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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The atonement, judgment by our works, and the works of the father

I want to point out the significant answers to two questions. Both issues are largely misunderstood. These are not side questions. The first question is:

1) Did Christ perform the atonement for the purpose that we might be judged according to our works?

2) When we are judged according to our works, will the question be whether we, like Christ, did the works of his father?

Both questions are answered by the Son of God himself. The first is answered in great detail.

3 Nephi 27:10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

So the purpose of the atonement was not to make it so that we WOULD NOT be judged by our works. The purpose of the atonement was to make it so that we WOULD be judged by our works.

The atonement was accomplished so that the judgment would be right and just. As an example, the scriptures point out that Christ's blood atones for those who sinned ignorantly, not knowing God's will concerning them.

Mosiah 3:10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.
11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.

If not even little children could be saved without the atonement, then the atonement is not merely a matter of excusing bad works. If it was necessary to make it possible for even little children to be saved, then the atonement was necessary to make it possible for the judgment to be just.
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We are all familiar with the teaching

Mosiah 3:19 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.

But we do not normally recognize that the teaching in 2 Nephi 9 is a direct consequence of it. That Mosiah 3:19 literally means that the natural man is an enemy to God and will be forever and ever until he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and puts of the natural man through the atonement of Christ.

2 Nephi 9:9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

Without the atonement man could not merit any good thing. That means there would be no "enticings of the Holy Ghost". The last verse cited sounds as if even the light of Christ would no longer shine on us, and we would consequently fall into the total darkness which the adversary lives in and remain there forever. And indeed, those who live without the atonement will experience exactly that. The will become devils and angels to a devil, and suffer the pains of a lake of fire and brimstone.

D&C 19:16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 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—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

This suffering is not physical, but it is the suffering of having lived like a devil and an angel to a devil and facing the suspense and consequent anguish of a just judgment to come.

Joseph Smith taught: There is no pain so awful as that of suspense. This is the punishment of the wicked; their doubt, anxiety and suspense cause weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. (TPJS pg 288)

Thus, yes, the atonement offers forgiveness. It offers forgiveness for those who were ignorant. It offers forgiveness on condition of repentance. What it does not offer is forgiveness independent of change and repentance. We are never clean of that which we are still in the habit of doing. Repentance is the condition on which forgiveness is offered.

Thus the atonement provides a means by which men can be judged of their works. Without it, not even little children could be saved and the judgment would not be just. But with it, we can be forgiven and cleansed if we are willing to hearken to the enticings of the holy spirit and put off the natural man, becoming a saint through the atonement of Christ. If our works are like those of 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, then when we are judged by our works it will be well with us.

A story in which the atonement is necessary so we WILL be judged by our works is radically different than a story in which the atonement is necessary so that we WILL NOT be judged by our works.

And Christ himself charactized the atonement as a means by which man could be judged of their works, not a means by which man would not be judged of their works.

3 Nephi 27:14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

And the reason that difference is critical is that he will only save us from our sins, he will not save us in them. He offers, through his atonement, a way for our works to be transformed, to become a saint through the atonement and become as a little child. Shy by our works being changed, there is no salvation for man to gain, for it is by our works that we will be judged. The atonement was performed so that we COULD be judged according to our works, and so that we could put off the natural man and become a saint. Not so that we could be judged by something other than our works.

And what works are we judged by? It is worth noting this teaching of the Savior.

D&C 93:5 I was in the world and received of my Father, and the works of him were plainly manifest.

What works were plainly manifest? The works of his father.

And now, let us return to the text we began with.

3 Nephi 27:10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

Thus, if we are living as we ought, then, just as the Savior, we will find the works of the father plainly manifest. Some may object to that, but it is not one iota different than the teaching:

D&C 84:65 And these signs shall follow them that believe—
66 In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
67 In my name they shall cast out devils;
68 In my name they shall heal the sick;
69 In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;
70 And the tongue of the dumb shall speak;
71 And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;
72 And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

Thus the question is not just whether our works were OK. When D&C 84:66 says that "in my name they shall do many wonderful works", it isn't referring to taking cookies to neighbors. It is referring to the works of the Father than were plainly manifest by Christ himself.

If we are going to be judged by our works, and if the idea is that, if the church is living as it ought then the works of the Father will be plainly manifest, then it is a dangerous thing to content ourselves one generation after another with ignoring the brethren's teaching that we live far beneath our privileges. If "these signs follow them that believe", let us live better, that when we are judged by our works, our works will testify that we believed. For God has said that the works of the father will be plainly manifest among those that believe.

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