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 3, 2017

Nibley, Reconciliation, Rescue

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The word atonement appears only once in the New Testament (Rom. 5:11 in the King James Version), and in the Revised Standard Version it does not appear at all, the translators preferring the more familiar word reconciliation. (See also footnote to Rom. 5:11 in the LDS edition of the King James Version.) Reconciliation is a very good word for atonement there, since it means literally to be seated again with someone (re-con-silio)—so that atonement is to be reunited with God, just as Paul said: “[The Lord] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High.”

The Greek word translated as “reconciliation” is katallagein. It is a business term, which the lexicon tells us means “exchange, esp. of money; … change from enmity to friendship, reconciliation; … reconciliation of sinners with God. 2 It is the return to the status ante quo, whether as a making of peace or a settlement of debt.

The monetary metaphor is by far the most common, being the simplest and easiest to understand. Hence, frequently the word redemption literally means “to buy back”—that is, to reacquire something you owned previously. Thus, Moses said: “But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh.” (Deut. 7:8.)

By redemption, someone has paid a price to get you off, restoring you to a former, happier condition. But the frequent use of the commercial analogy is not out of reverence for trade and commerce—just the opposite, in fact. The redeemed are bought to clear them of all worldly obligation by paying off the world in its own currency, after which it has no further claim on the redeemed.

The Greek equivalent is lutrosis, a ransoming. Paul tells the Saints to prepare for the salvation that has been made available by disengaging from this world—“denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”—so that God “might redeem [lutrosetai] us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people.” (Titus 2:12, 14.)

Salvation likewise means “rescue” (soteria, also rendered “deliverance”). Another expression is “for a price,” the word being time, “that which is paid in token or worth of value.” He paid for us what he thought we were worth so he could join us with him.

Hugh W. Nibley

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 1,” Ensign, Jul 1990, 18

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June 25, 2017

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

Comments Off on The Atonement – At Work Every Moment of Our Lives

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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June 23, 2017

Covenants, Nibley, Sacrifice

Comments Off on The Atonement is Either Dead to Us or in Full Effect

If we would have God “apply the atoning blood of Christ” (Mosiah 4:2) to our case, we can also reject it. We can take advantage of it, or we can refuse it. The Atonement is either dead to us or in full effect. It is the supreme sacrifice made for us, and to receive it, we must live up to every promise and covenant related to it—the Day of Atonement was the day of covenants, and the place was the temple.

We cannot keep ourselves chaste in a casual and convenient way, nor can we accept chastity as St. Augustine did, as to be operative at some future time—“God give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” 1 We cannot enjoy optional obedience to the laws of God, or place our own limits on the law of sacrifice, or mitigate the charges of righteous conduct connected with living the gospel. We cannot be willing to sacrifice only that which is convenient to part with, and then expect a reward. The Atonement is everything; it is not to be had “on the cheap.” God is not mocked in these things; we do not make promises and covenants with mental reservations. Unless we keep our covenants, Satan has power over us—a condition we can easily recognize by the mist of fraud and deception that has enveloped our whole society.

Hugh W. Nibley

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 4,” Ensign, Oct 1990, 26

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March 21, 2017

Nibley, Repentance, Tests

Comments Off on The gospel of repentance is a constant reminder that the most righteous are still being tested

Thoughts on Repentance by Hugh Nibley:

You are either repenting or not repenting and that is, according to the scriptures, the whole difference between being righteous or being wicked.

“Great Are the Words of Isaiah,” in Old Testament and Related Studies, 217
.

The gospel of repentance is a constant reminder that the most righteous are still being tested and may yet fall, and that the most wicked are not yet beyond redemption and may still be saved. And that is what God wants: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?”

There are poles for all to see, but in this life no one has reached and few have ever approached either pole, and no one has any idea at what point between his neighbors stand. Only God knows that.

“The Prophetic Book of Mormon,” vol. 8, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, 462
.

Does not one person need repentance more than another? Ezra and Baruch protested to God that while Israel had sinned, the Gentiles had acted much worse, and asked why they should be let off so much more easily. But God was not buying that argument.

You can always find somebody who is worse than you are to make you feel virtuous. It’s a cheap shot: those awful terrorists, perverts, communists—they are the ones who need to repent!

Yes, indeed they do, and for them repentance will be a full-time job, exactly as it is for all the rest of us.

“Great Are the Words of Isaiah,” The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 1, 217
(paragraphs inserted to enhance online readability)

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February 9, 2017

Fall, Nibley

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

Hugh Nibley

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January 11, 2017

Joy, Nibley, Repentance

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We are commanded to be joyful because he has borne our sorrows. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief so that we need not be. Our own sins and limitations are the things that make us sad. He had no sins and limitations; he was not sad for his sake, but wholly for ours. Only one could suffer for others who did not deserve to suffer for himself.

If we remain gloomy after what he did for us, it is because we do not accept what he did for us. If we suffer, we deserve to suffer because there is no need for it if we only believe in him.

Hugh Nibley
“Prophets and Glad Tidings,” Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 8:259

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November 21, 2016

Fundamental Principles, Nibley

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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.

Hugh Nibley

“The Meaning of the Atonement,” CWHN 9:603 Approaching Zion

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October 28, 2016

Nibley, Repentance

Comments Off on The Righteous are Whoever are Repenting

[W]ho are the righteous and who are the wicked? We may think we have an easy answer to that one, but it is not the answer that the scriptures give us.

The righteous are whoever are repenting, and the wicked whoever are not repenting. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee” who gave thanks to God that he was not a crook or a lecher, that he fasted twice a week, paid a full tithe, and was very strict in his religious observances. All this was perfectly true. The other man was a tax collector and rather ashamed of some of the things he had done, and instead of thanking God by way of boasting, he only asked God to be merciful to him, a sinner (see Luke 18:10–13). The surprise is that the sinner was the righteous one—because he was repenting; the other one who “exalteth himself shall be abased”—because he was not repenting (Luke 18:14). None but the truly penitent are saved, and that is who the righteous are (see Alma 42:22–24).

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Hugh Nibley
Scriptural Perspectives on How to Survive the Calamities of the Last Days
BYU Studies 25 (Winter 1985): 7-27

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October 13, 2016

Fundamental Principles, Nibley, Preexistence, Rescue

Comments Off on Volunteering to Go Down and Pay the Price

Joseph Smith took the gospel of Christ back even before Abraham to Adam and beyond, revealing the Atonement as “the plan of redemption … prepared from the foundation of the world” (Alma 12:30)—that is, when it was approved at the Council in Heaven. This event is often mentioned in the earliest Christian and Jewish literature, 13 one of the most notable texts being the “Discourse on Abbaton” by Timothy, Archbishop of Alexandria (circa a.d. 380). 14 When the plan was voted on, according to this account and others, it was turned down. The earth herself complained, as in the Book of Moses and other Enoch literature, of the defilement it would bring upon her, knowing the kind of inhabitants to come (see Moses 7:48–49); and the heavenly host objected to a plan that would cause such a vast amount of sin and suffering.

The Only Begotten broke the deadlock by volunteering to go down and pay the price. This opened the way; the plan could go forward; and the sons of God and the morning stars all sang and shouted for joy (see Job 38:7) in a great creation hymn that has left an indelible mark in ancient literature and ritual. The Lord had made it all possible, leaving men their agency, and obeying the Father in all things. But Satan and his followers refused to accept the majority vote; for that, Satan was deprived of his glory in a reversal of the ritual endowment and was cast out of heaven, which was the reverse of at-one-ment. 15

Only in such a context does the Atonement, otherwise so baffling, take on its full significance. There is not a word among those translated as “atonement” which does not plainly indicate the return to a former state or condition; one rejoins the family, returns to the Father, becomes united, reconciled, embracing and sitting down happily with others after a sad separation. We want to get back, but to do that, we must resist the alternative: being taken into the community of “the prince of this world.” (John 12:31.)

Hugh W. Nibley

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 2” Ensign, Aug 1990, 30

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August 12, 2016

Nibley, Repentance

Comments Off on A Righteous Person is One Who is Repenting

A righteous person is one who is repenting; a wicked person is one who is not repenting.

A righteous man is not one who is all good. There is no such person at all. We have all this mixture. And a wicked man is not one who is all bad. We don’t have any of either.

If you are repenting, it’s like being on the stairway. A person at the bottom of the stairs facing up is better off than the person at the top of the stairs facing down, if it’s the way of repentance. So this is what we are told. It’s never too late, and that’s a marvelous thing.

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Hugh Nibley
Teachings of the Book of Mormon
(Paragraph breaks added to enhance online readability)

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