The Creation of Man
Having studied the sacred laws, rites, ordinances and familial responsibilities pertaining to the patriarchal order of the priesthood, we are now prepared to examine some of the greater truths of the godly works of creation and salvation of man in this and other worlds past, present and future.
How was the first man, Adam, created? Contrary to popular belief he was not the product of eons of evolution, nor was he the result of some magical animation of “dust.” In all his creation accounts Moses speaks symbolically. Even in the temple drama we are told the portrayal of Adam’s creation is “figurative.” Adam was created the same way each of us was created according to the laws, rites and ordinances of eternal marriage -- there is no other way. Would the great Lawgiver violate his own laws?
Joseph Smith said:
Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. (TPJS, 373).
Adam was not some Paleolithic Neanderthal man who evolved from the primordial swamps of Eden, nor was he some Frankenstein put together with spare parts or a fancy piece of pottery molded out of some wet clay. Adam was someone’s begotten son. Whose son? He was God’s son. Adam was the son of God. The scriptures are clear:
And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed. (Moses 6:22).
Adam was God’s begotten son. So why do the scriptures say Christ is God’s Only Begotten Son? The phrase, “God’s Only Begotten Son” is really an abbreviation. The prophets have revealed the full intended meaning of the phrase as “God’s Only Begotten Son in the Flesh!” “In the flesh” means “flesh and blood,” or “mortal.” (See 1 Nephi 11:18 and Matthew 16:17 as examples). Christ is God’s only begotten son born of a mortal woman in this eternity. Mary was mortal “flesh and blood.” Adam’s (and our) Heavenly Mother was not. She was an immortal resurrected celestial woman -- hence, there was no blood in her. Joseph taught:
When our flesh is quickened by the spirit, there will be no blood in this tabernacle. (TPJS, 367).
All will be raised [in the resurrection] by the power of God, having spirit in their bodies and not blood. (TPJS, 199-200).
While Adam was begotten physically, he was not begotten of flesh and blood, meaning “in the flesh,” because he was not “mortal” at the time of his birth. He was not born of a mortal woman but of an immortal woman. There was no blood in Adam’s body at birth because there was no blood in his Mother’s resurrected body. Furthermore, there would be no blood in Adam’s body until after the fall. Lehi makes the case absolutely clear -- Adam was infinite and immortal and would have lived forever had he not subsequently fallen. (See 2 Nephi 2:22).
The Physical Creation
God creates our physical world by Christ, with vegetation and fruit of every kind being brought from other planets. Then God (an exalted couple) comes to this planet, they partake of the vegetation and fruit growing here, charge their resurrected bodies made from the elements (“dust”) of their mortal planet an eternity ago with the elements of this planet. They combine in sexual union as priest and priestess, husband and wife, having both the power and the nature of the seeds forever. She conceives by the combination of his seed and her egg and brings forth a son made of the elements of this planet.
Moses says Adam is the son of God made from the dust of the earth. His symbolic language raises strange possibilities in many sectarian minds. Simply stated, we are all made of dust and we return to dust when we die. “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” When we exhume an old corpse all that remains is dust. Our bodies are composed of the elements of this earth and so was Adam’s. We were made (organized) of those elements by the process of procreation through sexual union. So was Adam. As Joseph Smith said, “Everything comes in this way.” (TPJS, 373). Father Adam was first a son.
[God] commenced the work of creating earthly tabernacles, precisely as He had been created in this flesh himself, [as man is, God once was] by partaking of the course material that was organized and composed this earth, until his system [body] was charged with it, consequently the tabernacles of His children were organized from the coarse materials [dust] of this earth. (JD, 4:218).
In another sermon he said:
After men have got their exaltations and their crowns -- have become Gods, even the sons of God -- are made Kings of kings and Lords of lords, they have the power then of propagating their species. . . Power is given to them to commence the organization of tabernacles. How can they do it? Have they to go to that earth? Yes, . . .they will go into the garden and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporeal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies to enable them, according to the established laws, to produce. . . tabernacles for their spiritual children. (JD, 6:275).
Upon a moment’s reflection we have all learned these truths as we have created bodies for our children. If we were teaching our children these sacred principles, we would testify in words something like these: “Children, this is how your physical creation occurred. You were all created by your father and mother, who obeyed the law of chastity, then the commandment to multiply and replenish. As your parents we performed the rite of holy sexual union. Mom conceived and then in observance of the law of sacrifice, ate food grown from the dust or elements of this planet until her body was charged with those elements sufficiently to form your physical body. Ultimately, she performed the first gospel ordinance you received -- you were born physically after your spirit and body united. Subsequently as your parents, and acting as a priest and priestess in the patriarchal order of the priesthood, we have consecrated our lives to your service as fully devoted parents. We haven’t done everything perfectly, but we are learning along with you.”
This process has been going on from generation to generation right back to Adam and Eve, but that is not where our genealogy begins. Because Adam was made in the very same way by his physical parents, our Heavenly Father and Mother, we are all their children. We are children of God. We are all their creations. They started the family tree with the power of eternal lives, the continuation of the seeds, the birthrights and rites pertaining to their godhood as an exalted couple. Once understood, how sad the thought any would sell or forfeit their birthright (their right to give birth) for a mess of pottage -- the petty fame and fortune of this dreary world.
The Spiritual Creation
Of the creation of our spirits, President Brigham Young said:
Things were first created spiritually; the Father actually begat [through sexual union] the spirits, and they were brought forth and lived with Him. (JD, 4:218).
After men have got their exaltations and their crowns. . . they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit; and that is the first of their operations with regard to organizing a world. (JD, 6:275).
Now brethren you have got a spirit in you and that spirit was created and organized -- was born and begotten by our Father and our God before we ever took these bodies; and these bodies were formed by him, and through him, and of him, just as much as the spirit was; for I will tell you, he commenced and brought forth spirits; and then, when he completed that work, he commenced and brought forth tabernacles for those spirits to dwell in. I came through him, both spirit and body. (JD, 6:31).
Did God produce us? He did, and every son and daughter of Adam upon the face of this earth; and he produced us upon the same principle that we produce one another. (JD, 6:101).
Brigham Young sums it all up by saying:
When our spirits receive their bodies [in the resurrection] and through our faithfulness we are worthy to be crowned, we will then receive authority to produce both spirit and body. (JD, 15:137).
The Birth of Christ
. . . how are children begotten? I answer, just as Jesus Christ was begotten by his Father. (Stake Conference, Sunday School Session, Dec. 20, 1914, partially reported in the Box Elder Times Newspaper, Dec. 24, 1914).
Sexual union is not only holy, it is Godly. Nephi used explicit language when he described how Mary conceived:
. . . the virgin thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. (1 Nephi 11:18).
The angel thus explained to Nephi what the phrase “the condescension of God” really meant. (See 1 Nephi 11:16).
. . . [Christ] was begotten by Man of Holiness [Heavenly Father] as literally as any mortal father begets a son. The natural processes of procreation were involved; Jesus was begotten by his Father as literally as he was conceived by his mother. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:144).
Men and women are always created in the image of God. Man is not created on any other principle than the eternal laws, rites and ordinances we have discussed -- godly couples, sealed forever, doing godly acts with the powers and within the bounds of the eternal priesthood.
Christ as the Creator
We have reviewed how exalted couples make bodies according to the laws, rites and ordinances of the patriarchal priesthood, but the scriptures also say Christ made men. What is his role in this holy process? How can Christ be the creator of man? He was not a resurrected being, he did not have a body before he came to earth, so how could he possibly give us bodies? The scriptures clearly teach that God The Father is our Father in Heaven. How can Christ possibly be man’s creator?
Some surmise there is a mistake here. They say the scriptures are not translated correctly on this point. Others suggest the meaning may only be figurative, because he “sort of” fathers us when we are born again of the Holy Spirit. Still others assert a case of “Divine Investiture of Authority,” because the Father is our creator. These possible explanations all sound plausible until they are compared to scripture:
1. The scriptures aren’t translated correctly here. “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, . . .” says our 8th Article of Faith. However, this argument is used far too often in the Church as an excuse for not understanding doctrine. If there were only one obscure verse mentioning Christ as the Creator in the Bible, perhaps a case could be made for this argument, but this is one of the most documented doctrines of the scriptures. The doctrine appears not only in the Bible, but even more emphatically in The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. The Topical Guide lists numerous references under the heading “Jesus Christ, Creator.” It is not an incorrect translation, because the doctrine is everywhere.
2. The meaning is only figurative, because Christ “sort of” fathers us when we are born again of the Holy Ghost. Christ does not “sort of” father us when we are born of the spirit -- he does father us spiritually when we are born of the spirit. (See Mosiah 5:7). Still, this spiritual reality does not solve the Christ as Creator question, because when the scriptures speak of Christ as the Creator of man they speak of the making of man, not merely in the context of being born again. (See John 1:3; D&C 93:10; D&C 45:1; 3 Nephi 22:5; or Isaiah 44:24 as examples).
3. It must be a case of Divine Investiture of Authority, because the Father is our Creator. This idea cannot be supported scripturally either. If this is just a matter of Divine Investiture of Authority, meaning Christ speaks for the Father as if he were the Father, we cannot explain away these scriptures: Moses 1:32-33, or D&C 76:42. These scriptures clearly exclude “Divine Investiture of Authority” as a satisfactory answer, because these passages cannot be interpreted that way. They do not say “I” created. They say the Father created us by Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of someone speaking in the first person for someone else. No matter who is speaking in these passages, they are saying the Father created all things by Christ. As stated in Moses 2:26, it is a matter of “us” not “I.” God said to his Only Begotten Son (Christ), “Let us make man. . .”
These are reasonable attempts to explain a difficult doctrine but each comes short of the mark, because the scriptures unequivocally show the Father created us, made us, by Jesus Christ. Under direction of the Father, Christ made man. It is difficult to escape such explicit language so how do we explain it?
The answer lies in our understanding of something Joseph called “the Office of Messiah,” coupled with the sealing power as they relate to the doctrine and principle of light we have already studied earlier.
The Office of Messiah
The sealing power is light. It is the ultimate power of the universe referred to as “the powers of heaven.” Light is the power of God. It is the power by which all things are added upon, created and made, preserved and upheld, diminished and destroyed. It is the law by which all things are governed. It is the power by which all things are known. It is truly the glory of God.
Who is the light of the world? “I am the light of the world,” says Christ, “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12). Where did Christ obtain the light of life? Who gave it to him? Why was it given to him? What does he do with it? What does it have to do with us?
Listen as Christ introduces himself:
I am Alpha and Omega, Christ the Lord; yea, even I am he, the beginning and the end, the Redeemer of the world.
I, having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning me — having done this that I might subdue all things unto myself —
Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last great day of judgment, which I shall pass upon the inhabitants thereof, judging every man according to his works and the deeds which he hath done. (D&C 19:1-3).
Jesus Christ is the “torch bearer” of this eternity. He holds the key of life and is the author of all life in this system of planets. It was given to him by God his Heavenly Father in the morning of creation before the worlds (those belonging to this eternity) were made. John said:
And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him. (D&C 93:16-17).
This is the glory the Savior had with the Father before the world was. (John. 17:5). It is the glorious power by which he, the Old Testament Jehovah, accomplished all his wondrous acts before and after the world was created.
In the beginning he was called to serve in the office of Messiah. His role in this office was to be the end (Redeemer) and the beginning (Creator). He was chosen not only to be the last but also to be the first. He stands not only as the finisher of our faith but also as the author. Messiah is Alpha and Omega. His Messiahship is complete, comprehensive and exhaustive. He is our all in all.
Joseph Smith understood all of this. His ideas about creation were revolutionary, transformative and completely original for his day. He was the great Restorer of the truth. Creation, he said, was as an intelligent act of the organization of existing matter in full compliance with eternal laws, rather than a magical materialization of something from nothing. He said:
In the translation “without form and void” it should be read, empty and desolate. The word created should be formed, or organized. (TPJS, 181).
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?” And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create comes from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos -- chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end. (TPJS, 350-2; see also D&C 93:29).
It is likely Joseph learned much of this as he was translating the Book of Abraham by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Moses account of the creation of the world the terms “create,” “without form and void” appear. (Moses 2:1-2). In the Abraham account, however, it reads: “And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed [not “created”] the heavens and the earth. And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate [not “without form and void”], because they had not formed anything but the earth. . . (Abraham 4:1-2, emphasis ours). This insight, of course, perfectly conforms with the Prophet’s sermons cited above.
Many understand these teachings of Joseph regarding the organization of the world as here explained. Few, however, have caught what he said in relation to the key role of the Messiah in the organization of the world. He said:
There are some important things concerning the office of the Messiah in the organization of the world. . . (TPJS, 341).
Joseph understood the role and office of Messiah comprehended the creation (or organization) of the world as well as the salvation and redemption of the world. Speaking of Christ the Messiah the scriptures say:
. . . through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him. (D&C 76:42).
For example, Noah’s ship needed pitch both to seal the wood together initially, and then to hold it together thereafter or it never could have survived the flood. Our solar system needed gravity to bring it into place initially then to hold it in place thereafter, or its matter would fly into space.
This is true of all material bodies (physical or spiritual organizations -- our bodies or the planets), and it is just as true of all social and political bodies (organizations) whether they be nations or marriages, families or governments.
We need to understand two basic realities of existence: 1) All life, all organized entities, are the result of order and organization; and 2) all order is the result of the “sealing agent,” also known as law and identified in the scriptures as being “the light of Christ:”
This is the light of Christ. . . The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God. (D&C 88:7,13).
There can be no creation without the sealing power of light, nor could the entities created continue to endure without it. Only Jesus Christ acting in the office of Messiah in this system of planets holds this key in its fullness. Note how explicit the language of this revelation is:
The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men. The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him and of him. (D&C 93:9-10).
The sealing power is the ultimate power of the priesthood and the universe. By it worlds, solar systems, galaxies and meta-galaxies are “bound” (matter is brought together and organized), by it they are upheld (matter is preserved in a given state and held in place) and by it they are “loosed” (matter is disorganized and the organization destroyed). By it societies are “blessed,” prospered in unity and peace, and by it they are “cursed,” breaking down into anarchy and ruin. By it marriages and families are “sealed” in time and eternity. (D&C 132). By it sins are remitted and retained. (D&C 132:45-47).
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law [light] is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still. (D&C 88:33-35).
All who are governed by this sealing power of light are preserved by it and perfected and sanctified by it. All who refuse to be blessed and benefited by it through unwise uses of agency are cursed and destroyed by it. To the point, the creation of man is accomplished by this divine sealing power in the hands of the Messiah. Intelligence, which cannot be created or destroyed (see D&C 93:24), is brought together and formed into intelligences. Spirit, which is all matter (see D&C 131:7-8), is brought together and formed into individual spirits. The “dust” or elements of the earth are brought together and formed into body temples. Spirit and element (body) are brought together to form living souls.
In each of these dimensions we see unorganized matter being brought together through holy laws, rites and ordinances in and of by and through the holy sealing power of the light of Christ.
Every ordinance, every performance, every covenant et. al., must be sealed to take effect. Sealed by what? The Holy Spirit of promise (see D&C 132:7). What is the Holy Spirit of promise? Light, the powers of heaven, the sealing power. Light is the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful saints. It is administered to men and women in at least four major endowments or degrees as revealed in the scriptures.
1. The “Primal” Comforter, or the light of Christ, the spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit promised or given as promised to every man and woman who comes into the world. By this gift of light all may know good from evil through the power of conscience of the natural man who receives primal glory (see D&C 84:45-46).
2. The First Comforter, the promise or gift of the Holy Ghost, the spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit promised to the justified man who receives telestial glory (see D&C 76:86).
3. The Second Comforter, Jesus Christ, the spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit promised to the sanctified man who receives terrestrial glory (see D&C 76:77).
4. The Final Comforter, the Father, the spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit promised to the glorified man who receives celestial glory (see D&C 76:62).
Every word must be established in the mouths of two or three witnesses (see 2 Corinthians 13:1; D&C 6:28). We lay a foundation in faith upon which we build with ever-increasing increments of truth, word, glory and spirit (light) dispensed to us by each member of the Godhead upon the principles of righteousness. The light of Christ, primal light, is added upon by the second, third and fourth. We choose our level of light and salvation by how much we are willing to receive.
As we grow in light and truth we come into sacred contact with each glorious witness in a gradual progression of light and truth. Each comforts us with their gifts. Each bears witness of two truths: 1) The gospel is true; and 2) the individual is true through his or her faithfulness to the covenants made. The Godhead is bestowing “glory” or their “presence” upon the recipient as these endowments of truth and light are bestowed. (See D&C 76:50-86, especially verses 55, 62, 77, and 86).
The Holy Spirit must seal all unions, even the union of the sperm and the egg at the time of conception or the union will not be consummated. The sealing agent applied by Messiah will be missing. Since the light of Christ authenticates the organization of life as the life of all things, it gives life to all things, and where that light is not there is no life despite attempts of modern man to create life. God is in control. Christ is the one who holds the key of life. He will give life, preserve life and take life as seemeth him good. (D&C 63:1-5). He has the power and the authority. He is the Messiah, Alpha and Omega, the creator and redeemer of all things.
Jesus Christ, the Key Bearer, truly is the life of all men and women. His power creates us. His power preserves us. His power can destroy us. He most surely is the Creator, the giver of life both spirit and body.
Why the Messiah Must be the Creator
Why did the Father delegate this power and mission to be the Light Bearer or Key Bearer, the Life Giver, the Creator of all things, to his Son instead of doing it all himself? One of the most puzzling things about the gospel relates to Alma 34:11-12, which clearly says no one can pay for another person’s sins, for such a thing would not be just.
Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered. . . (Alma 34:11-12).
Since this is both logical and true, the question remains, “How, then, could Jesus Christ our brother justly pay for our sins?” Why can Christ pay for another’s sins, when the law says that is not just? Why isn’t it just for one person to pay for another’s sins? The law requires punishment for the one who is responsible. There is absolutely no justice in someone paying for the transgression who is not responsible.
As young men in school we remember hearing about a Polish priest who “stood in,” and was executed for a married man with a young family who was sentenced to be hung. The incident was reported widely in all the newspapers and on the news. We thought at the time, “What a great and loving act that is.” Then we thought, “But where is the justice?” No matter how loving or well-intended this is not a correct pattern. Justice and law require the life of the guilty party, not some innocent person who had no responsibility standing in for him so he could go free. Justice is not served in such ways. In fact, justice is offended, for such a thing is unjust and contrary to all for which justice stands.
So why is Christ’s atonement valid in satisfying the demands of justice? Suppose Brother Jones is sitting at home reading the paper in the family room and the doorbell rings. Jones answers the door to find his next-door neighbor standing on the porch, his faced flushed with anger, fingers gripped tightly around a baseball in his hand. “Jones,” he says, “Curtis Smith (a neighbor boy) just threw this baseball right through my $1000 bay window and you’re paying for it!” Well, Jones would probably tell him to go jump in a lake and so would the judge.
Now suppose it was Matthew, the seven-year-old son of Jones, who threw the ball through his bay window. Is Jones going to pay? Yes. Will the judge make him pay? Yes. Would it be just? Absolutely. Why? Because there is an eternal inviolate law to satisfy the demands of justice: The Creator is always responsible for his creations. Jones is Matthew’s father. In the eyes of the law Brother Jones is Matthew’s creator, and he is responsible for what Matthew does until he grows up and becomes accountable in the eyes of the law.
Jim Wilson, a hypothetical civil engineer, serves as another example to illustrate this point. Suppose the City of Seattle pays him to design and build a bridge. He completes the project, and three months later while a family is driving over it the bridge collapses and kills some of them because it was not designed properly. Is Jim responsible? Yes. Could he go to jail? Yes. Is that just? Yes. Why? Because that bridge was Jim’s creation, and the creator is always responsible for his creations.
Does God hold parents accountable for teaching their children the gospel? Is the sin for failing to do so placed upon the parents’ heads? Yes. Is that just? Yes, because they created their children. (See D&C 68:25). Further, like the watchmen and prophets in ancient and modern Israel, if parents fail to “warn” their children with the gospel message, the parents will be required to account for the sins of their rebellious children in the same way the watchmen must answer for those they did not warn. (See Ezekiel 3:17-19; D&C 88:81; 109:41; 134:12; Jacob 1:19-2:2; Acts 18:5-6). The only qualifier here is what constitutes an adequate and sufficient “warning” before we must pay for the sins of others. God decides.
The parents in Zion will be held responsible for the acts of their children, not only until they become eight years old but, perhaps, throughout all the lives of their children, provided they have neglected their duty to their children while they were under their care and guidance, and the parents were responsible for them. (CR, Apr. 1910, 6).
You see, we don’t bring children into the world just to have fun with them and play with them and to be proud of them. We bring children into the world because the Lord, after he created this great world of ours, wanted it peopled by a righteous people who could go to other worlds and be the leaders there. So when a child is born, we have a tremendous responsibility. We don’t just feed it and clothe it. We don’t just give it housing. We have to do much more. (CR, Manchester England Area Conference 1976, 32).
In a sermon delivered by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo on August 13, 1843, the Prophet discussed the seal of the Holy Spirit of promise that would unconditionally seal a faithful father and mother’s posterity with faithful observance of the marriage covenant by the parents. The historians who have examined the various accounts of the sermon are somewhat divided on the Prophet’s intent regarding the unconditional versus conditional nature of the promise.
It is a great challenge to raise a family in the darkening mists of our moral environment. We emphasize that the greatest work you will do will be within the walls of your home (see Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, April 1973, 130), and that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” (see David O. McKay, in Conference Report, April 1935, 116). The measure of success as parents, however, will not rest solely on how our children turn out. That judgment would be just only if we could raise our families in a perfectly moral environment, and that now is not possible.
It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons and daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should. It is my conviction that those wicked influences one day will be overruled. . .
We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them. When parents keep the covenants they have made at the altar of the temple, their children will be forever bound to them. (CR, April 1992, 94-94).
This is the first very important truth regarding the atonement. As our Creator, Christ is responsible for all our sins. Justice must be satisfied when we fall. He pays the full price on behalf of all who are faithful to their covenants. The effects of sin are physical and spiritual death, effects we cannot overcome alone. Read the following scriptures carefully: D&C 93:9-10; Ether 3:14-15; D&C 45:1-3. Many other references could be cited, but the point is made. Christ created us. Christ made us. We are his creations so he is responsible. Observe how clearly, simply and powerfully the Creator-Redeemer doctrine is set forth in scripture. Christ said:
For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever [meaning anybody] ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them. . . (Mosiah 26:22-23).
. . . for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men. . . (2 Nephi 9:5).
To behoove means “to be necessary, fit or proper.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary).
He is the great Creator, the infinite giver of life to all men. It was absolutely necessary that he do this great thing. Not only is he the Creator of all things from the beginning (Mosiah 3:8), but from the beginning he also gave his creations the moral agency to do whatever they desired. (Moses 7:32). He freely created us and gave us agency, knowing what we would do with it. (Abraham 2:8). Christ knew exactly what the Father was asking of him when he accepted the calling and office of Messiah. He knew he would be responsible, he knew he would be held accountable by eternal law and he knew the unyielding principles of eternal justice would demand full payment for all the sins of his creations at the risk of losing them forever. He knew. He courageously, lovingly and faithfully said to the Father, “I’ll go where you want me to go, and I’ll do what you want me to do.”
By becoming the infinite Creator, he became the only other being besides ourselves who could justly pay for our sins. No one else could do it because no one else is responsible for our sins.
Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?” (Alma 5:15).
The Father, then, had to give Christ the powers of life, make him the Creator so he could also be the Redeemer. If he were not our Creator he could not be our Redeemer, as he would not be a responsible party to our mistakes. Justice would reject his offering to pay for our sins. The scriptures are clear throughout -- Christ is the First (the Creator) and the Last (the Redeemer), the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, the Author and the Finisher of our salvation. His infinite divinity is an extension of the Father’s godhood or godhead. The Father’s position and power in the eternities extended to the Son, is in part, the power by which Christ has the wherewithal to act as Messiah (Alpha & Omega).
It was also necessary for the Father to give the Son this responsibility and these powers, because the Messiah would have to pay the wages of sin, which is death (see Romans 6:23). The Father cannot die again. His spirit and body have become inseparably connected, never to see corruption (death) again. (See D&C 93:33; 88:116; Alma 11:45; 12:18). This would be something the Son would need to do for the Father and the family, if the Firstborn would of his own agency accept such an awesome mission.
The atoning sacrifice required both deaths: The physical death of the soul and the spiritual death. Both deaths are separations. In the physical death the body is separated from the spirit. In the spiritual death the spirit is separated from God, meaning the spirit of God. In the atonement Christ voluntarily suffered both these deaths to pay for the transgressions of his creations.
Moral agency is within our domain to control. In the eyes of eternal law we mortals are mere children with much to learn. (See D&C 50:40). Our omniscient Creator can pay for our mistakes, but only if we choose to let him. Our agency cannot be compromised in any way. If we choose to reject Christ’s offering we must pay for our own sins.
Alma teaches his son, Corianton, the principles of justice and mercy. Alma explains mercy cannot rob justice. He says the work of justice cannot be destroyed; if so God would cease to be God. (See Alma 42:13).
All life is the result of order, or organization. There are no exceptions. All order and organization are the result of law. There are no exceptions. Justice is the administration of those laws that maintain, sustain, uphold and preserve life. Without law there is no order, and without order there is no life.
Without the laws of biology our bodies would disintegrate. Without the laws of government our society would devolve to anarchy and self-destruction. Without the laws of physics our solar system would fly into chaos. Law preserves and perfects life, because law preserves the order upon which all life is dependent. (See D&C 88:34).
If the eternal system of justice, law and order were destroyed, all organization would end. Life as we know it would cease. Only eternal chaos and confusion would exist. He would never permit this to happen. He will always honor the demands of eternal justice, law and order, because confusion brings destruction. God is committed to order and life, however. His work and glory are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (See Moses 1:39).
All God would have to do to destroy the eternal system of justice, law and order that preserves his kingdom would be to make one exception to the law and justice would cease to exist. Law is perfectly rigid. It must be or order collapses. If laws are broken once without the consequence of justice then why not a thousand times? God cannot make the least allowance or he ceases to be a God. The law must be perfectly obeyed and justice must be perfectly served for the preservation of everything. (See D&C 1:31).
On the other hand, one of God’s most powerful attributes is mercy. How can God be merciful, when the justice of law cannot be violated, must be honored, and is perfectly rigid? Alma explains this seeming paradox to Corianton. Mercy cannot rob justice, says Alma. (See Alma 42:13-15). The only way Christ can extend mercy to the repentant sinner is to first fully satisfy the broken law as our perfect, responsible and merciful advocate, but he will never violate the agency of his brothers and sisters. If the world only knew and understood these principles, who would knowingly reject such an offer?
Christ atones for the sins of the world. Why? To bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just and merciful Messiah. The beauty of the plan is not only the incredible love of God, but also the complete integrity of God. He honors justice by mercifully paying the price for the sins of his creations. (See D&C 19:15-19). Isaiah observed truly that God really did “bear our griefs, and carry our sorrows.” He really was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. . . and with his stripes we are healed.” He really did “make his soul an offering for sin and was stricken for our transgressions.” (See Isaiah 53). Christ the Messiah, as our God who created us, paid for our sins by personally suffering in our place. He paid “the uttermost farthing.” He did not rob or cheat justice. He paid the full price because of his perfection. “He suffered the pains of every living creature.” (See 2 Nephi 9:19-21). To do less would have been to rob justice, and he never would.
Some might claim the Father didn’t actually make the sacrifice, only Christ did. The relationship of the Father and Son goes far deeper than we presently understand. By the power of the Father’s priesthood glory the Son is a literal extension of the Father’s Godhead. We can be sure the loving Father was very involved in the atoning sacrifice of his Son. The Father had to sacrifice his Only Begotten Son, just as Abraham was asked to offer up his only begotten son of Sarah, Isaac, in similitude of the great sacrifice. Even a casual reading of Abraham 1 and then Genesis 17 discloses the whole ordeal was far more painful for Abraham, the father who obeyed and sacrificed despite his hatred for human sacrifice, than for Isaac, the son who was offered then spared as the sacrifice. As parents we can empathize with a loving father sacrificing a beloved child. Was Abraham’s suffering any less painful than Isaac’s? Who would you rather be in that ordeal, Isaac or Abraham? Would you be the Father who offered his innocent son, or the Son who was crucified?
Perhaps an even more heart-rending story is the one about the nameless mother in Israel whose infant was stolen from her by a grieving mother whose baby had died during the night. Abraham, probably because he was the great patriarchal example, gets more space in the scriptures, but this humble mother was willing to sacrifice truth, her emotional depravation, and even renounce her motherhood to spare the life of her child. She would have gladly sacrificed all that was dear and precious to her in this life, and as with Abraham the cleaving sword in Solomon’s hands was withdrawn at the last instant, but not until after her investment of absolute faith. (See 1 Kings 3:16-28). Can anyone plumb the depths of that mother’s anguish?
Now we come to the heart of the whole matter. Why was this fall and then subsequent mortal life and atonement all necessary?
The only way his creations could ever obtain eternal life and become as God was to obtain physical bodies like his, then gain the knowledge he has. God’s knowledge is the knowledge of all things. (See 2 Nephi 9:21). The knowledge of all things means all things, good and evil. (See Genesis 3:5, 22; Moses 5:11). Experience with good and evil is the only way to obtain the knowledge of good and evil. We all taste the bitterness of sin (though we do all we can to teach our young people to avoid sin), and we thus learn to appreciate and prize the sweetness of obedience for ourselves. (See Moses 6:55). By experiencing good and evil in mortality, we compare, learn and become as wise as he.
The debate continues to rage -- do we all have to partake of sin to know it is evil? Did Christ partake of iniquity’s bitter cup? Most assuredly. Though Christ never personally sinned, as our Savior he took upon himself our transgressions, he drank the bitter cup of our iniquities to the dregs, which caused such terrible anguish that the scriptures indicate he suffered not only in body and spirit but even momentarily shrank from finishing the horrible ordeal of the atonement. (See D&C 19:16-19). Often vicarious suffering for sin is even more exquisite, since the principles of agency must be held inviolate. Every parent with a child who deviates knows the exquisite pain of vicarious suffering for sin. The bitter taste may be even greater than had the parents sinned. God has become perfect. He never sins, because he doesn’t want to sin anymore. He has no desire to ever sin again, because he learned for himself as a mortal, just as each of us must, that the pleasure of sin is a lie, a dead end of terrible sadness and utter destruction. The only way to really know this is to experience it for ourselves.
By partaking of sin we learn, but we have also subjected ourselves to the rigid demands of justice. No one sins (meaning to transgress the law) with impunity -- no one. There are no “successful” sinners. Sooner or later the demands of justice must be met. If even one could sin without consequences then all could. The perfect plan of life would collapse and death would prevail. God’s work would be completely decimated.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared -- and he never taught a more comforting doctrine -- that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the cause of truth, would save not only themselves but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of divine providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in life or in the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God. (CR, April 1929, 110).
If we do not come to earth and experience evil with its terrible consequences of sorrow and death, we will never become like God because we will not know and understand what he does. When we do partake of evil we cannot be with God nor be like him, because we are guilty under the law. We are sentenced to physical and spiritual death, because those are the wages we must pay for sin. (See Romans 6:23). How do we experience evil so we can know what God knows, but not fall eternal victim to the consequences of evil?
The answer is the divine solution of the Gods: Take the memory of the children from them, then put them in a carefully prepared probationary state of accountability. Let them experience sin, evil and the consequences of sorrow and death for themselves, but only to a necessary point -- only temporarily -- only long enough for the children to gain this important knowledge for themselves. Then provide an atonement through the infinite Creator, who can justly meet all the conditions and requirements of the law because he is responsible, sinless and infinite.
Imagine this dialogue between the Savior and Satan to further illustrate the point. Jesus Christ the Messiah stands between man and justice (see Mosiah 15:9) and says, “I will pay, I will satisfy the demands of justice for all these children who have sinned.” Satan the destroyer says, “You can’t. No one can pay for sins they are not responsible for. It would not be just and I demand justice. Who are you to pay for their sins?”
“Their Creator,” responds Christ. “I am responsible for giving them life. I gave them power to live, to move and to do. I gave them their agency. All they have and are is because of me. I am responsible for them because I created them.”
“That may be true,” counters Satan, “but how can you possibly pay for their sins when you must pay for your own transgressions? You already owe the demands of justice for your own sins.”
“I have no sins as you well know, despite your temptations,” reminds Christ. “I owe justice nothing because I am sinless.”
“That may also be true,” Satan responds, “but how could you possibly pay the price of all the doings of all God’s children? Why, that is an infinite impossibility!”
“I am infinite,” answers Christ, “and my infinite creations are all known to me and the Father.”
Adam was infinite (not mortal) at the time he transgressed the law. (See 2 Nephi 2:22). That means Adam’s transgression (his fall) was infinite. Christ had to be an infinite being to cure an infinite transgression. Christ was and is infinite. He was specially designed for his mission as the Messiah. He had a mortal mother so he could spill his own blood and lay down his body and die. He was sired by an infinite and divine Father so he had infinite capacity and power to take up his body in the resurrection following his crucifixion. He was sinless. Neither death nor hell had any claim on him.
Every contingency was anticipated, every preparation was made from the very foundations of this world to make this plan just and effective in bringing about the eternal life of God’s children. Nothing has been left to chance. Nothing is arbitrary or out of order. All is according to law. The love of faithful parents who create, teach and nurture their children in the gospel covenant can appeal to this infinite sacrifice on behalf of their children who have wavered.
The Law and Justice of the Universe
When we consider the atonement of Christ, we often focus on the principle of mercy. Nothing more beautifully typifies the love of God than the sacrifice of his Only Begotten Son. However, there is actually nothing that better typifies God’s respect for the eternal principle of justice either. A proper understanding of these truths is most essential, as a misunderstanding could lead to some poor judgment decisions in our personal lives because we falsely perceive the actual workings of justice and mercy in the gospel plan.
There are those who believe the law (meaning all the commandments) is not really very important in the gospel. From the standpoint of the individual sinner, of course, this is true. The writings of Paul are full of his realization he could not be saved even by living the law “perfectly,” as he had attempted to do in his Pharisaic traditions. These believe grace is the real key to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some believe, for instance, that Christ would somehow be offered the same grace by the Father he offers mortal sinners. They maintain Christ did not answer the ends of the law by fulfilling the law, but rather by suffering so much the Eternal Judge might say, “You suffered so much I will mercifully suspend the law this time. I really shouldn’t, but I will because my bowels are so full of love and mercy because of your suffering.”
Once again, this assumption does not comport with revealed truth regarding justice. He has answered all the ends of the law. (See Moroni 7:28). Justice exerciseth all his demands. (See Alma 42:24). The law must be fulfilled. (See 2 Nephi 9:17). The works of justice cannot be destroyed. (See Alma 12:32; 42:13, 22). Justice cannot be denied. (See Mosiah 15:27; Jacob 6:10). Mercy cannot rob justice. (See Alma 42:25).
The system of justice and law spoken of in the scriptures is divine and eternal, because the eternal Gods, even the Eloheim who presided in the eternal worlds in which our God gained his exaltation, are its author. 1 Nephi 15:30 speaks of “the justice of God.” Mosiah 2:38 mentions “the demands of divine justice.” 1 Nephi 12:18 refers to “the word of the justice of the Eternal God.” Christ would never destroy the Father’s creations, so he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17), to pay the full debt under the law, to honor the law and to keep the law without exception.
He did not come to overpower the law by breaking it, robbing it, denying it and destroying it. He came to ensure that the ends of the law were answered, that justice exercised all its demands. He knew the law must be fulfilled. He understood the works of the law could not be destroyed, or God would cease to be God. He knew the law cannot be appeased by denying the law its right to exercise all its demands. The law is not satisfied with the currency of grace and mercy. The law demands the cold hard cash payment of absolute compliance.
It is little wonder Satan’s offer to save all the Father’s children by suspending agency and mandating obedience and compliance seemed so attractive to "a third part" of his audience in the pre-existence. On the day of judgment he will still be demanding the law’s fulfillment -- every jot and tittle. He is our hateful enemy, and he will demand what he thinks is rightfully his -- our eternal souls. He will have no compassion because of Christ’s suffering. He knows no mercy. He will demand of a God who cannot lie that the ends of the law be answered. He will require that justice exercises all its demands. He knows anything short of this would make God a liar and break eternal law.
There was only one way for God to righteously overpower the adverse effects of eternal justice upon his beloved children. (See Alma 34:15). He must satisfy justice (see Mosiah 15:9; Alma 34:16), appease justice (see Alma 42:15), and fulfill the law (see 2 Nephi 9:17). The only way the Father could do that and still mercifully forgive and save us, was to offer his perfect Son as the willing sacrifice who would pay the penalty, fulfill the law, and satisfy the demands of justice. (See Alma 34:14-15).
These truths are fully described in the scriptures. The scriptures teach Christ suffered the pains of “. . .every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.” (2 Nephi 9:21). They do not say Christ’s suffering was to fill up the bowels of the Father with mercy so the Father would be justified in suspending justice. Rather, Jacob declares, “O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.” (2 Nephi 9:17).
One of the atonement metaphors in the scriptures is prison. Christ pays the bail so we can be released from prison. He does not merely “cut a deal” with justice -- he pays the “uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:26), to “the very last mite” (Luke 12:59). We are “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20), and Christ did not get wholesale prices. He was obliged to pay our debt in full when he redeemed our souls.
The “merciful bowels” hypothesis some have proposed would make God very merciful but not very just. The scriptures declare he is not only perfectly merciful, but perfectly just as well. (See Alma 42:15). Any thoughtful analysis of law and order in the universe makes both the supreme power and unyielding rigidity of the law imperative.
As we consider the merciful atonement of Christ wrought with love, compassion and amazing grace, we must never forget justice was never robbed. On the contrary, at every turn the atonement met every single demand of justice completely. Such is the love and wisdom of God.
1. Creator. Being our Creator makes him a responsible party to our sins. The only two beings who qualify as responsible parties are the “giver” of life (Christ), and the “liver” of life (each of us).
2. Sinless. Having no sin of his own, justice has no claim upon him. He has escaped the necessity to pay the wages of sin (death), since he is without sin.
3. Infinite. Not only was Adam’s transgression infinite because he was infinite when he transgressed, but the scope of the atonement is also infinite. To take upon himself the sins of an entire eternity required Christ to have infinite capacity. Christ inherited his infinite quality from his infinite and divine Father.
4. Mortal. The atonement required that Christ also be mortal, capable of separating his body and spirit in death. He had to have blood coursing through his veins so he could effectuate the blood atonement and die. The wages of sin had to be paid in the vicarious death of the Savior. He inherited this quality from his mother, Mary, who was mortal.
5. Foreordained. No man can take any priesthood honor upon himself. He must be called of God. The Messiah is an office in the priesthood (see TPJS, 341), requiring that proper authority be given of God as with other priesthood offices.
6. Sustained. Officers in the Church are never arbitrarily imposed upon God’s children. All officers must be sustained by the common consent of the Church. Christ was accepted and sustained as the Messiah by the general voice of two-thirds of all the host of spirits in the grand council of heaven before the world was.
7. Willing. Moral agency is ever present in the gospel plan. Christ was willing to make the requisite sacrifice for the Father and all the heavenly family. Through the entire process of trial, crucifixion and atonement he had the option to choose otherwise at any moment. The love, courage and devotion here manifest is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.
8. Lineage. Christ was of the royal lineage of the house of Israel, and therefore possessed the actual birthright to ascend through the Davidic line to the throne as king of Israel. Christ was the spiritual king of Israel, and the physical king of Israel, when he took upon himself the iniquity of his people and suffered in spirit and body (see D&C 19:16-19) to redeem his people.
While the great mercies of the atonement can never be overemphasized, all the above illustrates the atonement as perfectly just not merely merciful. All the qualities outlined above were necessary for Christ to enable him to meet all of the demands of justice as he effectuated the atonement. Lacking even one of these essential elements of the atonement he could not have satisfied all the demands of justice. A cursory glance of these eight credentials alone compels one to see how completely God respects, honors and obeys exactly his own eternal law.
Little wonder, then, we are required to keep our temple covenants with “exactness and honor” if we are ever to become holy as he is holy. The Savior’s words, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I and your Father in Heaven are perfect,” are not idle words. While we need to keep in mind the Prophet’s wisdom that “no man ever arrives in a minute,” (see TPJS, 51), we must not become complacent in the false opium of a misunderstood grace doctrine. We must come unto Christ with more than our lips. Our minds and hearts must be illuminated by his light, our souls empowered by his glory and our hearts sanctified by his spirit until we do become perfect even as he is.
The true gospel plan is a perfect balance existing between God and man. God cannot save man by himself, any more than man can become a god by himself. Only the two in a harmonious duet can accomplish the miracle of exaltation -- the creation of a new god! The true gospel plan is also a perfect balance between men and women. We are unique halves who can only become whole and complete in full partnership with each other.
Further, the true gospel plan reveals parenthood to be the paramount principle of godhood. These partnerships must possess the power to procreate and the love to righteously preside as dedicated parent-servants, faithfully keeping as priest and priestess the laws, rites and ordinances of the patriarchal priesthood. They entered into this priesthood order by covenant, shouldering their responsibilities as creators, giving themselves wholly as kings and queens to their family kingdoms.
The highest expression of the true gospel plan is the greatest power in the priesthood that God can bestow upon us and upon our posterity -- the power of the seeds. By this power comes the continuation of the lives, the creation of man worlds without end.
The true gospel plan is the blessing and empowerment of intelligences with bodily temples, thereby enabling them to house ever ascending degrees of light. By the power of their bodies they gain ascendancy or power over those intelligences who are not so tabernacled.
And finally, the true gospel plan reveals the universe as a system of order wherein all bodies physical, spiritual and social are governed by eternal law.