“The Meaning of the Atonement” by W. Cleon Skousen
…I have always been puzzled, as a boy, by the Easter story. I used to sit there in Sunday School in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, and they told me how Jesus suffered on the cross. That just left a lot of questions in my mind.
Here is a beautiful, beautiful person—the son of our Heavenly Father—he’s up on that cross. He has a crown made of thorns on his. Dried blood down his face. He’s been all lacerated by a cat-of-nine-tails. He’s got spikes in his hands and in his wrists and in his feet. He is all sweaty and bloody and he hanging there on the cross.
I wanted to know what that’s for. I wanted to know what that does. What does that help do? And who wanted that anyway? Everybody says its necessary, I want to know why and what it accomplishes and what he’s doing up there. The Romans crucified a lot of people, but why the son of God? What was this for? Why was this prophesied—did Enoch say he would die on a cross? I used to say that every Easter.
So when I got on my mission, age 17, I’m riding on a train in England with an apostle of the Lord, John A.Widstoe. He was sitting there like all mission presidents do, worrying about the conference with the missionaries and so on. He was very quiet and meditative when I leaned over and said, “Brother Widtsoe, can I ask you a question?” He seemed a bit startled and looked up at me and said, “Yes?” I knew I had suddenly awakened him from a revere of meditation on something. Elder Widtsoe was also a very famous scientist.
I said to him, “I just wanted to ask you about why the Atonement was necessary. I accept the fact this it is, but I just wondered why. I wondered what caused it to have the Father require the Son to go through this.”
Brother Widtsoe thought a moment and then replied, “Elder Skousen, who asked you to ask me this question?”
I answered, “Well, nobody. It’s my question. Nobody asked me to ask it.”
He said, “I’m not asked that question very often. Do you really want to know why the Atonement was necessary?”
I replied, “Well, if its alright.”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s alright. How badly do you want to know the answer?”
I said, “Well, I’ve wanted to know it ever since I was a little boy.”
Brother Widtsoe said, “Alright. You know, if people don’t ask questions, they can’t hear the answer.” He continued, “So I will share the answer with you over a period of time.”
I told him I really appreciated that, and got out my pencil told him that if he would give me the verses I would right them down.
He said, “Well, I will tell you what to look for and I’ll tell you which standard work its in.” I asked, “aren’t’ you going to give me the chapter and verse?”
He answered, “I wouldn’t deprive you of the thrill of finding it.”
So he told me what to look for, and what was the source of God’s power—and this is where you’ll find it in the early part of the Doctrine and Covenants. And here is where Jesus asked if he couldn’t get out of it, and this is in several passages in the New Testament. It will say these things and you look for that. Then you will find some very basic scientific truths located in Second Nephi and here is what it will tell you.
Did you know it took me seven years before I had located all those passages! Each time I would thereafter see Elder Widtsoe both on and off my mission I would report in.
He would say, “Well, you are doing pretty good. I’ll give you the section of D&C. Try 88 or 29 or whatever it was. So I would look, and there it was-there it was! I had read right past it several times and missed it.
Finally I had it all written up, put it together and sent him a copy. He said, “Alright now, we need to get some of these things back into the main stream of thought because the Latter-day Saints aren’t doing what the prophet Jacob said to do.” He said we ought to talk more about the Atonement and why it is necessary…
As we come to the conclusion of this beautiful Sabbath day, I want to express my personal appreciation for the privilege of being a guest in such a pleasant place with such a sweet spirit, and this beautiful music sung concerning one of our favorite scriptures is so appropriate for the subject that I would hope to have a blessing of the Lord in discussing tonight.
It was Alma’s declaration that he wished he had the voice of an angel so he could just sound like a trump and stop people in their tracks, so that after everything the four sons of Mosiah had done to convert thousands of Lamanites, kings, queens and just thousands of them that they had brought over to join the Nephites, he just wished he could stop the Lamanites from coming in and attacking them. That he had the voice of an angel to just trumpet to them to repent like their brothers had. And then he said, “Well, I shouldn’t be wishing for something beyond what God has called me to.” Then the war occurred. It was the worst war in the history of the children of Lehi.
As I was sitting here I could not help but think of the voice of another angel that spoke to you from this pulpit, I think Dec. 19, 1971. That angelic voice could hardly express itself. It was almost difficult to understand. It had undergone a very severe operation that had almost robbed that voice of articulation. He was so weak in speech that the First Presidency didn’t even want him to come, but this was his stake and he wasn’t going to miss the dedication of this beautiful stake center in his stake. So he came here, his throat all sore from cobalt burns and so forth, and he spoke the very best he could. His heart was so bad he had to sit up all night. You wouldn’t have known that because he was so spry and enthusiastic and expressed himself the best he could. he just wouldn’t have missed this.
In talking to President Wrede today, and President and Sister Lyons, they told me some of the beautiful and exciting things that happened here behind the scenes. This wonderful man thought he was coming here to tell you farewell, He thought that was the end. he was leaving here to have his open-heart surgery. His voice was almost gone, and when it was suggested to him that he might yet serve the Lord as Prophet, he said, “No, no, Brother Lee is next and he will live a long time, outlive us older Apostles.”
Almost three years to the week, that angel’s voice was called to speak to every nation, kindred, tongue and people as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He grew up in this valley. He has your spirit, this valley has his spirit. I feel it here, you have his spirit.You were a blessing to him and he was a blessing to you. I honor the name of President Kimball this night, for the voice that is one of the most effective, penetrating calls to repentance this generation has ever heard.
I have to smile at my students, when President Kimball comes to BYU they can hardly wait. They want to get out early from class so they can be sure to get a seat, because when he speaks at BYU we always have 2000 more turn out than the Marriott Center will hold, so everyone waits to get a seat instead of a step. I don’t think the Fire Marshall ever comes to these meetings. I think he listens to it on the radio so he won’t embarrass anybody.
Well, anyway, it’s kind of interesting to watch. They go enthusiastically, they want to hear the Prophet. They love Brother Kimball. Then as he comes in he waves to the students, so full of good will and love towards them.
Then he starts in on the miracle of forgiveness. I’ve never counted how many sins there are that he knows about, I don’t think he has left any of them out. It’s amazing what happens to you—everybody loves to hear the gospel. Me, I just love to hear a talk on repentance, just don’t be too specific. The general thing is beautiful, but when you start getting a prophet going down though the elements of misfeasance and malfeasance and all the things that are possible, you just realize that we are imperfect human beings. And while we are living some things pretty good, over here there’s a great big area that needs attention.
So I notice and say to my students, “My, you were sober when you went out of that meeting and your ‘Amen’ was kind of quiet,” but that is because he touches them. Our people are becoming stronger, more spiritual because of the voice of that angel.
When he was having his larynx operated upon in New York, the doctor said, “Don’t worry about it, we will take care of it. It’s a little inconvenient not to have your voice, but we will work up something as a substitute, it isn’t that big a thing.”
The Prophet looked at him and said, “Doctor, how would you like to lose your hands!”
The surgeon said, “I apologize, I apologize. It is a great loss, But we will do everything that we can to save that voice.”
And so, while it his been strained—I noticed at conference in October, especially at the Sunday morning session, he was just barely able to get the energy to make that instrument in there work. But, my, we prayed for him, we pleaded with the Lord to give him the strength to be able to finish the conference. Sweet Spirit.
Now, tonight, I would like to share with you some things that are beautiful and powerful and almost lost to the church, which President Kimball introduced at the Priesthood meeting on Saturday night, the Second of April.
There are many profound and beautiful things that have been restored with the Gospel that are not often discussed. Sometimes when they are discussed you will hear people say, “Well, then why don’t the Brethren talk about that more?” Well, the Brethren, usually, when they are heard at conference, are talking to the world, if you get the Brethren in a cloistered setting of priesthood, such as were here Saturday night, you’ll hear it. And we will be getting to hear more and more of it. If there are a group of missionaries with one of the general authorities, they’ll open up on the great, profound truths of the Gospel that are not generally discussed when the Brethren are talking to the world. They are very sacred.
President Kimball introduced one Saturday night that I want to comment upon tonight briefly, because it’s the whole foundation of Easter that’s never discussed. We just don’t talk about it, and we are the only people that have got the book that talks about it. And we’ve almost lost it as a doctrine in the Church. So I was quite thrilled when President Kimball introduced it.
He said, “You know, I want everyone to understated that in this life we have a very limited amount of Priesthood authority to function with. There are many ordinances that as yet must be given to us in the next world. One of them will be the ordinance of resurrection.”
We’re not allowed to perform that ordinance here. It’s an ordinance of the Priesthood. We’ll get it over there; over in the next life we will also have the ordinance of begetting spirit children with our resurrected bodies. That’s something that we have no capacity or power to do here; physical bodies, yes, but not spirit.
Then he got on to a theme that I’m sure may have sounded a little strange to some ears. Then he said that you will be able to have access to the intelligences in the universe and organize them and make planets and organize kingdoms. Now this is a beautiful doctrine. It’s time we discuss it a little bit more, because if we understand this principle, it will help us to comprehend why there had to be an atonement.
I don’t know whether this bothers you or not, but as I was a little boy sitting in Sunday School in Canada, and they talked about the terrible suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, I would say to my Sunday School teachers, “Who wanted that? What was all that suffering for?”
Everyone talks all about the suffering, what was it for? Who was it to Satisfy? And my teacher said it was to satisfy Heavenly Father. That didn’t answer my childish questions either. It seemed like if Heavenly Father wanted us to come down on this earth, after we’d repented, he’d just say, “Come on back up, you did the best you could.” What did we need all that suffering for? And all my life, at least until I went on my mission, I asked those questions.
One day I was riding along with President Widsoe in charge of the European missions. I was only seventeen when I was called on my mission, and I thought this was my chance to ask Brother Widsoe all those questions that had been on my mind since a little boy. So I asked him, “Why did Jesus have to suffer on the cross?”
He said, “Who told you to ask me that question?”
I said, “Well, I’ve always wondered it, nobody told me, I just wondered it.”
He said. “Is this your question?”
I said “Yes,” and I thought maybe I had violated a mission rule.
He said, “if it is your question, I’ll answer it. This is the most profound question of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it shouldn’t be answered unless people are capable of at first wondering about it so they can hear the answer.”
Then he said, “I’ll tell you where to start studying and where to start reading.”
So I did, and when I began to get the picture, It was mostly in the Book of Mormon. Nearly all of it was in the Book of Mormon. So I read quite a bit, and towards the end of my mission I thought I had it pretty well figured out, and I got a chance to ask Brother Widsoe, “Can I report to you on my studies of the Atonement?”
“Yes,” he said, “you can. Let me hear it.”
So I reported.
“Well, you see,” he said, “you need about four more passages and they will tell you this and this and this.”
“Oh,” I said, “that’s wonderful. I’ve been spending so much time on this, I’m awfully glad I asked you. Where are they located?”
He said, “I wouldn’t deprive you of the thrill of finding them.”
“President Widsoe, you mean I have to dig these out?!”
He said, “I’ll tell you the general area. Now this first one is in the first half of the D&C, and another one is found in the middle of the Book of Mormon….”
Well, he had them all spread out so that I had to read practically the whole standard works again. It took me seven years to find them and it was so thrilling when I finally found them, and he said, “Yes, that’s the picture.”
It was so thrilling and this, the general theme and foundation of it, was what President Kimball was talking about at Priesthood. He didn’t identify it and associate it with the subject of the Atonement per se, but it’s the foundation of it.
Now this isn’t written up in many places in Church literature so if you have a piece of paper, I’ll give you all of the references so it won’t take you seven years. however, should you look all of these up, you’ll appreciate it much more than if you just said, “Now I know where.” Actually read each passage and you’ll begin to see what a marvelous motion, an avalanche, a veritable waterfall of truth that has been poured out upon the Saints In the Latter-days. We’ve allowed some of it to run off without really appreciating what it represented.
Now first of all it’s 2 Nephi 2:14 and here’s what you’ll read:
“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hat created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”
Father Lehi says that everything in the Universe is made of two things. This is where we get the building blocks concept “Something to act and something to be acted upon.”
Now your next reference is D&C 93:29:
“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth was not created or made, neither indeed can be.”
Now the thing which acts is called “eternal intelligence,” in the plural, “eternal intelligences.”
The next one is D&C 93:30:
“All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.”
These intelligences are independent and act voluntarily, they are not compelled and the heavens wait on them until they obey. They don’t do anything until they’re ready, just like us. Our Heavenly Father built the whole Universe with this “element x of action.” This energy factor in the Universe is intelligence, and it operates as fast and in a direction that it is willing to follow.
Now, Abraham 3:19:
“And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.”
These intelligences are graded, from lowest to the highest, and the highest of them all is God’s intelligence himself, and we’re in between.
And some intelligences were assigned to the elements and some were assigned to plant life and some were assigned to animals and those that were His very special, superior, super-deluxe intelligences were given bodies in His image, and you are they! You are very, very special people.
Joseph Smith describes this in the Documentary History of the Church, volume 4, page 519. He says, “And I explained to the quorum of the Twelve tonight (and their wives), the doctrine of “The Eternal Progression of Intelligences.”
Then he doesn’t tell us what the explanation was so you have to go to Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt and Heber C. Kimball and they explain what he explained to them but they got the doctrine from him.
Your next one is D&C 93:33:
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;”
That which is acted upon—there is a thing to act and a thing to be acted upon—that which is acted upon is called “Eternal Element.” It’s called element. It’s matter.
Joseph Smith said that matter exists in two dimensions. The very refined element is called spirit and the more coarse element is called temporal matter, that we’ve got here. So it’s all matter that exists in two planes: it’s like ice and water. They’re really the same thing, but they’re on different dimensions (you can kind of think of it that way). Everything is made up of a combination of intelligences and matter. They are the building blocks of the Universe.
Abraham 4:18, 12, 10; Helaman 12:8, 9:
“And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.”
“And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.”
“And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, Great Waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.” (Abraham 4: 18, 12, 10)
“For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God. Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.” (Helaman 12:8–9)
Now if you’re a scientist and a real good scientist, this will be very exciting information because our most advanced research scientists in the pure research area have just proven that this is true: Matter does not function mechanically; it has an element of finite intelligence in it, they say. That’s what Burgson, the French philosopher called it. It can distinguish. It can choose. It doesn’t always do what the rules say. Some of those little elements are just as ornery as you and me. They go wandering around. In the aggregate we say that’s the law of chemistry. In the aggregate, yes, but you look at them individually and they’re fooling around. As a matter of fact, Robert Miligon said, “If all the elements were obeying all the rules of chemistry you would never die.” There Is rebellion in the flesh and they’re called “seeds of death.” You may have heard of that before.
Element which has received intelligence attached to it, at Gods command, It will, obey. You want a mountain to move? TALK TO IT! IT’LL MOVE!! And they move when God commands it or His Priesthood does it by His authorization. When God commands these intelligences (in the elements), they obey! That’s Jacob 4:6; 1 Nephi 20:13….
Now listen to Brigham Young discussing this principle: “There is life or intelligence in all matter throughout the vast extent of all the eternities: it is in the rock, in the sand, in water, air, the gases, and in short, in every description and organization of matter, whether it be solid, liquid or gaseous particle operating within particle.”
Now all of a sudden we begirt to catch the vision of the miracle of God’s creation. He goes out into the outer darkness of unorganized intelligences and unorganized bits of elements and combines them together so that a little tiny bit of element has an intelligence attached to it and now you can command it to combine together in certain ways. The Lord says, “I have given all of them a pattern which becomes the law by which they operate.” Some will accept electricity and some will resist it. Some will combine with various things and you’ll get a combination. Two particles of hydrogen and one of oxygen and we call it water. That’s because they were organized that way. They are so marvelously organized that you can take one single little complex organization, it’s called a cell, and it’s fertilized by another cell and in 9 months, because of the DNA organization that is set up by a highly intelligent Heavenly Father, that will grow into a HUMAN BEING. And all by design! You almost stand in a worshipful feeling toward our Heavenly Father as you realize what is possible with that organizational structure.
Now let me show you a miracle. You see that hand? That is made of dirt! You want to see a miracle in engineering and Godly power? It’s in that hand. That is made of dirt. Our Heavenly Father can speak to all of those little intelligences and he can turn them back into dirt that fast, (snap of fingers). Or He can say to them, like He said to the hand of Moses, “My children, half-way, not all the way, just half-way.” Like leprosy maybe? “Moses, put your hand into your bosom.” So he puts it in and the Lord says, “Now, my children!” “Moses, take your hand out.” Leprosy, dripping, incurable, on the way back to dirt. “Moses, put your hand back in your bosom.” And the Lord says, “Now, my children, as you were, everybody in your places.” “‘Take your hand out, Moses.” Ahh, beautiful, clean, strong, pink flesh.
That’s the miracle of God. Your children are a miracle. Everything around you is a miracle and for the first time we’re beginning to understand: GOD SPEAKS AND THEY OBEY!
Things are made of that which acts and that which is acted upon and they’ve been identified for us by name. President Kimball said in the next world, that’s when we’ll have access to these intelligences to organize our own great systems.
Now Heavenly Father says, “Do you want to know what makes me God?” The source of God’s power is D&C 29:36, Moses 4:1,4, where he talks about he source of His power, what makes Him God.
What do you think i t turns out to be? What makes a Being, suddenly, or over a process of time, a God?
“MY HONOR IS MY POWER!”
So that when I speak and I say water, organize into wine, a very high grade of wine, please, there’s no problem, they reorganize.
We call it a miracle. It was nothing in the world but obedient intelligences, that’s the doctrine.
Now, keeping that in mind, (that is, D&C 29:36), what would happen if the Father violated the confidence of these intelligences? What do you think would happen? No church on the face of the Earth has dared to announce the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon, Alma 42. No church has dared to suggest that God could fall.
Our Heavenly Father says, “I want you to know I walk the razors edge of Celestial law continually in order to maintain the confidence and the honor of all those who trust me because that’s the source of my power.” Now that gives us a whole new understanding of our Heavenly Father.
In Alma 42:13, 22, 25, He repeats it over and over again and in Mormon 9:19, he repeats it: If He were unjust, if He were arbitrary, if He were false in any sense, He would what? CEASE TO BE GOD!
Our Heavenly Father says, “I want you to understand me. I work within very strict rules. I have to function so that I enjoy their confidence and do not violate it.”
Now in Alma 34:9, the Father says, “Once I have put you down into the second estate, I have lost all capacity to bring you back. If I did, it would be arbitrary, capricious and unjust and violate the rules by which the whole kingdom has been established. I lost complete control over the possibility of bringing you back myself. ”
Alma 34:9: GOD, THE FATHER, CANNOT SAVE US!
These are doctrines of the Church we seldom put in these dimensions. This is the Easter story. This is really the Easter story.
In fact it says there, that if there had not been some way to get us back to the presence of the Father, and it had been left to the Father, and he had been helpless to get us back, we would have ended back in outer darkness with Satan and his hosts. We would have gone the same route they went. And everything that had been organized by the Father in connection with us: our Earth, the other Earths (on which part of this family is located) and all the creations connected with it would have disintegrated and gone back to outer darkness, disorganized.
That’s the scripture. Now this takes all the magic out of the creation. All of a sudden we can understand it in our finite way. Suddenly our Heavenly Father becomes so much more rational, comprehensible and our appreciation begins to accelerate as we begin to realize what a remarkable, beautiful, powerful personality He is.
2 Nephi 9:9; Here is where it says that we would end up with Satan and His angels were there no atonement. It is absolutely beyond the capacity of our Heavenly Father to lift His children who have stumbled, while learning the difference between good and evil, back into His presence because He has to operate according to the law. And all the other intelligences would say, “Father, now they have sinned and come short of thy glory; they cannot come back. Remember all the Laws you told us back then? We didn’t get to be those top people, we were graded down. You remember? You know—laws you said, you kept talking about laws.” These are they who demand justice and will not let us return. And should God try it, as it says in Alma, they would cease to honor Him and he would CEASE TO BE GOD!! That’s the doctrine.
Then how do we do it? How do we do it? Alma 34:11:
“Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.”
That’s the law. The law says that no person can suffer for the sins of another person. That’s the law! That’s what all of those little intelligences are saying. Now you just stop and think why that is so. If I commit an offense, a very serious offense, can you die for it and satisfy this audience, do you think you could? Even though we love each other and you say to everybody, “No, don’t let Brother Skousen be killed, I’ll die for Brother Skousen.” You think they’re going to be happy about that? No! It’ll violate your sense of justice and it does to all of those little intelligences and Alma 34:11 says that no person can die or be punished for the sins of other people and have it be accepted as justice! “The demands of justice,” that’s what those little intelligences are. There is an offense here. “They cannot come back, Father.” Everybody see the problem?
Now the genius of the solution: The Gods know that these little intelligences have a capacity for compassion. They are just like you and me—intelligences have a capacity for compassion. Therefore, the atonement is based not on law, but on mercy.
That’s Alma 34:15. In other words, we’re going to try and get to these little intelligences in some way so that we can over come the demands of justice, with what? SYMPATHY! MERCY! So that we’ll actually overcome the demands of justice.
The families of the Gods—they must have worked this out eons ago with other families so that this is a pattern. Remember when they were selecting a Savior? Jesus volunteered!
Satan said, “You know, Father, this is very old-fashioned. This just isn’t necessary. You can satisfy the intelligences of the Universe. Just put your children in strait jackets and get them through the second estate, and it’s a great ideal. I thought I’d really like credit for it because I’m offering the whole family no-risk insurance. All I’m asking you to do is to give up the hang-up that the family has on this ‘free-agency’ thing. It s only for this little bit of time, we’ll put them in a strait jacket, get them through the second estate; nobody can object to them then! We’ve taken them down, they’ve got bodies, we’ve prevented them from violating any laws and bring them back. It’s that simple!”
“No,” the Father said, “it isn’t that simple,” apparently implying that if you introduce compulsion into our eternal plan of salvation, or into the cosmic universe, you put coercion there anywhere, you’ve sown the seeds of what? REVOLUTION! Revolution, disintegration; everything that is out there is moving as it is willing to move. You don’t get revolution that way.
Satan says, “I’ll start a revolution,” and he got it. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the real followers of the Father there for a while were a minority. We had a big uncommitted, in-the-middle majority.
Jesus said, “Father, I’ll do it your way. I’ll do it the way we’ve always had to do it. We have to have casualties, true, but at least we maintain a voluntary participation that we’ve always had in the past. Anal I know somebody has to suffer in order to have that atonement and create that sense of compassion, so I’ll do it.
So we had a big argument, and the revelation says that the war in heaven was a testimony meeting, as we said to one another, “The Father’s way is the right way. You don’t want to introduce compulsion. If you start using compulsion, who says where it can end. Lucifer is trying to steal the throne of our Heavenly Father and he wants the glory for it. There is nothing in that direction but rebellion and destruction.
We finally got two-thirds on our side. I won’t be surprised if, when you see this in the vision, that we only had a minority to begin with, but we finally got two-thirds and this other one-third went for no-risk insurance. They wouldn’t take a chance with us.
Alright now, how does this atonement work? Watch how the principle functions. Now you’re an intelligence, and you are capable of being subjected to so much sympathy and compassion, you stop asking for every pound of flesh that the law permits. Have you ever noticed that in yourself? IT WORKS! First the principle: They must have a person who is infinite, as it says in Alma 34; it must be one who is infinitely loved. Infinite means completely—everybody recognizes him.
So we take a spirit who is so superior he’s the first counselor of the first presidency of Heaven. He is so honored that when the Father wants something done, He speaks to this person, and then He tells all the intelligences what to do and he’s identified as THE WORD. He’s the one through whom the word passes. He’s loved and respected by all just like the Father.
So we use Him—He is infinitely loved—and we have Him come down into the second estate and live a perfect life without offense so that he can return to the Father, and incidental thereto, while laboring among the human family, we have Him suffer so terribly that the little intelligences of the entire universe are revolted! It’s horrible, the suffering that he went through! They loved Him! And it says in the Book of Mormon, even the elements of the earth northward was different than it was before. The very elements were crying out against this terrible torture of someone that they loved.
And all this was by design. That was the mission of Jesus Christ, You must suffer so much that these little intelligences, when you come and plead on behalf of someone that did the best that he could, which is called repentance, they’ll say, “Well, they really shouldn’t go back, but if you want them, after all you went through for them, yes, they can come up.” That’s the Atonement.
Listen to Alma 34:15, as we hear the Prophets, who used to understand and preach this doctrine extensively, which we’ve kind of stopped preaching among ourselves. Listen to this statement:
“And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on His name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy….”
Whose mercy? The Father already has mercy towards us, This is His plan. We don’t have to create that in Him. We have to create it in those that are demanding justice.
“Father, they have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
That is where you must arouse the bowels of mercy, which overpowers justice, meaning the demands of justice, and brings about the means of an end that they may have faith unto repentance, and thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice and encircles them in the arms of safety.
While he that exercises not faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice. Therefore, only him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
Now let me turn to D&C 45:3,5, and you listen to the Saviour telling its about it;
“Listen to Him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him…”
“…spare these my brethren that believe on my name….”
You see how he did that? — “spare these my brethren that believe on my name” — he didn’t plead for those that don’t believe. He can’t! He isn’t allowed to! It would rob justice.
“Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”
And the Father can do it without ceasing to be God. Because of what? Mercy. Let me give you an example of how that works:
During the Civil War, there was a nineteen-year-old soldier who went to sleep on guard duty. A whole section of the Union Army was wiped out in that particular sector. He lost many of his very best friends, all because he went to sleep and they were able to make a surprise attack on one flank of that particular defense effort. He survived the battle, was court marshaled and sentenced to be hanged for neglect of duty in going to sleep while serving as a guard, which is routine military law.
The death sentence and order of execution was placed on the desk of President Lincoln and he was prepared to sign it. We’d lost a lot of valuable men because a nineteen-year-old soldier went to sleep.
(I don’t remember whether it was by letter or personal visit, but it’s not too significant.” President Lincoln was communicated with by an old woman — (I think she came in person) — and this little mother said to President Lincoln, “When this war started, I had a husband and six sons. First I lost my husband, then I lost my sons—five of them. I just have one son left, and he’s about to be executed for neglect of duty. He feels terrible about what he did and he knows he deserves to die—he’s expecting to die, President Lincoln. But I’m wondering, if maybe, because you have pardoning power in the Constitution, if you could find it in your heart to let me have the last of my family, for my sake.”
President Lincoln said to the mother, “For your sake, I pardon your son. I pray to God he’ll survive the war and be a blessing to you all the days of your life.”
See how compassion works? It completely overcomes the demands of justice and nobody criticized President Lincoln for using his pardoning power in that case once they found out what the plea of that little mother had been. Now that’s the way all of us are.
I might just pause at this moment to ask you the question, what do you think an intelligence is? What is an intelligence? Well, we know not. it’s a wonderful, self-knowing, eternal little entity that says, “I am.” You can see Cleon Skousen up here, he’s lost his hair in quiet dignity. What you are really looking at is something that I’m expecting to, well, lay aside one of these days.
…you back slide. You work with him if you have to forgive him seventy times seven, as long as he’s trying, keep in there, push him. He might make it eventually. Maybe you’ve got an Alma the younger in the making, who knows.
Toward the evening they went to the Last Supper. They partook of the Passover lamb and he looked out at the twelve apostles and said, “One of you will betray me.”
Peter said to. John, “You’re closest, ask Him who.”
And John the Beloved said, “Master, who?”
The Savior whispered, “Him to whom I give the sop.”
He picked up a piece of bread, dipped it in the gravy, handed it to Judas Iscariot and said, “Judas, whatsoever thou doest, do thou quickly.”
Judas got up and went out.
I wonder if he suspected that maybe Jesus suspected. We don’t know. In fact, we don’t think so. He’d already received the thirty pieces of silver. He’d already agreed to betray the Christ.
And he went out to see the Elders of the city (Judas).
Now it says that Jesus became very depressed. And then he rose up and gave that beautiful High Priest’s prayer found in John chapter seventeen, where he pleads with the Father to “bless these that they may be one as thou Father, art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.”
And he says, “Bless those who shall believe on their words, who have not seen, that they also may be one; that we all may be one. I pray not for the world but for those that thou hast given me out of the world, that they may be one.
And in the greatest suffering and anguish He pleaded with that prayer. Then he said, “Let us be gone. I need to pray.”
And so they went from the part of the city where the poor people lived. (We think that’s where it really was.) And they went across temple square out through the Golden Gate on the eastern side, down through the Brook Kidron and up on the top of the Mount of Olives.
Its dark now, and as He came in he told eight of His disciples to stay by the gate. he took Peter, James, and John and went back into the grove and He then had them watch. Then He went further up the hillside into the grove.
And apparently only John stayed awake. And John heard Him fall full-length on the ground. he didn’t kneel down at a rock. It says he fell full-length on the ground. And he said, “Oh, Father, all things are possible unto Thee, take this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done.
Now what he’s saying is, “Father, you are God! You’re all-powerful. All things are possible unto thee; don’t make me go through with this. You can, work this out some other way.”
And that angel that came to minister unto Jesus undoubtedly explained to Him something he’d forgotten. He’s forgotten His pre-existence, HE WAS BORN TO SUFFER AND DIE!
What the angel must have and undoubtedly said, though we don’t have the message, (but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised,) if it went something like this:
“Oh, Jehovah, thou Son of God, you do not have to do this unless you wish, but you should know that unless you fulfill this assignment, the Father will lose not only this family, this whole family, but the entire creation associated with them; the planets, the plants, the animals, everything that you laid your hands to create will be lost to the Father and go back to the chaos and outer darkness from which it came,” because when the angel had finished ministering to Him, Jesus said, “Then Thy will be done.”
And He sweat drops of blood. The channels of His life stream couldn’t even contain the fluid of life and it spilled out into the sweat glands and poured out from His skin as it were great drops of blood.
The agony of that moment! Now you and I couldn’t have endured that. We don’t have any idea how terrible that was, but Jesus has given us some idea of what it was like in the 19th section of the Doctrine and Covenants in which it says, beginning with the 15th verse:
“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 repeat 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 butte body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:15–19)
Now will. you accept it? Will you let me blot them out? I can. If you’ll be obedient onto repentance the spirit will justify you and I will sanctify you; I’ve done it! I’ve done it! Don’t waste it. Don’t take the name of God in vain. I’ve done it for you. Come unto me.
Now after that, Judas came with the soldiers. Jesus heard them coming and came back. And here are the three apostles, now sound asleep. (We don’t know what else happened, John didn’t stay awake, but he was tired.)
And Judas came up to Him—it is nighttime now; they’ve got torches. They’ve seen Jesus in the temple square, but it’s nighttime and they want to be sure and get the right one, because the others will all flee the minute they grab someone. And so Judas came up to Him and took Jesus in His arms and said, “Hail, Master.”
And the Saviour looked down at him and said, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”
Then the soldiers screamed, “Seize him, seize him.”
And everybody fled. There was a little boy that had just arrived in trying to warn the Saviour—and he barely got up—we think it was little John Mark because Mark, he is the only one that mentions him. He’s a little boy all wrapped up in a sheet. He apparently has come to warn the Saviour. Perhaps even saw the soldiers on the way. (that’s an assumption on our part.) But anyway, all the disciples fled. And this little boy, he’s standing there, he doesn’t know what to do. They’ve got the Saviour—and he was too late I guess (the boy)—so they grabbed at him. And he just left the sheet in their hands and departed, without the sheet, into the nighttime. That’s Mark, we think. That was little John Mark and we think he’d come to ward the Saviour.
Then the Saviour was taken up to the house of Annas, then Caiaphas. And all of you remember the terrible night that he spent. You remember three denials by Peter. Peter was petrified. He’d never forgive himself for these three denials.
The next morning there was an illegal trial before the Sanhedrin. They can’t kill Jesus without the consent of Pilate. So they take Him to the Antonium, named after Mark Anthony. This is the very big fortress right next to Temple Square. It’s part of the temple square, and right in the open square, they brought in Jesus and turned HIm over to Pilate. And he tried to create sympathy in their hearts by flogging Him and putting crowns of thorns on His head. Blood was running down His face and His robe was just saturated with blood. And he brings Him out and then he said, “Behold Him. Behold the man.” And they screamed, “Crucify Him,” that’s not enough, “crucify Him.”
“Bring me water. See to it. I wash my hands of this judgment.”
And so they took Him with the cross, carried it as long as His broken body could endure the pain of it. Finally they took Him up to the top of the place of the Skull. and there they nailed the nails; first into His hands, then into His wrists, then into His feet and then they swung the cross into position. Two thieves crucified on either side. The earth trembled and the sky grew black, with the ground trembling occasionally, clear up until three o’clock. Over in America the whole continent was in turmoil, as were the islands of the sea.
Toward the end he cried out, “I thirst.” And in the sponge they put up vinegar because that was supposed to alleviate the pain a little bit.
He looked down in His agony and He said, “John, behold thy mother. Mother behold thy son.” (Apparently Joseph had passed away.) He’s just saying, “John, take care of thy mother Mary.”
And then they torment Him, they pestered Him, they accused Him of – “Why don’t you come down?” – “Why don’t you heal yourself?” All of this was written in the 22nd Psalm. All of it was seen by David. He knew the very words Jesus would say.
And then almost when the agony was beyond bearing, and it was getting toward dusk when they would have to start breaking their legs so they would die faster. Suddenly Jesus looked up and said, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The spirit of the Father had withdrawn from this man, he was absolutely alone hanging on that cross, but just for a moment. Then the spirit of God surged back into him to say, that in effect, “My son I’m here. You did it.”
He lifted up His face and said, “It is finished. Fathers into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
And He departed. At that moment, JESUS BECAME THE CHRIST. And he had done what was necessary to overcome the demands of Justice so we could go back! He did it! And by the power of that great force that was in Him, He now, in three days and nights would have that body lifted, resurrected, purified, and glorified. And it’s such a thrilling thing to contemplate Mary Magdalene coming, leaning against the wall of the—we think we found the Tomb. We’re not sure, but it fits everything. It’s right at the bottom of a hill described by the Saviour. It’s the only tomb—and she leaned against it. She knows that somebody has stolen the body And she looks. Maybe it’s the gardener and then when she saw that person standing there as she looked through her tears, she said “Laboni (Master), if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will bear Him away.” away.”
The person said, “Mary.” She looked up and said, “Master.” He said, “Touch me not, for I’ve not yet ascended to my Father who is in heaven, but go and tell the brethren I ascend unto my God and their God.” And he was gone.
That’s the Easter story. And our Heavenly Father suffered so much that night in Gethsemane, when that Son of His lay on the leaves underneath the olive trees and said, “O, Father, if it be possible, take this cup from me,” our Heavenly Father was suffering so much at that moment He wanted at least one of His children here on the earth to know what that was like, that night for Him. And so he said to our great ancestor, Abraham, “I want you to take your best beloved son up to the top of Mount Moriah and I want you to offer him unto me as a sacrifice.
Why? All my life I have taught against human sacrifice. My son in whom ye promised to raise up a seed, mighty like unto the sand of the seashore. My only son and heir? I kill him? And burn him?
And without telling Sarah, he took this young man, probably in his early teens, up to the top of Mount Moriah.
And he said to his son, “My child, 1 wouldn’t have had you without a special blessing from God to your mother, and he having sent you to me, now asks that I send you back. Not by disease, or war, or old age, but as a Sacrament unto Him, at the hand or your own father. I now send you to him.”
He raised the knife—oh, the anguish of that father! And in Jacob 4:5 of the Book of Mormon it says that was done to symbolize the feelings of the Father and the Son. That was specifically done so that at least one human father would know what the pain and anguish was like that night in Gethsemane as Jesus said, “Oh, Father, all things are possible unto thee, take this cup from me.”
Now I close. You may be already beginning to understand this beautiful doctrine, the foundation of which President Kimball was talking about in priesthood meeting; the intelligences of the universe, the fact that their honor of God is what makes Him God, the fact that if he lost their confidence he would cease to be God. These are basic doctrines of the restored Gospel. As it says in Jacob 2, why don’t we talk about the atonement more? We talk about the resurrection, why don’t we talk about the atonement? I think we all agree we don’t talk about the real basis of the atonement. We talk about it as a proven fact without ever reaching out and saying, “Heavenly Father, I think I understand just a little.” I think. I understand.
I don’t know what it does to you, but it has made me love my Heavenly Father like I’ve never loved Him before. I’ve learned to love the Saviour, Jesus Christ, like I’ve never loved Him before, now that I know what those two wonderful people did for me and you and my children and all the people in this world and the planet on which we live. All these beautiful things that he has blessed us with, would have all been destroyed and lost if those two people hadn’t done what they did. I love them for that. And I bear witness to you, my brothers and sisters, from the depth of my heart, JESUS is THE CHRIST. We have a Father in Heaven who loves us. The Atonement is real, the Atonement is effective. The Atonement works, there is a resurrection. There is forgiveness of sin. And though our sins may be as scarlet, if we truly repent, we can be restored and taken back to our Father in Heaven cleansed like white snow, which is Isaiah chapter 1.
And I pray to our Heavenly Father that He’ll help us so we wont let Him down, so that we won’t betray the Christ that well be good missionaries; that we’ll spread this great message to our neighbors, that we’ll take every precious child of God, wherever we find him, fellowship him, and follow those thirteen wonderful steps that were outlined here. They’re beautiful. That’s the way to reach our Father s children. They deserve every blessing and advantage that we can give to them and we must lead wisely and carefully. We mustn’t shock them, we mustn’t move faster than they are willing to absorb it. But for every soul that is saved, our Heavenly Father will bless us beyond any measure we’ve ever dreamed of.
And I thank you for inviting me to speak tonight to you, and the sweet spirit that’s been here, which you brought with you, and which our Heavenly Father blessed with. I’m grateful for that.
Now as I leave this lovely valley, I’m taking some very happy memories with me. I have had some wonderful folks taking care of me while I’ve here. And I’m going home rested, which is unusual. We shall try to return in October.
And so may I just leave my blessing with you and a prayer for both you and me, that we may be worthy of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Gospel which he has restored for our salvation. That is my prayer.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.