I had a discussion about the difficulty of rising above the sins of this world. It was provoked by the recent post on adultery. It has in turn led to these additional thoughts.
It is impossible to become altogether clean in this fallen world. We can do our best, but in the end we’re going to find we are lacking. The scriptures admit this. The proposition is so fundamentally understood among most saints that it goes without saying. We’re all in need of redemption from an outside power, someone with greater virtue and power than we have, who can lift us from our condition into something higher, cleaner, and more godly. This is the role of Christ. His atoning sacrifice equipped Him to accomplish this.
The atonement, however, is not magic. Through it, Christ accomplished some very specific things, and has the power to lead us all back to the presence of God, the Father. The process was difficult for Him and is necessarily difficult for us.
Christ participated in the ordinance of the atonement to acquire two things. First, knowledge. (Isa. 53: 11.) It is through His knowledge He is able to “justify many.” The knowledge was acquired through His suffering the pains of all mankind. That allowed Him to know exactly what weaknesses afflict mankind, and how to overcome them. This allows Him to succor, or relieve, or teach mankind how to overcome every form of guilt, affliction, and weakness. (Alma 7: 11-12.) This knowledge was gained by suffering guilt and remorse for sins He did not commit exactly as if He were the one who committed them. He performed this great burden before His Father, who would never leave Him; even in His hour of temptation, despite the fact that all His followers would abandon Him. (John 16: 32.) When He suffered the guilt of all mankind, it was necessary for His Father to draw near to Him. (Luke 22: 42-43.) This was required because it is impossible for Christ to know how to redeem mankind from the guilt and shame of sin unless He experiences the pains of uncleanliness before God the Father, as mankind will do if they are unclean in the day of judgment. (Mormon 9: 4-5.) Unlike all of us, however, Christ knows how to overcome this shame because He has done so.
Second, Christ acquired the keys of death and hell by suffering, reconciling, dying, rising, and reuniting with the Father. (Rev. 1: 18.) Because the keys of death and hell belong to Him, He has the power of forgiveness. He can forgive all men all offenses. But He requires us to forgive others. (D&C 64: 9-10.) If we fail to forgive others, we cannot be forgiven. (Matt. 6: 15.)
We do not move from our state of evil to redemption by Christ’s sacrifice alone. It is required for us to follow Him. (John 10: 27.) We follow Him when we allow Him to succor us, to impart knowledge to us, and to forgive others through His knowledge gained from the atonement.
Through the keys of death and hell, Christ’s atonement cleanses us from our errors, our failings, and our deliberate wrong choices. He provides cleansing from those failings. But His atonement does not change our character unless we follow Him. The atonement, if properly acted upon, frees us to develop character like His, unencumbered by the guilt of what we’ve failed to do. He removes our guilt. But developing character like His is our responsibility.
We cannot be passive and obtain what He offers. We are required to actively pursue the redemption we seek through Him. When the sin is removed from us, we are free to pursue virtue without the crippling effects of remorse which He removes from us. (Alma 24: 10.) When freed from the guilt of sin, the past mistakes no longer haunt us. Our sins are no longer remembered by the Lord, and we are free to confess and forsake them. (D&C 58: 42-43.) The reason we can publicly confess them is because they are no longer us. They do not define us. It is no longer our sin, nor our character. We have chosen to follow Him into a new life.
The development of a godly character happens in stages, gradually. We are forgiven in an instant, suddenly. (Alma 36: 18-20.) When forgiven we necessarily turn to a new life, in which sharing the joy of forgiveness and the joy of redemption through Christ is our abiding desire. (Alma 36: 24.) The mind changes in proportion to the joy found in the new life. (Romans 8: 5-6.) Such new people are no longer the sons of men, but they become the sons of God. (Romans 8: 14-17.) They know the joy of having the voice of the Father declare to them that they have been begotten by the Father and are the sons of God. (Psalms 2: 7.)
Remaining mired in the flesh is evidence a man has not been redeemed, not been succored by Christ, not accepted the saving knowledge which He can impart, and has not risen up to receive salvation. The atonement is not active in such lives. The fullness of the atonement is the fullness of knowledge, which comes by following Him and abiding the conditions. No one can receive what He offers unless they conform to the conditions He has established for redemption. (D&C 93: 27-28.)
This is the Gospel of Christ. This is the news which comes from the Lord – the Messenger of Salvation. Those who know Him will declare these things in unmistakable words to allow others to come and partake of the same fruit of the tree of life. All the other vitrues, causes, programs and, “inspirational stories” are distractions which, if indulged in to the neglect of these other things, will damn you.
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men.” (D&C 93: 1-4.)
I am not that Light. But I have seen that Light and can testify He lives, and His atoning work continues today among all of those who will receive Him. If you will receive Him, He will not leave you comfortless, but He will come and take up His abode with you. (John 14: 18.) Not only Him, but the Father also. (John 14: 23.) This is literal, and the idea this is only an abode “in your heart” is false; for they will come and make themselves known to you. (D&C 130: 3.) Eternal life is to know Him. (John 17: 3.) This means to come into His presence again. (Ether 3: 19.)
These things are the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyone who teaches otherwise is in error and a deceiver.