfless, loving sacrifice of Jesus.