Atonement

> He truly does understand our frustrations, hunger for righteousness,
> and the despair we feel when we just can't get through a problem. He
> knows it first hand.

Alma 7:12 seems to justify this belief:

"...and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

Elder Maxwell:

"Jesus now knows, according to the flesh how to succor us and how to help us as the result of that suffering, which knowledge could have come no other way." (Maxwell, SofOT p.17)

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Christ's suffering

> Why did the Savior have to suffer this punishment?

I think B.H. Roberts had some excellent things to say in this area. By sinning, we have broken the law, and the law calls for a punishment. Well God is omnipotent, right? Why couldn't he just set aside our punishment if we repent, and skip the atonement?

"Arbitrary power may not nullify law. It can be readily understood that not even God's omnipotence could make it possible for him to act contrary to truth and justice. It ought to be no more difficult to understand that God's omnipotence would not permit him to set aside a satisfaction to justice, any more than to grant an arbitrary concession to mercy. Mere power has not the right to nullify law, nor even omnipotence the right to abolish justice."

So there needed to be a satisfaction made for both Adam's transgression, and to secure forgiveness of our individual sins. Could it not have been done in a much milder way?

"The absolute necessity of the Atonement as it stands would further appear by the confidence one feels that if milder means could have been made to answer as an atonement, or if the satisfaction to justice could have been set aside...it undoubtedly would have been done; for it is inconceivable that either God's justice or his mercy would require or permit more suffering on the part of the Redeemer than was absolutely necessary to accomplish the end proposed. Any suffering beyond that which was absolutely necessary would be cruelty, pure and simple, and unthinkable in a God of perfect justice and mercy." (B.H. Roberts, TWL, p.427-8)

So you see, there was no other way. It was not a punishment on the Savior from God. It was the only way to meet the demands of the law, so that mercy could be offered.

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Free Gifts

To understand the atonement, I think it is helpful to list the FREE GIFTS that we receive through the grace of Christ with absolutely no conditions on our part. And in this sense, "salvation is free." (2 Ne 2:4). Please feel free to correct me, where I may be mistaken. I'm also interested in adding to this list, if we can find more.

  1. All will be resurrected.

    "Now, this restoration shall come to all...both the wicked and the righteous.." (Alma 11:44) "..even so in Christ, shall ALL be made alive." (1 Cor 15:22)

    "The Lamb of God hath brought to pass the resurrection, so that ALL shall rise from the dead." (Joseph Smith, TJS p.367)

  2. All are redeemed from Adam's fall.

    "And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall." (2 Ne 2:26)

    "What is called original sin was atoned for through the death of Christ irrespective of any action by Man." (Wilford Woodruff, Mil Star 51:659)

    "Universal salvation and redemption...from the endless penalty of original sin is effected without any conditions whatever...are not required to believe or repent or be baptized or do anything else." (Orson Pratt)

    "Free and universal redemption comes from the consequences of Adam's 'Fall,' because that 'fall' was absolutely necessary to the accomplishment of the purposes of God with reference to man's progress." (B.H. Roberts, "The Truth, The Way, The Life", p.442)

  3. All sin that is committed without knowledge is covered by the atonement.

    "...where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon the, BECAUSE OF THE ATONEMENT..." (2 Ne 9:25)

    "For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent..." (Moro 8:22)

    "According to the technical definition of sin it consists in the violation of law, and in this strict sense sin may be committed inadvertently or in ignorance...For sins committed without knowledge--that is, for laws violated in ignorance--a propitiation has been provided in the atonement...sinners of this class do not stand condemned." (Talmage AOF p.58)

    The "trespass offering" of the Mosaic Law was symbolic of this free gift. "If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance...then shall he bring for his trespass...a ram without blemish." Unlike the "sin offering", the person was NOT present during the sacrifice, "the priest shall make an atonement." (Lev 5:15-16)

    "Many things which are sin to the Christian conscience are no sin to the heathen races...if heathen peoples do not have the same moral standards...they have some moral standards...whenever they violate...it is followed by chagrin, by sorrow, by mental suffering...Not that these will rise at once to the full height and perfect glory of God's celestial kingdom; but they shall be "heirs of salvation." (BH Roberts, TWL, p.446-448)

  4. All little children who die, are saved in the kingdom of God.

    "...little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten..." (D&C 29:46) "...little children need no repentance, neither baptism...are alive in Christ...are all alive in him because of his mercy. " (Moroni 8:11,12,19)

    "...no matter whose baby it is, it is not responsible for original sin; it is not responsible for any sin; and the mercy of God claims it; and it is redeemed." (Joseph Fielding Smith DS 2:53)

  5. All will again stand before God.

    "And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him..." (2 Ne 2:10)

    "...there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah..." (2 Ne 2:8)

    "...Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even ALL mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord. (Hel 14:17)

  6. All will have a chance to hear the gospel preached.

    "And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross...the faithful elders...continue their labors in preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, THROUGH THE SACRIFICE of the Only Begotten Son of God..."(D&C 138:35,57)

    "The fourth great distinctive feature of the Atonement...salvation for the dead...salvation for those who may have missed fair opportunity to understand and receive the gospel." (B.H. Roberts, TWL, p.446-7)

  7. All of our individual sins atoned for.

    "I say there never was a sin committed that was not atoned for." (Joseph Fielding Smith DS 1:131) Because Christ atoned for all of our sins, He met the demands of justice and made it possible for us to have all the other FREE GIFTS even if we don't repent.

    "He sent his Son to redeem mankind, to atone for the sins of the world, 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39). And again all this comes to us as a FREE GIFT and without works. (Bruce R.McConkie, BYU 1984)

    "The debt of suffering due to them should be paid, and paid vicariously, since man is powerless to offer expiation for himself, and it is needful that ample provision be made for the justification of man's pardon." (B.H. Roberts, TWL p.442)

Note: I do not list redemption from SUFFERING for individual sins. Nor do I list Eternal Life as a free gift. While these are still gifts of the atonement, they are conditioned on our obedience and repentance, but failing to do so, in NO WAY OFFSETS the free gifts listed above.

"Christ paid the debt of my sins on one condition, and that is that I will believe in him and keep his commandments." (Joseph Fielding Smith DS 1:131)

"The benefits of this suffering for our individual transgressions will not come to us unconditionally in the same sense that the resurrection will come regardless of what we do. If we partake of the blessings of the atonement as far as our individual transgression are concerned, WE MUST OBEY THE LAW." (Marion G. Romney, CR Oct 1953)

"That the blessing of redemption from individual sins, while open for all to attain, is nevertheless CONDITIONED ON INDIVIDUAL EFFORT..." (Talmage, AOF p.89)

"Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice..." (Alma 42:13)

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Suffer for sins

> Will we have to suffer for our own unrepentant sins. Does this somehow
> cleanse us?

Elder McConkie:

"'They that believe not" shall be raised in immortality 'unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not; for they love darkness rather than light, and their deeds are evil, and they receive their wages of whom they list to obey." (D&C 29:44-45) All these, AFTER HAVING PAID THE PENALTY FOR THEIR OWN SINS, and having been judged according to the deed done in the flesh, will receive an inheritance in one of the lesser kingdoms." (NW for AOF p.120)

"After they (murderers) have PAID THE FULL PENALTY FOR THEIR CRIME, they shall go on to a telestial inheritance." (Bruce R. McConkie MD p.520)

"Where the is no repentance, the law of justice take precedence and REMISSION OF SINS IS GAINED THROUGH SUFFERING RATHER THAN AS A GIFT OF GOD THROUGH THE BLOOD OF CHIRST" (Alma 42:22-24) (Bruce R. McConkie, MD p.631)

"But one of the immutable, or eternal laws of God is that the unrepentant sinner must suffer even as Christ suffered. (D&C 19:15-18), for the blood of Christ WILL NOT CLEANSE those who will not repent and in humility accept the free gift which comes from God." (Joseph Fielding Smith, CHMR 1:88)

"So I say there never was a sin committed that was not atoned for. Christ paid the debt of my sins on one condition, and that is that I will believe in him and keep his commandments...but HE NEVER PAID ANY debt on the cross, or before he went on the cross, for the sins of any of us, if we will be rebellious. IF WE ARE REBELLIOUS, WE WILL HAVE TO PAY THE PRICE OURSELVES." (Joseph Fielding Smith DS 1:131)

"Those who sin against light WILL HAVE TO PAY the uttermost farthing for their transgression and their departure from the gospel, before they can ever get back to it. Do not forget that." (Joseph F. Smith GD p.95)

"The benefits of this suffering for our individual transgressions will not come to us unconditionally in the same sense that the resurrection will come regardless of what we do. If we partake of the blessings of the atonement as far as our individual transgression are concerned, WE MUST OBEY THE LAW." (Marion G. Romney, CR Oct 1953)

"When a person repents, accepts the gospel of Jesus Christ, and lives in accordance with the principles and ordinances of the gospel, then Christ's atonement becomes effective for him, for Jesus Christ has already paid the penalty, THAT IS, FOR THOSE WHO WILL REPENT." (Royden G. Derrick, BYU 1983)

The individual effect of the atonement makes it possible for any and every soul to obtain absolution from the effect of personal sins, through the mediation of Christ; but such saving intercession IS TO BE INVOKED BY INDIVIDUAL EFFORT as manifested through faith, repentance, and continued works of righteousness...That the blessing of redemption from individual sins, while open for all to attain, is nevertheless CONDITIONED ON INDIVIDUAL EFFORT, is a plainly declared as is the truth of unconditional redemptions from death as an effect of the fall. (Talmage, AOF p.89)

"The suffering He undertook to endure and which he did endure equaled the combined suffering of all men." (Marion G. Romney, CR Oct, 1969)

"But he never paid any debt on the cross or before he went on the cross, for the sins of any of us, if we will be rebellious. If we are rebellious, we will have to pay the price ourselves." (Joseph Fielding Smith, DS 1:131)

"If we understood the extent of that suffering and his suffering on the cross, surely none of us would willfully be guilty of sin." (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things, p. 199)

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Vicarious Suffering

Let's investigate a principle that I will label as "vicarious suffering."

Certainly we know the the Savior experienced vicarious suffering for all mankind:

"For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent." (D&C 19:16)

Do we, (you and me) ever experience "vicarious suffering" for others?

Well, we can all agree that we suffer because of the sins of others. In fact probably most of the sins in the world cause others to suffer. One clear example of this is the righteous parent, suffering as they see the actions of a wayward child. In this case, who suffers more (at least immediately) the righteous parents or the child?

"The one who has led this shameful life, though he may suffer somewhat for his sins, has not suffered the one-thousandth part of the shame and humiliation and disgrace that has been experienced by this father and mother. They suffer because of the sins of this wayward son. They illustrate in their experience the fact that men can suffer because of each other, the innocent are involved in the sins and crimes of the guilty" (B.H. Roberts, TWL p.449-50)

Elder Roberts takes it a step further for us to consider when he discusses the willingness of men to suffer for each other. David's wayward son, Absalom is a case in point. His son rebelled against him, and was killed in battle. Yet David wrote,

"Oh Absalom, my son! Would to God I had died for thee!" (2 Sam 18:33)

I think we can all think of a time when we or another person sincerely wished that we could take upon ourselves the suffering and consequences of another person's sins. Is this possible? Certainly our actions at times can ease the suffering another experiences as a result of their sins while at the same time increasing our own personal suffering as we become involved with the circumstances. By experiencing this principle is it in some way a punishment to us, or rather is it in some way experiencing a "god-like" principle of love.

Over the past few weeks I have been laboring to help a young man get back on his feet who has been experiencing the suffering and consequences of leading a very sinful life. He was a drug dealer who turned himself in to rehabilitation. He left the de-tox center without a penny, and even his own parents didn't want to help him very much. I was asked by my priesthood leaders to render service. This, I "willingly" did and would still do it all over again for him. During this period of time which I helped him, he was assaulted at knife point. He (and we) were tailed by both drug dealers and undercover cops. One night, the bad guys found him and with a gun to his head for five hours harassed him and tried to overdose him on drugs. I provided a new location for him which he escaped to. For ten hours he thought his life was over, he was giving up and all I could do is suffer with him. Was he suffering the consequences of the sinful life he once chose to live? Yes. Did I willingly suffer with him at no fault of my own? I think so. The level of stress and fear in my life, and the life of my family was raised to an incredible level. Yes, I could have just backed away from it, and my bishop offered me the chance over and over again, but I stuck with it. I don't share this experience to boast in any way, I just wish to illustrate a point and a principle. Well, most of the bad guys are behind bars, this young man moves into his apartment on Saturday. My service to him, however involved certain conditions including that he attend the Adam program, attend his church meetings, participate in the leg work of finding a job and apartment. He has attended church for the past two weeks and it looks like his fiancee will take the missionary discussions. Her life, too, was in danger and she is amazed to see total strangers helping her in a very difficult situation.

In cases like this, consider this question: By experiencing this "vicarious suffering" are we in some way thwarting the demands of justice?

Now consider the ultimate sacrifice. That of even laying down one's life for another.

An author once wrote:

"Vicarious suffering seems supremely unjust, yet it is blessed and glorious; for in no other way can love so intensely be expressed--that one suffer for his friend through love." And we of course are very familiar with the scripture: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Finally, "Hereby perceive we the love of God because he laid down his life for us." (1 John 3:16)

Elder Roberts offers this thought:

"From the very nature of things, then, there must be a means of expressing love, and of expressing it supremely, by sacrifice, else mercy shall not appear, for mercy springs from love as wisdom." (B.H. Roberts, TWL p. 452)

Now, I can obviously see how this applies to Christ's atonement, yet does it also in some way relate to our relationships with others? Is some sort of mercy more quickly offered to sinners as others step in, sacrifice for that person and suffer along with them? At first glance this might sound blasphemous, but is it in someway experiencing an eternal principle? Maybe a type and shadow?

Consider this idea:

"The scriptures abundantly confirm the declaration made that divine intelligences are not denied the power of giving the highest love manifestation for others by suffering for them; and in that love manifestation giving all they can give, even to taking upon themselves the consequences of the sins of others and making effective atonement for them; suffering that others might have placed within their reach the means of eternal progression, and escape the eternal consequences of sin if only they would accept such means as are provided for such escape. Otherwise, of course, the sinners themselves must suffer all consequences due to their sins." (B.H. Roberts, TWL p.453)

OK, I must admit that one of the prime motivating factors in the service I provided for that young man is to help him enough to get him in a position whereby he could return to the gospel life, get involved in the church, and so he could repent of his sins. If no one from the church would have helped him, I believe he would have quickly returned to his sinful ways. Did the actions that I took ease his suffering? Did I somehow suffer along with him for the consequences of his sins? And did I help place him within reach of returning along the road of eternal progression so that he may eventually escape the eternal consequences of his sins? Did I place conditions on the help I provided him?

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