Sunday, January 12, 2020

Some Unusual Perspectives on the Atonement of Jesus Christ

            Below I examine some items related to the atonement of Jesus Christ. I forewarn readers that these are a little unusual, but are helpful to properly understand and have the right overall perspective when approaching them.

            The first relates to some false doctrine that occasionally rears its head with fringe types or misled fundamentalists that are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The second relates to what I have come to believe to be a meaningful clarification of doctrine, or at least doctrine that I have become satisfied within myself as to its correctness. The third relates to the issue of pain in the repentance process, something misunderstood by the world and dissident/extremist activist Latter-day Saints. We conclude with true teachings about the atonement by prophets.

We Will Not Atone for the Sins of Others

            I hope I do not surprise anyone by noting that over the almost two centuries over which The Restored Church of Jesus Christ has existed, that there have been occasions when some members, and even leaders, have believed and taught false doctrine. It happens in the true church of Jesus Christ simply because it is made up of fallible mortal people who sometimes get things wrong, and of course, Satan tries to influence covenant making and keeping church members in particular; if he can fool an influential Latter-day Saint, he can cause much harm.[1]

            One false doctrine is the concept that in order for a Latter-day Saint to become like God is now, they must undergo the experience of an atoning sacrifice themselves; they must suffer themselves for the sins of others.

            The justification for this notion arises from certain interpretations of a few obscure historical references. One of them is from historical material referenced in the Joseph Smith Papers Project. In presenting it here, I take the excerpt from a Joseph Smith Papers Project volume book review. I underline the relevant wording:

            On January 30, 1842, Wilford Woodruff wrote in his “Book of Revelations” notebook about a sermon Joseph Smith gave on deification that contains ideas that are typically associated with the later King Follett Discourse, although as the editor’s note, “Some ideas related to deification expressed here do not appear again in any later discourses” (page 128).

            "Jan 30[th] [1842] Joseph the Seer taught the following principles that the God & father of our Lord Jesus Christ was once the same as the Son or Holy Ghost bothaving [both having] redeemed a world became the eternal God of that world he had a son Jesus Christ who redeemed this earth the same as his father had a world which made them equal & the Holy Ghost would do the same in his turn & so would all the Saints [p. [3]] who inherited a Celestial glory so their would be Gods many & Lords many their were many mansions even 12 from the abode of Devils to the Celestial glory All Spirits that have bodies have power over those that have not hence men have power over Devils &c" (page 129.)

            A footnote here also states that “JS made similar statements regarding Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost in 1843 and 1844 but did not repeat in extant documents this teaching about ‘all the Saints’” (page 129, footnote 358).[2]

            As the thinking goes, to redeem an earth you have to endure the unimaginable infinite agony of an atoning sacrifice. Taken in conjunction with this source are two others that are (sort of) traceable to President Lorenzo Snow, but certainly do not represent settled doctrine. President Snow’s famous couplet, teaching that “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be,” which is true doctrine, has been incorrectly extrapolated to mean that to become as God now is, man must do what Jesus and His father did, which is ostensibly to atone or suffer for the sins of others.

            A side question arises, as to whom the “others” are. Elder McConkie taught that the atonement “applies to all the worlds of Christ’s creating.” Truman Madsen taught the same doctrine using different wording, that Jesus redeemed all those who are His spirit siblings, the spirit sons and daughters of our common Eternal Father in heaven. Madsen said: “If Christ himself was uniquely begotten and was the firstborn in the spirit, and if he was the Christ not only of this earth but also, as the Prophet taught later, of the galaxy, so before him the Father himself was a Redeemer, having worked out the salvation of souls of whom he was a brother, not a father. This is deep water. The conclusion is drawn by Joseph Smith in his King Follett discourse. Whatever else it may mean, and it is mind-boggling, it at least means this: The Father, by experience, knows exactly what his Son has been through. And the Son, by experience, knows exactly what the Father has been through.”

            While this doctrinal theorizing from these fine thinkers—that Elohim the Father wrought an atonement for all His siblings, and Jesus the Son did likewise for all of His—is very probably true, neither spoke formally for the Church. Further, it remains highly doubtful that President Snow’s couplet should be taken to include or encompass an atoning sacrifice in order for believers to become as God is (since Jesus is the only person who has atoned for others), or simply a successful probationary testing period of mortality as part of the plan of salvation that all who become gods must undergo. The fact is, Jesus has already atoned for all of us, His spirit brothers and sisters, and there is no need for other atoning sacrifices from any of Elohim’s spirit children. If we one day become as God now is, and give birth to a first-born spirit son, who becomes our only begotten son in the flesh, he may then have opportunity to work out an atonement for his spirit siblings living on earths that he created. (See JST, Revelation 2:26–27.)

            A third reference comes from the diary of Elder Orson F. Whitney (I researched and wrote a biography of him years ago so I am familiar with this material), which has an entry that relates part of a private 1887 conversation he had with Elder (and therefore not yet President) Lorenzo Snow: “He told me that he heard Joseph Smith tell a man once that he would become a God and reign in glory, but that before that he would have to be crucified as Christ was. That man is still living. . . .” The name of the man was not given and the diary entry is not a solid foundation on which to build a sturdy doctrinal house.

            The interpretation that some fringe speculators have put on this diary entry is that when Jesus was crucified he atoned for the sins of all mankind; he redeemed and saved those who will repent (which is true)—but that therefore all who will yet become gods must also be crucified. Part of the illogic presented here is the false doctrine of reincarnation, since no one (or at least no church member) in our dispensation has ever been crucified that I know of.

            As it happens, Elder Whitney, before undergoing a long and difficult repentance process, believed in reincarnation (or multiple mortal probations for the same spirit) for about three decades—a doctrine he later repudiated before his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The evident train of thought here represented would seem to be that mortals would live and die and be reborn and live and die and be reborn again and again and again until reaching some time in the eternities when they would rise to such a stature that they would be crucified as Christ was, atone for the sins of a world (or worlds), thereby redeeming it, and become a god to that world. If you don’t add reincarnation to this convoluted equation, it doesn’t work since no Latter-day Saints (or others) are ever crucified or suffer an atoning sacrifice. Church members today, or ever, simply do not suffer to redeem others as Jesus did.

            Some folks have and do believe this utter nonsense.[3] There are false teachers and prophets online and writing books that, despite all that the scriptures teach and all that modern prophets and apostles have emphatically taught, lead others far astray; some who love to savor the historically obscure and buy into the gunk and junk. Diary entries and discourse notes are not the canonized revelations that we must measure all doctrine against. Be it known that Orson Whitney later became either ashamed or embarrassed by many things he had written in his diary and ripped out entire pages and crossed out portions—some of which was done very near the quoted diary entry, which is why we only have a portion of it. (Be it also known that modern Apostles have extensively quoted Elder Whitney’s sound and solid doctrinal teachings.)

            Having this nutty doctrine in the back of my mind, I was pleasantly gratified to find Elder Jeffrey R. Holland teaching the following true doctrine, given to missionaries in the context of others suffering a small amount of what Christ suffered as they do His work and sacrifice to serve Him:

            It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

            Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

            And again:

            A disciple of Christ is somebody that walks where He walked. And says what He said. And feels what He feels. And sheds the tears He shed. On occasion the road to salvation always goes through the garden of Gethsemane. The road to salvation always goes to the summit of Calvary.

            You are not going to bleed from every pore. You are not going to be nailed to a cross. Don’t get me wrong, you are not going to be some grand atoner. But you are a disciple of Christ. You are going to have to experience a little of what He experienced.[4]

            It is always such a sweet and pleasing thing to hear or read the prophets, seers, and revelators teach the true doctrine of Christ and His atonement, and related matters. They have taken the scriptures and the Holy Spirit for their guide and by taking their counsel we can be saved from distractions or deviations with eternal consequences.

            So much for the nutty fringes operating outside solid and sound gospel teachings. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie observed, safety is found by staying in the mainstream of the Church.

We do not Atone for Our Own Unrepented Sin in the Spirit World

            This brings us to a matter of clarification regarding some peripheral atonement doctrine. Doctrine and Covenants 19 has some wording that I have pondered at some length because I may have misunderstood and therefore miss-taught it on a few former occasions.

            In this revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith we read:

Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink. . . (D&C 19:15-18).

            While I couldn’t say for sure, I may have believed and taught that these passages intent is to tell us that if we don’t sincerely and fully repent of our own sins in this life that we will have to suffer or atone for them in the next life, undergoing the same infinite incomprehensible agony that Christ suffered in the garden and on the cross.

            I am indebted to an insightful article (found in the BYU RSC Religious Educator) by Chris Porter, a former Seminary teacher, for prodding my mind to further thought on this subject. I now conclude, and trust I am right, that we will have to suffer even as Jesus did (perhaps in some cases even to the same extent He did; I do not know) but not as an atonement for our own sins. The main point being that Christ is the great atoner, we are not. We will have to suffer because we did not repent, but that suffering will not become an effectual atoning or redeeming kind of suffering that takes away our sins—only God could do that. I realize some may view this as a fine line or unimportant doctrinal distinction, but I thought it worthwhile in refining and improving my own gospel understanding.

            From the Porter article[5]:

            The verses cited above in Doctrine and Covenants 19 compare the suffering of the unrepentant to Christ’s suffering in the garden, but they do not imply that this suffering will have the same redeeming or atoning effect. Some may conclude that the intense suffering described in section 19 will be sufficient to completely satisfy the demands of justice, hence allowing unrepentant sinners to make up for their own sins; however, the suffering that originates from recognizing the debt created by our sins is not synonymous with an actual payment of that debt. To comprehend the doctrine taught by section 19, one must first consider whether fallen, mortal beings are capable of paying the price of sin.

            According to President Joseph Fielding Smith, “The effect of Adam’s transgression was to place all of us in the pit with him. Then the Savior comes along, not subject to that pit, and lowers the ladder.” Clearly, individuals who have fallen into a deep pit are incapable of lowering their own ladder or escape rope; as the Book of Mormon teaches, “Since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself” (Alma 22:14). President Joseph Fielding Smith taught simply, “Since we were all under the curse [of the Fall], we were also powerless to atone for our individual sins.” President Joseph F. Smith stated, “Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins.” In order to receive a remission of sin, every man, woman and child born into a fallen world is entirely dependent on him who is neither subject to the Fall nor to any personal sins. As the hymn declares, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heav’n and let us in.”

            And further:

            In discussing this point, one should not assume that the rebellious can avoid suffering altogether in this life or the next through hasty, insincere repentance. The rebellious must be changed, and this change cannot come about effortlessly. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “Repentance means suffering. If a person hasn't suffered, he hasn’t repented. . . . He has got to go through a change in his system whereby he suffers and then forgiveness is a possibility.” Undoubtedly, the suffering that leads to repentance will be of varying degrees depending on the extent of wickedness and pride. In the seventh chapter of Moses, Enoch sees the God of heaven weeping over the extreme wickedness of the inhabitants of the earth which “shall perish in the floods” (verse 38). God speaks of their suffering (verse 37) and the “prison . . . prepared for them” (verse 38) but then gives this instructive conclusion: “Wherefore, [Christ] suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment” (verse 39; emphasis added).

            Alma the younger’s experience is one of the great illustrations of the principle that sin leads to pain and suffering of a kind. As part of his (mortal) personal repentance process, Alma was tormented: “And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul” (Alma 36:12-17). This speaks of the exquisite “pains” of a soul that had to be changed. Alma did his repenting in mortality, but seems to have undergone a similar process to that described in section 19 that spirits must suffer—incomprehensibly severe spiritual pain. (See also Elder Hales general conference talk here.)

            One reason, among others, that I address this subject is that I am often running into inaccurate or poor understandings of pain—in social media, newspaper articles, media websites, blogs, comment forums, and activist musings or declarations. They often call for the end of people having to experience some or any kind of pain, usually spiritual or emotional. LGBT activists, especially, are so often shouting down or revolting against anything that would cause a practicing LGBT person any pain.

            When any person breaks the law of chastity—commits very serious sin—they eventually have to repent of it or endure the consequences stated in section 19 and D&C 138. This is spiritual law, not a social club’s arbitrary rules that can be changes at some liberal/progressive activist’s whim. As President Oaks taught: “Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some.” And: “A person engaging in that kind of behavior should well feel guilt. They should well feel themselves estranged from God, who has given commandments against that kind of behavior. It’s not surprising to me that they would feel estranged from their church. What surprises me is that they would feel that the Church can revoke God’s commandments.”

            I ponder these principles and attendant consequences occasionally when I see an activist loudly calling for the cessation of anything that causes any kind of pain, or criticizing the church for maintaining its standards of moral conduct. (When they criticize His Church, they are criticizing Him.) How little they realize what is in store for them, whether in this life or the next.

Some Pain is Part of Partaking of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

            Some true doctrine that Elder Whitney taught and attributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “They [rebellious and wayward children of temple-sealed righteous parents] will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain.”[6] Illustrating this sometimes unwanted and uncomfortable but eternal truth, that a degree of pain is part of (often the beginning of) the repentance process, especially for serious sin, is the experience of those who have (thankfully!) chosen to return to the gospel and the Church after serious transgression. As Church leaders have related—and those sinners who have experienced it can attest—it is indeed a thorny and painful path back to full fellowship (whether in this life or the next).

            A General Authority shared this person’s experience with BYU students:

            Not too long ago, I received a letter from the office of the Council of the Twelve authorizing me to interview a man to determine whether he was worthy to receive a restoration of blessings. Attached to that assignment letter were two pages of information about this individual. In reading these pages, I learned, among other things, that the man was a former Melchizedek Priesthood holder; that he had received his temple endowment years before; and that he had once been sealed to his wife and family. Moreover, I learned that the man had transgressed seriously several years ago and that, because of his transgressions, he had been excommunicated from the Church. Such excommunication resulted in his loss of membership, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, holy priesthood, endowment, and temple sealing. All of these sacred privileges and blessings had either been cancelled or withdrawn.

            On the appointed day and hour, I met with the man. With him was his lovely wife. Once the greetings and niceties had been exchanged, I invited my fried to tell me his story. He told me of his conversion and of his varied activities in the Church. He told me about his first wife, his first marriage, and the subsequent birth of three children. He also told me of his love for his family and his desire to provide them with security and with the luxuries of life. Then, with some display of emotion, he told me how his strong urge to gather these material things had caused him to neglect his wife and children. In time serious problems had developed between the man and his mate, and she had asked for a divorce.

            The divorce was obtained. Feeling that his world had collapsed around him, the man lost all interest in life. He therefore sold his business, moved to a new location, and began to live after the way of the world. He drowned himself in drink, he turned to the use of tobacco, and he became heavily involved in sex. One affair led to another. Each nefarious incident caused him to sink deeper and deeper into the mire of sin.

            Then he met a woman who was different. She had principles and standards and lived accordingly. He courted her for a brief time, and they were married.

            A month or so after their marriage, the wife startled her husband by asking, “Why is it that I catch glimpses of goodness and greatness in you and then they’re gone?” She added, “Sometimes I feel as if I’m married to only half a man.” The husband was moved by what his wife had said and replied, “I suppose it is time I leveled with you. I am a Mormon—a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He then explained to his wife what that Church membership had once meant to him. He spoke also of the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel. He described the priesthood and his temple marriage and sealing to his former companion.

            When the explanations were over, the wife was crying. She told her husband that she had never heard anything quite so beautiful. She asked, “How can we bring those blessings back into your life so that they will remain?” He told her he would need to seek out a bishop, confess his sins, submit to court proceedings, and undergo a rather lengthy period of repentance. The woman said, “Whatever the price, we will pay it. And we will begin right now.”

            As the man had predicted, once a bishop had been located, a court was held, and he was stripped of all of his blessings. But as this good woman had committed, they climbed together the long path back. They had struggled for four years before he was rebaptized and finally given the gift of the Holy Ghost.

            At the conclusion of this successful interview, I restored the man’s blessings, including the priesthood, an office within that priesthood, the temple endowment, and the temple sealing. As soon as I had pronounced the “Amen,” the woman rushed into her husband’s arms and declared, “Now I have a complete man—a whole man!”

            Notice how the fact that a price (of pain and struggle) has to be paid is mentioned as part of the process. President M. Russell Ballard shared the following; it is instructive to recognize words like trauma, agony, shock, hurt, and pain as they are mentioned by those who endured them:

            The trauma of being disfellowshipped or excommunicated from the Church will likely never be fully understood by those who have never experienced it. One man said, “The shock I felt was terrible.” But he knew it was the Lord’s will. “I could feel the spirit of concerned brethren in the room as I was told the decision of the council,” he said. “I felt only love and compassion.”

            Still, the pain was hard to bear. “Left to cope with the anguish and grief inside me, I cried, I prayed, I lay awake at night afraid that I would lose my wife and children forever. Although I continued to counsel with my bishop, I felt alone, with rebellion in my heart many times and feelings of guilt because of this rebellion. …

            “As I look back now, working through each personal challenge was terribly difficult but necessary, and the whole process was a great blessing to me. … Repentance is something that each individual must find for himself or herself, in process of time.”

            Friends and family are vitally important for an individual who is struggling to return to the gospel path. Those around such a person must refrain from judging. They must do all they can to show love. The Lord has commanded, “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

            “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:9–10.)

            A woman who had been a Relief Society president tells of the love and support she received during a painful period of disfellowshipment. “When the brethren of the council listened to me, I could feel love as I had never felt it before. They all wept with me.”

            Although she initially felt as if her heart would “break into a million pieces,” the next day a comforting spirit returned, and she realized that she would not be abandoned.

            One of the most difficult things for her was going to church the next Sunday, even though it was much easier than she had thought. The bishop made a point of shaking her hand. With words and without, priesthood leaders who had participated on the council expressed their concern and love. No one else knew. “There was no sign of disrespect,” she says.

            As the weeks and months passed, she found that her pain and suffering were actually aiding the cleansing and healing process. In fact, her pain and suffering served a necessary purpose in the process of healing. And the pain that her family experienced was relieved somewhat through the kind and thoughtful attention extended to them by others.

            With agony she acknowledges, “Every member of the Church must realize that he or she is capable of sinning. How I have paid for fooling myself about what I was doing!”

            We must constantly guard our thoughts. Serious sin almost always begins with unworthy thoughts. Some years ago at the direction of the First Presidency, I interviewed a man for the restoration of his priesthood and temple blessings. This brother had been excommunicated while serving in an important calling in his ward. While we visited, I asked him, “How did this all happen?”

            In very sober terms he said, “It all began when I picked up a pornographic magazine and read it. From this subtle beginning, I was led to more and more erotic thingsincluding R- and X-rated films and videotapesuntil I committed adultery with a prostitute.”

            He continued, “As I look back, I can hardly believe I did those awful things. But I did them, and it all started by reading a pornographic magazine. Brother Ballard, tell the Saints to be careful what they read and what they see on television, movies, and videos.”

            A sister who was disciplined after years of faithful service and devotion to the Church said: “I had no idea I was capable of committing such a serious transgression. I had assumed that if I knew something was wrong, I would never do it. Little did I understand the sometimes strange dynamics of human behavior, or what I was capable of.”

            Never forget that. Satan is real, and he has the power to “grasp” mortals “with his everlasting chains … and [lead] them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Ne. 28:19, 21.). . .

            To you who have not yet returned, who may still be struggling with the hurt and haven’t yet felt the healing: please allow yourself to feel the love that the Lord, his presiding authorities, and your friends in the Church feel for you. We are aware of your pain, and we pray for your healing and your return.

            President Kimball taught:

Certainly we must realize that penalties for sin are not a sadistic desire on the part of the Lord, and that is why when people get deep in immorality or other comparable sins, there must be action by courts [Disciplinary Councils] with proper jurisdiction. Many people cannot repent until they have suffered much. They cannot direct their thoughts into new clean channels. They cannot control their acts. They cannot plan their future properly until [after] they have lost values [blessings] that they did not seem to fully appreciate. Therefore, the Lord has prescribed excommunication, disfellowshipment, or probation, and this is in line with Alma’s statement that there could be no repentance without suffering, and many people cannot suffer, having not come to a realization of their sin and a consciousness of their guilt.

            Other Church leaders have taught likewise; see President Hinckley; President Oaks—“The truly repentant sinner who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been through a process of personal pain and suffering for sin”; Elder Theodore M. Burton; Elder Bruce C. Hafen; Elder Neal A. Maxwell; Elder Marion D. Hanks; Elder Neal L. Andersen—“Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience.” These are but a few of many others that could be shared.

            It seems that those who call for a cessation or absence of pain as a consequence of sin are contravening the most important eternal truths involved with the repentance process, forgiveness, and the atonement of Jesus Christ that can fix it all.

The Prophets Teach and Define the Atonement

            Speaking of the atonement, and better defining it, President Russell M. Nelson taught:

            As Latter-day Saints, we refer to His mission as the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which made resurrection a reality for all and made eternal life possible for those who repent of their sins and receive and keep essential ordinances and covenants.

            It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as “the Atonement” or “the enabling power of the Atonement” or “applying the Atonement” or “being strengthened by the Atonement.” These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

            Under the Father’s great eternal plan, it is the Savior who suffered. It is the Savior who broke the bands of death. It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance. It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death.

            There is no amorphous entity called “the Atonement” upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come. The Savior’s atoning sacrificethe central act of all human historyis best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him. . . .

            As we invest time in learning about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, we are drawn to participate in another key element to accessing His power: we choose to have faith in Him and follow Him.

            True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.

            I hope the foregoing items relating to the atonement of Jesus Christ can have the same effect on others that they have had on me—to further refine and improve my understanding and appreciation of the magnificent doctrine and power of the atonement of Jesus Christ; what Elder McConkie stated was: “the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel” and yet declaring that “it is the least understood of all our revealed truths”—least understood is quite the wake-up call for improvement. “Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life” he taught.

            Finally, President Boyd K. Packer taught this atonement doctrine:

            Before the Crucifixion and afterward, many men have willingly given their lives in selfless acts of heroism. But none faced what Christ endured. Upon Him was the burden of all human transgression, all human guilt. And hanging in the balance was the Atonement. Through His willing act, mercy and justice could be reconciled, eternal law sustained, and that mediation achieved without which mortal man could not be redeemed.

            He by choice accepted the penalty in behalf of all mankind for the sum total of all wickedness and depravity; for brutality, immorality, perversion, and corruption; for addiction; for the killings and torture and terrorfor all of it that ever had been or all that ever would be enacted upon this earth. In so choosing He faced the awesome power of the evil one, who was not confined to flesh nor subject to mortal pain. That was Gethsemane!

            How the Atonement was wrought we do not know. No mortal watched as evil turned away and hid in shame before the Light of that pure being. All wickedness could not quench that Light. When what was done was done, the ransom had been paid. Both death and hell forsook their claim on all who would repent. Men at last were free. Then every soul who ever lived could choose to touch that Light and be redeemed.

            By this infinite sacrifice, “through [this] Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3). (Ensign, March 2008, 15.)

[1] In substantiation I note that the writings of two women that are evidently somehow still members of the Church, Peggy Stack and Jana Riess, regularly appear in the Salt Lake Tribune, and contain much false doctrine and worldly philosophizing and activism. Further, I note that one of the more popular “Mormon”-related online podcasters is an excommunicated member that is devoting his life to destroying faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. He celebrates apostasy.
[3] I have seen books written to promote this doctrine. One that I perused used many quotations from authorities that did not actually say what the author wanted them to say. In fact the author was so ashamed of his work that he refused to put his name on his book, so it has a title but no author. This simply is not how doctrine is taught to the Church. It is however how the devil promotes false doctrine.
[4] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, unpublished transcript of small portion of MTC address, January 23, 2016.
[5] “”They Must Suffer Even As I’: Misconceptions concerning Personal Payment for Sin,” The Religious Educator 20, no. 1 (2019).
[6] I realize this quote talks about these wayward children “suffering for their sins,” but this may not mean atoning for them, but rather suffering because of their sins.

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