The Atonement: His Perfection and Our Need

If we are to live a celestial life we must abide by celestial laws. Many of these laws are given in the Sermon on the Mount: Nephite Edition, and include loving our enemies, not being angered, not letting impure thoughts enter our hearts, and turning the other cheek. All of these point to a state of being: Being humble, being charitable, and being virtuous. As struggling mortals, we understand the concrete examples of these traits which Jesus gives more clearly that the traits themselves. For example, we use the word humble and it can mean so many different things. It can describe one isolated demonstration, a manner of dress, living circumstances, or it can express any degree of meekness or submissiveness in a person. The way that Christ uses it comes closest to this last, except that he shows us exactly what degree of humility is humble. The description is this: that if someone were to take your coat, you would give him your cloak also, that you would never call someone out as in saying “thou fool,” that if physically hit, you would take another blow before reacting in a way to offend one of God’s children. The standard is clear and can be achieved regardless of race, gender or social status, but for most of us, especially me, it is not always the go to reaction. The same can be said of charity and virtue. Are any of us perfectly charitable? I know that I am far from it. Only one is.

Christ end with the words, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Ne. 12:48)

In the words of President Holland, “I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man” and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy.” (General Conference Oct 2017)

We are born into this world, and we get so caught up in it. Occasionally we compromise, and sometimes we entirely forget our purpose here. How often I have put my trust in the arm of flesh and thought my friendship with the world was right and good? how often have I needed to be shouted the refrain, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4) How often did I think such a friendship was bigger than a seemingly arbitrary and insignificant commandment? How often have I realized in tears and shame how wrong I was and how lost I was and how weak I am?

…At least once.

Once we realize that path was lost, how long must it take to again find it? Will we ever find it? If you are as fortunate as I, you’ve been told exactly where to turn in a place like this. Perhaps you’ve never felt so unworthy to ask God for forgiveness. Perhaps it seems utterly ridiculous. How wondrous it is then, in the midst of that darkness we brought upon ourselves, as soon as we turn it over to him, we realize his spirit is right there beside us. We feel that worth and we feel hope. In our heart or our mind we know that somehow, impossibly, he is not only with us, but he loves us. As time stretches on, we can become closer to him than we have ever before been. We will realize that he doesn’t need our suffering–that’s why Christ died for us–all he needs is us to change. And we will find that we can. Somehow, everything is clear going in the right direction, even in the dark. Indeed, it is infinitely more clear that when you were heading the wrong direction in the light. Surrounded by light, but not seeking, you were in ignorance, and ignorance is darkness. But no darkness can remain when any person therein calls upon the name of Christ with faith unto repentance, earnestly seeking. We create our reality, only in that we choose it, and Jesus Christ creates it. It has nothing to do with our circumstances.

 

To be continued

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My mind has recently been drawn back to a time years ago as I lay in bed, preparing to sleep. I contemplated my existence on this earth, the purpose of my life, my potential as a daughter of God, and what lay ahead. I contemplated the undeterminable period of time I spent preparing to come to this earth, to be tested and tried, to experience pain and joy, to live in a state of mortality, with no recollection of my existence before birth, or surety of life after death. I was to experience all this and so much more within a mere century. Could I have imagined just a few decades would seem so long? Weeping silently and softly, I wondered how on my own attic floor mattress, I didn’t feel home. A parable unfolded in my head–based on something I’d been taught before–and it helped me understand just a little bit more.

Surely, before passing through the veil separating premortal and mortal existence, I thought of earth life as I would mortally consider the taking of a scholarly test. You walk into the testing center–which of itself is not a particularly fun place–and alongside many other test-takers, you demonstrate what you know, extrapolate your knowledge to guess what you don’t, and in a matter of minutes you walk out of the testing center back to the trees, wind and sunshine of real life. What you may have spent hours preparing for determines your performance in that comparably short test. Its end brings relief.

Imagine you are stuck in this testing center, but while inside, you have no understanding of the expanse outside this shuttered building from whence you just came. You are aware that the test is timed, but you have little surety of the precise length of time. It would be miserable. However, a lucky few have other test takers approach them and explain that this is only one testing center on a vast planet. They would point out the light, seeping weakly through the blinded windows and they would tell you of the sun which is its source, set in space infinitely larger than that contained in these walls. They would point to the test in your hand and tell you, “That test is the reason you are here. Remember your preparation and do your best, and you will come out of this center with no regrets, and again see the sun.” Even choosing to believe that there is a purpose to this test and that it will be worth every effort, the time spent in the testing center would still be tedious. We certainly could never be satisfied staying forever. But because our perspective is limited only to the time spent there, it would literally be forever. Thus we would never be satisfied.

Though the scale is many trillion times too small, this example helped me understand that earth is like a testing center. The rest of the world–its mountains and cultures, richness and diversity, sun and wind and snow–represents the realm in which we were created; the sphere in which we are meant to inhabit and thrive. It is not a realm where time exists as we know it. It is an eternal sphere, and we are eternal beings. We have been placed here for a time that is so relatively insignificant, we could never fathom just how tiny a fraction of eternity our entire mortal life will be. We were not created to exist here. This realm is not the sphere we are designed to inhabit. This is not the end to which we were made. We are children of God, and contained in us is the potential to become Gods and Goddesses just like our Heavenly Father and Mother. As they are eternal, so are we. Eternal beings are not meant to dwell in in time or even mortality. We were conceived and raised in eternity. That is our home, and it is back to that existence we will return after this brief time here. We will then be home, and mortality will seem as the blink of an eyelash. We will immediately wonder how we ever got distracted by such insignificant things that may have even seemed important to us during earth life. We will rejoice in our righteous decisions, for they will color our eternal existence, but the pains and loneliness and turmoil of that limited and fallen sphere will fall from our minds, leaving only understanding to be applied here, home, eternally.

Right now, we aren’t at that point yet, but we have such a rare and blessed opportunity to determine what that moment will be like, based on what we do now. Our time is limited, and the test is in our hand. It is a format unique to only you, but it is open book. Though others may fool around and deny the importance of those problems you diligently attempt to solve, you’ve chosen to believe that your effort will be worth it. Your eyes, your mind and your heart are fixed. You know that the Sun awaits beyond those doors, so you endure with diligence. When you finally feel its warmth and experience His light, you will have no regrets.