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

January 20, 2018

Cook, Enabling Power, General Authorities, Grace

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Let’s assume that a faithful man named John is praying for a blessing with all his heart, and he does all he can to help bring it to pass, but it’s just not enough. He puts in most of what’s required but not all. He just doesn’t have the capacity to do all that’s required. But he persists and receives the blessing.

Question: Who put in the rest? The law or requirement must be fulfilled, but John wasn’t able to fully do it. Who compensates for his inadequacy?

Answer: The Lord, Jesus Christ. The enabling power of God, or grace, intervened and Jesus Christ contributed what John lacked. And thus the law was fulfilled.

Please understand this. Jesus came not only to save us from our sins but also to assist us with our infirmities, our afflictions, our weaknesses, our problems, and our discouragements. And when he does so, in the process he helps us to qualify for the blessings we seek, and that is called grace.

Now consider another man. This man has less faith than John. This man was baptized just last week. He seeks the same blessing as John, but he cannot muster the faith that John has. As he seeks to obey the required law, all he can do is put in maybe a tenth of what’s needed. Yet he still receives the blessing. Why is that? Again, because Jesus compensated and put the rest in for him. After we have done all in our power, the grace of the Lord will intervene. The prophet Nephi said it masterfully:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, 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 Nephi 25:23.)

In my judgment, this principle explains why it is that when a little child prays he can so readily receive the blessing. The child doesn’t know how to do very much except give all of his heart, but that’s enough. Then the Lord puts in the rest. Children have great access to the heavens.

We also can have such access if we will pray with all our hearts and do all we can to qualify for the blessing we seek. Then, through the grace, or enabling power, of Christ, the heavens will intervene and bring us that which we desire.

Elder Gene R. Cook
Receiving Answers to Our Prayers
Deseret Book Company (1996)

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January 11, 2018

Christofferson, General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, Repentance

Comments Off on You Can Offer the Lord the Gift of Your Broken, or Repentant, Heart

In ancient times when people wanted to worship the Lord and seek His blessings, they often brought a gift. For example, when they went to the temple, they brought a sacrifice to place on the altar. After His Atonement and Resurrection, the Savior said He would no longer accept burnt offerings of animals. The gift or sacrifice He will accept now is “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (3 Ne. 9:20) As you seek the blessing of conversion, you can offer the Lord the gift of your broken, or repentant, heart and your contrite, or obedient, spirit. In reality, it is the gift of yourself—what you are and what you are becoming.

Is there something in you or in your life that is impure or unworthy? When you get rid of it, that is a gift to the Savior. Is there a good habit or quality that is lacking in your life? When you adopt it and make it part of your character, you are giving a gift to the Lord. Sometimes this is hard to do, but would your gifts of repentance and obedience be worthy gifts if they cost you nothing? Don’t be afraid of the effort required. And remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Jesus Christ will help you make of yourself a worthy gift. His grace will make you clean, even holy. Eventually, you will become like Him, “perfect in Christ.” (See Moro. 10:32–33)

With conversion, you will wear a protective armor, “the whole armour of God,” (See Eph. 6:13–17) and the words of Christ, which come by the Holy Spirit, “will tell you all things” you should do. (2 Ne. 32:3)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 11

(Some references omitted for readibility)

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January 1, 2018

Grace, Healing, Madsen, Mercy, Temple

Comments Off on To Receive Him Fully is to Receive the Fullness of His Atonement

[W]e are promised that in the temple the Lord’s name will be put upon us. It means at root that we become his. The answer to “Who am I?” can never be complete unless it answers “Whose am I?” You are the son or daughter of a king. The Father himself. Through the ordinances you are begotten spiritually through his Son. You become heir to his throne. That is a worldly way of saying it. But it is true. An old Jewish proverb says that the worst thing the evil inclination can ever do to you is to make you forget that you are the son or daughter of a king. I don’t know how you can forget that in the temple. You take his name.

To receive him fully is to receive the fullness of his atonement. Think about it—the at-one-ment that Jesus Christ wrought by the shedding of his own blood. The atonement was, and is, to enable us to overcome through his grace and healing power three things: Ignorance, sin, and death. Hence I often say the temple is a matter of life and death.

“A man cannot be saved in ignorance.” This passage refers to a specific kind of ignorance. The preceding verse is talking about sealing, about coming to know by revelation through the power of the Holy Priesthood not only that Jesus is the Christ, but also that a relationship has been forged between you and Jesus Christ. It is a testimony that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that he is making you his. How do you come to know that? I can only tell you that the promise does pertain to the temple. And we may come to a like testimony about temple sealings to our progenitors and our children.

The Savior said that he came that men might have life, and have it more abundantly. Life, abundant life, is pluralized in the teachings of Joseph Smith as “eternal lives.”

You are all alive in several ways and to certain degrees. You are alive intellectually; you think, you study, you teach. There is, no matter what else we do each day, the life of the mind. Then there is the life of the heart. The word in Hebrew is leb, “heart,” the inmost throbbing center. A hard heart is different than a malleable, tender heart. Christ’s heart is tender. Those who come to him feeling mercy and gratitude for his mercy are tenderized in the very center of their being.

We seek life in another way. It is the creative life. It is lodged in the cry of ancient Israelite fathers and mothers: “Give me children, or I die.” This is the life of creation and procreation.

I testify that in the house of the Lord all three of these modes of life are enhanced and magnified and increased. Therein we are promised that whatever our age or the decline and disabilities that we experience here, we will one day enter in at the gate to eternal lives. On that day of renewal, we will emerge into a celestial condition, into the “fulness of the glory of the Father.” There the glorious privilege of priesthood, parenthood, and godhood come together as one. There will be the reunion of the separated forever. As this is the crowning ordinance of the house of God, it is also the crowning truth of the gospel.

Truman G. Madsen
The Temple and the Atonement, The Maxwell Institute

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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 29, 2017

Grace, Gratitude, King Benjamin, Lund

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King Benjamin initially emphasized one aspect of God’s graciousness, that God is responsible for our creation. By this, Benjamin seemed to have meant not just the making of our own bodies, but the whole of creation-the heavens, the earth, and all that in them are. That simple fact alone should be basis enough for our unending gratitude. When a man creates something through his own labor-a work of art, a building, a piece of furniture, great music-we say that it is his. In other words, we recognize that he has claim upon it, that he has stewardship over it, that he has the right to do with it as he wishes.

By that same principle, we should acknowledge that because all that we see and know comes from the labor of God’s hands, it is his. Therefore, whatever we have, or take, or use, or enjoy puts us automatically in his debt. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord clearly stated that this is indeed the case: “For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures. I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine” ( D&C 104:13-14; emphasis added). Note the possessive phrases used in those verses: “which I have made,” “my very handiwork,” “all things therein are mine.” As the Psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).

Think for a moment how that simple concept would alter people’s thinking if they would really accept it. We clutch things to our bosom and say, “These are mine.” Individuals rob, cheat, and steal, or they manipulate and maneuver so they may be able to claim things as their own. Figuratively, the rich sit on their velvet thrones, drinking from golden goblets, and ignore the desperate sufferings of the poor because they think that what they have received belongs solely to them. Nations go to war over lands that they did nothing to create.

If we truly believed that God was the owner of all things, that man was only a user and a borrower, our approach to life would alter drastically. A classic illustration of that principle was the man Job. After facing devastating losses of family, property, and health, he stated simply, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Henry B. Eyring spoke of this natural human tendency to forget all that God has done for us: “We so easily forget that we came into life with nothing. Whatever we get soon seems our natural right, not a gift. And we forget the giver. Then our gaze shifts from what we have been given to what we don’t have yet. . . . The remembrance urged upon us by King Benjamin can be ours. Remembrance is the seed of gratitude.

Elder Gerald N. Lund, Selected Writings of Gerald N. Lund, (1995, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah)

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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 9, 2017

Grace, Gratitude, Humility, Lincoln

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We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving Grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

Abraham Lincoln
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day, 1863

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November 28, 2017

General Authorities, General Conference, Grace, Maxwell

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Yes, brothers and sisters, this is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage, and our personal progress should be yet another way we witness to the wonder of it all!

True, there are no instant Christians, but there are constant Christians!

If we so live, we too can say in personal prospectus, “And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for … then shall I see his face with pleasure” (Enos 1:27; italics added) for then will our confidence “wax strong in the presence of God,” (D&C 121:45; italics added), and He who cannot lie will attest to our adequacy with the warm words “Well done.”

.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Notwithstanding My Weakness, General Conference, October, 1976

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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

Comments Off on The Merits of Him Who is Mighty to Save

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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