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

November 14, 2017

Grace, Nibley

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What are we to do? Lehi explains that if we approach the Lord with “a broken heart and contrite spirit,” we have a case; “and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:7.) This puts an end to legalism and litigation. A broken heart and a contrite spirit cannot be faked or even calmly discussed, and that is a prime point: “How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth.” (2 Ne. 2:8.) When all men stand in God’s presence to be judged, punishment will be meted out in terms of legal penalties—the law by which we were bound, the preliminary trials and tests to get us to our final hearing. But that is not what the Judgment is about. What we are expecting in this final judgment is that “happiness which is affixed” to the law and which is the final purpose or end “of the atonement.” (2 Ne. 2:10.)

So we also have our part in achieving in the Atonement. How is it all done? The explanation of predestinationism, Neoplatonism, and Islam is simply that God does it all because he can, which leaves us as completely irresponsible nonentities. That is not the way it really is, and it is not what we want—and it is not what God wants. He wants to be one with us, and we want to be one with the Father, which obviously is completely beyond our present capacity; it is only the Son who can help us: then we need to “look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments”—he will tell us what to do, for he is anxious to help us. “Be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit.” (2 Ne. 2:28.) The Holy Ghost, that other Mediator, who comes to take over when the Lord is absent, seconds him in all things.

“Redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah,” Lehi tells his son, “for he is full of grace and truth.” (2 Ne. 2:6.) That says everything: to be full of grace is everything good that you can possibly conceive of; it is a combination of love, charity, and joy—charis, gratia, and “cheer.” It is everything to be cheerful about and grateful for, and it is boundless love without a shadow of mental reservation, self-interest, or ulterior motive—in short, of anything false or untrue; it is all real, for he is full of grace and truth.

Hugh W. Nibley

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 3,” Ensign, Sep 1990, 22

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October 17, 2017

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, General Authorities, Grace, Hafen

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The following is taken from then entry entitled, “Grace” in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. The author is Bruce C. Hafen, an official at BYU when this work was written, now a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

As noted in previous posts, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is not recognized as official Church doctrine, but is a respected source of well-informed commentary on doctrine.

From Elder Hafen:

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).

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Grace
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Macmillan Publishing, 1992

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October 16, 2017

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, General Authorities, Grace, Hafen

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The following is taken from then entry entitled, “Grace” in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. The author is Bruce C. Hafen, an official at BYU when this work was written, now an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

As noted in previous posts, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is not recognized as official Church doctrine, but is a respected source of well-informed commentary on doctrine.

From Elder Hafen:

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 itselfsufficient 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).

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Grace
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Macmillan Publishing, 1992

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October 14, 2017

Fundamental Principles, General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, McConkie

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I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.

It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.

Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.

And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, May 1985, 9

 

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October 12, 2017

Fundamental Principles, Grace, Jacob, Mercy

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The Prophet Jacob is one of the great theologians of the Atonement.

O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it. And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. [2 Nephi 9:20–22]

For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. . . .

Now the first judgment which came upon man was “thou shalt surely die.” It involved both of those deaths, the death of the body and the death as to things pertaining to righteousness, which the scriptures call spiritual death.

O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more [that is, if there were no resurrection of the body] our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself. . . .

O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. [2 Nephi 9:6–10]

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September 24, 2017

C.S. Lewis, Grace

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After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.

C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity, page 103


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September 21, 2017

Covenants, Grace, Justification, Robinson, Salvation

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The larger theological perspective needed to accommodate both grace and works is provided by the scriptures themselves in the concept of “covenant,” an agreement entered into voluntarily by two parties, with obligations laid upon both. This concept is taught in both the Old and New Testaments as characterizing the proper relationship between God and his people.

The availability of the covenant, the Savior who mediates it, his agony that empowered it-these are all free gifts of grace: God didn’t have to offer; Jesus didn’t have to suffer. They are gifts bestowed upon us out of love. But the decision to remain in the covenant, to stay put and “endure to the end”-that choice is ours, and it is indicated by whom we serve and by the works we do. As long as we choose to remain loyal to him, Christ continues to justify us by his grace and to atone for our mistakes. Our present good works (such as we can manage) are a token of the perfect righteousness we genuinely seek to offer but at this point can achieve only through Christ, a token that we still serve him and not the Enemy. This token-our sincere effort-is accepted by Christ, who alone redeems and justifies us through the covenant.

Ultimately, salvation is the task of him who bears the title-Savior. It is his title because it is his function and not ours. Occasionally, he allows us to work for him as tools in saving others, but never for ourselves. We can’t baptize ourselves, bless ourselves, ordain ourselves, or endow ourselves. Still, we can and must do something to enter into and remain in the covenant. We cannot logically insist he is our master while at the same time refusing to serve him. We can’t have it both ways. Servants, by definition, serve. If entering into the covenant is a choice for Christ rather than Satan, then staying in the covenant is serving Christ-that is, to continue choosing Christ, to endure or persist in choosing Christ-and that choice is expressed in our behavior. We can’t come to Christ and then just wander off to do our own thing.

Stephen E. Robinson
The Parable of the Divers and More Good News
Deseret Book Company, 1995

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September 5, 2017

General Authorities, Grace, Maxwell

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We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much further than we acknowledge, and such reflections restore resolve. . . . We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. . . . Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. . . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us if we remember that there are no instant Christians.

.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Notwithstanding My Weakness, pp. 9-11, (Deseret Book, 1991) emphasis in original

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August 31, 2017

General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, Oaks

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“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3).

Many Bible verses declare that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world (e.g., John 1:29; Matt. 26:28). The New Testament frequently refers to the grace of God and to salvation by grace (e.g., John 1:17; Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:8). But it also has many specific commandments on personal behavior, and many references to the importance of works (e.g., Matt. 5:16; Eph. 2:10; James 2:14–17). In addition, the Savior taught that we must endure to the end in order to be saved (see Matt. 10:22; Mark 13:13).

Relying upon the totality of Bible teachings and upon clarifications received through modern revelation, we testify that being cleansed from sin through Christ’s Atonement is conditioned upon the individual sinner’s faith, which must be manifested by obedience to the Lord’s command to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37–38). “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,” Jesus taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; see also Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37–38). Believers who have had this required rebirth at the hands of those having authority have already been saved from sin conditionally, but they will not be saved finally until they have completed their mortal probation with the required continuing repentance, faithfulness, service, and enduring to the end.

Some Christians accuse Latter-day Saints who give this answer of denying the grace of God through claiming they can earn their own salvation. We answer this accusation with the words of two Book of Mormon prophets. Nephi taught, “For we labor diligently … to persuade our children … to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). And what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moro. 10:32).

We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Have You Been Saved?,” Ensign, May 1998, 55

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August 15, 2017

Forgiveness, General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, Mercy, Poelman, Repentance

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Recently I was in private conversation with one who, having committed a serious transgression, had also made intense effort to repent and receive forgiveness from those personally offended, from the Church, and from the Lord. When I asked, “Do you feel forgiven by your Heavenly Father?” he answered hesitantly with an affirmative but qualified response. “How do we obtain divine forgiveness?” I asked.

He spoke of how he had forsaken his transgressive behavior of the past, confessed to proper priesthood authorities, and attempted to make restitution to those offended. He further described his efforts to live according to gospel principles and Church standards.

The Savior and his atoning sacrifice were not mentioned. The underlying assumption seemed to be that divine forgiveness is obtained through those steps of repentance limited to changing one’s behavior. Despite the brother’s earnest efforts to repent, he appeared to be burdened still by remorse and regret and to feel that he must continue to pay for his sins.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Others, to my knowledge, are burdened by past mistakes, large and small, because of an incomplete or incorrect understanding of our Father’s plan of redemption and mercy. Those so burdened may unnecessarily struggle through life without the joy and peace of mind which are the intended result of true repentance and divine forgiveness.

One who assumes that he can or must pay the price for his sins and thereby earn divine forgiveness will not feel free to continue progress toward realizing his divine potential, that is, eternal life.

The fact is we cannot save ourselves.

. . . .

We learn from the prophet Alma that we are subject to divine law, which all have transgressed in some respect, making us subject to the demands of justice (see Alma 42:14, 18). God’s justice is based upon divine laws, under which we receive what we deserve according to our disobedience or obedience to the law.

Justice affords no forgiveness for transgressors but imposes penalties (see D&C 82:4). None is exempt (see D&C 107:84). After all we can do to repent, we are still subject to the demands of justice and its penalties, which we cannot satisfy.

. . . .

The beginning and completion of repentance leading to forgiveness is faith in Jesus Christ, who is the “author and the finisher of [our] faith” (Moroni 6:4). Our faith in him as Savior and Redeemer engenders in us godly sorrow for our transgressions, a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and a sense of personal accountability. There follows a change in attitude and a turning toward God.

. . . .

The Lord’s gift of forgiveness, however, is not complete until it is accepted. True and complete repentance is a process by which we may become reconciled with God and accept the divine gift of forgiveness.

In the words of Nephi, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

The effect of the infinite, atoning sacrifice was twofold: First, resurrection and immortality for all, unconditionally granted. Second, eternal life for each one who fulfills the prescribed conditions, which are faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer, followed by repentance.

Then we must qualify for and receive the saving and exalting ordinances of the gospel with their associated covenants, continuously striving to keep those covenants and obey the commandments of God.

Being mortal, and despite our resolve and efforts, we will continue to fall short of perfection. However, with Nephi of old, conscious of our weaknesses, temptations, and past mistakes, we may say, “Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:19). There follows a natural resolve to renew our efforts.

Essential to receiving divine forgiveness are personal, individual recognition and acceptance of our Father’s mercy, made available to us by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and a renewed covenant to obey the principles of the gospel.

Elder Ronald E. Poelman
Divine Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 84

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