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

December 30, 2017

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Fall, Grace, Repentance

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In LDS teachings, the Fall of Adam made Christ’s redemption necessary, but not because the Fall by itself made man evil. Because of transgression, Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden into a world that was subject to death and evil influences. However, the Lord revealed to Adam upon his entry into mortality that “the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt”; therefore, Adam’s children were not evil, but were “whole from the foundation of the world” (Moses 6:54). Thus, “every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God” (D&C 93:38).

As the descendants of Adam and Eve then become accountable for their own sins at age eight, all of them taste sin as the result of their own free choice. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). One whose cumulative experience leads her or him to love “Satan more than God” (Moses 5:28) will eventually become “carnal, sensual, and devilish” (Moses 5:13;6:49) by nature. On the other hand, one who consciously accepts Christ’s grace through the Atonement by faith, repentance, and baptism yields to “the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). In this way, the individual takes the initiative to accept the grace made available by the Atonement, exercising faith through a willing “desire to believe” (Alma 32:27). That desire is often kindled by hearing others bear testimony of Christ. When this word of Christ is planted and then nourished through obedience interacting with grace, as summarized below, the individual may “become a saint” by nature, thereby enjoying eternal (meaning godlike) life.

Grace is thus the source of three categories of blessings related to mankind’s salvation. First, many blessings of grace are unconditional -free and unmerited gifts requiring no individual action. God’s grace in this sense is a factor in the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement, and the Plan of Salvation. Specifically regarding the Fall, and despite death and other conditions resulting from Adam’s transgression, Christ’s grace has atoned for original sin and has assured the resurrection of all humankind: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (A of F 2).

Second, the Savior has also atoned conditionally for personal sins. The application of grace to personal sins is conditional because it is available only when an individual repents, which can be a demanding form of works. Because of this condition, mercy is able to satisfy the demands of justice with neither mercy nor justice robbing the other. Personal repentance is therefore a necessary condition of salvation, but it is not by itself sufficient to assure salvation (see Justice and Mercy). In addition, one must accept the ordinances of baptism and the laying-on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which one is born again as the spirit child of Christ and may eventually become sanctified (cf. D&C 76:51-52; see also Gospel of Jesus Christ).

Third, after one has received Christ’s gospel of faith, repentance, and baptism unto forgiveness of sin, relying “wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save,” one has only “entered in by the gate” to the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life” (2 Ne. 31:17-20). In this postbaptism stage of spiritual development, one’s best efforts-further works-are required to “endure to the end” (2 Ne. 31:20). These efforts include obeying the Lord’s commandments and receiving the higher ordinances performed in the temples, and continuing a repentance process as needed “to retain a remission of your sins” (Mosiah 4:12).

Grace, Encyclopedia of Mormonism

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December 23, 2017

Bible Dictionary, Enabling Power, Fall, Grace

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I’m going to create a series of posts that center on Grace.  As used in the New Testament, Grace is often another word for Atonement.  Elder Bednar has begun with Grace in his ground-breaking talks (discussed here and here) about the enabling power of the Atonement.

Let’s begin with the Bible Dictionary’s definition of Grace:

A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.

Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25: 23). It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible. This principle is expressed in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15: 1-11). See also John 1: 12-17; Eph. 2: 8-9; Philip. 4: 13; D&C 93: 11-14.

Grace,” Bible Dictionary

In following days, we’ll look at what some of our prophets, apostles and religious thinkers have said about Grace.

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December 21, 2017

Fall, Roberts

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“Adam fell that men might be;”  (2 Nephi 2:25)

B. H. Roberts wrote the following about this scripture and the doctrine of the Fall that springs from it:

“The effect of this doctrine upon the ideas of men concerning the great Patriarch of our race will be revolutionary. It seems to be the fashion of those assuming to teach the Christian religion to denounce Adam in unmeasured terms; as if the fall of man had surprised, if indeed, it did not altogether thwart, the original plan of God respecting the existence of man in the earth … it logically follows that the fall no less than the Atonement or redemption must have been part of God’s plan respecting the earth probation of men. The Fall, undoubtedly, was a fact as much present to the foreknowledge of God as was the Atonement, and the act which encompassed it must be regarded as more praiseworthy than blameworthy, since it was essential to the accomplishment of the divine purpose.”

Elder Brigham Henry Roberts
The Seventy’s Course in Theology, Fourth Year, p. 37

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September 15, 2017

Benson, Fall, General Authorities, General Conference

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No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon.

Brethren and sisters, we all need to take a careful inventory of our performance and also the performance of those over whom we preside to be sure that we are teaching the “great plan of the Eternal God” to the Saints.

Are we accepting and teaching what the revelations tell us about the Creation, Adam and the fall of man, and redemption from that fall through the atonement of Christ? Do we frequently review the crucial questions which Alma asks the members of the Church in the fifth chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon?

Do we understand and are we effective in teaching and preaching the Atonement? What personal meaning does the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary have for each of us?

What does redemption from the Fall mean to us? In the words of Alma, do we “sing the song of redeeming love”? (Alma 5:26).

President Ezra Taft Benson

The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 83

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May 4, 2017

Fall, General Authorities, General Conference, Happiness, Joy, Mickelsen

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While teaching at BYU in 1978, Brother Dennis Rasmussen applied and was selected to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In the opening session, as he gave his name and university, Rabbi Muffs boomed, “You’re the Mormon! … Do you pay your tithing?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Do you pay it with a joyful heart?” “I believe,” the rabbi said, “that joy is the essence of religion. There is nothing more fundamental to religious living than joy. … I am working on a book about joy.”

Brother Rasmussen responded, “There’s a passage in the Book of Mormon … , ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.’ ” (2 Ne. 2:25; compare Moses 5:10; Moses 6:48)

Rabbi Muffs was profoundly touched and exclaimed, “I’ve found the text I’ve searched for all my life … in the Book of Mormon.” Turning to Brother Rasmussen he said, “Say it again, but not so fast.” As he repeated the familiar words, the rabbi’s eyes glowed in appreciation of this great truth he understood but had not heard so succinctly expressed.

How important it is to know the purpose of our existence. Man is that he might have joy, and that joy will come to us as we keep God’s commandments!

Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen
Eternal Laws of Happiness“, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 78, quoting Dennis Rasmussen, “An Elder among the Rabbis,” Brigham Young University Studies 21 (summer 1981): 344–45
(paragraph breaks inserted to enhance online readibility)

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May 1, 2017

Fall, Mormon, Resurrection

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12 Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.

13 And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death.

Mormon 9:12-13

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February 9, 2017

Fall, Nibley

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Only those who are aware of their lost and fallen state can take the mission of the Savior seriously, and before one can embrace it in terms of the eternities it must be grasped on the level of common, everyday reality … For behold, are we not all beggars? … The essence of [King] Benjamin’s preaching is to purge the people, if possible, of their flattering self-image as good guys.

Hugh Nibley

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August 3, 2016

Christmas, Fall, Fundamental Principles, Vandagriff

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Yesterday, I was asked to speak on the topic, “Why We Need a Savior,” as part of our church Christmas Program.  I was happy to receive the request because this question is at the heart of the Atonement.

I was asked to take no more than 7 minutes on this subject.  This raised an interesting challenge.  I can talk about the Atonement for 30 minutes, an hour, two hours or more without difficulty.  However, how could I speak about the essential elements of the Atonement in 7 minutes?

Following is what resulted after quite a number of drafts:

At this time of year, we remember some of the titles Isaiah used to identify the Messiah – Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Many other words also describe Christ and his countless attributes, but, for me, two sacred titles stand above all others – Savior and Redeemer.

But why do we need a Savior?

Our Savior and Redeemer holds those exalted titles because His Atonement saves us from sin and the consequences of mortality and allows us to return to our heavenly home.

We cannot understand the Atonement unless we understand the Fall.

When Adam and Eve were placed into the Garden of Eden, their bodies were immortal – they would never age or die. Those bodies were also incapable of having children.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of Heavenly Father. They could see God with their eyes and hear Him with their ears. That association made a strong spiritual connection easy and natural.

When Adam and Eve transgressed the law and ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, four things happened:

1. Their bodies became mortal and subject to mortal death.

2. They could no longer remain in the presence of Heavenly Father. That separation is spiritual death.

3. They understood the difference between good and evil and were accountable for their choices.

4. They were able to have children so God’s spirit children could come to earth.

After the Fall, “Eve . . . was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5:11)

The Fall was not a mistake, it was a choice. Just as Adam and Eve chose to live in mortal bodies, each of us made that same choice — we chose to come to earth and gain mortal bodies, knowing we would be separated from our Father.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “The atonement is the child of the fall, and the fall is the father of the atonement. Neither of them, without the other, could have brought to pass the eternal purposes of the Father.

“The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Three Pillars of Eternity, devotional address at Brigham Young University on 17 February 1981)

Two scriptures encapsulate our mortal lives and describe why a Savior is essential.

1. “No unclean thing can dwell with God” – 1 Nephi 10:21

2. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” – Romans 3:2

A) We cannot sin and be with God and

B) We all have sinned.

We need a Savior.

The Atonement is key to everything Heavenly Father does and all He has created. “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)

These two terms may sound the same, but have different meanings.

Immortality is how the Atonement saves us from physical death.

Eternal Life is how the Atonement can save us from spiritual death, depending upon our faithfulness.

Amulek describes how Christ saves us from the death of our body and gives us immortality:

“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death . . . . The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame . . . . Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame . . . .” (Alma 11:42-44)

Virtually everyone who will ever be born on this earth will receive immortality through the Atonement of Christ. Their bodies will be resurrected from the grave and returned to a perfect form, then their spirits and bodies will be reunited and never die. Worlds and time without end, they will live. Mortal death will be permanently defeated.

What about Eternal Life?

Eternal Life is the kind of life that Heavenly Father lives. Through the Atonement, immortality comes to all men, righteous or wicked. Eternal Life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.) We obtain Eternal Life, according to the Lord, “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end.” If we do this, He promises, “you shall have eternal life.” (D&C 14:7.)

If we are to gain Eternal Life, this greatest of all gifts, it will be because we become like God. God is perfectly clean and pure and we must become the same way.

How can imperfect people possibly do that?

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (Third Article of Faith)

This brings us to justice and mercy. One of the most important ways in which Heavenly Father is perfect is that He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful.

Perfect justice is not terribly difficult for us to understand. Any time a law of God is violated, justice imposes an appropriate penalty.

Our problem arises because of that scripture we mentioned earlier, “No unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21)

Does justice make us clean?

No, justice ensures that a proper penalty is paid when a law is violated. It does not remove the effects of sin upon the individual who is punished. When prisoners are released from the penitentiary after having served their sentences, we say they have “paid their debt to society.” Prison has not made them clean and pure.

One way to be perfectly clean and pure is to never sin at all. That describes our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and no one else. He is the key to perfect mercy. Christ is the only way to recover from our sins.

Lehi tells us, “[R]edemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Nephi 2:6-7)

A perfectly sinless Christ took upon Himself all the sins of all the people who will ever live on this world. At Gethsemane and Calvary, he paid the full price that justice imposed for every one of those sins, great or small.

Christ “satisfied the demands of justice by His own suffering, ‘the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). He removes our condemnation without removing the law. We are pardoned and placed in a condition of righteousness with Him. We become, like Him, without sin.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 18)

In place of the demands of justice, Christ provides merciful commandments that ordinary people can obey. He allows us to repent of our sins without being condemned by them. Describing His commandments, Jesus said, “Whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world” (3 Nephi 27:16)

Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. We celebrate the Manger because of what Christ did on the Cross.

David P. Vandagriff

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June 8, 2016

Fall, Fundamental Principles, General Authorities, McConkie

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Another quote from a classic devotional address by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

The atonement is part of the eternal plan of the Father. It came at the appointed time, according to the will of the Father, to do for man that which could not have been done in any other way. The atonement is the child of the fall, and the fall is the father of the atonement. Neither of them, without the other, could have brought to pass the eternal purposes of the Father.

The fall of Adam and the atonement of Christ are linked together–inseparably, everlastingly, never to be parted. They are as much a part of the same body as are the head and the heart, and each plays its part in the eternal scheme of things.

The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This makes the fall as essential a part of the plan of salvation as the very atonement itself.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

The Three Pillars of Eternity, devotional address at Brigham Young University on 17 February 1981.

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May 26, 2016

Fall, General Authorities, General Conference, Romney

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The atonement of the Master is the central point of world history. Without it, the whole purpose for the creation of the earth and our living upon it would fail. . . .

[W]ithout it, no man or woman would ever be resurrected. . . . And so all the world, believers and nonbelievers, are indebted to the Redeemer for their certain resurrection, because the resurrection will be as wide as was the fall, which brought death to every man.

Elder Marion G. Romney

Conference Report, 1953, October:34-35

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