This entry is based on an article by President Boyd K Packer of the Twelve in the March 2008 Ensign – a special edition all about the Saviour.
Right from the very beginning, Jesus, who was Anointed the Christ, has been an integral part to the Plan of Happiness for God’s offspring. “And the Lord said: Whom I shall send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me…” (Abraham 3:27) – but what exactly was Christ, then known as Jehovah, chosen for? “And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made…” (Alma 42:15) -in order for God’s children to return to Him, a Saviour or Mediator was needed. Jehovah stepped forward voluntarily to take upon Himself the sins and sufferings of the world, for said His Father to Moses “…this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) and Christ’s will is one with His Father. He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (1 Peter 1:20) and not only that, but God said “by mine Only Begotten I created these things…” (Moses 2:1) meaning Jehovah, under the direction of the Father, created the world that we stand on. “Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited…” (1 Nephi 17:36) – it was necessary so that we would have a place to live, grow and develop, according to the Plan of Salvation. This is the antemortal Godship of the Christ.
Of course, Jesus Christ is not only known by this name alone. He has many names, all highlighting His divine nature and role to mankind. For example; “Alpha and Omega” (3 Nephi 9:18), “the good Shepherd” (John 10:11), “the Rock of Heaven” (Moses 7:53), “Mediator” (1 Timothy 2:5), “Saviour” (Luke 2:11), “Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) – all signifying His eternal power and love for us!
He and His Atonement are central to the Gospel of Christ. Joseph Smith when asked what the fundamental principles of the Church were – he said “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” After all, He is “the Chief Cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:20) Without Him, all other things we do would be pointless.
It’s interesting to note that, despite all these attributes that Christ has, when He brought, accused of false charges, He was meek and accepted it all. He knew He had the power to stop the abuse, but that wouldn’t have fulfilled the Plan. When Jesus was quiet, Pilate said to Him “Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify me, and have power to release thee?” (John 19:10) – in quiet dignity and majesty, Christ answered “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above…” (John 19:11) Christ had submitted to the undeserved punishment because He willed it, not because Pilate had the power to impose it. Earlier in His ministry, Christ had said, concerning His life “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” (John 10:18). Jesus the Christ, the great Jehovah, could only depart this mortal life if He himself willed it – no one else could do it!
Due to this divine power of taking His own life – He was the only One capable – and sinless – enough to put into effect the great and last sacrifice. He, by His own will and choice, took upon Him all that we will ever bear. Gethsemene, His abuse at the hands of the Romans, His suffering on the cross – all these things He went through, so we could be free. “…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Now, because of this courageous act of supreme love, those who come unto Him and repent can and will be made perfect through His atoning blood. He paid the penalty and performed all for us.
So, to ‘name’ this suffering, we use the word Atonement…but what does that mean? The word can be split into three: at-one-ment, meaning to set at one with God – a good term to use as Christ mediates between us and the Father. However, surprisingly, the word Atonement only appears once in the New Testament, in the verse saying “…we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:11) – why so? The word ‘atonement’ had been used plenty of times before in the Old Testament. Nephi explains “Because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book…an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them,” (1 Nephi 13:29) – plain and precious truths of the Gospel had been lost – but it has been restored to us today. The Book of Mormon contains the word ‘atone’ 39 times, the Doctrine and Covenants contain it 5 times and the Pearl of Great Price 2 times. All of these compared to the 1 in the New Testament – surely we recognise the great value and strength that the Restoration of the Gospel brings to our faith in Christ and His Atonement! This does not even include the many references to the Saviour that do not use the word ‘atone’ but can also add to our faith and testimony.
As has been mentioned, this Atonement was accepted by Christ by His own will, He wanted to do it for us. He had agency. Agency is the reason why the Atonement was needed in the first place. God said “I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day that I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency…” (Moses 7:32) – our first parents had this agency. Adam and Eve chose to partake of the fruit of which they had been told not to. In doing so, they set the Plan into motion. If they hadn’t then all things “…must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created,” (2 Nephi 2:22), we wouldn’t have been able to come to Earth to receive our bodies. However, this brought with it the Fall of Man to a carnal state – a state in which we cannot return to live with God. Although – let it not be confused that, because of Adam, we automatically are punished. “…men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression,” (Article of Faith 2) but because we are human we all will make mistakes at some point in this life. But – “…as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) – this is the necessity of Christ’s Atonement.
President Packer stated “I seldom use the word absolutely…I use it now – twice. Because of the Fall, the Atonement was absolutely essential for resurrection to proceed and overcome mortal death. The Atonement was absolutely essential for men to cleanse themselves from sin and overcome the second death, spiritual death, which is separation from our Father in Heaven…” and so, Jesus the Christ performed this necessity just for us – that we may return to live with our Father in Heaven once again. With this gift of the Atonement of Christ, we have the great opportunity to repent and forsake our sins. Christ “…satisfied the demands of justice…” (Mosiah 15:9) and if we accept His gift by following His Gospel, we can return to dwell with God.
To know why Jesus Christ was necessary we also need to know that the Creation and the Fall were equally as important as the Atonement – all these three are known as the Pillars of the Plan of Salvation. Without one – the others would not be needed or function. The Creation, implemented by the great Jehovah, was planned out – by choice, not chance as some would try to insinuate – that the perfect form of the Earth, the galaxies – God’s universe was all not there then suddenly there, perfect…which makes me question, which is indeed more far-fetched? That theory or the existence of our loving Heavenly Father? “Had there been no Creation and no Fall, there should have been no need for any Atonement, neither a Redeemer to mediate for us. Then Christ need not have been…” said President Packer.
To remember Christ and all He did for us and renew our covenants, we take the sacrament each week. No more are blood sacrifices needed as the great and last sacrifice has been accomplished. “Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) – Christ fulfilled that Law and suffered so that, through Him, we might be saved.
To finish, here is a statement by the Apostle Paul about Christ: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:14-20) and with that the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith “That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:22-24). And to these great men of God, we can add our own testimony. I know that my Redeemer lives, His name is Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, who has many Names. He performed and wrought the perfect, infinite Atonement and through His Gospel we may return to live with God eternally. The Great Jehovah, in the tabernacle of clay, descended below all things so that He might rise, higher than before – for each and every single one of us – for me – to prepare the way, for He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6) and I am eternally indebted and grateful for what He did!