Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mormon Doctrine

It is interesting to observe the heresies that creep into the belief systems of Mormons. Some are, in the main, benign, such as the modern proscription against long hair and whiskers on men, or the demand that boys must wear white shirts and ties to pass the sacrament, right handed of course. I had a bishop who flatly said that any boy who wore wire-rimmed glasses was unworthy to date his daughter, I have worn them ever since as a precaution. Others are more insidious; notably the long held belief that in some future world all righteous Mormons will be polygamists, widely taught when I was a boy; or the odd idea that black Africans, but not black Fijians or Australians, had sinned in some pre-mortal world and were therefore to be denied full priesthood blessings, including the temple endowment and eternal marriage, or that repentant American Indians would spontaneously turn white.

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Time, reason, or revelation seems to eventually deal with some of these quirks of Mormon folk doctrine, however, there is one “doctrinal” contradiction that continues to annoy. It is the idea that Jesus paid for the sins of the world – read universe – not on the cross, but in the Garden of Gethsemane. This canard poked its head up again in my High Priest’s Group lesson a few weeks ago. I’ve been quite “well behaved” in class for sometime, but I couldn’t let this pass. When I pointed out that the idea, based on one stretched reference in the Doctrine and Covenants, contradicts LDS doctrine, I was snarled at.

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The next Sunday, the good brother conducting took a few minutes to clarify “LDS doctrine” by reading from Jesus the Christ, by James Talmage. I love the book, and admit that I was once taken in by Talmage on this myself. Fortunately, I have had ample time to study and meditate, as we have all been counseled by the Lord to do. Here is the troublesome reference from pages 613 and 614 of my 1971 edition.

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“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind both as to intensity and cause. The thought that He suffered through fear of death is untenable. Death to Him was preliminary to resurrection and triumphal return to the Father from whom He had come, and to a state of glory even beyond what He had before possessed; and, moreover, it was within His power to lay down His life voluntarily. He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope [the action of fainting] would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, “the prince of this world” could inflict. The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil.

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“In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. Modern revelation assists us to a partial understanding of the awful experience. In March 1830, the glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, thus spake: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent, but if they would not repent, 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 both 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.” (end quote)

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The “great drops of blood” quote is from St. Luke 22: 44, the exact words in my King James translation are; “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood”. Which doesn’t mean it was blood, just “like” blood.

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I didn’t say anything at the time, but after class I presented my friend six scriptures from the Book of Mormon, and encouraged him to pay attention to the words of the temple endowment ceremony which repeatedly references the crucifixion, but never mentions the Garden of Gethsemane. His first response to my request was to tell me that he didn’t care what the Book of Mormon said. I think those words gave him pause, and he agreed to give my list a look. Reminding my Mormon friends that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book in existence and the cornerstone of “our” religion, I provide the verses here for consideration:

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1. 1 Nephi 11: 32 – 33 “And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.”

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Note: In his lesson on the atonement, Nephi was shown the crucifixion, not the suffering in Gethsemane, as paying for the sins of the world.

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2. 2 Nephi 9: 5 “Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.”

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Note: Jesus was not subject unto men in the garden, but rather before the Sanhedrin and the Roman Governor, which resulted in his death ON THE CROSS by which he died for all men. There is no mention of suffering some other place or by some other way to provide deliverance from sin.

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3. Mosiah 15: 5 – 9 “And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to temptation but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.

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“And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

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“Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.

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“And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men –

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“Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”

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Note: It is Christ’s being crucified and slain, becoming subject unto death, by which his will, (his desire to avert the cup), is swallowed up in the will of the Father. It is the cross that makes it possible for Christ to stand between men and justice, and breaking the bands of death that enables him to take on himself their iniquity and redeem them.

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4. Alma 30: “And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ. And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world –

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“And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.”

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Note: It is Korihor, the anti-Christ, that is condemning Alma the Younger for teaching that Christ shall be slain for the sins of the world. My point here is “slain for the sins of the world”, not sweat blood for the sins of the world.

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5. 3 Nephi 11: 11 – 14 “And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of the bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

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“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

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“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them again saying:

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“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye my feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”

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Note: The symbols of Jesus’ atonement are not sweaty skin or bloody pores, but the marks of the cross; and he says that he was slain for our sins; not tormented in the garden for our sins. Christ does not claim to have suffered in a garden for the sins of the world – but in his own words, he was slain for the sins of the world.

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6. 3 Nephi 27: 13 – 16 “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.

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“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 –

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“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.

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“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 the day when I shall stand to judge the world.”

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Note: The Father sent him to be crucified for the sins of the world, not to suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is ONLY AFTER Jesus was LIFTED UP ON THE CROSS that he could draw all men unto him; that we might be able to repent and be held guiltless before God. If “. . . in some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. . .” in the garden, he surely would have mentioned it to the people of the New World on his visit to them after his ascension into heaven. Instead he specifically instructs them otherwise.

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My friend from High Priests was good enough to read the scriptures and to “listen very carefully in the Temple”. Last Sunday he was willing to agree that the atonement was a process – though Jesus doesn’t necessarily agree with that, it is a worthy compromise, at least a step in the right direction. He brought me two Ensign articles to consider. He had marked the following passage by Elder James E. Faust, an apostle who wrote in the November 1988 Ensign:

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“It has been almost two thousand years since the wondrous occasion when death was conquered. We still do not know how the Savior was able to take upon Himself and bear our transgressions, our foolishness, our grief, our sorrows, and our burdens. It was indefinable and unfathomable. It was almost unbearable. The indescribable agony was so great in Gethsemane that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) That haunting cry on the cross, in a loud voice in His native Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani? Which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) gives but a mere glimpse of His suffering and humiliation. One cannot help wondering how many of those drops of precious blood each of us may be responsible for.” (End quote.)

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I don’t think Faust is taking a stand on this argument. He mentions Gethsemane as a place of suffering, so do the Gospels, but he acknowledges the cry on the cross as the moment in which Jesus takes on the burden he alone was sent to bear. In light of the pronouncements of the Book of Mormon Prophets and Jesus himself, I feel vindicated in challenging those who would diminish the cross to an after thought of the atonement.

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My High Priest friend also gave me an Ensign article form May of 1985 by Apostle Bruce R. McConkie. I pointed out that Elder McConkie is famous for misstatements in print; none the less, several lines from the speech are worth noting in this discussion. This is the section highlighted by my source:

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“This sacred spot, [. . . a pleasant garden spot, Gethsemane by name . . .] like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.

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“We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.

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“We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.

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“We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.

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“We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.

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“We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.

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“We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be.

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“As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.

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“After this—his body then wrenched and drained of strength—he confronted Judas and the other incarnate devils, some from the very Sanhedrin itself; and he was led away with a rope around his neck as a common criminal, to be judged by the arch-criminals who as Jews sat in Aaron’s seat and who as Romans wielded Caesar’s power." (Close quote.)

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For the most part McConkie is paraphrasing Talmage. He also presents some interesting inconstancies. Note that he ranks Gethsemane with “Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many. . .” An eloquent argument that it was on the cross that Jesus saved the world. It is also important to note that the agonies in the garden relate to an effort to escape “the bitter cup”. This does not seem to imply that he is drinking the cup at the time. It is a far more reasonable progression that Jesus would struggle with the fear of what lay ahead – ask that God remove it from him – and agree to take it in the events that followed than to twist the meaning to somehow fit the claim that he was at that very time suffering the agonies he sought to avoid. Realize that Jesus suffered in a way no man might suffer except it be unto death; this surely implies that the death of a God will be a yet more bitter cup. If he had already drained the dregs on the ground in the garden why return time after time to ask that it might pass.

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McConkie’s claim, that Jesus left Gethsemane wrenched and drained of strength, does not fit the Gospel account. The Jesus described by Luke in Ch 22 comes strengthened by an angel, upon his sleeping disciples; who he wakes and admonishes to pray against temptation. He questions Judas on his method of betrayal by a kiss and, preventing a fight between his disciples and the servants of the high priest, even heals one wounded by a disciple. He then scolds the arresting priests and temple captains, there is no mention of Romans, for sneaking up on him as if he were a thief, reminding them that he had been with them daily. Then, while Peter denies him three times, Jesus endures the abuse of those that “held him”. As soon as it is day, he defends himself nobly before the chief priests and scribes. They then take him to Pilate; who finds no fault in him. He is then sent to Herod who questioned him in many words. Jesus is then defended by Pilate; who at last relents to the demands of the Priests and hands him over to be crucified. But Jesus is not broken. He has time and strength to prophesy to the Daughters of Jerusalem. In spite of flogging and abuse, on the Cross, Jesus is not broken. He asks God to forgive those who nailed him there and even has strength to speak with the malefactors who hang next to him. And once the sky is darkened and the veil in the temple rent, (note this did not happen while Christ was in Gethsemane) he commends his spirit to God and gives up the ghost. The centurion watching does not see a wretch, but glorifying God, saying certainly this was a righteous man.

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McConkie goes on to acknowledge the importance of Calvary:

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“Finally, on a hill called Calvary—again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls—while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies, the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.

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“With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. . .

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“And , finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things—then he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost.” (Close quote.)

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Here McConkie admits that it was on the cross that, as Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. He also points out that on the cross the victory was won and the will of God fulfilled.

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McConkie further adds to the confusion by first stating, “Then in Gethsemane we will see the Son of God ransom man from the temporal and spiritual death that came to us because of the Fall.” And then four lines later claim: “And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world.” (End quote)

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Note: McConkie rightfully mentions the suffering in Gethsemane, but testifies that it was that the Son of the Living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. One has to take even McConkie out of context to argue that the atonement was accomplished in Gethsemane not on the cross.

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A reasoned discussion of this doctrinal deviation requires some rationale for this desire to banish the atonement to the garden. I believe I have some explanations. In its early days, the Mormon Church was eager to separate itself from other Christian denominations; to be peculiar. One defiance to conformity was to reject the cross and crucifix as symbols of Jesus. In support of this revolt, Talmage removed the importance of the cross from his view of the gospel. I think it was also troubling to Talmage, as it is to others, that ordinary men have died of crucifixion, so such a death was not special enough a way to pay so great a price. Death is too fathomable for the taste of some; something more wonderful had to be concocted.

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There is another problem; many members prefer to get their doctrine pre-digested; rather than reading and pondering the word of God, they take the short cut through church literature. Many either don’t pay attention when reading their scriptures or limit such reading to the verses assigned in Sunday school class. Having heard, from childhood up, the “atonement in the garden” theory, they see no reason to question it. I hope I have provided a few.

22 comments:

Reach Upward said...

I guess I haven't experienced the "Atonement accomplished in the garden" doctrine. Or maybe I just haven't paid attention to others spouting it all of these years.

I have always assumed that what went on in the garden had to exceed the mere fear of physical death. A friend of mine once remarked that in the garden the Savior must have had to willingly go into some dark hole of which even he was not able to fully perceive the end. I don't think that counters any of what you have said in your post.

However, making the work wrought on the cross a mere afterthought or simply a formal conclusion to the 'real work' done in the garden seems quite bizarre given what the scriptures have to say about the matter. I have always taken the Savior at his word, when he says that he died on the cross for the sins of the world.

Lysis said...

Reach,

Thank you for the comments, I suggest you ask some of your fellows what they think this Sunday, you might be surprised. Also, please take a moment to check out six new pictures I have placed at the first of the “Fellowship of the Moose” Post below. I think you will enjoy the addition.

kevin said...

great analysis. I also enjoyed your preliminary observations about other commonly accepted mores or "fables" that are not doctrinally correct or intellectually honest. It is good to ponder and actually think--too many of us do neither. Thank goodness there are others who don't always wear a white shirt and tie and think that wire rim glasses look professorial rather than heretical.

Reach Upward said...

Thanks for the photo additions to the Fellowship of the Moose post. Sometimes it seems like that happened just a couple of years ago instead of three decades ago.

Lysis said...

Kevin,

Thank you for your comment. I want to be able to think and ponder about anything and everything. As a teacher, helping others do so is my life’s goal.

Reach,

My pleasure!

Finch said...

Lysis,

Thank you for this post. I got to teach the Sunday School class today and I chose the atonement as the topic. We read four of the six scriptures you quoted from the Book of Mormon, and then I added John 10:9-11, taken from the parable of the good sheperd where Jesus says "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good sheperd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."

The point I wanted to make is that the atonement gives us life after death through resurrection, but that we can also have life more abundantly - i.e. there can be a qualitative difference in the life we are living now that results from His coming.

In class we also read Mosiah 4:2-3. and Moroni 10:32-33.

Regarding Jesus sweeting blood, mentioned in D&C 19:18, I found a reference in the Book of Mormon where it talks about Christ bleeding from every pore.

Mosiah 3:7 "And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people."

Luke said that he sweat as it were drops of blood, but these other references seem to say that he did actually sweat blood.

Thanks again for the discussion.

Lysis said...

Finch,

Thank you for the scriptural reference from the B of M. Please note that there is no mention of the Garden of Gethsemane; in fact, in the same sentence where blood cometh from every poor, Jesus is also described as suffering hunger, thirst, and fatigue – more than man can suffer. These are surely incidents in his life which required more than one night in a garden. The scourging inflicted, (interestingly as an act of mercy by the Romans – to shorten the agony on the cross), which is mentioned in verse 9 – along with the crucifixion, would have produced the effect of blood coming from every poor.

When, were, or if there was bleeding from the pores does not counter the doctrine, clearly stated in scripture, that Jesus paid for the sins of the world on the cross. He voluntarily gave up his life as an eternal symbol of the “Love through service” principle which is the core of his life teaching. Note: Almost everyday American heroes die for Freedom, Socrates died a martyr to the search for Truth, Buddha died in an act of great Compassion, and Jesus died to seal his creed of Love.

The mistaken doctrine exacerbated by the “atonement in the garden” narrative is that somehow suffering pays for sin. No amount of suffering PAYS for sin, Jesus’ gift pays for all sin and teaches us the way to be like him, and therefore like Father. Just because those who do not accept Jesus will suffer, does not mean their suffering pays for anything.

Dread Pirate Wesley said...

I like how you mention it is up to us to study and ponder the gospel doctrine. Surely, our personal contact with God is the most direct source of truth.

I would like to point out however, that while we are commanded to study doctrine, somethings are irrelavent. For instance, where Christ paid the price for our Salvation does not matter as long as we understand that Christ did infact DIE in order cleanse us from sin.

Lysis said...

D P Wesley,

First, Please note that the truth does not need us to do anything, it just is. You are right, of course – the important thing in the atonement is that Christ did in-fact DIE for us; however, I cannot accept that either the manner of his death nor the actual method by which he demonstrated his infinite and eternal love to the world is irrelevant.

Paul, the Apostle of Christ – a learned Pharisee – knew the prophesy (Galatians 3:13 linked to Deuteronomy 21:23) of the manner and the importance of Jesus symbolic acceptance of the curse placed on all men. There was a time when prophets, such as Moses, actually told what would happen in the future as a means of providing proof of the “truth” of their teachings, a way by which all men who knew of their predictions could objectively recognize when the will of God was indeed fulfilled.

Further, I do not accept your premise that we should be satisfied with ignorance or error concerning something as important as the manner of Jesus’ manifestation of His eternal Love. The prophets of the Book of Mormon sighted above, Joseph Smith, Talmage, and McConkie all agree that the atonement is the greatest of mysteries. It is our duty to seek out such truth – by study and also by faith. Ponder these admonitions from the Doctrine and Covenants:

Sec. 6: 7&11 – “Seek not for riches but for wisdom, [knowledge of truth] and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich . . .

“And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.”

Knowledge of Truth leads to eternal life – that does not seem irrelevant to me.

Sec. 8: “Ask that ye may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge, from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.”

Why would the scripture go to such length and detail to describe the crucifixion and the atonement if it was irrelevant? Our position does not seem reasonable.

Sec. 42: 61&65 – “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal . . .

“Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them.”

Eternal life through knowledge of the mysteries does not seem irrelevant to me, nor does joy, which is our purpose in being.

Lysis said...

D P Wesley,

First, Please note that the truth does not need us to do anything, it just is. You are right, of course – the important thing in the atonement is that Christ did in-fact DIE for us; however, I cannot accept that either the manner of his death nor the actual method by which he demonstrated his infinite and eternal love to the world is irrelevant.

Paul, the Apostle of Christ – a learned Pharisee – knew the prophesy (Galatians 3:13 linked to Deuteronomy 21:23) of the manner and the importance of Jesus symbolic acceptance of the curse placed on all men. There was a time when prophets, such as Moses, actually told what would happen in the future as a means of providing proof of the “truth” of their teachings, a way by which all men who knew of their predictions could objectively recognize when the will of God was indeed fulfilled.

Further, I do not accept your premise that we should be satisfied with ignorance or error concerning something as important as the manner of Jesus’ manifestation of His eternal Love. The prophets of the Book of Mormon sighted above, Joseph Smith, Talmage, and McConkie all agree that the atonement is the greatest of mysteries. It is our duty to seek out such truth – by study and also by faith. Ponder these admonitions from the Doctrine and Covenants:

Sec. 6: 7&11 – “Seek not for riches but for wisdom, [knowledge of truth] and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich . . .

“And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.”

Knowledge of Truth leads to eternal life – that does not seem irrelevant to me.

Sec. 8: “Ask that ye may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge, from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.”

Why would the scripture go to such length and detail to describe the crucifixion and the atonement if it was irrelevant? Our position does not seem reasonable.

Sec. 42: 61&65 – “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal . . .

“Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them.”

Eternal life through knowledge of the mysteries does not seem irrelevant to me, nor does joy, which is our purpose in being.

Lysis said...

To Wes, Cont.

Sec. 76: 5 – 10 “For thus saith the lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

“Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.

“And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.

“Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.

“And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.

“For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make know unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heat of man.

What could be more relevant to the kingdom than the atonement? What more wonderful? If Jesus’ wants to send the Spirit, (the Holy Ghost) to make know his secrets, why should we distain to learn them?

Thanks for your great comment and chance to ponder.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Curtis said...

Lysis,

Sorry to interrupt your discussion with DPW. I hope I'm not a distraction.

When you write "The mistaken doctrine exacerbated by the “atonement in the garden” narrative is that somehow suffering pays for sin," (see your post to Finch) I don't understand. Are you referring to any suffering, including Christ's, or are you referring to something else?

Lysis said...

Jeff,

You are not a distraction, but rather a delight. As for suffering paying for sin; nothing we do has any power to redeem us from our fallen state, the one that came as the price of our mortal birth, let alone form the damnation resultant of our personal sins. Consider Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

Even the Catholic Church has abandoned the heresy of Purgatory, where wretched souls boiling in vats of brimstone in order to earn their way to heaven. There was a time when the Pope sold shares in the suffering of the Saints, indulgences – which could get even the dead a reprieve. Consider flagellation and other aesthetic practices. Remember the poor little nuns lying on the cold stone floor, day and night, to pay for the sins of others as described by Victor Hugo? How foolish. To summarize: human suffering cannot pay for sins.

The weightier question is whether it was the actual pain that Jesus endured that paid the price for sins. Was it “an ounce of sin countered by a drop of blood”? This does not seem reasonable to me, or just in any economy that God would endorse. I tell the story which I think illustrates this folly. I had a rule at our house that, “the children could not touch the books.” My baby daughter, in her ignorance, pulled the books off the case and onto the floor; so I went into her older brother’s room and beat the boy near to death. No one would call that just. If it was unjust for me, it would surely be inappropriate for God. Why then was the crucifixion of Jesus necessary? Consider these Truths; which I referred to above. The only thing in the world of eternal value is Love, all else must fail. Love is made possible by service, and there was only one way in which Jesus could serve the entire universe at once – the Father’s plan. Admitting that the Atonement is a mystery past our ken, it is not reasonable to believe that a just God would require an innocent to suffer for a sinner to pay some debt to Justice. Who runs the universe any way? Does God or Justice? There must be some deeper “magic” – universal Truth – in play here.

Here is a quote from C. S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: “It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards. . .” (pg 85 of my son’s 1998 Chronicles of Narnia published by Harper Collins). It was not the suffering of Jesus that paid for our sins; it was his willingness to die on the Cross, his act of ultimate service to all in order to love all, which is the deep magic. Otherwise one could credit the Devil, the Priests of the Jews, even the Romans for the Atonement. After all they, like the White Witch, did the killing. It cannot be the killing or the pain, it must be the gift.

Someday I will write out my entire opinion on the Atonement; here I have only touched on the suffering aspect. My original post was to dispel the idea that the Garden of Gethsemane was the place were the Atonement was accomplished. Jesus and I say otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Curtis said . . .

Lysis,

You gave me way more than I expected. Thanks for the clarification. As always, you are incredibly insightful. Human suffering does not pay for sins. The Book of Mormon and Paul agree, as you have implied, that we are saved by grace. I don’t know if the cultural heresy that we earn our way to heaven crept into perceived doctrine as an extension of the belief that Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane was the atonement, but there are certainly many who mistakenly believe it so.

As to your weightier question, “was an ounce of sin cou ntered by a drop of blood?” although many ask it, I wonder if it is the right question. As you imply, there are many who waste precision time on this calculation. It is foolishness. Here again we have common ground. There is a certain logic to your thinking. I don’t believe the atonement was mathematical; I don’t believe God had to calculate every sin and equate it to a specific measure of the Son’s blood. Call me a romantic, but it ruins it for me.

What is clear, without boring you with the references, is that the Son did suffer, both in Gethsemane and on the cross. That is important, in my humble and weak view, because it adds clarity to what I believe, as do you unless I misunderstand, to be the critical element of His atonement. Again, without boring you with the references, He suffered greatly; more than we can comprehend. Most importantly, He gave His life; no one took it from him.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites. At the risk of mixing a metaphor, his Deeper Magic and you view of love ought to be combined. I take your view of love a little further in the merger. God’s love is the deeper magic. It is condescending. Quite often condescension takes a negative connotation. Not here. The Son did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Your veiled reference to love as charity, "the only thing in the world of eternal value is Love (and) all else must fail," is beautiful. This love is Charity. It is God’s love. It resides only with those upon whom He bestows it. We are nothing without it. Rather than wasting our time on a blood for sin calculation, we ought to do everything we can to obtain it.

Lysis said...

Jeff,

To this point, we agree: Christ suffered to give us Love. It is the way our mothers suffered to give us life; it is like the pain our fathers endured getting up each morning at 5:00 A. M to go out in the cold (my dad worked in Alaska) to put food on the table and fuel on the furnace. It is the love our soldiers condescend to give to us as they face death on the battle fields of the world in defense of our freedom. I could go on. Ponder this. Who receives the greater measure of joy in this condescension? Is the child’s joy in being fed greater than that of the parent in giving the meal? Is the pleasure of the beloved sweeter than that of the lover? And what joy do we gain from honoring our fathers or serving our Gods? Perhaps here we glimpse the eternal nature of the Pure Love of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Curtis said …

Lysis,

I know it’s late. We took the kids to a movie. I don’t want you to think I stay awake all night reading your blog, although posting a comment is almost as good as sharing with you face-to-face.

You ask, “Who receives the greater measure of joy in this condescension?” Of course you know the answer. I’m grateful you give me opportunity to write it here, although your answer would probably be much more beautiful.

The mother that that gives life at the peril of her own receives the greater joy; the father that wakes to fuel the furnace at 5:00 A.M. for his children receives the greater joy; the soldier that gives his life for the freedom of others receives the greater joy. Sadly, however, that complete joy does not come without conditions. Oh, even without these conditions met there is joy in condescending love, but it is much more fulfilling to give life to the willing child that seeks it, much more fulfilling to give warmth to the cold fingers that are search it, and much more fulfilling to grant freedom to the lover of being free.

But It is most fulfilling to condescend to the grateful heart.

There is nothing that offends God more that a lack of gratitude in His condescension; nothing that pleases Him more than thankfulness for His gift. And that gratitude can only come through understanding. Hence, as you have so artfully written, God wants us to seek understanding so that our joy, and His, might be full.

Dread Pirate Wesley said...

I suppose my comment was interpreted in the wrong way. In your reply I didn’t even finish all of the scripture references that you gave me because I already knew your point and I agreed with you. Also the Doctrine and Covenants has been my point of interest in my recent studies and many of the points you made are conclusions I came to on my own before our conversation in your home just recently. I agree that the mysteries of God should be studied, pondered and sought after. However, I don't think that it is cause for much concern if one man, in this case the man from your ward, believes in the Atonement of Christ but his interpretations of the manner Christ's suffering are somewhat different. As long as he knows that the Atonement is for his benefit, doesn't take it for granted and holds that action with reverence in his heart I don't believe that his miscalculation in his studies will affect him when he is put before Christ to be judged.

Yes, certainly it is our duty to strive for as much knowledge and wisdom in regards to the Atonement of Christ in order to understand the great "manifestation of love." I in no way meant to imply that we should be satisfied with ignorance. When I used the term irrelevant I meant to say that when I am placed before Christ to be judged at the last day, I don't think that if I came to a wrong conclusion in my studying and pondering as to where Christ suffered, whether in the Gethsemane, or on the Cross of Calvary (Which by the way your arguments for the following I find to be true), that it will be held against me. While that detail it is not something I mean to disregard, it will not affect my love for the Savior, or my actions that I will take to show my love. On the other hand if I came to the conclusion in my studies that the Atonement was performed so that I may live as I choose and there will be no bad consequences for my wrong doings, then that of course would affect my salvation, and this error would be evidence that in studying I neglected the companionship of the spirit or a humble prayer to God.

My own personal experience with the Atonement of Christ and the healing powers of the Savior has been enough testimony to me that I must strive to understand whole-heartedly that sacred piece of history. One of the most important words in scripture, in my opinion is: remember. We must remember the words of the prophets who testified of Christ.

"…Behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah."
(3rd Nephi 23:1)

We must remember the words Christ spoke directly to us.

"…Ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and DOETH them him will I raise up at the last day."(3rd Nephi 15:1)

"Therefore, go ye into your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said,and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." (3rd Nephi 17:3)

Most importantly we must remember what Christ has done for us in order to feel gratitude towards him. Surely the one ordinance that is practiced every single week outside of the temple is the best reminder we have of Christ’s love for us. This being one of the purposes of the sacrament each week to remind us of our Lord and Savior, to whom we can only offer our agency in return.

Note: All of these references are from the chapters in 3rd Nephi where Christ is speaking directly to the people.

I in no way tried to contradict you I just meant to point out that in the end we will be judged by our works (studies included), in this life, and the intent of our hearts. Once again, if we understand that Christ DIED for our salvation and think and act according to that knowledge then God will set all things as they should be.

Dread Pirate Wesley said...

I suppose my comment was interpreted in the wrong way. In your reply I didn’t even finish all of the scripture references that you gave me because I already knew your point and I agreed with you. Also the Doctrine and Covenants has been my point of interest in my recent studies and many of the points you made are conclusions I came to on my own before our conversation in your home just recently. I agree that the mysteries of God should be studied, pondered and sought after. However, I don't think that it is cause for much concern if one man, in this case the man from your ward, believes in the Atonement of Christ but his interpretations of the manner Christ's suffering are somewhat different. As long as he knows that the Atonement is for his benefit, doesn't take it for granted and holds that action with reverence in his heart I don't believe that his miscalculation in his studies will affect him when he is put before Christ to be judged.

Yes, certainly it is our duty to strive for as much knowledge and wisdom in regards to the Atonement of Christ in order to understand the great "manifestation of love." I in no way meant to imply that we should be satisfied with ignorance. When I used the term irrelevant I meant to say that when I am placed before Christ to be judged at the last day, I don't think that if I came to a wrong conclusion in my studying and pondering as to where Christ suffered, whether in the Gethsemane, or on the Cross of Calvary (Which by the way your arguments for the following I find to be true), that it will be held against me. While that detail it is not something I mean to disregard, it will not affect my love for the Savior, or my actions that I will take to show my love. On the other hand if I came to the conclusion in my studies that the Atonement was performed so that I may live as I choose and there will be no bad consequences for my wrong doings, then that of course would affect my salvation, and this error would be evidence that in studying I neglected the companionship of the spirit or a humble prayer to God.

My own personal experience with the Atonement of Christ and the healing powers of the Savior has been enough testimony to me that I must strive to understand whole-heartedly that sacred piece of history. One of the most important words in scripture, in my opinion is: remember. We must remember the words of the prophets who testified of Christ.

"…Behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah."
(3rd Nephi 23:1)

We must remember the words Christ spoke directly to us.

"…Ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and DOETH them him will I raise up at the last day."(3rd Nephi 15:1)

"Therefore, go ye into your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said,and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." (3rd Nephi 17:3)

Most importantly we must remember what Christ has done for us in order to feel gratitude towards him. Surely the one ordinance that is practiced every single week outside of the temple is the best reminder we have of Christ’s love for us. This being one of the purposes of the sacrament each week to remind us of our Lord and Savior, to whom we can only offer our agency in return.

Note: All of these references are from the chapters in 3rd Nephi where Christ is speaking directly to the people.

I in no way tried to contradict you I just meant to point out that in the end we will be judged by our works (studies included), in this life, and the intent of our hearts. Once again, if we understand that Christ DIED for our salvation and think and act according to that knowledge then God will set all things as they should be.

Dread Pirate Wesley said...

Also Check out my new blog post you will like it. http://cliffhung.blogspot.com/2010/12/duty-to-god-legend-of-sioux-brave.html

Lysis said...

Jeff,

Thank you for extending my opportunity to think about these things. I agree with you, and see in your insistence that we be grateful, the deep magic at work. If our simple thanks can bring joy to God, then we too have a great power to serve and grow in love and joy. It is odd to reflect that there are actually people who don’t believe in the eternal or the infinite.

D. P. Wesley,

Thank you and I apologize if I missed your point. I appreciate your willingness to explain. You are no doubt right in asserting that: for one who “believes in the Atonement of Christ but his interpretations of the manner Christ's suffering are somewhat different. As long as he knows that the Atonement is for his benefit, doesn't take it for granted and holds that action with reverence in his heart I don't believe that his miscalculation in his studies will affect him when he is put before Christ to be judged.”

However, I will remind you that we were not in a simple discussion of the mercies of the Lord with a group of simple believers. I was attending a group of “High Priest” who were, at lest claiming to seek after the blessings promised to those who study the mysteries and discover the truth in all things.

As you assert, there are far more important things to do than to amass “facts and figures”, piling up data but not putting it into function. However, I feel that coming to understand the motivation and method of Christ’s infinite act of service is worth probing if such effort inspires us to Christ like emulation of the truths we thus discover. We are thus able to see all about us the deep magic at work and understand the infinite nature and thus value of Love and at the same time contemplated the incantation necessary to bring the most happiness to those we love and thus to our selves. The example of Jesus becomes the driving force in the generation of the only thing of lasting value in our eternal lives.

I am glad to have had this opportunity to search the words of Isaiah and to share your contemplation of the words and example of Jesus. I also agree with you entirely that the DO is the key. I hope that our mutual effort in recalling these things will serve a as lasting inspiration to service in the days ahead.

I also agree with you on the key function of the Sacrament of the Last Supper – which is to put us in remembrance of the gift of Jesus. Many think that taking the emblems of his DEATH is some kind of mini baptism for remission of sins - related to the purging of our weekly indiscretions. I am grateful that you remind me otherwise: that it is the remembrance of Jesus service and sacrifice, not our own sins, that is central to the ceremony.

I did not feel contradicted. It is my nature to be combative. I do so in confidence that: first you will easily withstand any criticism and secondly that through the clash of ideas all will be edified when the truth is found.

I did read and enjoy your post at http://cliffhung.blogspot.com/2010/12/duty-to-god-legend-of-sioux-brave.html and eagerly recommend it to others.

Lona said...

Um, Question.
I read Luke 22:43-44 and saw that there's a JST that reads, "..and he sweat as it were great drops of blood..."

Doesn't that change the verse to mean that he Did sweat blood? I did some research on the subject and found D&C 19:18-19 which says,

"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."

So I'm a bit confused. That seems to indicate he Did sweat blood. I suppose it Could be a metaphor, but it doesn't seem to be. Am I missing something?

Lysis said...

Lona

First, it doesn’t matter if He sweat blood, although “as it were” tends to indicate that it was like blood – not blood. For example” he made “as it were” to leave, but instead he stayed.

Second, the JST is not the official doctrine of the Church – the LDS Church accepts the King James version as Scripture – the JST as an unfinished commentary on the Bible, which has never been canonized.

As for the D&C – it does not specify were Jesus suffered this pain and bleeding – it could refer to the whipping he received from the Romans or to something which happened on the cross. It is Talmage that put the two incidents together.

But again it doesn’t matter. What is important is where the sins of the world were purged. Was it in the garden as Talmage claims or on the Cross as Jesus himself teaches?