Even as a young boy, I’ve had many questions about the death of Jesus Christ and his role in the human story. I’ve put these questions off over the years, hoping that I’d find answers. Though I’ve attended years of religious training, served in many capacities in church service, and listened to thousands of hours of Sunday school lessons, the standard Sunday school answers never really breached the depth of the questions, and few teachers ever dared to even touch on the foundations of these questions. So, the questions have persisted.
WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS?
Why is Jesus essential if God is the Father? Why Jesus Christ? If God is actually omnipotent, why couldn’t God the Father come up with some other way than to sacrifice his son, Jesus Christ? He is God, isn’t He? Why did Christ have to be brutally crucified? Why did he spend those agonizing and harrowing hours in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Even Jesus Christ himself seemed to wonder this in the Garden of Gethsemane saying, “Father, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE UNTO THEE; take away this cup from me!” (Mark 1:36)
His endurance of this exquisite pain caused sweating blood from every poor, a medical condition know as hemohydrosis or haematirosis, which is exceedingly rare, less than 30 cases recorded in medical history (Kluger N. Hematidrosis: a review of recent literature. Acta Dermatovenerol. 2018:27:85-90). This bloody sweat was caused by taking on all of the sins of the whole human family, both on this side and on the other side of the veil. He faced a state of loneliness, agony, disappointment, denial, desertion, extreme mental and physical, even emotional stress, which caused him fear on fear. Most cases are localized to on part of the skin. However, sweating drops of blood from ruptured capillaries over the whole body is often so intense that immediate death that occurs in those documented cases where it is more than just a localized area of the face, it leads a soul to wonder why a God would require this level of suffering of his Only Begotten Son?
Did God actually require this sacrifice or was it someone else? Why would any being require such a thing among the human race?
In the end, what does this really accomplish? And, if it did actually accomplish something in the eternal realm of things, how did it get accomplished?
Where does this lifetime of desiring to understand these questions about the Atonement of Jesus Christ come from?
It probably arises from my reading and pondering the great prophet, Jacob, when he said, “Why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him?” (Jacob 4:12)
In writing this, it has taken me 52 years, but after being reminded of a number of scriptures and trying to follow the counsel of the prophet Jacob above, I can now answer the questions with much more depth.
HOW GOD BECAME GOD – Part I
I have come to understand that you cannot grasp the need for an atonement unless you have a clear understanding of the nature of Godhood. This is what separates members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the rest of Christendom, and it is this clarity that helps my understanding of the dire need for an atonement. The scriptures and prophetic teachings now available to us describe the marvelous path of eternal progression which was marked out for us before we were born.
We are taught that “the works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.” (D&C 3:1-3). The prophet Lorenzo Snow taught, “As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.” (Journal of Discourses, 15:137)
God the Father, our Heavenly Father, was and is a righteous, dedicated individual in the family of the Gods (of which we know nothing) and having successfully moved through the processes required to be God, had to set up a whole new kingdom. In our case, he was and is known as the “Man of Holiness” or “Elohim.” (Moses 6:57; Teachings of Joseph Smith, p 371). He was required to pass through exactly the same pattern of eternal progression we are now following.
As the prophet Joseph Smith said: “God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret . . . It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did . . .” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp 345-346.)
Once our Heavenly Father had attained exaltation under the guidance of his own Father, he was ordained by his Father to begin setting up a new kingdom similar to those which the family of the God had set up before him. It was a monumental honor to be loved and trusted to the extent that he would be ordained to organize “create” a new kingdom. Brigham Young teaches us that, “In the resurrection, men who have been faithful and diligent in all things in the flesh, have kept their first and second estate, and [are] worthy to be crowned Gods, even the sons of God, will be ORDAINED to organize matter.” (Journal of Discourses, 15:137).
Evidence of this and the expanding universe as new galaxies are continually being seen and identified starting in 1929, Edwin Hubble who perfected the telescope, stated, “wherever you look, distant galaxies are moving rapidly away from us” (Stephen Hawking. A Brief History of Time. New York. Bantam Books 1988. p 8).
HOW GOD OBTAINED HIS POWER – Part II
We are ordained from above, however, our power to lead, command and rule comes from below. This is an eternal principle of heaven. We see it with the bishops in our wards, and Stake Presidents in our Stakes. We are ordained by the leaders above us who hold keys to do so, but must be sustained from below by the membership and/or those we are called to serve and lead. We are given the right to lead through ordination by those with keys, but the power to lead comes from the honor given by those who sustain us.
This principle is outlined in D&C 29:36 – “And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;” Lucifer, or Satan, wanted God’s power. He knew then and he knows now that that power comes from the honor of those over whom we lead. This is why Jehovah explained to the prophet Joseph Smith in D&C 63:59 – “Behold, I am from above, and my power lieth beneath. I am over all, and in all, and through all, and search all things, and the day cometh that all things shall be subject unto me.”
God tells us in the scriptures that if he were unfair or capricious he would “cease to be God.” He would lose influence, and with loss of influence, he would lose his power. Those who occupy presiding positions must maintain the love and confidence of those they govern or they can and will fall.
The principle of God ceasing to be God if he did not accomplish his purposes within strict parameters that ensure trust and love of those he governs is ironclad one. And, if it were not outline in the scriptures, it would be considered heretical.
Heavenly Father cannot be unjust or “he would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13). He cannot allow his compassion to rob justice “or He would cease to be God” (Alma 42:35). God cannot lie or he would cease to be God (Titus 1:2; D&C 62:6). He cannot vacillate and change or he would “cease to be God” (Mormon 9:19). He cannot “look upon sin with the least degree of allowance,” or he would cease to be God (D&C 1:31;Alma 45:16). God’s power comes from his honor. Though God is too wise and omnipotent to let that happen. He has made it clear in the scriptures that it could happen.
When the Savior, Jesus Christ, asked the Father if it were possible to take us back into his presence without the atoning sacrifice he received the most explicit answer to all answers, “No.”
The Father did not have that option. There is something very compelling about the Savior’s time in Gethsemane which made it absolutely necessary for the angelic messenger sent to comfort and tell Jesus, “There is no other way.” (Luke 22:43).
GOD THE FATHER BEGAN BY ASSEMBLING A VAST HOST OF PRIMAL INTELLIGENCES
We are taught by the great prophet Lehi that everything in the universe is made of one of two things (2 Nephi 2:14):
- Things that act
- Things are acted upon.
Modern scripture teaches us the interrelationship of these two universal entities. The things with the capacity to act are called “intelligence” (D&C 93:29). “Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.”
And, those things which are acted upon are called “element” or particles of primal matter (D&C 93:35). “The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples;” And, lastly, the “glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36).
We learn within these same passages that both of these entities are eternal. They were not created, and they cannot be destroyed. They can only be organized, reorganized, or disorganized.
We, also, learn that these “intelligences” think and act independently (D&C 93:30) “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” These intelligences don’t have to do anything they don’t actually want to do.
Interestingly, when the Father gives them a command, he must “wait” until they “obey.” (They can act for themselves. D&C 93:30). They are very much like members of a church congregation. Much like the bishop of a ward must wait for his members to act, Heavenly Father sometimes must also be very patient “waiting to be obeyed” This principle is outlined in Abraham 4:18 – “And the Gods watch those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.”
We are given very little detail concerning the long span of time in which our testing and training as intelligences occurred prior to this earth, however, we are told that some of the intelligences progressed much faster than other during this testing period (Abraham 3:18-19; Documentary History of the Church, vol 4, p 519).
This principle of gradation of both matter and intelligence was taught to Abraham prior to his going to Egypt (Abraham 3:15-19). When Joseph Smith came to an understanding of this principle he recorded it in his diary: “. . . in the evening with the Twelve and their wives at Elder Woodruff’s . . . I explained many important principles in relation to [the] progressive improvement in the scale of intelligent existence.” (History of the Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: The Deseret Book Company. 1976. vol IV. p 519)
As a result of this organization, training and degree of learning, all of these intelligences had to be graded and prepared for assignments which would be appropriate for their individual abilities and inclinations. When the time was right, our Heavenly Father prepared to usher these intelligences into their next stage of advancement or development.
THE CREATION OF THE FIRST ESTATE – Part III
A massive step occurred, (and it appears there was a significant period of time) that is wholly beyond our earthly comprehension, when the scripture states: “The Lord God, created [the Hebrew word is “organized”] all things . . . spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.” (Moses 3:4-5).
The scriptures state that God the Father selected one of the most brilliant and progressive of all of these intelligences and had him “begotten” into an embodiment of spirit matter “after his own image.” This supremely intelligent being, thereafter, became know as The Firstborn. Paul refers to him as: “His dear son . . . who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature” (Colossians 1:13). He, the Firstborn, was then tutored, tested and educated until he developed from “grace to grace” and received a “fullness of the truth.” (D&C 93:11-14). This is defined in scripture as “a knowledge of things past, present and future” (D&C 93:24). This Firstborn was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ.
Then, Elohim made the Firstborn his general manager for organizing all of the rest of the Father’s kingdom (Moses 1:32-33).
As an essential side-note, we are told that those of us who came to the earth are entitled to this same process that the Firstborn passed through (D&C 93:20-24). We must, also, pass “grace for grace” through this learning process and if we keep the commandments of God, shall receive of the “fullness” and be “glorified” in Christ as he is in Elohim. We become “begotten” through Christ and are part of the church of the Firstborn. . . more on that later.
John captured the magnitude of this “general manager” assignment when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3). To ensure that his readers understood he was talking about Jesus Christ, John added, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
This becomes of significant interest to us, this fact that the Savior was put in charge of “our” creation, because the scripture tells us that:
- God’s course is one eternal round (D&C 3:2; 35:1; 1 Nephi 10:19; Alma 7:20)
- Jehovah (God’s brilliant Firstborn) was place in charge of the round to which be belong.
- Jehovah works under the direction of Elohim, God the Father.
- Jehovah engineered, organized and accomplished vast dimensions under his Father’s direction
“The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.” (D&C 93:10) This means that the rest of us had to wait until the Firstborn perfected and prepared to take over the organizing process. It, also, means that even though we were begotten as the spirit children of our Heavenly Father, the actual organizing and preparing of our spirit bodies was delegated to and under the direction of the Firstborn, or Jehovah. This process created the conditions, under the direction of our Heavenly Father, that Jehovah would become as completely loved, honored, and obeyed as the Father, himself. This is the key to understanding the atonement of Christ. The Firstborn, thereby, became the only personality among all of the intelligences assigned to our round that could later qualify for the role of and act as our Redeemer.
It is this profound understanding that led the prophet Nephi to write: “There is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.” (2 Nephi 25:20). The apostle, Peter, said the same thing (Acts 3:12) ” Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
The scriptures describe the spirits as intelligences that were organized before the world was (Abraham 3:22). This means that the intelligences were organized with particles of spirit matter and then assigned into various planets, together with all the embellishments of plants, animals, and mankind to inhabit them. The Lord talks of this spiritual creation and says, “I, the Lord God, created all things . . . spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. (Moses 3:5).
We conclude that during this spirit creation, all things were organized by combining intelligences with particles of primal spirit matter. It is also important to mention that some scholars have thought that spirit is “immaterial” and without substance, but the prophet Joseph Smith explained, “Spirit is a substance . . . it is material, but . . . it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the [mortal] body” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. p 207).
To clarify further, Brigham Young taught, “There is not a particle of element which is not filled with life [or intelligence] . . . It is in the rock, the sand, the dust, in water, air, the gasses, and in short, in every description and organization of matter whether it be solid, liquid, or gaseous, particle operating with particle. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol 3, 277).
As the intelligences differed in their various degrees of advancement, they were assigned to different levels of organization of matter that represent all the wide variety of organized things which exist, from planets to people.
The apostle John A. Widtsoe wrote: “It was clearly comprehended by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his associates that intelligence is the vivifying force of creation – animate or inanimate – the rock and the tree and beast and man, having ascending degrees of intelligence. (John A Widtsoe, Joseph Smith, Seeker After Truth, Salt Lake City; Deseret News Press, 1952. p 150-151). As Joseph Smith’s close associate, Brigham Young, indicated, matter is “capacitated to received intelligence.” (Journal of Discourses, vol 7, p 2)
It is also important to notice that as “things” were organized, God placed a governing intelligence in charge of each entity to to superintend the vast order of intelligences and mater comprising of a being or “thing.” Each of us, for example, constitute the governing intelligence in charge of the billions of intelligences which are organized and functioning in our bodies. Even the earth has a governing intelligence which Enoch heard crying out to the Lord. (Moses 7:48) “And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?”
It was a major surprise to scientists when they first began to see evidence of the individual intelligences exercising their interdependent self-determination clear down among the most minute forms of organic substance. By 1927, Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winner and the father of Quantum Mechanics, was writing in scientific papers that particles of matter do not follow the precise pattern of mechanical operation. Then Dr. Robert A Millikan, another Nobel Prize winner at the California Institute of Technology, isolated the electron from the first time and announced that electrons behave as though they were imbued with finite intelligence that makes them independent and individualistic. He was saying, in other words, that they do not follow precisely what had been assumed to bee fixed and inflexible laws of physics.
In fact, in 2017, Eun-Ah Kim, a physics professor at Cornell University stated, “What’s so exciting is that no matter how much you understand an individual electron as a fundamental particle, you will never be able to predict all the diverse social phenomena electrons can exhibit when they are brought to interact with each other in different ways and when the group is placed in a different environment.” (The Social Life of Electrons, Cornell Research, online article 9/20/2017,https://as.cornell.edu/news/social-life-electrons).
The organizational pattern on earth is similar to the organization pattern in our pre-earth existence. “That which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created.” (D&C 77:2)
Thus, by following principles that are now becoming more familiar to us, the elaborate spirit creation was finally completed and called, “The First Estate.” (Abraham 3:25-26)
MAJOR EVENTS OF THE FIRST ESTATE
Several major events took place during the time we were in the spirit world or the First Estate.
Several great councils in which we all participated seem to have occurred. At one of these councils, the Firstborn, Jehovah, explained the purpose of the First Estate. We were told that each intelligence or personality would be tested to see if he or she would do “all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25) If so, those individuals would be added upon and have the blessing of passing on into the Second Estate or temporal world” (Abraham 3:26).
However it was not long before one of early-born spirits — which we assume to be the meaning of the title, “Son of the Morning,” or Lucifer — became very jealous of the Firstborn.
This was evident to all of us when a council was held to discuss the the plans for the structuring of our present earth. In that council, the Father chose the Firstborn as the superintendent in charge, but almost immediately it became apparent that the “second” was very angry and began to violate the laws of the First Estate, “And, the second was angry, and kept not his first estate. . . ” Considerable dissension must have occurred because “at that day, many followed after him.”(Abraham 3:27-28). Nevertheless, at this council the contention gravitating around Lucifer did not erupt into war in heaven. That came later.
This particular earth upon which we now reside has great significance to the Firstborn or Jehovah. We are told that he had created a vast number of planets before this one (Moses 1:33). As we now know, it turned out that our earth was one where he himself would live and have his mortal existence as the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, the scripture says that it will be on this very planet where the great last battle will be fought between the forces of the Firstborn and the forces of Satan. And, it will be from this very planet that Satan and his hosts will be cast out of Father’s domain. (D&C 76:36-38; 88:112-115). It may be that this earth is the last of the creations belonging to this round, and that on this planet the great winding up scene for this round will take place.
THE WAR IN HEAVEN
Lucifer proposed a plan in the great council in heaven that would do away with the need for a redeemer. Agency would be suspended, Everyone would be compelled to fulfill his or her assignment. There would be no sin, no injustice and no failure. With Lucifer’s plan, none would be lost, all would be saved. This was his guaranteed, no-fault, eternal life insurance program, for which he wanted God’s honor.
“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:1-4).
And with their agency, a third part of the hosts of heaven turned away from the Savior to follow Lucifer. (D&C 29:36)
THE FREEDOM FACTOR
A free society is a very risky society. If all are free to make their own choices, we are bound to have a certain amount of disorder, a certain amount of injustice, and a broad deferential in obedience to God’s commandments. Bluntly, some will make it and some will not. That’s why it is risky. A third of the hosts of the heavenly council didn’t want to take that risk.
The plan hinged upon use of individual agency in the Second Estate. The plan for freedom of agency was ratified by 2/3rd of the Heavenly hosts and 1/3rd of the Father’s spirit children were cast out. Once the teaching and training of the First Estate was completed, we were ready to be tested and tried in the probationary experience of the Second Estate.
OUR PRESENT MORTAL LIFE, THE SECOND ESTATE – Part IV
We were sent to this phase of life here to accomplish three things:
- Clothe our spirits with a temporal body without which we can never attain to a fullness of joy nor inherit eternal life. (D&C 93:33-34)
- To learn the difference between good and evil by actually living in an environment where good and evil exist side by side. (2 Nephi 2:5, 26; Alma 12:31)
- To pass through a probationary estate, where we can be tested to determine whether we will accept Christ as our Savior, repent of our sins, enter into a covenant with him and thereafter live the commandments of the Father to the best of our abilities. (Alma 12:32-34).
The whole plan had one major problem. Paul said it best, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).
“For I the Lord God cannot look upon sin with the lease degree of allowance.” (D&C 1:31). We cannot get back to His presence to be further trained for Godhood if we are still tainted with sin.
The only person who got out of this life without evil rubbing off was the Savior, Jesus Christ. Everyone else is tainted with the effects of sin. No matter how diligent, the rest of us have fallen short of the Glory of God and because of this are unworthy and uncapable of return to the presence of the Father where no “unclean thing” is allowed. (1 Nephi 15:34; Moses 6:57; Revelation 21:27). This eternal decree creates a huge roadblock to the plan of eternal progression.
Yes. But, couldn’t God, who is omnipotent, just change the rules to let us back if we did our best and he was satisfied? After all, he is God, who could complain?
We’ve already seen that this isn’t an option, or He’d cease to be God. As the Supreme Administrator of justice and fairness in our universe, he could not take this arbitrary and unfair step in favor of those training for future Godhood without an immediate outcry from all the other intelligences.
No doubt, Lucifer and his dark angels would be first in line, leading the outcry. This predicament requires the “demands of justice to be completely fulfilled.”
OVERCOMING THE DEMANDS OF JUSTICE
The answer can be found within the very nature of the intelligences themselves. Our Father in Heaven knows that all of the intelligences are endowed with a strong sense of justice and fairness, are also endowed with a strong and compelling sense of compassion. When someone has suffered intensely, these intelligences are inclined to express their sympathy by granting certain things “for their sufferings sake.”
The principle ingredients for the success of the atonement to be effective are love and mercy. “And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; 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.” (Alma 34:15)
For mercy to overpower justice two things must be provided. First, is there must be an individual for whom all of the intelligences have developed a compelling sense of love. We can now appreciate why the Father was so careful during the second phase to see that the Firstborn was placed in a central position where he could become the most loved of all the organized intelligences in our vast system – a love corresponding to that which is felt for the Father himself.
This love and trust was further enhanced by having the Firstborn select, train and assign all the intelligences to their respective places. This is why the Father made him the “creator” or organizer of all things. (John 1:3).
The second ingredient necessary to overcome the demands of justice is to have this much beloved leader undergo an experience of such excruciating agony that it would arouse a moving sense of compassion and mercy in every single intelligence belonging to the Father’s kingdom within the universe.
Amulek said that the suffering had to be so terrible that it would have an “infinite” and eternal impact (Alma 34;10-12). This means it had to reach the outermost regions of the Father’s kingdom, and cause the intelligences to cringe with anguish and compassion as they saw what was happening to the Father’s Firstborn.
This is the place where the Firstborn is in an ideal position so that his suffering would arouse the flood of sympathy that would permit him to plead for “his sake” he be allowed to take his “brethren” back with him to the presence of the Father. The Father could not do that on his own, or he would “cease to be God.” However, the Father can do it- with no risk whatever – if the Savior has overcome the demands of justice through the merits of the mercy which he has engendered in the intelligences through his suffering.
It is interesting that in the Savior’s petition for our salvation, the focus is on his suffering mercifully bridging the gap of justice. “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him— Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (D&C 45:3-5).
Notice, also, that the personal supplication of the Savior is not for just anyone. It is for those who “believe on [his] name.” It is a fundamental principle of the Gospel that only the Savior’s sacrifice can overcome the “demands of justice” for those who have repented and done their best to qualify for this blessing.
As the prophet Amulek said: “And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; 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, 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 34:15-16).
IS A SIN AN OFFENCE AGAINST GOD OR DOES IT CREATE A DEBT WE OWE TO GOD?
Some think of Christ’s suffering as undergoing the requisite punishment that men and women should be receiving themselves because of their sins – sort of like paying another person’s debts. This is called the “balancing the books,” others call it the “compensatory doctrine” of quid pro quo, or “this much suffering for that much sin. “Balancing of the books” is attractive because it is simple and easy to understand. Nevertheless, as we gain understanding of the Gospel, we come to realize that Jesus Christ could not “pay for our sins” the way someone might pay another person’s debt. The scriptures tell us that that approach would be immoral and unjust.
Amulek explains the fallacy of this approach, “Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay. But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.” (Alma 34:11-12)
COME FOLLOW ME
The best way to show our appreciation for the miracle of the atonement of Jesus Christ is to prayerfully and carefully use it every day. Sometimes our sins are in response to distress and anger. At other times our sins are a response to our lower baser instincts and subconscious responses or the “natural man” (Mosiah 3:19). Then, there are times when our sins are the result of sheer neglect – indifference to loves ones and neighbors, the needy or someone we have offended. These daily deficiencies need repentance and reform. By this means, these blemishes, inconsistencies and failures in our lives can be brought under the atonement and forgiven. If we use the Savior’s “free gift of grace” on a daily basis, it will demonstrate the beautiful and pragmatic fact that it works.
I am reminded further of Amulek’s advise, “Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save. Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies. Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase. But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:17-27)
We also show our appreciation for the Savior’s sacrifice when we thoughtfully and prayerfully partake of the sacrament. It is a good time to contemplate the feelings of the Savior when he collapsed beneath the trees of Gethsemane and said, “Father, all things are possible unto thee. Take this cup from me. “
And, we might further ponder the anguish of the Father as he was compelled to send and angel to his son who was bleeding from every poor and tell him: “My Son, there is no other way.”
Once Jesus Christ had fulfilled that awesome assignment, he became the only way by which we can return to the glorious kingdom of our Father.
Therefore: We pray to God in Jesus’ name. We are baptized in his name. We are confirmed in his name. We are endowed with divine authority in his name. We are sealed to our loved ones in his name. We are resurrected in his name. We are exalted in his name.
Every day we should thank our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, that his Beloved Son had the magnificent courage in the Garden of Gethsemane to say, “Father, thy will be done.”