Thursday, October 7, 2010

Being at One

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. - Third Article of Faith, LDS

The atonement is the most talked about and most misunderstood part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ in GethsemaneI covered a bit about sin in my blog about the Second Article of Faith. It was mostly about what sin is and how we can commit it. To recap it's to act knowingly or willingly against the will of God. We're imperfect and sometimes it seems a better idea to do the wrong thing rather than tough out the right. Guaranteed we've all done something.

Lemme diverge a bit and talk a little about God & Heaven. God knows how to be happy. I know, duh, but it needs to be said. He wants us to be happy and has prepared a place where we can achieve that forever. It doesn't mean that we get to do whatever we want because we will eventually step on someone's toes. The natural answer would be "don't hang around other people", but we're social beings and cannot spend eternity alone. So to boil it all down, some strict ground rules need to be set. For one you have to be capable of following the rules and be clean from trespasses altogether.

Now back to sin. If we have sin, we cannot go to this place. To fix sin you need to be able to reverse your actions or be punished. Reversing actions is impossible and punishment is more than we can bear with our mortal bodies. Eternal consequences and temporal bodies don't mix.

So now what? We sin, we can't be in heaven and God can't just forgive us. Why can't he forgive us? Justice. He is a just God and in so being he cannot be merciful or he contradicts himself. Since we can't pay the debt (being mortal and all) and God has to be just we need a third party to help us fix this.

Enter the Savior. There are a few requirements for this position:

  1. Power Over Death - He needs to be able to withstand the punishment for sin without dying.
  2. Mortal - If there's no risk there's no sacrifice and only morals have the risk of death.
  3. Perfect - How can anyone be expected to give their entire eternal fate over to someone they can find fault with?
  4. Infinite - If you atone for 1 quintillion sins what if there was one more. It is this "what if" that always requires atoning for one more sin. Hence, infinite.

CrucifixionWe all know who fit the bill and did it willingly: Jesus Christ. His father was God, giving him power over death and the ability to avoid sin. His mother was Mary, giving him the ability to die and adding risk to this whole thing. He, by his very nature, is full of charity (the reason why he volunteered). Charity is love without limitation. Love without limitation is infinite and powerful enough to overcome infinite pain.

Now that all the criteria is met we need to look at the act. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ suffered for all the sins of mankind. He had endured 40 days without food, the betrayal of his own people, Satan, hatred and many more things we do not know, but this single event scared him. He knew what needed to be done. His whole existence was spent preparing for this moment and when it arrived he asked if there was another way. This was a big deal and I'm glad he chose to do it.

Now for the second part of the Atonement. So that all could be raised in incorruption never to die again Christ needed to break the bonds of death, by dying. He died on the cross and two days later he rose. There is more to his life, ie. he set the example; He endured all things so he could succor us; He taught how we should be; and most importantly he gave us the conditions of his contract. All these things done because he knew we, his brothers and sisters, could not do it on our own and volunteered to help us out.

Now this deviates strongly from most other Christian faiths in a few ways:

  1. Garden of GethsemaneGarden of Gethsemane - It is believed that Christ went to the Garden to negotiate with God about the Crucifixion the next day and provide a place so Judas could find him.
  2. Crucifixion - It is also believed Christ paid for our sins by dying on the Cross.
  3. Resurrection - This is tied to neither the garden or the Crucifixion. It is believed that ressurrection is just being saved from hell and that the dead rising would be the same as giving our bodies life again.

As stated above, we believe that Christ paid for our sins in the Garden. He died on the Cross so he could break the bonds of death so we all could be resurrected. We are resurrected with perfect bodies so we can live forever.

So now Christ had fulfilled his end of the contract. He had paid for our sins. So what does that mean for us? If we do what he says we can all shake off the sins that bind us down and be raised to incorruption. All the principals and ordinances of his gospel are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as well as those people with the authority to administer them. With these handy tools we can enter into the kingdom of heaven and partake in eternal happiness. Goody for us.

Be One