For years I’ve struggled to understand what the atonement is and how it works. This post is the byproduct of those mental and spiritual struggles. The short length of this post is intentional and took an incredible amount of humility and restraint. What I’ve written here is the very essence of my spiritual being.
I see the atonement as having three parts:
2. The problem of pain
3. Saviors on Mount Zion
First is repentance, which begins with God’s love and forgiveness. These are both infinite and eternal. Part of true repentance is the desire to turn away from sin and towards God. God respects and honors our righteous desires with his love and forgiveness. God exerts a moral influence that persuades and influences us to re-orient ourselve towards him. This influence is always exerted through gentleness, compassion, and love unfeigned. The repentance process can happen in an instant or it can be a gradual process.
Second is the problem of pain. My approach to this issue is two-fold.
1. Free agency
2. The consequences inflicted on us by living in a fallen world
God can and does love and nurture us regardless of whether our pain is caused by our own poor choices, the poor choices of others, or pain caused by living in a fallen world. At this point, I must concede God is limited in his power and is not omnipotent. It would seem as though once the great plan of happiness was set into motion, God can no longer prevent worldly pain and suffering and is left only with the ability to help heal and nurture. Thankfully, this divine nurturing often helps us to become more than we were.
Third is a responsibility to become a savior on Mount Zion. I have the honor-bound duty to extend God’s love to all with whom I come into contact. I embrace his divine virtues and extend the same to those around me. It is my privilege to love, forgive, and extend charity to all who are within my circle of influence.
In a word, the atonement is love.
*** FWIW, I was tempted to get into what I think the atonement is not. I was also tempted to cite scripture to bolster my claims. Ultimately, I felt that to do so would have detracted from my primary objective so I avoided both. That said, I’d be happy to discuss both in the comments.
Viliami, I have no idea if I believe in an atonement or not, but in your example here, for argument’s sake. What is the difference between a god that could intervene but doesn’t because he wants us to struggle and a god that can’t because he’s bound by the laws of the plan he set forth (or plan that has to be according to the natural laws of godhood and the universe? IOW, is it only an illusion of omnipotence if he can but chooses not to act for the good of his children?
I like this. Thank you for breaking it down, bruh.
I LOVE this! It’s been on my mind lately too. I want more. I want to know what these principles mean in practical terms. I want to know how to access the atonement and I want to know how the principles manifest in people’s lives.
Also, I’m with Carson: doesn’t might equal won’t rather than can’t.
I like this too. But I am confused by the idea I have heard lately about ‘accessing the atonement’. I am unsure what there is about it that needs to be accessed. I am definitely not trying to be argumentative. I love the Saviour and experience His love in many different ways. Is’ accessing the atonement’ something different?
I’ve never found “accessing” the Atonement a useful image for me. I have found _participating_ in Atonement helpful, recently. I view it as, Christ has already reached out to welcome me into himself, now I just need to embrace him in return. And since he has embraced all of humanity, I need to learn to extend my embrace to all humanity to be completely one with Christ. Rather than access, I strive to enact at-one-ment.
Thanks, Jonathan. I like the way the see it. That helps a lot.
Perfect. I needed this.
“God . . . is left only with the ability to help heal and nurture. Thankfully, this divine nurturing often helps us to become more than we were.”
I think it’s likely this is all the power He ever really had, and that it is all the power that is needed to create universes. Beautifully written, Viliami.
I would beg to differ on your statement that "God is limited in his power" due to the fact that he does not generally prevent pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is part of what we were meant to experience here, that we might understand the good. Choosing not to intervene because it is counter to your purpose is much different than being unable to intervene. Here is a slightly lengthier post I wrote about the Atonement. http://thelogicalmormon.com/2014/04/17/what-the-atonement-means-to-me/
This gives rise to the argument that if this is the case, God is either impotent or evil. If we were to choose not to intervene if we saw children starving and dying right in front of us and we had the power to stop it, easily and with no risk to ourselves, and we chose not to do anything, wouldn’t that be an evil act? To be “good” aren’t we supposed to do everything we can to help, protect and serve other people? Those seem to be traits of good that I think we would all agree on. To actively choose to not do them seems pretty evil to me. To allow suffering when you can stop it. It requires tremendous effort on our part sometimes, and often risk to do good as mortals with limited ability. For an omnipotent, omnipresent being it would take virtually no effort at all since he/she could be everywhere at once, and do anything at will.
On a personal level, it seems more likely to me that God is not omnipotent, but limited though his/her ability and power may indeed be vast and difficult to comprehend rather than one that is evil.
Thank you so much for all the great comments. I’ve wanted to reply but I haven’t been at a computer for a couple days but felt you all deserved better. I’ll be back later tonight.
This was well written and I appreciated the brevity. I hadn’t really considered the limits to God’s power when in comes to human suffering. Yours is an interesting take.
Oh, and thank you for not mentioning “white privilege” this time around. : P
This was a really great post. I’m impressed by how concise you were able to make it. I’m still not completely satisfied with your two pronged response to the problem of evil, but it may be the best we can do… Thanks for sharing!
In regards to suffering and God’s lack of power.
1. God is Omni-benevolent. His love is the power of the priesthood. That is to say, his love combined with our love, is what unites and binds us through time and throughout eternity.
2. God is not Omnipotent. To be sure, suffering/pain can be a soul-making experience. However, there is suffering that is beyond the sufferers capacity to appreciate, internalize, or grow from. In the case of the innocent sufferer where God does not intervene I can only conclude that he cannot therefore he does not. Therefore, God is not omnipotent and is certainly bound by some universal law otherwise he would surely prevent or mitigate suffering in certain cases.
I think you articulated very well the best teachings and beliefs in modern Mormonism. This was a lovely read. Thank you very much.
God is limited in his power no way you wouldn't said that, its unchristain but then look at where the source came from LDS lies.