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 3, 2017

Covenants, General Authorities, Hafen

Comments Off on The Very People Who Have Covenanted with the Savior to Accept His Atonement

Some people reason that such powerful, positive forces as membership in the Church, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit of Christ operate independently of the Atonement-because they think the Atonement serves the limited function of simply paying for our sins. But membership in the Church is but one fruit of the larger blessing of accepting the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, which all flow from and center on the Atonement. The members of the Church are not just fellow members of a common institution-we are, more exactly, the very people from all across the earth who have covenanted with the Savior to accept his Atonement. In this sense, the Saints are the “true followers of . . . Christ.” (Moroni 7:48.) We call each other “brother and sister” because we are all children of Christ, the father of our spiritual rebirth.

Our repentance from our sins qualifies us to enter this covenant relationship with Christ, just as his Atonement qualifies him to enter it with us. The hope, the comfort, and the charity we then receive through the medium of the Holy Ghost are all part of the abundant blessing of belonging to Christ by being bought with his sacrifice. This relationship unlocks the doors not only to forgiveness but also to all the promises of the Holy One of Israel, including his bearing the burdens of our pains and infirmities that are not the result of our sins. And even though we cannot typically “repent” of these infirmities, we must repent of our actual sins to be entitled to his healing power, which can wipe away all our tears.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen  and Marie K. Hafen

The Belonging Heart: The Atonement And Relationships With God And Family


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May 6, 2017

General Authorities, Hafen, Sanctification

Comments Off on Our Longing to Belong

Charity is but one illustration of the way obedience to God’s commandments both nurtures and satisfies our longing to belong. Many other core gospel doctrines instruct us to develop relationships of belonging with the Lord and with family members. For example, the commandment to accept the Savior’s Atonement directs us to become “at one” with him and his Father: “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me.” (3 Nephi 27:20.) Our embracing of Christ’s gospel can lead us eventually to embrace him, in a relationship of unity that fulfills everlastingly our longing to belong. At the very hour of his Atonement, the Savior prayed: “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified. . . . That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: . . . that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:19-22.) The Savior’s intercessory prayer for at-one-ment expressed in words what his sacrifice made possible.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen  and, Marie K. Hafen

The Belonging Heart: The Atonement And Relationships With God And Family


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April 22, 2017

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Fundamental Principles, General Authorities, Grace, Hafen

Comments Off on The Restored Doctrine of the Atonement – Part 1

In 1993, Bruce C. Hafen, then Provost of BYU, now a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, wrote an article for the Ensign magazine in connection with the publication of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  The article is entitled, The Restored Doctrine of the Atonement and is an excellent short discussion of some of the ways that LDS understanding of the Atonement and Grace return to original doctrines as taught by Christ and His prophets in ancient times.

From Elder Hafen:

In the teachings of Augustine and Luther, man’s fallen nature made self-generated righteous acts impossible. In LDS doctrine, by contrast, “men should … do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.” (D&C 58:27–28.)

Yet we clearly lack the capacity to develop a Christlike nature by our own effort alone. Thus, the perfecting attributes, which include hope, charity, and finally the divine nature that is inherently part of eternal life, are ultimately “bestowed upon all who are true followers of … Jesus Christ” (Moro. 7:48; emphasis added) by the grace that was made possible by the Savior’s atonement. In LDS theology, this interactive relationship between human will and divine powers derives from the significance the gospel attaches to free will and from optimism about the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) among “those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do” (D&C 46:9; emphasis added).

God bestows these additional, perfecting expressions of grace conditionally, as he does the grace that allows forgiveness of sin. They are given “after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23)—that is, they are given as an essential supplement to our best efforts. We prove worthy and capable of receiving these gifts not only by obeying particular commandments but also by demonstrating certain personal attitudes and attributes, such as “meekness and lowliness of heart” (Moro. 8:26) and “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Ne. 9:20).

In addition, those who enter into the covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ may also be spiritually sustained by him. This is the relationship we celebrate and renew each time we partake of the sacrament. Through it, the Savior grants not only a continuing remission of our sins, but he will also help compensate for our inadequacies, heal the bruises caused by our unintentional errors, and strengthen us far beyond our natural capacity in times of acute need.

Both we and our friends outside the Lord’s church need this Atonement-based relationship more than we need any other form of therapy or support: “O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

“For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” (Isa. 43:1–3; emphasis added.)

Elder Bruce C. Hafen

The Restored Doctrine of the Atonement,” Ensign, Dec 1993, 7

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April 3, 2017

Christmas, General Authorities, Grace, Hafen, Repentance

Comments Off on Does the Atonement work in our lives as an event or as a process?

A re-post of a classic explanation of the Atonement:

A father once scolded his son a few days before Christmas because the little boy was terrorizing the house and creating a constant mess. The father said, “If you aren’t good, Santa won’t bring you anything.” Soon the father wondered where his boy had gone-things were too quiet. He found the little guy lying very still on his back, looking stonily at the ceiling. “What are you doing?” the father asked. “I’m being good,” said the boy. He was avoiding evil by avoiding movement. That is not what it means to prize the good. We seek more than neutrality, more than avoidance. We seek to be good, as the character of God himself is good in its very nature. And that state of being is, like charity, ultimately a gift of Christ’s Atonement, bestowed upon the humble and obedient followers of Christ, after they learn from experience all they can discover by themselves about prizing the good.

So, does the Atonement work in our lives as an event or as a process? If it is an event, life is a simple test that we either pass or fail. We compile a certain number of black marks and white marks. At life’s end, we add up the marks, compute our repentance points, and check the score. Above some fixed level of repentance, the Atonement applies, our sins are paid for, and we go back to square one. With this approach, repentance is essentially another white mark-something we do to earn forgiveness. But something is missing here. For one thing, if the Atonement simply returns Adam and Eve to Eden, theirs is a story with no plot, no character development. Nothing happens to them, because the Atonement seems to erase what has happened to them. There is nothing here about what it means to have learned to recognize evil and to prize the good.

Moreover, this view sees our repentance as mechanically earning enough grace to offset our black marks. If that is how we think the Atonement works, we are unlikely ever to feel the full freedom and meaning of forgiveness and belonging to Christ. As long as we believe that we totally earn forgiveness, we will still feel guilty, because we will sense intuitively that we do not have the power to make ourselves completely whole. The Lord’s forgiveness is ultimately an act of grace-it comes as his gift, not as something we have a “right” to, even though we must repent as a condition of receiving it.

Consider, however, the Atonement in our lives as a process rather than an event. The process of Atonement applies not just once but, potentially, throughout our lives. Along this path of life, Adam and Eve did not simply return to Eden; rather, they moved onward from Eden through the telestial world. Because they accepted the gospel, then learned to cast Satan’s influence from their lives, they kept moving with the blessings of the priesthood into the terrestrial world, and finally into the celestial presence of God.

During this arduous journey, our first parents learned from their own experience to distinguish good from evil. By the sorrow and sweat of earthly life, they learned the taste and, ultimately, the very meaning of the sweet and the good. They did not come to this understanding merely by partaking of the forbidden fruit. Their first taste of the tree of knowledge was but the beginning of a lifelong quest for meaning-not an event but an extended process, marked by having children and discovering misery, sin, goodness, joy, and the very meaning of eternal life.

Elder Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen,

The Belonging Heart: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family, Deseret Books, 1994

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March 3, 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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February 16, 2017

General Authorities, Hafen, Maxwell, Repentance

Comments Off on Joshua didn’t say choose you next year whom you will serve

One of his conference talks was addressed to those who “fully intend, someday, to begin to believe and/or to be active in the Church. But not yet!” In his tender but piercing invitation, Elder Maxwell said: “If, however, you really do not wish to commit now,” then let me warn of the following:

“Do not look too deeply into the eyes of the pleasure-seekers about you, for if you do, you will see a certain sadness in sensuality, and you will hear artificiality in the laughter of licentiousness.

“Do not look too deeply, either, into the motives of those who deny God, for you may notice their doubts of doubt. …

“Do not think too much about what you are teaching your family, for what in you is merely casualness about Christianity may, in your children, become hostility; for what you have not defended, your children may reject angrily. …

“Do not think, either, about the doctrine that you are a child of God, for if you do, it will be the beginning of belonging. …

“Joshua didn’t say choose you next year whom you will serve; he spoke of ‘this day,’ while there is still daylight and before the darkness becomes more and more normal.” (Ensign, Nov. 1974, pp. 12–13.)

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Elder Neal A. Maxwell: An Understanding Heart“, Ensign, Feb. 1982, 6
[Elder Hafen was president of Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho, when he wrote this article]

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January 4, 2017

General Authorities, Hafen, Sanctification

Comments Off on Our Longing to Belong

Charity is but one illustration of the way obedience to God’s commandments both nurtures and satisfies our longing to belong. Many other core gospel doctrines instruct us to develop relationships of belonging with the Lord and with family members. For example, the commandment to accept the Savior’s Atonement directs us to become “at one” with him and his Father: “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me.” (3 Nephi 27:20.) Our embracing of Christ’s gospel can lead us eventually to embrace him, in a relationship of unity that fulfills everlastingly our longing to belong. At the very hour of his Atonement, the Savior prayed: “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified. . . . That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: . . . that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:19-22.) The Savior’s intercessory prayer for at-one-ment expressed in words what his sacrifice made possible.

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Elder Bruce C. Hafen  and, Marie K. Hafen
The Belonging Heart: The Atonement And Relationships With God And Family

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December 24, 2016

Discouragement, Enabling Power, Hafen, Mercy, Millett

Comments Off on Do Not Underestimate the Power of the Atonement

“The person most in need of understanding the Savior’s mercy is probably one who has worked himself to exhaustion in a sincere effort to repent, but who still believes his estrangement from God is permanent and hopeless. . . . I sense that an increasing number of deeply committed Church members are weighed down beyond the breaking point with discouragement about their personal lives. When we habitually understate the meaning of the Atonement, we take more serious risks than simply leaving one another without comforting reassurances-for some may simply drop out of the race, worn out and beaten down with the harsh and untrue belief that they are just not celestial material”

Elder Bruce C. Hafen

The Broken Heart, pp. 5-6, quoted in Within Reach by Robert C. Millett (1995, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City)

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November 30, 2016

Discouragement, Enabling Power, Fundamental Principles, Hafen, Millett, Repentance

Comments Off on Do Not Underestimate the Power of the Atonement

After several posts about repentance, a repost of a fundamental truth:

The person most in need of understanding the Savior’s mercy is probably one who has worked himself to exhaustion in a sincere effort to repent, but who still believes his estrangement from God is permanent and hopeless. . . . I sense that an increasing number of deeply committed Church members are weighed down beyond the breaking point with discouragement about their personal lives. When we habitually understate the meaning of the Atonement, we take more serious risks than simply leaving one another without comforting reassurances-for some may simply drop out of the race, worn out and beaten down with the harsh and untrue belief that they are just not celestial material.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
The Broken Heart, pp. 5-6, quoted in Within Reach by Robert C. Millett (1995, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City)

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July 31, 2016

Faith, General Authorities, Hafen, Sacrifice, Tests

Comments Off on Part of the Sacrifice the Lord May Require

[P]art of the sacrifice the Lord may require is that we accept what He may inflict upon us without understanding to our rational satisfaction why we should be lost in some dark night of the soul. Eventually the light of Christ’s atoning power can pierce our darkness and bless us with understanding, but we may receive no such witness until after the trial of our faith.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Reason, Faith, and the Things of Eternity, FARMS Review: Volume 20, Issue 2, Pages: 15-35

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