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

July 26, 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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June 25, 2017

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

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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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March 5, 2017

Eyring, General Authorities, General Conference, Humility, King Benjamin

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King Benjamin, who understood as well as any mortal what it meant to be a man of strength and courage, makes it clear that to be like a child is not to be childish. It is to be like the Savior, who prayed to His Father for strength to be able to do His will and then did it. Our natures must be changed to become as a child to gain the strength we must have to be safe in the times of moral peril.

Here is King Benjamin’s stirring description of what that change to become like a child is and how it comes to us:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he 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, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” 6

We are safe on the rock which is the Savior when we have yielded in faith in Him, have responded to the Holy Spirit’s direction to keep the commandments long enough and faithfully enough that the power of the Atonement has changed our hearts. When we have, by that experience, become as a child in our capacity to love and obey, we are on the sure foundation.

From King Benjamin we learn what we can do to take us to that safe place. But remember: the things we do are the means, not the end we seek. What we do allows the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change us into what we must be. Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us to repentance and to keeping His commandments. We obey and we resist temptation by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. In time our natures will change. We will become as a little child, obedient to God and more loving. That change, if we do all we must to keep it, will qualify us to enjoy the gifts which come through the Holy Ghost. Then we will be safe on the only sure rock.

President Henry B. Eyring

As a Child,” Ensign, May 2006, 14–17

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February 17, 2017

Forgiveness, Grace, Humility, King Benjamin, Mercy, Service

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King Benjamin teaches precisely how the redemptive process works and can be maintained. First he proclaims the essential and primary reality of the atonement, by which Christ extends unconditional love to us, even in our sins.

Consistent with Amulek and Alma, he teaches that we can be moved by Christ’s unconditional love to overcome the demands within ourselves, placed there by our God-given consciences, to punish ourselves and others. This breaking the bands of justice, he claims, enables us to accept Christ’s mercy and forgiveness and become new creatures.

Intensely moved by learning of Christ’s love, the group of Nephites being taught by King Benjamin actually go through that saving process and begin to rejoice that they are indeed changed, that they “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

King Benjamin also reveals the only way to maintain change, to retain “a remission of your sins from day to day” (Mosiah 4:26). The key is humility, the abdication of imitative desire through recognizing that we are “all beggars” (Mosiah 4:19).

Just as God does not reject us for our sins, does not refuse to love us or to extend his healing grace and continual blessings because we sin, so we must respond to those who beg help from us though they do not “deserve” it. We must never judge their desires or condition; we must never think that “the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore . . . his punishments are just” (Mosiah 4:17). If we do so we have “great cause to repent,” and if we fail to repent we have “no interest in the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 4:18). Instead, we must constantly recognize our own weakness and our own position of dependence on God, judging no one else but engaging constantly in specific acts of sacrificial love: “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).

The point the Book of Mormon makes much more clearly than I find made in the Bible is this: To continue experiencing the atonement of Christ after we have received his grace, we must extend grace to others.

Christ makes us into new creatures, into persons strong enough not to act contrary to what we know-that is, not to sin- if we will merely accept Christ’s merciful, undeserved love; he gives us power to repent, the “means” by which we can “have faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:15). But if we then continue judging others, we will unconsciously judge ourselves. We must constantly give mercy to be able to accept it. We must never exact revenge, even in the name of perfect justice. We must not take vengeance, even upon ourselves, the sinners whom we inwardly know most certainly deserve it.

Eugene England
A Second Witness for the Logos: the Book of Mormon and Contemporary Literary Criticism
included in By Study and Also by Faith v2, Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday
John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds.
Deseret Book Company, (1990)
(paragraph breaks added to improve online readability)

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February 1, 2017

Eyring, Faith, General Conference, Gethsemane, Humility, King Benjamin

Comments Off on What we do allows the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change us into what we must be

Repost of a classic from President Eyring

King Benjamin, who understood as well as any mortal what it meant to be a man of strength and courage, makes it clear that to be like a child is not to be childish. It is to be like the Savior, who prayed to His Father for strength to be able to do His will and then did it. Our natures must be changed to become as a child to gain the strength we must have to be safe in the times of moral peril.

Here is King Benjamin’s stirring description of what that change to become like a child is and how it comes to us:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he 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, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

We are safe on the rock which is the Savior when we have yielded in faith in Him, have responded to the Holy Spirit’s direction to keep the commandments long enough and faithfully enough that the power of the Atonement has changed our hearts. When we have, by that experience, become as a child in our capacity to love and obey, we are on the sure foundation.

From King Benjamin we learn what we can do to take us to that safe place. But remember: the things we do are the means, not the end we seek. What we do allows the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change us into what we must be. Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us to repentance and to keeping His commandments. We obey and we resist temptation by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. In time our natures will change. We will become as a little child, obedient to God and more loving. That change, if we do all we must to keep it, will qualify us to enjoy the gifts which come through the Holy Ghost. Then we will be safe on the only sure rock.

President Henry B. Eyring

As a Child,” Ensign, May 2006, 14–17

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May 30, 2016

Book of Mormon, Fundamental Principles, King Benjamin

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The Book of Mormon is the Atonement Testament and few testify as well as King Benjamin.

6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—

7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.

8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.

9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

Mosiah 4:6-10

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November 2, 2015

Amulek, Charity, King Benjamin, Sanctification, Service, Video, Words of Christ

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Charity, the love of others that motivates us to serve them, is closely connected with the Atonement.

In his great Atonement sermon, King Benjamin addressed the righteous Nephites, who had just received miraculous forgiveness from their sins, telling them what they must do next:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
Mosiah 4:16-19

In Amulek’s great Atonement sermon, he makes an explicit connection between our cry for mercy and the imperative for us to help others:

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
29 Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.
Alma 34:17-29

The Savior himself made this connection in only a few words:

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 13:34

In other words, as I (Christ) have loved you (by sacrificing himself in Gethsemane and Calvary to redeem you), you should, within the limits of your mortal abilities, help and assist others.

When King Benjamin speaks of beggars, he is not referring only to those who lack material means to support themselves, the poor in money.  I believe that he is also referring to the poor in spirit.  This category includes some who have a great deal of money.

The message that we take to the poor in spirit is to come unto Christ.

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3 Nephi 12:3

Following is a wonderful example of pure love and how it ministers to the poor in spirit.  As some of the comments indicate, the ministry and service traveled in two directions:  to the girl who was ill by the cheerleaders and from the girl who was ill to the cheerleaders.

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November 2, 2015

Baptism, Born Again, King Benjamin, Meridian Magazine, Proctor

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Being “born again” is a central gospel concept. Much of the Christian world believes that you are “born again” merely by declaring Jesus as your Savior. Many suppose that it is something that happens in an instant.

Latter-day Saints see being “born again” differently. It is a process that begins at baptism. In fact, the very symbolism of baptism clearly teaches the idea. When we are immersed at baptism, symbolically the natural man is being laid into the grave, and then when we are brought again out of the water, we are born again. It is a process that began as we had faith in Christ, repented of our sins, and desired to take upon ourselves his name.

Just as when you are born to your physical parents, you take upon yourself your father’s name, so when you are born again at baptism, you begin the process of becoming one of the children of the covenant. As King Benjamin told his people, “And now because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7). We become spiritual children of Christ because we are made new and born again through his atonement.

We learn in Moses 6:59, “That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” Notice that physical birth involves blood, water, and spirit, and being born again uses the same three elements—blood, water and Spirit. In this case, Christ supplies the blood and water through his atoning sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross, and we are born again as the Spirit acts upon us and gradually changes our nature.

When we are baptized we are born again as the children of Christ, but our birth is not only accomplished with this ordinance. It is the beginning of a journey.

We need to come to the place so beautifully described by King Benjamin’s people:

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2).

Maurine Proctor
Born Again – Meridian Magazine

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November 2, 2015

Amulek, Book of Mormon, Caring for the Poor, King Benjamin

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In his great Atonement sermon, King Benjamin makes an explicit connection between retaining forgiveness of our sins and caring for the poor.

At the beginning of Mosiah 4, the Nephites respond to Benjamin’s sermon by begging for forgiveness – “And 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, and our hearts may be purified; 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)

Because of their repentance and fervent prayer, they receive forgiveness – “ And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” (Mosiah 4:3)

You might think that this would be enough.  The Nephites are free from sin.  But wise King Benjamin knows that their lives will go forward and they need further instruction on how to remain free from sin.

He tells them that they must continue to call upon God – “I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.” (Mosiah 4:11)

Benjamin also tells them if they do this, “ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 4:12)

He then tells them that if they are filled with the love of God, they will treat one another well and care properly for their children. (Mosiah 4:13-15)

Benjamin then tells the Nephites that if they are filled with the love of God, they will be diligent in caring for the poor.

“16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. ” (Mosiah 4:16-26)

I am always particularly struck by Verse 19 – “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?”

The blessings of caring for the poor as King Benjamin’s outlines are that we will “retain a remission” of our sins (Verses 12, 26), that the Atonement will continue to be of full effect in our lives.  This is not the only requirement to continue the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, but it is a very important requirement.

Amulek makes exactly the same point in his great Atonement sermon.

“ 28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.

29 Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men. ” (Alma 34:28-29)

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