This entry is based on a talk given by Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy in the December 2009 Ensign.
Christmas is a fantastic time to ponder the Saviour, His life and just exactly what He did for us in fulfilling the mission of His life. Elder Porter poses the question “Why did the Lord Jesus Christ leave that world of light, where he dwelt with the Father in everlasting glory?” Before He came to Earth, our Redeemer was known as Jehovah and He lived in the presence of the Father as a foreordained prince.
The concept of why this had to be in illustrated beautifully by the story of ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ by Mark Twain. Prince Edward of Wales, heir to the throne of England, accidentally swapped places with Tom Canty, a young pauper. The two (who look practically the same) swap clothes as Prince Edward shows Tom around Westminster Palace. Edward (in Tom’s clothing) gets thrown out of the palace by the guards. Edward then goes through the trials of this pauper – he sees the injustice of the current law and the depressing poverty of his people. Eventually, as the story ends, Edward is restored to the throne (now as King Edward) and because of his experience among the people, he is a hugely compassionate king – because of the suffering he had through.
As it was with Christ, our King. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Christ descended below all things for many reasons, but one reason is just like in the story of The Prince and the Pauper – so the He could experience what we experience in our mortal lives. In Alma’s sermon to the people of Gideon, he states “…he will take upon him their , that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12) Now of course, in reality, before He came to Earth Christ (as Jehovah) already has perfect compassion, but this mortal experience and the infinite Atonement gave Jesus the Christ an all-encompassing knowledge of the trials of mortal life. He truly knows how each of us individually feels during our experiences.
However, that’s not all the Atonement was for – Christ to gain a perfect knowledge – but rather to give Christ an incredible power to allow God to forgive us of our sins. When we sin, we create a huge problem that we cannot live with God, as His standard (the only way we can live with Him) is in perfection. Once we have sinned – an infinite gulf separates us, to cross that gulf we need an infinite power. Christ’s Atonement provides that and He (and only He) can plead our case before the Father – “Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.” (D&C 45:4-5) We rely totally on the grace and mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The great comfort about the Atonement is that “He is there not only when we cry out from the burden of sin but also when we cry out for any other reason.” continued Elder Porter. The redeeming, healing power of Christ assists, not just with our sins on the day of Judgement – but it is an active, everyday influence in our lives on all our sorrows and griefs. It gives us the strength to overcome such things and to make us more Christ-like. “My prayer and hope is that we will discover the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, that we will understand that the Atonement is not something abstract. Christ literally overcame the world and stands as our friend, a Prince who has lived among us and knows how to make us strong…” continued Elder Porter. The Atonement was not simply a one-off event, effective to only save us from our sins, but also to carry us through life and the trials and experiences we receive.
The Paupered Prince was born, lived, persecuted and died on the cross. He was also exalted back, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to His Heavenly station as Creator and Ruler, “Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace…” (Isaiah 9:6) – we are everlastingly indebted and he calls for all of God’s children to come unto Him for rest.