The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

June 25, 2017

Alma, Charity, Faith, Hope, King Benjamin, Nibley, Power

Comments Off on The Atonement – At Work Every Moment of Our Lives

In its sweep and scope, atonement takes on the aspect of one of the grand constants in nature—omnipresent, unalterable, such as gravity or the speed of light. Like them it is always there, easily ignored, hard to explain, and hard to believe in without an explanation. Also, we are constantly exposed to its effects whether we are aware of them or not. Alma found that it engages the mind like a physical force, focusing thought with the intensity of a laser beam (see Alma 36:17-19). Like gravity, though we are rarely aware of it, it is at work every moment of our lives, and to ignore it can be fatal. It is waiting at our disposal to draw us on. When the multitude were overwhelmed by King Benjamin’s speech, “and they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth, . . . they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, . . . for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 4:2). The blessing is there waiting all the time, needing only to be applied when the people are ready for it.

. . . .

In discoursing on the nature of the Atonement, the Book of Mormon writers constantly refer to power. “My soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord . . . in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Nephi 11:5; cf. 9:12, 25; Mosiah 13:34). That would seem to be the final word by way of explaining things. The word power occurs no fewer than 365 times in the Book of Mormon and 276 times in the Bible. The power of the devil is also referred to, but that is only the power we give him when we “choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom” (2 Nephi 2:29).

We have what might be called an aliphatic chain, or rather something like a benzene ring, of power. Does it begin with love, faith, hope, or charity? Yes, for they all work together: “The Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men” (Moroni 7:32, 37-38). Moroni says it begins with love (Moroni 7:47-48), the desire to be one with the Beloved. The power source is faith: “By faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing” (Moroni 7:25). It is interesting that though we exercise faith and so can increase it, we have faith but we never read of receiving it; we ask for and receive health, wisdom, protection, the necessities of life, and life itself, but we do not ask for faith; it is a principle that we seem to generate in ourselves, being dependent on some auxiliary source, for it is stimulated by hope. We can “lay hold” of these things only if we are “meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:29), for we cannot create power by an act of will; if that were possible Satan would be all-powerful. “And [as] Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33).

Hugh Nibley
The Meaning of the Atonement, The Maxwell Institute

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June 19, 2017

Adversity, Alma, C.S. Lewis, Fundamental Principles, Pain

Comments Off on And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain, page 91

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And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

Alma 7:11

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April 16, 2017

Alma, Faith, Millett

Comments Off on Faith is in fact the antidote to doubt

Many years ago Elder John A. Widtsoe pointed out that each of us will have questions so long as we are thinking, reflective human beings. Questions are a part of life, a vital part of growing in truth and understanding. But doubt should be only a temporary condition, a state that is resolved either through the serious pursuit and investigation of the matter under consideration—resulting in acquisition of new knowledge by study or by faith—or in a settled determination to place the question “on the shelf” for the time being, at least until new insights or perspectives are forthcoming.

That forward pursuit in which we do not allow the unknown to distract or beset us, is called faith. Faith is in fact the antidote to doubt, the answer to skepticism, the solution to cynicism. It is, as Alma explained, “the hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). Out of such faith flows hope, an “anchor to the souls of men which [makes] them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4).

Robert B. Millett
Making the Crucial Decision—Now, Mormon Scholars Testify
(Referencing Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 31-33, paragraph breaks added to enhance online readability)

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March 3, 2017

Adversity, Alma, Top

Comments Off on If There Had Been No Atonement – 4

[T]he Lord urged the Twelve to “get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away” (Matthew 14:22). Then Jesus went to a mountain to pray. In the evening he was alone on the land and “the ship was in the midst of the sea” (Mark 6:47). As the sky darkened the Twelve were tossed about upon the waves of the sea (see Matthew 14:24). The wind was blowing against them as they toiled to row the ship. They continued in this toil all during the night.

What would it be like to row all night, being tossed by the waves and the wind, making no progress? Can we feel the pain in our hands, stomach, thighs, shoulders, and back? Can we feel the beating of the waves against our bodies? Can we see the blackness of the night? If we sense these things, we may have a deeper appreciation for what Alma called the “endless night of darkness” (Alma 41:7). In those words Alma described the condition of souls who had not repented, which would be the condition of all souls if there had been no atonement and repentance were not possible. The ship on the sea may be seen as a type of the endless condition of all mankind if there were no Redeemer.

Brent Top
“Lord of the Gospels”
The 1990 Sperry Symposium on the New Testament
Bruce A. Van Orden and Brent L. Top, eds.
Deseret Book (1991)

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March 2, 2017

Alma, Change, General Authorities, General Conference, Repentance, Scott

Comments Off on Scott – To You Who have Sincerely Repented

Formulas have been crafted to help remember some of the essential actions required for full repentance. While these can be helpful, generally they ignore the most fundamental aspect of repentance—that it is centered in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, that it has efficacy because He willingly paid the full price through His redeeming sacrifice, motivated by a perfect love of His Father and of each of us.

. . . .

To you who have sincerely repented yet continue to feel the burden of guilt, realize that to continue to suffer for sins when there has been proper repentance and forgiveness of the Lord is prompted by the master of deceit. Lucifer will encourage you to continue to relive the details of past mistakes, knowing that such thoughts can hamper your progress. Thus he attempts to tie strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate you like a puppet to discourage personal achievement.

I testify that Jesus Christ paid the price and will satisfy the demands of justice for all who are obedient to His teachings. Thus, full forgiveness is granted, and the distressing effects of sin need no longer persist in one’s life. Indeed, they cannot persist if one truly understands the meaning of Christ’s Atonement. Alma conquered thoughts of past unworthiness by remembering the mercy of the Redeemer. He marveled, “Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us … the salvation of our souls.” 18

When memory of past mistakes encroaches upon your mind, turn your thoughts to the Redeemer and to the miracle of forgiveness with the renewal that comes through Him. Your depression and suffering will be replaced by peace, joy, and gratitude for His love.

How difficult it must be for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, to see so many needlessly suffer, because His gift of repentance is ignored. It must pain Him deeply to see the pointless agony both in this life and beyond the veil that accompany the unrepentant sinner after all He did so that we need not suffer.

. . . .

Have you wandered from the path of joy and now find yourself where you do not want to be, with feelings you do not want to have? Is there a yearning to return to the peace and joy of a worthy life? I invite you with all the love of my heart to repent and come back. Decide to do it now. That journey is not as difficult as it seems. You can cast out guilt, overcome depression, receive the blessing of peace of mind, and find enduring joy. Pray for help and guidance, and you will be led to find it. Go to where you know the light of truth shines—to a worthy friend, a loving bishop or stake president, an understanding parent. Please come back. We love you. We need you. Follow the path to peace and joy through complete repentance. The Savior will help you obtain forgiveness as you sincerely follow all of the steps to repentance. He is the Redeemer. He loves you. He wants you to have peace and joy in your life.

Elder Richard G. Scott

The Path to Peace and Joy,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 25–27

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December 28, 2016

Alma, Doctrine & Covenants, Fundamental Principles, Justice, Lund, Mercy

Comments Off on He Met the Demands of the Law for Himself and He Met the Demands of Justice for All Mankind

The Savior could effect our deliverance for two important reasons. First, he met the demands of the law of justice for himself because he kept the laws of God perfectly. In other words, Christ was justified by his works. He avoided the debt altogether and qualified himself to return to the Father-the only one of all mankind to do so. Second, he met the demands of the law for all of the rest of mankind. He himself owed no debt to the law, but he went before it and in essence said: “I am perfect and therefore owe you no suffering. However, I will pay the debt for all mankind. I will undergo suffering that I might pay the price for every transgression and sin ever committed by any man.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, Christ paid the price by suffering for every sin as though he himself had committed them, satisfying fully the law of justice. Such suffering is beyond the power of any mortal man to endure. We can’t understand how he did it, only that he did and that “through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice.” In terms of Elder Packer’s parable, he generated sufficient payment to satisfy the debt of every other man. He met the demands of the law for himself through obedience and for all others through suffering.

Alma told his son Corianton that mercy could not rob justice, or else “God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:25.) That is the case with the merciful love of the Father and the Son. In fact, mercy paid justice! Their Love said to Justice, by virtue of the price paid in the Garden, “Here is payment for the wrongs committed. You are paid in full. Now let the captives go free.”

In one of the most beautiful images in all of scripture, we find the solution to that awful dilemma we all face as sinners. We are standing before the bar as defendants, facing the great judge, God the Father. Our “Advocate with the Father” steps forward, not to refute the charges or to hold up a record of our good works to counterbalance our guilt, but to plead our case in a different manner:

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.)

Nothing man could do for himself could bring him past the judgment bar successfully without such an Advocate. That is why eternal life is always a gift, and those who receive it do so by “inheritance.” It is interesting to note that the word inherit and its cognate words are used seventy-eight times in the Doctrine and Covenants, while the word earned and its related words are not used once.

Gerald N. Lund
Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation
Deseret Book Company, 1991
Elder Lund was later sustained as a Seventy

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August 9, 2016

Alma, Book of Mormon, Garments, Holy Ghost, Sanctification

Comments Off on They Were Called and Were Sanctified

Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.  Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

Alma 13:11-12

 

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July 8, 2016

Alma, Enabling Power, Paul, Repentance

Comments Off on Displacing Bad With Good

In one test of creativity, subjects are faced with the following problem: A ping pong ball has fallen to the bottom of a tube that stands, in a vertical position, fastened permanently to the floor. Some participants try, unsuccessfully, to reach into the tube and retrieve the ball with tools that are provided. The problem is that some tools are not long enough to reach the ball, while others are too wide to fit into the tube. Some subjects eventually give up in exasperation, but others discover a creative solution, realizing that water can be poured into the tube. The water displaces the air in the tube, and the ball pops to the surface, rising higher each time water is poured in. Once water fills the tube, the ball is easily retrieved.

In the same way, one of the best methods to remove something from our lives is to displace it with something else. . . . we can become so caught up in a purpose for good that we simply have less time and energy to get wrapped up in the bad.

Alma the Younger and Paul the apostle both utilized this principle. At one point, each had strong desires to tear down the Church, then repented. In their repentance, they permanently replaced bad with good. It would be absurd to imagine that after they were converted they had to resolve each morning, “I just have to resist the temptation to preach against Christ today.” Instead, they had become captivated and eager to build up the Church and had thrown themselves completely into the cause of Christ.

. . . .

Certainly it is true that good can displace the bad in our lives. When we are deeply involved in a positive purpose, our souls, and even our bodies it seems, resonate with the power and energy of God. Just as precious ore that has been purged of imperfections is more pure, we are more fully ourselves when we are in the midst of doing good rather than evil. In essence, the process of gaining more self-control and increasing in righteousness is not one of changing from who we are. Rather, we are changing to who we are. Changing is a process of becoming more fully ourselves.

A. Dean Byrd and Mark D. Chamberlain

Willpower Is Not Enough, (1995, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City)

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June 20, 2016

Alma, Happiness, Wesley

Comments Off on Wisdom, Holiness, and Happiness are One

Wisdom, holiness, and happiness are one; are inseparably united; and are, indeed, the beginning of that eternal life which God hath given us in his Son.

John Wesley
Sermon 70, “Case of Reason Impartially Considered”

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Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.

Alma 41:10

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March 21, 2016

Alma, Amulek, Condie, Fundamental Principles, General Authorities, Justice, Mercy

Comments Off on Good for That Which is Good, Righteous for That Which is Righteous

To his struggling son Corianton, Alma clearly explained that “it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works” (Alma 41:3). Thus, after the Resurrection and Judgment some will be “raised to happiness according to [their] desires of happiness … ; and the other[s] to evil according to [their] desires of evil” (Alma 41:5). Continuing, Alma explicitly taught that “the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful” (Alma 41:13). Alma cautioned Corianton not to suppose “that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).

Amulek taught Zeezrom that “we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt” (Alma 11:43). Alma explained to his son Corianton that “the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (Alma 41:15). That is the hard, wintry side of justice, judgment, and restoration.

But there is also a merciful side of restoration. Alma declared that “mercy cometh because of the atonement,” and though “justice exerciseth all his demands, … mercy claimeth all which is her own” upon conditions of true repentance. Alma then posed the provocative question: “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 42:23–25).

It is impossible for each of us to overcome the demands of justice solely through our own individual efforts. Nevertheless, we have been promised that “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). Contrary to the distorted doctrine of being saved solely through grace and by predestination, the Book of Mormon teaches us that we must strive to keep the commandments and repent of our sins, and then the Savior makes up the difference.

A necessary part of “all we can do” includes participation in essential ordinances of the gospel. Limited space will permit a discussion of only the first of these essential ordinances, which is baptism. Nephi eloquently explained that it was necessary for the Lamb of God “to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness.” He then posed the soul-searching question, “O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” (2 Ne. 31:5.)

Elder Spencer J. Condie

The Fall and Infinite Atonement,” Ensign, Jan 1996, 22

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