Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The atonement, suffering and sin

This time in the worlds history is unrivaled in the ease, convenience, and comfort which is available to many.

But we seem to have more to say about our pain and suffering, and the difficulty of life. We, the regular members, seem far more obsessed about how to endure hardship than the authors of the Book of Mormon were.

We have become increasingly fascinated with our own mortal pains and difficulties. Our focus on this life, on the here and now, seems to be becoming increasingly greater than our focus on Eternal reward. Consequently our pains and trials, which affect our mortality, seem to be becoming much more interesting to us than our sins, which can affect our eternity.

Christ's teaching was marked in his greater concern for eternal matters than mortal ones. He often speaks of the irrelevance of mortal difficulties in view of eternal rewards.

His story of Lazarus and the rich man clothed in purple robes certainly illustrates that.

Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

His teachings in the sermon on the mount also show this.

Matt 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In fact, this emphasis on Eternal life as being the one dominant concern above all the concerns of this life is all through Christ's teachings.

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Here he actually tells people to rejoice when facing the most ironic and biting of mortal persecutions because they come with eternal reward.

Our increasing shift as a people in the opposite direction, to a focus from the eternal consequences of sin to a focus on mortal problems, is accompanied by a shift in our emphasis on the atonement. It is arguable that the atonement as a means of passing through trials has become a more frequently cited matter in our church meetings than the atonement as a redemption from sin.

Sins persist as offenses to God. Even one sin is enough to keep us out of the kingdom of Heaven. We don't have to be in the middle of committing a sin for that offense to be enough to keep us out. It is merely the fact that it ever happened. Thus we need a great intercession for sin. Someone who was sinless and would pay the redeeming price for us.

Sorrows, on the other hand, come and go. They wax and they wane. Some are trials, some are the consequences of our own follies. But sorrow itself has no bearing on whether or not we could enter the kingdom of Heaven. In particular, whether or not we have been sad at some time in the past has absolutely no bearing on whether we are worthy to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Christ never once sinned. But Christ was described in the scriptures as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief".

Everyone knows that not all suffering is the result of sin. However, the converse statement is universally true. One way or another, sin always brings sorrow.

If we really want to be focused primarily on how to get through our sorrows and trials, we should turn from focusing on our trials to overcoming our sins. That will allow Heavenly Father to give us greater spiritual support when trials come. More importantly while that route won't free us of all sorrows, it is certainly the only real route to greater peace and joy.

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