Sunday, September 19, 2010

God created the world. Mormons understand that to mean that God the Father* (who I'll refer to by the title Elohim) directed the pre-mortal Christ (Jehovah) who actually did the creating. This sounds fine to me, and I believe it.

Except the delegation continues, as we also believe the pre-mortal Adam (Michael) assisted in the creation as well. Further, while I don't know what the official status of it is, I know that a common LDS belief is that we all helped, to some extent, in creating the earth. I think this is a cool doctrine. I like it and I believe it.

The atonement is seen, I think, as a very unilateral thing in general Mormon thought. Jesus took upon himself all our sins, guilt, pain, sorrows, and death, and overcame them all. The only thing we did to contribute was to sin or feel sorrow--not very helpful :) We can apply Christ's atonement by repenting and forsaking our sins, then God will remember them no more and we'll be cleansed. I love this doctrine and I believe it.

I wonder if there's something akin to our deeper understanding of the creation that could also apply to the atonement. Can the prophetic imagery of plural "saviours on mount zion" refer to more than just baptism for the dead? (I'm not saying it doesn't apply to temple work--it does--but I think there's more too)

I love how Abinadi teaches that when Isaiah says that Christ will "see his seed" when his soul is made "an offering for sin," that his seed includes all prophets and all the people who have looked to Christ for a remission of their sins (Mosiah 14-15). Abinadi, in effect, says that Christ saw us, his disciples, while undergoing the atonement--and the inference is that seeing us helped him go through with it. Knowing that billions of people had been waiting for the atonement for millennia, and also that billions more would in the future depend on it, was a source of power to him at that time of greatest need. That can motivate us to be worthy of that trust, to live better, more divine lives.

Further still, I think of Father Zosima from The Brothers Karamazov. He said "Each one of us is guilty before everybody for everything, and I am more guilty than anybody else." And again, "There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all. Whereas by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan's pride and murmuring against God."

I'm not saying that we can effect The Atonement ourselves, any more than we could create an entire world in our pre-mortal state. I know that Jesus was the only one who could redeem us all and save us from the effects of sin and death. But is it not possible that Christ can ask us to become co-creators with him again, acting under his direction, but this time in the creation of a salvation of the world? Are we not taught to be even as he is, to act as he would act, to stand with those in need of comfort as he did?

I believe that as we 'take upon ourselves' other people's sins, sorrows, and grievances, we can also bear one another's burdens, if only by showing them some small sample of what Christ can do to lighten our yokes. We should feel a measure of pain when other people sin; it should wound our souls like it wounded Christ's; we are our brother's keeper. We should work to gain greater empathy by placing ourselves in the shoes of the sinner and the sinned-against. That is what Christ-like love is. In turn, we should look to our family, friends, confidants, in our own times of need. Christ takes our burdens upon himself, and I think he often gives us people who will show us a portion of what he is doing so that the reality of it can really sink in for us.

We can extend the immediate effects of the atonement into our lives and the lives of those around us. This seems to me like a wonderfully empowering and challenging way to apply the atonement in our lives. Certainly we can in no degree discount the necessity of Christ and his perfect sacrifice, but no longer do we need to see it as a wholly unilateral act. We can see it as an act in which we can play a part as well.

This can easily be taken too far, as an invitation for endless guilt that we are responsible for everyone's sins, but I think that when taken in moderation, it can be a lovely idea. I like it and I believe it.

*I have no doubt but that Heavenly Mother was included in this direction, and that Eve and other daughters of God helped throughout the process too.


  1. Your last point is interesting because Russian Orthodox priests believe that to be like Christ you must experience the pain and guilt that he felt, and the closer you get to Christ, in essence, the more miserable you feel.

    I think that misses the point. Sure Christ felt miserable, but he also felt love, and in the end it was the love that won out. So to feel like Christ is not just to feel others' burdens but also to feel a fullness of love, and not only to feel it but to let it consume you.

    But on a separate note, I have always been a little bothered by the doctrine of becoming co-heirs with Christ, because having never experienced what He experienced, how could we legitimately be on the same level that He is? And if the course of the Lord is one eternal round, and we can realistically expend at some point in our future existence to have dominion over worlds in the same way God currently has dominion over this world, how could we legitimately ask one of our future offspring to perform an Atonement - something that we have never done and never had to do? Certainly Christ's Atonement is far reaching, but doesn't it only apply to Heavenly Father's spirit children, not to future spirit children that we may have the opportunity to create? In any case, it doesn't make sense to me to hope to become like God unless I know what it means to perform some kind of atonement for someone else.

  2. @Kartmatu True, I didn't make that clear (partly because I didn't fully think through it) but I agree that we need to have the kind of joy that Christ had as well, that his charity is the ultimate thing to go after. Becoming more Christlike shouldn't equate with being more miserable--it shouldn't be easy, but ultimately it should give you the kind of joy that he ultimately received.

    As for your last point, one of my New Testament teachers at BYU mentioned how some people, though he doesn't agree, take John 5:19 very literally, to the point where they believe that the Father, at some point, was a savior on another world/in another universe. It's an interesting question, and I think you raise some good points. It's times like these when I get frustrated at Mormons who say we have all the answers to everyone's questions, because even if we do, our answers generate just as difficult further questions! :)

  3. ‎"To pity distress is human. To relieve it is God-like"