Jesus Christ/Atonement/Mormon perspective

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The Mormon perspective on the atonement of Jesus Christ

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Question: How do Latter-day Saints understand the significance of Christ's death on the cross?

The importance of Christ's death on the cross is found in all LDS scriptures, and is spoken of frequently by Joseph Smith

The significance of Christ's death on the cross is of major importance to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is found frequently in the Book of Mormon, as well as in modern scripture, and is frequently spoken of by all of the Prophets since Joseph Smith. Some of those statements follow immediately:

  • In his vision of the birth, ministry and crucifixion of the Savior Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, writes: "I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world." (1 Nephi 11:33)
  • Jacob wrote "we would to God…that all men would believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world." (Jacob 1:8)
  • Following His death and resurrection in Jerusalem the Savior appeared to His disciples in the New World. There He reported that "my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works." (3 Nephi 27:14)
  • In modern revelation it was reported "Jesus was crucified… for the sins of the world." (D&C 21:9)
  • In the revelation known as the Vision, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that "this is the Gospel, the glad tidings…that He came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world." (D&C 76:40–41)
  • It is not without significance that the vision regarding the redemption of those who had lived prior to the birth of the Savior, received by President Joseph F. Smith in 1918, came directly as a result of his meditation on the meaning of the atonement. He writes: "I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world; and the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world; that through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved." After the vision had closed, President Smith continued: "And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross." (D&C 138:1–4, D&C 138:35)
  • This is a principle that has been taught from the beginning of the Church down to the present day by its leaders. Joseph Smith taught that God "foreordained the fall of man; but all merciful as He is, He foreordained at the same time, a plan of redemption for all mankind. I believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He died for the sins of all men." [1]
  • John Taylor, one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the third President of the Church, taught that "it was necessary that [Christ] should give up his life a sacrifice for the sins of the world."[2]
  • President Wilford Woodruff stated in 1889 that "the Savior came and tabernacled in the flesh, and…laid down His life as a sacrifice for sin, to redeem the world."[3] Two years later President Woodruff stated on behalf of the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that "we believe also in the atonement wrought by the shedding of Christ's blood on Calvary; that it is efficacious for all the race of Adam for the sin committed by Adam, and for the individual sins of all who believe, repent, are baptized by one having authority, and who receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of authorized hands."[4]
  • In 1892 George Q. Cannon of the Quorum of the Twelve stated with reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, and that through His death and atonement we are redeemed."[5]
  • In 1896 a Methodist minister living in predominantly LDS Evanston, Wyoming, wrote that the Latter-day Saints "believe in the New Testament scriptures, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the atonement for sin secured by his death. Their ritual consecrating the bread and water for the sacrament shows this, as do also the sermons of their preachers."[6] His information is apparently based on personal exposure to the Latter-day Saint preachers, as well as to their sacramental ritual (Sacrament of the Lord's Supper). It is a valuable testimony that their leaders actually taught what is here being quoted.
  • In 1904 Hyrum M. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that Christ "was crucified for the sins of the world and His blood was shed for the redemption of mankind."[7]
  • James E. Talmage wrote that in order "that the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fulness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death."[8]
  • In 1921 Rudger Clawson of the Quorum of the Twelve stated "the atonement made upon Mount Calvary was the supreme sacrifice ever made in all the world."[9]
  • In 1921 Heber J. Grant made reference to "the atoning blood of Jesus Christ… Jesus is the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, who came to the earth with a divinely appointed mission to die for the redemption of mankind."[10] He repeated that reference to His "divinely appointed mission to die for the sins of the world" in 1925.[11] Thirteen years later President Grant reaffirmed that same belief, that "we believe absolutely in Jesus Christ… and that He did come to the earth with a divinely appointed mission to die on the cross as the Redeemer of mankind."[12] In 1929 President Heber J. Grant wrote that Christ "died on Calvary for each one of us."[13]
  • The First Presidency, in their Christmas message for 1931, referred to the fact that the world was "redeemed through the shedding of His blood."[14]
  • Joseph L. Wirthlin, of the Presiding Bishopric, stated in October 1948 General Conference that the emblems of the sacrament (eucharist) provided a "deep and lasting impression of what the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ means and what his great sacrifice on the cross did for all of us."[15]
  • In 1949 George F. Richards, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, referred in General Conference to "his death upon the cross, of which it can be said in truth, that as a gift to mankind it was the greatest ever given; a sacrifice, the greatest ever made; a service, the greatest ever rendered; a demonstration of love such as is possessed only by the Gods."[16]
  • Six months later J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency, also in General Conference, stated that "the central point in the great plan framed in the Grand Council of heaven before the world was formed, was the redemption from the mortal death brought by the Fall… His whole earthly career was pivoted about his atoning sacrifice, his crucifixion and resurrection."[17] Later in the same conference he referred to "the cross when the Son of Man was offering himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world…"[18]
  • President Spencer W. Kimball stated, "In the meridian of time came the Son of God, born of an immortal father and a mortal mother, and as he climbed crucifixion's hill, he carried that Adamic penalty, and as the nails through his hands and feet, and the spear in his side, drained from his body all of his precious blood in this, his voluntary sacrifice, he neutralized and paid for all the Adamic sins."[19]
  • In 1975 Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, stated that "no member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of his trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at his flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of his heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced his hands and feet…. This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha's lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us."[20] In 1986 he bore his testimony thusly: "I believe that through His atoning sacrifice, the offering of His life on Calvary's Hill, He expiated the sins of mankind, relieving us from the burden of sin if we will forsake evil and follow Him. I believe in the grace of God made manifest through His sacrifice and redemption, and I believe that through His atonement, without any price on our part, each of us is offered the gift of resurrection from the dead…. I worship Him as I worship His Father, in spirit and in truth. I thank Him and kneel before His wounded feet and hands and side, amazed at the love He offers me."[21] In April 1993 General Conference he stated "the heaviest price of all was paid by the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He gave His life on Calvary's cross for the sins of all mankind."[22] In 1995 he stated that "nothing done before or since has so affected mankind as the atonement wrought by Jesus of Nazareth, who died on Calvary's cross and rose from the grave the third day as the living Son of the living God, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind."[23] Elsewhere he stated that "in the greatest act of human history, He allowed His quivering flesh to be nailed to the cross and lifted up in an act of atonement for each of us…. Nothing, nothing is of greater significance in all the history of the world than that atoning sacrifice of the Son of God."[24] In the 1996 Christmas message he wrote that Christ "condescended to come to earth and give His life on Calvary's cross for each of us."[25]
  • In 1998 Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote "the marks in His hands and feet are constant reminders to worthy Christians that we are on His errand… We are His; we were bought with His blood. His atonement and redemption mean everything in heaven and earth to us… These wounds in [His] hands and feet (D&C 45.51)…are the absolute and indisputable signs that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Shepherd of the flock, the Redeemer of the world. We will know Him and fall down before Him in exquisite relief and gratitude, wetting the earth with our fallen tears, for we will know that we are His beloved and that because of Him we have been redeemed from the Fall and from our sins."79


Question: How do Latter-day Saints understand the significance of the blood shed by Christ?

It is through the shedding of Christ's blood that we can receive a remission of our sins

  • Joseph Smith made reference to "the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ; by whose blood they have a forgiveness of sins."[26] He also taught that "God…prepared a sacrifice in the gift of His own Son who should be sent in due time, to prepare a way, or open a door through which man might enter into the Lord's presence, whence he had been cast out for disobedience… It must be shedding the blood of the Only Begotten to atone for man; for this was the plan of redemption; and without the shedding of blood was no remission."[27] In 1840 M.L. Davis wrote a letter to his wife outlining some of the things he had heard the Prophet state in a public sermon. He said that Joseph Smith expressed "his total unbelief of what is termed original sin. He believes that it is washed away by the blood of Christ, and that it no longer exists."[28] Brigham Young later reaffirmed this position: "We must believe that this same Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world, that is for the original sin, not the actual individual transgressions of the people; not but that the blood of Christ will cleanse from all sin, all who are disposed to act their part by repentance, and faith in his name. But the original sin was atoned for by the death of Christ."[29] George Laub recorded in his journal in 1844 that the Prophet taught "Jesus Christ left his blood to atone for the sins of the world."[30] One of the principles of the LDS faith is enunciated by the Prophet (and by Brigham Young, the second President of the LDS Church) as stated above by M. L. Davis: that original sin had been done away with in the death of Jesus Christ. The absence of original sin means that the baptism of infants is not necessary. The Book of Mormon is clear on this matter: "Little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world."[31] D&C 29:46 says "little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten." Joseph Smith referred to children as "having been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb."[32] In 1917 Hyrum G. Smith, the Patriarch of the Church, stated that "through the blood of his atonement [little children] shall come forth in the morning of the resurrection with his saints."[33]
  • Brigham Young stated that "the Latter-day Saints believe…that Jesus is the Savior of the world; they believe that all who attain to any glory whatever, in any kingdom, will do so because Jesus has purchased it by His atonement."[34]
  • In 1882 Heber J. Grant, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, encouraged the Saints to "read the revelations given upon the subject and you will find that all mankind, except those who have had the testimony of Christ and rejected it, denying the blood of Christ, will ultimately be saved."[35]
  • That same year John Taylor published his book entitled Mediation and Atonement. After quoting Colossians 1:12–15 he wrote that this passage teaches us "that our redemption is obtained through the blood of Jesus."[36]
  • Joseph F. Smith, in 1895 as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, referred to the conditions that Adam "had to be redeemed from by the blood of Christ."[37] A week later, at the Juab Stake Conference in Nephi, Utah, Elder Smith stated that "by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, he, Adam, was redeemed from the fall and the power of Satan…and we are indebted for our redemption to Jesus our Lord, and our Deliverer."[38]
  • Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that "Jesus Christ shed His blood for our sins—not for His own, for He was immaculate and without blemish—and He laid down His life that you and I should be redeemed from that death which had come upon us because of the fall of Adam. By His death are we redeemed. By His blood are we cleansed from the conditions of the fall."[39]
  • In 1901 Rudger Clawson of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that "the souls of men are so precious in the sight of God that he gave to the world his Only Begotten Son, that by the shedding of his blood he might draw all men unto him."[40]
  • In 1916 Anthon H. Lund of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that the bread and wine "are simply emblems of his body and blood" and that the wine "represented his blood that was to be shed for the remission of sins."[41]
  • In 1937 Charles A. Callis of the Twelve testified that Christ's "blood atones for all our sins, through obedience to righteousness."[42]
  • In 1949 when Alonzo A. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve learned that he had a terminal illness he wrote a letter to the First Presidency of the Church. Part of that letter was read at the October 1949 General Conference. He said, in part: "As to the future, I have no misgivings. It is inviting and glorious, and I sense rather clearly what it means to be saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ."[43]
  • A year later Marion G. Romney of the Twelve stated that "through repentance he may bring himself within the reach of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, so that thereby he may be cleansed from the effects of his transgressions and obtain forgiveness of them."[44]
  • Robert Millet, Professor of Religion at BYU, has recently written about the regeneration of fallen man. He states, "the renewal of which we speak is a conversion from worldliness to saintliness, from being lured by the lurid to being enticed by holiness. It comes to us by virtue of the cleansing blood of Jesus and through the medium of the Holy Ghost, who is the Sanctifier."[45]


Question: Do Latter-day Saints diminish the importance of Jesus Christ and His atonement?

Joseph Smith stated that "the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day

Joseph Smith, the founding prophet, stated that "the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Those appendages include the gift of the Holy Ghost, power of faith, enjoyment of the spiritual gifts, restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth. [46] The atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the central fact of all LDS theological teaching.

B.H. Roberts: The atonement of Jesus Christ "is the very heart of the Gospel"

Almost one hundred years ago LDS historian and theologian Brigham H. Roberts wrote that the atonement

is the very heart of the Gospel from whose pulsations the streams of both spiritual and eternal physical life proceed. It is the fact which gives vitality to all things else in the Gospel. If the Atonement be not a reality then our preaching is vain; our baptisms and confirmations meaningless; the eucharist a mere mummery of words; our hope of eternal life without foundation; we are still in our sins, and we Christian men, of all men, are the most miserable. A theme that affects all this cannot fail of being important. [47]

Joseph F. Smith: "A man who says he does not believe in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ who professes to be a member of the Church...is not worthy of membership in the Church"

In 1917 President Joseph F. Smith delivered an official statement on principles of government in the Church, which included the following statement: "A man who says he does not believe in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ who professes to be a member of the Church…but who ignores and repudiates the doctrine of the atonement… [I say that] the man who denies that truth and who persists in his unbelief is not worthy of membership in the Church." [48]

Heber J. Grant: "any individual who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, has no business to be associated with The Church"

In 1924 General Conference Heber J. Grant, then President of the Church, stated that "any individual who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, has no business to be associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." [49]

Fourteen years later President Grant was just as emphatic: "We want it distinctly understood that we believe absolutely in Jesus Christ, that He was the Son of God, and that He did come to the earth with a divinely appointed mission to die on the cross as the Redeemer of mankind. We do not believe that He was just a 'great moral teacher,' but that He is our Redeemer." [50] Elder Bruce R. McConkie has stated that the "atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel." [51]

Brigham Young: "the moment the atonement of the Savior is done away, that moment, at one sweep, the hopes of salvation entertained by the Christian world are destroyed"

Speaking with reference to all who call themselves Christian, which obviously included the Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young stated that "the moment the atonement of the Savior is done away, that moment, at one sweep, the hopes of salvation entertained by the Christian world are destroyed, the foundation of their faith is taken away, and there is nothing left for them to stand upon." [52]

Howard W. Hunter: "nothing is more important in the entire divine plan of salvation than the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ"

Howard W. Hunter, of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught that "nothing is more important in the entire divine plan of salvation than the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We believe that salvation comes because of the Atonement. In its absence the whole plan of creation would come to naught." [53]

Twenty-five years ago Elder Gordon B. Hinckley reminded the Saints that:

No member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane …[or] the cross, the instrument of his torture… This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha's lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us. [54]

Elder John K. Carmack, in April 2001 General Conference, took it to a more personal level: "Christ's Atonement is the central doctrine, but of even more comfort and benefit has been how wonderfully accessible and individual His mercy and help have been to me personally." [55] The significance of the atonement was also brought out by the first prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith, who wrote regarding:

The condescension of the Father of our spirits, in providing a sacrifice for His creatures, a plan of redemption, a power of atonement, a scheme of salvation, having as its great objects, the bringing of men back into the presence of the King of heaven… The great plan of salvation is a theme which ought to occupy our strict attention, and be regarded as one of heaven's best gifts to mankind. [56]


Question: How do Mormons view the extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ?

Latter-day Saint believe that the atonement is applicable to all who have ever lived on the earth

Some Christians seem to object that Latter-day Saint concept that the atonement is applicable to all who have ever lived. They want to restrict it to only those who lived after the Savior ("only after Christ's death" and "for the believer"). [57]

This doesn't only limit its accessibility to those who lived before the Savior, it quite literally slams the door on the possibility of their ever receiving salvation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not restrict itself in that manner. All will be raised from the dead; all will stand before God to be judged; all will be expected to give an accounting of their behavior on Earth. And they will all be held to basically the same standard. No one slides into heaven, or gets there by hanging onto the tailcoats of another. No one is saved on borrowed light.

The Council of Quiersy, convened in 853, in a passage quoted by evangelical scholar Thomas Oden, declared that "as there never was, is or will be any man whose nature was not assumed by our Lord Jesus Christ, so there never was, is or will be any man for whom He has not suffered; though not all are redeemed by the mystery of His passion." [58] How is it that Christ suffered for all, but did not redeem all? Either Christ's passion was not universal, or "redemption" has a specialized meaning. Clearly all those whose nature has been assumed, which is to say, all who have ever been born, will receive the benefits of His death and resurrection; but also clearly, not all are going to be redeemed because not all have chosen to follow. The paragraph, in the part not quoted by Thomas Oden, refers to those who are "unfaithful," and "those not believing in faith those things 'which He has worked through love' [Galatians 5:6]," that is, those who do not believe in what Christ did for them, which "has indeed in itself that it may be beneficial to all; but if it is not drunk, it does not heal." If we do not drink the cup the Savior offers us, the atonement will not heal us.

The extent to which the atonement is applicable has been a hotly debated topic in Christian history

The extent to which the atonement is applicable has been a hotly debated topic in Christian history, in all traditions, but none more so than in evangelical circles. A recently published book presents several dissenting voices to the position taken by critics, that is, that only those who believe are affected by the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. I. Howard Marshall says that:

The question at issue is not whether all will be saved but whether God has made provision in Christ for the salvation of all, provided that they believe, and without limiting the potential scope of the death of Christ merely to those whom God knows will believe. [59]

Marshall, Professor of New Testament exegesis at University of Aberdeen, in Scotland, is one of the leading evangelical scholars today. He concludes his study of the Pastoral epistles by writing that "we have found nothing in the Pastorals that requires that we assume the existence of a 'hidden agenda,' a secret plan of God to save only the elect." [60] He refers to some passages in Romans 8–11 and in Ephesians 1 that are frequently taken to refer to the elect having been pre-destined to that status. While not discussing these verses in detail, he does state, "I do not find grounds in these passages for the view that God has purposed to save only a limited number of the elect." [61]

Terry L. Miethe is a Baptist; he is the Dean of the Oxford Study Center at Oxford, England. He is also the Managing Editor of Moody Press. The purpose of a paper he wrote is to defend the thesis that "the redemptive events in the life of Jesus provided a salvation so extensive and so broad as to potentially include the whole of humanity past, present, and future!" [62] The position Miethe is defending is called unlimited atonement.

"The idea that the death of Christ was designed to include all humankind but is applied only to those who accept it, believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, is referred to as the "unlimited" or "general" atonement. There are many passages in the Bible that clearly teach this idea. [63]

Miethe refers to Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 11:28; John 3:16–17; 1 Timothy 2:6, 4:10; Titus 2:11, Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; and Revelation 22:17. He also states that the following have been professors of the unlimited atonement view: Clement of Alexandria (d. 220), Eusebius (d. 340); Athanasius (373), Cyril of Jerusalem (386), Gregory Nazianzen (d. 389); Basil (379), Ambrose (407), Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), Richard Hooker (d. 1600), James Ussher (d. 1656), Richard Baxter (d. 1691), John Bunyan (d. 1688), John Newton (d. 1807), Alfred Edersheim (b. 1825), B.F. Westcott (d. 1901), J.B. Lightfoot (b. 1828), Augustus H. Strong (d. 1921), A.T. Robertson (b. 1863), and "many others." [64] There are some important scriptures and some important scholars in those two lists. All of them would apparently take exception to the position critics uphold.

On 1 Timothy 2:1 Miethe quotes F.F. Bruce: "To say that He died for His people is certainly Scriptural…but it is equally Scriptural to say that He died for all… And when Scripture says 'all' in a context like this, it means 'all.'" Bruce also quotes John Calvin on the universality of the blood that was "shed for many;" Calvin wrote that "by the word many he means not a part of the world only but the whole human race." [65] In discussing 1 Timothy 4:10 ("who is the Savior of all men, and especially those who believe"), Miethe quotes evangelical scholar Millard Erickson who wrote: "This is a particularly interesting and significant verse, since it brackets as being saved by God both believers and others, but indicates that a greater degree of salvation attaches to the former group.'" [66] This corresponds precisely to the LDS position; if critics want to state that it also agrees with their position, by virtue of having been written by a prominent evangelical scholar, then they will have to admit that their position is the same as the LDS! Miethe quotes from another evangelical, Robert H. Culpepper:

The Bible teaches that Christ died for 'sinners' (Rom 5.6-8; I Tim 1.15). The word 'sinner' nowhere means 'church' or 'the elect,' but simply all of lost mankind… Are we to suppose that the elect are the only ones who labor and are heavy laden and that they are thus the only ones to whom the invitation of Jesus is issued (Matt 11.28) or that the elect are the only ones who are invited to take the water of life without price (Rev 22.17)? Do not these invitations [made to all sinners] presuppose that the free response of man, though not meriting salvation, is nevertheless the condition upon which the benefits of the atonement are dispensed? Moreover, there are clear assertions in Scripture that Christ died for all (II Cor 5.14), that he gave himself a ransom for all (I Tim 2.6), that he is the expiation of the sins of the whole world (I John 2.2; cf. also I Tim 4.10; Titus 2.11), and that he tasted death for every man (Heb 2.9)." [67]

Notice again the reference to the "free response of man;" we must cooperate in our salvation, at least to the extent of accepting the atonement into our own lives.

It is Terry Miethe's contention that John Calvin was also a believer in 'unlimited atonement.' Miethe quotes the following from Calvin's works

  • On Romans 5:18: "Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world."
  • On John 1:29 Calvin wrote: "And when he says the sin of the world, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race."
  • On Galatians 5:12 he writes: "it is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world."

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion Calvin wrote: "the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men; that, on the contrary, he had manifested his mercy in such a way, that he would have none debarred from it." [68]

Miethe's conclusion is clearly applicable to the position taken by critics:

The doctrine of limited atonement is logically contradictory to the clear teaching of passage after passage of Scripture… Second, it is theologically repugnant, for it misunderstands the nature of God and of man. The divine sovereignty of God and human freedom are analogical aspects of the relationship of God to man—of the Creator to that which was created in his image. Third, it is philosophically deficient, for the very existence of reason, or the ability to know, shows that man is capable of choice. Some doctrine of human freedom is essential to any meaningful theory of human responsibility. [69]


Question: Why don't Mormons observe Palm Sunday like many other Christian religions?

Palm Sunday is observed on the Sunday before Easter, when the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is celebrated in many Christian churches

Palm Sunday is observed on the Sunday before Easter, when many Christian churches celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Many Christians celebrate this as a particularly special day, even to the point of waving palm fronds or other tree branches, whereas Mormons do not typically observe the event beyond holding their normal Sunday meetings. According to the Gospel of John:

12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. (John 12:12-13)

At some point some or many Christians got into the habit of teaching the story of Jesus with what is called a "liturgical calendar"

At some point some or many Christians got into the habit of teaching the story of Jesus with what is called a "liturgical calendar," in which an extra observance of an event related to Christ's ministry is made by the way the Eucharist or Mass is conducted by many Christians. The reason for this liturgical celebration done by the Roman Catholic Church in Latin until recently, was to teach the message found especially the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) to their followers. But the traditional liturgical worship pattern is not set out in the New Testament. It is not biblical but a tradition growing out of piety and necessity.

The liturgical calendar was created by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Holidays, feast days, and other celebrations were created by these churches to teach the Middle Ages Christians about events described in the Bible which most followers did not have access to or read themselves. The Cathedrals of this time period were also filled with paintings, bas reliefs, and statues for this same purpose. If you look up "Liturgical Year" in Wikipedia, you’ll see many feasts and holidays which celebrated the following events:

  • Nativity of Christ
  • Epiphany of Christ
  • Resurrection of Christ
  • Pentecost
  • Transfiguration of Christ
  • Crucifixion of Christ

Latter-day Saints observe Christ's atonement by partaking of the Sacrament every Sunday, rather than observing events on the liturgical calendar

The central portion of Latter-day Saint public worship is "administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church," which is done "according to the commandments of Christ." In the past this was done by the "elders and priests" who "kneel down" and sanctify (the Greek word means to make "holy") first the bread (an emblem standing for the body of Jesus Christ), and then the wine (changed to water or some liquid that can be safely consumed, since the emblems are not the actual flesh and blood of the Lord), which is done so that the Saints so that they will eat it in remembrance of the body of the Lord, and also will signify that they are willing to take upon themselves his name, and remember him, and keep his commandments, so that "they may always have his Spirit with them." Then the Saints drink a bit of water in remembrance of his spilled blood on our behalf. This is done as a covenant renewal on most Sabbath days.

Latter-day Saints stress the constant renewal of their covenants

The difference with many others who are Christians is that Latter-day Saints stress covenants and hence also frequent covenant renewal of their covenants, which Christians generally do not think in terms of having made a covenant and of keeping the terms of this covenant with God in which Latter-day Saints agree to take upon themselves his name and keep his commandments and thereby having his Spirit with them always as the means whereby they are purged, cleansed, perfected, sanctified and hence made holy and hence ready to be judged by their works, have Jesus Christ as their Advocate, who in the final judgment will testify that he has extended his mercy to them and therefore they have become sanctified Saints and hence can and should be declared justified by their deeds (and not merely by their often vain words) and allowed into the presence of the Father having been by the mercy of the Lord forgiven of their sins and made fully holy.


Question: How does the Mormon view of the Atonement compare to the evangelical Christian view?

The way that evangelical Christians view the Mormon approach to the atonment

It is claimed that the LDS view of the Atonement is as follows:

  1. The atonement "provides everyone with a general resurrection and cancellation of the consequences of Adam's transgression;"
  2. It "took place primarily in the Garden of Gethsemane;"
  3. It "was possible before Christ had died and was raised;"
  4. The atonement "is not complete unless the individual demonstrates total obedience."

The four positions of the Christian theory, which by definition must be correct, are:

  1. The atonement "provides for the salvation of only those who have faith in Christ;"
  2. It "took place on the cross alone;"
  3. It "was possible only after Christ's death;"
  4. It "is complete for the believer by the grace of God."[70]

The Latter-day Saint meaning of "salvation" is different than the evangelical Christian meaning of the word

As is so frequently done, the critics here are attempting to compare apples and oranges. They are contrasting "resurrection" on the LDS side with "salvation" on the other side. They are contrasting "cross only" with "garden and cross." They are rejecting the possibility of the Israelites having any knowledge whatever of the works of the future Messiah, and therefore being saved by their faith in the future Messiah. And do they really want to contrast "obedience" to the Gospel with the "grace of God?" Does God require nothing at all of us after that grace has entered our life? The Lord had something to say about those who cry Lord, Lord, but do not what He says. The restoration of the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith actually makes the two positions most compatible, at least from the perspective of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is really only the critics who have a problem reconciling the two positions. The LDS position is a broader concept, based on further light and knowledge, i.e., revelation from God.

The Latter-day Saints teach a principle of exaltation, beyond the ordinary salvation mentioned by evangelical critics, which makes both systems compatible on the first point. Salvation is a free gift of grace provided for by the atoning death and resurrection of the Savior; however, the specific type of resurrection is based on one's own life activity: we will be judged according to our works; (John 5:29) Jesus Christ is the "author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Hebrews 5:9) The "Great Commission" of Jesus to the Apostles at the end of Matthew says that they are "to teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:20) The word 'primarily' in the second point of differences opens up the door for reconciling the two positions on the issue of Gethsemane vs. Calvary. As has been seen, there is no such issue for the Latter-day Saints: the atonement begins in the Garden (or before creation, 'before the foundations of the world were laid'), and ends on the Cross (or perhaps is still continuing, with Christ continuing to intercede for us with the Father).

Latter-day Saints basically agree that until the atonement and resurrection had actually taken place, there was no opportunity for anyone

The Latter-day Saints basically agree with the third critical position point, in the sense that until, or unless, the atonement and resurrection had actually taken place, there was no opportunity for anyone, before or after that event, to receive the benefits of it. All this really means however is that there was no resurrection prior to the resurrection of the Savior Himself, and, therefore, no possibility of anyone being brought back into the presence of God the Father. Heaven was only a dream until the atonement and resurrection made its attainment a real possibility. As for the forgiveness of sins: since it is based on the atonement by Jesus Christ, that could be accomplished, because of the foreknowledge of the Father: He knew that His Son would follow through with the Atonement, thereby redeeming all from the individual effects of the Fall. The belief in the possibility of receiving a forgiveness of one's sins prior to the birth and death of the Savior is also contingent upon the belief in Prophets being 'truly' called of God. One must believe that God can really and truly call to His service an individual and proclaim to them what will be in the future. If we believe with Paul that the "gospel was preached beforetime to Abraham," or that the "Israelites were baptized to God in a cloud," we must do so completely. If the gospel was preached to them, then we have to admit that they were, at least to some degree, taught about the future Savior and His atoning sacrifice. We must believe that, not only would He not leave their souls in hell, but that He would make a way possible for them to confess their sins and repent of them. If this is true, then a certain amount of salvation was possible before the birth of the Savior. However, it still required His atonement and resurrection to make the fullness of that salvation possible.

Latter-day Saint accept that the atoning sacrifice of the Savior was an act of grace

The fourth position point deals with the principle of grace, which Latter-day Saints accept, if understood properly. The atoning sacrifice of the Savior was an act of grace; no one forced Him to go through with it; nor did we, on the basis of anything we had done, merit its occurrence. Christ atoned for the sin of Adam, and for our individual sins, because He loved us. But we have to accept it if it is going to be meaningful in our lives. All will receive that aspect of the atonement that applies to the resurrection of the body; only those who accept Jesus Christ and follow His commandments are going to receive the fullest benefits of that sacrifice.


Question: How do Mormons view the historical position of the Christian church with regard to the atonement of Jesus Christ?

The development of the Church's ideas about the saving effects of the incarnation was a slow, long drawn-out process

They never state it explicitly, but critics seem to assume that the LDS position is a "ransom" theory of atonement, and that the mainstream Christian interpretation is one of sacrificial death on the cross. They quote some statements from Latter-day Saint leaders emphasizing the Garden of Gethsemane as being the place of the atonement. The authors of Mormonism 101 write, "Christians have long maintained that this glorious act of sacrifice took place on Golgotha Hill… It was here that God Himself was subject to the humiliating death of a common criminal."161 They conclude by writing that "Christians realize that salvation is a result of what Jesus did for them on the cross… To even insinuate that this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane is a foreign concept to the Christian."[71]

Perhaps the indecisiveness of both the New Testament specifically and Christian history in general will provide a better backdrop for the discussion of the atonement as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It will certainly be a more correct version of what that church teaches, than the image critics have provided. Certainly the suggestions made by Knox would seem to coincide more closely with the position taken in this paper: that the Latter-day Saints are more closely aligned with the early Church, than with the modern West.

The Church of Jesus Christ has often been maligned for rejecting "historical Christianity" and therefore it is important that we determine exactly what the historical position of the Christian church has been regarding the atonement of Jesus Christ. This would not be an easy task for critics, for until the twelfth century there was no explicit study of the theory of the atonement; there was no single predominating theory of redemption. Michael Winter has recently written that "there is a consensus among [modern writers], which is something of a paradox in the context of this study, as they all agree that the New Testament does not tell us how the atonement was effected."[72] Leon Morris, so frequently quoted by critics, writes that "the New Testament does not put forward a theory of atonement." Morris goes on to write that "there are several indications of the principle on which atonement is effected" and refers to sacrifice, redemption, new covenant, victory, propitiation, reconciliation. "But however [salvation] is viewed, Christ has taken our place, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Our part is simply to respond in repentance, faith, and selfless living."[73] J.N.D. Kelly wrote:

The development of the Church's ideas about the saving effects of the incarnation was a slow, long drawn-out process. Indeed, while the conviction of redemption through Christ has always been the motive force of Christian faith, no final and universally accepted definition of the manner of its achievement has been formulated to this day.[74]

Lutheran scholar Robert Jenson recently wrote, "it is one of the more remarkable and remarked-upon aspects of theological history that no theory of atonement has ever been universally accepted."[75] Later, Kelly writes that

The student who seeks to understand the soteriology of the fourth and early fifth centuries will be sharply disappointed if he expects to find anything…elaborately worked out…[because] the redemption did not become a battle-ground for rival schools until the twelfth century.[76]

This should not be too much of a surprise to our friends McKeever and Johnson. Leon Morris has written that there is a "problem confronting anyone who would write a theology of the New Testament…namely, a widespread recognition that there are considerable differences among the writers of the various New Testament books." Although such recognition does not mean that there are "irreconcilable contradictions" between the various authors, it should help to understand why no strict theory regarding the atonement developed during the first twelve hundred years of Christian history.[73]:15-16

Things don't get better after the closing of the canon, either. In his study of the Atonement Morris writes that "through more than nineteen centuries the church has been working at that problem and it still has not come up with an agreed solution."[73]:13 [77] The point of all this of course is to indicate that, rather than a single theory acceptable to all Christians, there were presented over the centuries several theories regarding the atonement. Reformed scholar Shirlie Guthrie indicates there were four basic images used by the New Testament writers, all of which contain weaknesses; therefore they must be used in conjunction with each other to provide a consistent theory. "The biblical doctrine of the atonement teaches that it is God who initiates and fulfills the reconciliation between sinful humanity and God."[78] Beyond that statement we cannot be dogmatic. Further, we are told that William Tyndale "does not appear to have had a clear doctrine of the atonement."[79] The same is true for John Wesley. W.R. Cannon has written that "there is in all of Wesley's writings no single work on the atonement, and there is no reason whatever for us to believe that he had any clear, well-thought-out theory of the meaning of Christ's death."[80] Crawford Knox has recently contrasted the early Christian view with that of the modern West, on various theological themes. With reference to the atonement, he points out that it was Anselm, who died in 1109, "who is seen as the theologian who first crystallised the main Western view of the Atonement, the sacrifice of Jesus as a man on the cross had to be made on behalf of all morally sinful and guilty men to God." By contrast, "in the earlier tradition, Christ is seen as overcoming sin and death in a series of sequential steps which lead through his life on earth, his death and resurrection to his ascension. His death is one crucial step in this process but it is not all-important."[81]


Question: How is the atonement of Jesus Christ portrayed in Latter-day Saint hymns

The Song of the Righteous

From the earliest times Christians have "sung hymns to Christ as to a God."[82] The singing of those hymns was a method of instructing the congregation in the doctrines of the Church. Paul wrote to the Colossians that at their religious gatherings they were to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16) He taught the same concept to the members in Ephesus: "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:19) Most frequently those hymns are meant simply as a means of expressing devotion to the Savior, or to His Father. But at times they have been polemical, a means of inculcating new doctrine, as in the period following Nicaea.[83] The hymns penned by John and Charles Wesley "were more than specimens of devotion. They were tools for doctrinal instruction."[84] The hymns of the Latter-day Saints have also been an effective means of instructing the membership of the Church about their relationship to the Savior. It has been so from the earliest hymnal, published in 1835, to the present. A look at some of those hymns will indicate the centrality of the Savior's atonement, and the elements of it that were taught to the membership.

The 1835 hymnal

The 1835 edition of the hymnal was a collection of ninety hymns, over one-third written by members of the young church, and put together by Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet.[85] Twenty-six of those hymns are still in the current hymnal, which includes many written by non-LDS authors. The 1835 edition (which is not available to me) includes hymns with the following thoughts expressed: "Blest inhabitants of Zion, purchased by the Savior's blood; Jesus, whom their souls rely on, makes them kings and priests to God."[86] Another hymn, by Isaac Watts, stated, "The Lord of Glory died for men. But lo! What sudden joys were heard! The Lord, though dead, revived again."[87] Another hymn, by LDS writer William W. Phelps, indicated that Christ "died for us."[88] One of the more popular hymns in the current edition, also written by W.W. Phelps, is "O God, the Eternal Father," and appeared in the 1835 edition. It included the phrases "Jesus, the Anointed…gave himself a ransom to win our souls with love… And die, or all was lost."[89]

The 1889 hymnal

In 1889 another edition of the LDS hymnal appeared. A third reprint of this particular edition was published in 1906. Many of the current hymns also appeared in it, but it also included hymns no longer in the current hymnbook. Among this latter group of hymns, for which no authors are listed, are several which declare the importance of the Atonement of the Savior. "Spirit of faith, come down, reveal the things of God, and make to us the Godhead known, and witness with the blood. 'Tis thine the blood to apply, and give us eyes to see; who did for every sinner die, did surely die for me."[90]:173 Another hymn includes the phrase "remembering God's incarnate Son, who suffered death on Calvary to set the contrite sinner free."[90]:20 Another taught the Saints "when He our Savior did the same, without a place to lay his head, a pilgrim on the earth he came, until for us his blood was shed."[90]:31 Another hymn records that "they follow their General, the great Eternal lamb—His garments stained in his own blood—King Jesus is his name."[90]:105 Another, applicable to participation in the Eucharistic celebration (Sacrament of the Lord's Supper), reads: "O Lord of Hosts, we now invoke Thy spirit most divine, to cleanse our hearts while we partake the broken bread and wine. May we forever think of thee, and of thy sufferings sore, endured for us on Calvary, and praise thee evermore. Prepare our minds, that we may see the beauties of thy grace; salvation purchased on that tree for all who seek thy face."[90]:109 Another tells the family not to weep for their dead child, for "your child is saved through Jesus Christ [for they have] washed their robes and made them white in Christ's atoning blood."[90]:135 Another hymn, penned by LDS poet Eliza R. Snow, first appeared in an LDS hymnal in 1871, and continues today. It reads, as per 1906: "How great the wisdom and the love, that filled the courts on high, and sent the Savior from above to suffer, bleed and die! His precious blood He freely spilt, his life He freely gave; a sinless sacrifice for guilt, a dying world to save."[91] Another hymn indicates that Christ "died that we might live."[90]:42 Yet another refers to "him who died, that we might live."[90]:198 Another hymn refers to him "who died to save."[90]:224 One proclaims the activities of the missionaries who go out in order to teach "that divine and glorious conquest once obtained on Calvary." [90]:239 Another hymn, written by LDS author William W. Phelps, found in the 1835 hymnal and still very popular today, refers to "that sacred, holy offering, by man least understood… when Jesus the Anointed, descended from above, and gave himself a ransom to win our souls with love… He was the promised Savior." The recent edition includes a fourth verse that concludes "and die or all was lost."[92] Another hymn, still in the modern edition, tells that "Jesus, our Lord and God, bore sin's tremendous load."[93]

The current Latter-day Saint hymnal (1986 to present)

There are simply too many hymns in the current hymnal to recount all of them satisfactorily. But there are several which need some attention. First though, it should be remembered that there are several hymns in the current book which were written by non-LDS authors, and which bear on our theme. Many of these have already been mentioned above. The current hymnal contains many sentiments relative to our theme.

  • "I am the sacrifice offered for thee."[94]:120
  • "…thou Son of God, who lived for us, then died on Calvary."[94]:169
  • "Thou gavest thy life on Calvary, that I might live forever more."[94]:171
  • "Let me not forget, O Savior, thou didst bleed and die for me when thy heart was stilled and broken on the cross at Calvary."[94]:172
  • "For us the blood of Christ was shed; for us on Calvary's cross he bled… Jesus died that justice might be satisfied."[94]:174 [95]
  • "Oh, wondrous plan—to suffer, bleed, and die for man!… For Jesus died on Calvary! That all thru him might ransomed be."[94]:176
  • "May we forever think of thee and of thy sufferings sore, endured for us on Calvary, and praise thee evermore… Salvation purchased on that tree for all who seek thy face."[94]:178
  • "Leaving thy Father's throne, on earth to live, thy work to do alone, thy life to give… Bruised, broken, torn for us on Calvary's hill—thy suffering borne for us lives with us still."[94]:181
  • "…praise and honor give to him who bled on Calvary's hill and died that we might live… The bread and water represent His sacrifice for sin; ye Saints, partake and testify ye do remember him."[94]:182 [96]
  • "When thy self thou gavest an offering, dying for the sinner's sake."[94]:183
  • Vilate Raile wrote: "Upon the cross of Calvary they crucified our Lord and sealed with blood the sacrifice that sanctified his word. Upon the cross he meekly died for all mankind to see that death unlocks the passageway into eternity. Upon the cross our Savior died, but, dying, brought new birth through resurrection's miracle to all the sons of earth."[94]:184
  • "Again we meet around the board of Jesus, our redeeming Lord, with faith in his atoning blood, our only access unto God. He left his Father's courts on high, with man to live, for man to die… Help us, O God, to realize the great atoning sacrifice, the gift of thy beloved Son, the Prince of Life, the Holy One." Additional verses included: "Jesus, the great facsimile of the Eternal Deity, has stooped to conquer, died to save from sin and sorrow and the grave."[97]
  • "Thyself the Lamb forever slain… View thee bleeding on the tree: My Lord, my God, who dies for me."[98]
  • "Our Savior, in Gethsemane, shrank not to drink the bitter cup, and then, for us, on Calvary, upon the cross was lifted up. We reverence with the broken bread, together with the cup we take, the body bruised, the lifeblood shed, a sinless ransom for our sake."[99]
  • "…sent the Savior from above to suffer, bleed, and die! His precious blood he freely spilt, his life he freely gave, a sinless sacrifice for guilt, a dying world to save."[94]:195
  • "O Savior…upon the cross they nail thee to die, O King of all. No creature is so lowly, no sinner so depraved, but feels thy presence holy and thru thy love is saved. Tho craven friends betray thee, they feel thy love's embrace; the very foes who slay thee have access to thy grace. Thy sacrifice transcended the mortal law's demand, thy mercy is extended to every time and land… What praises can be offer to thank thee, Lord most high? In our place thou didst suffer; in our place thou didst die, by heaven's plan appointed, to ransom us, our King. O Jesus, the anointed, to thee our love we bring."[94]:197

Clearly, there is much in the hymns that the Latter-day Saints sing regularly which teaches that the Savior, Jesus Christ, came to earth for the specific purpose of "being lifted up upon the cross" to save the world. Through the sacrifice of His life, the spilling of His blood, he has redeemed all mortals who will come to Him.


Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 78; also in The Teachings of Joseph Smith, 55.
  2. John Taylor, "Reflections On the Sacrament, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 22 February 1863, Vol. 10 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1865), 115–116, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 11.
  3. Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, edited by Brian H. Stuy (City Unknown: B.H.S. Publishers, 1987), 344. Stated in an address on September 1, 1889. Seven years later he stated, "Jesus Christ…came into the world and laid down His life as a great sacrifice for the redemption of the world." [Collected Discourses (1892–1893), Vol. 3, 154.]
  4. This is from a letter he wrote to the editor of Illustrated American, dated January 9, 1891, found in Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 3, edited by James R. Clark (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 206.
  5. Collected Discourses (1892–1893), Vol. 3, 168.
  6. Reverend F.S. Beggs, "The Mormon Problem in the West," Methodist Review (Sept 1896), article VII: online at off-site
  7. Conference Report (April 1904), 51, in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 3:98–99.
  8. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1915), 661, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 144.
  9. Conference Report (October 1921), 36, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:80–81.
  10. Conference Report (April 1921), 203, quoted in Grant, Gospel Standards, 14. McKeever and Johnson claim to have read this volume. It is also quoted in Latter-day Commentary, 371.
  11. Conference Report (April 1925), 7–8, quoted in Grant, Gospel Standards, 6–7.
  12. Deseret News Church Section (September 3, 1938), 7, quoted in Grant, Gospel Standards, 6.
  13. Heber J. Grant, "Marvelous Growth," Juvenile Instructor (December 1929), 697, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 141.
  14. Liahona, the Elders Journal 29 (January 5, 1932), 337–339, quoted in Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 5, 305.
  15. Joseph L. Wirthlin, Conference Report (October 1948), 125. Franklin D. Richards, of the Quorum of the Twelve, stated in General Conference October 9, 1887, that "It is /Christ/ to whom if you and I should ever be permitted to attain to the redemption from the dead and the exaltation for which we hope, that we shall sing songs of glory and honor to His name, as the One that has redeemed us… /The Lord's Supper/ is an institution since the crucifixion, since the shedding of His blood… His blood will redeem us." [Collected Discourses (City Unknown, B.H.S. Publishers, 1987), Vol. 1, 83–88.]
  16. George F. Richards, Conference Report (October 1949), 150.
  17. J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report (April 1950), 116–117.
  18. J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report (April 8, 1950), 181, also quoted in J. Reuben Clark, Immortality and Eternal Life, Melchizedek Priesthood Course of Study 1968–1969 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 163. Elsewhere in this latter volume (page 70) President Clark, a member of the First Presidency, referred to "Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer of the World, the Son of God, the Agency through which the world was made, our Savior, he who died to satisfy the penalty that the Fall brought." These comments were first offered in an address at Brigham Young University May 13, 1953.
  19. Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 69–70.
  20. Ensign (May 1975), 93, quoted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 26–7.
  21. Ensign (November 1986), 50–1, quoted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 276.
  22. Gordon B. Hinckley, quoted in Church News 71:36 (September 8, 2001), 15.
  23. St. Louis, Missouri, Regional Conference April 16, 1995, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 28.
  24. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 283.
  25. Ibid., 282–283.
  26. The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1990), 84.
  27. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 2, 15; also in The Teachings of Joseph Smith, 54–55. McKeever and Johnson claim to have read both volumes.
  28. Letter dated 6 February 1840, quoted in The Words of Joseph Smith, compiled by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1980), 33; also in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, 78.
  29. Brigham Young, "The Lord's Supper, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 11 July 1869, Vol. 13 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 143, in Discourses of Brigham Young, edited by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954), 153.
  30. George Laub Journal, 12 May 1844, in The Words of Joseph Smith, 371. Cf. History of the Church, Vol. 4, 554; also quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:268. Although the idea of 'original sin' is not dealt with in this chapter of Mormonism 101, it obviously played a part in the atonement, and was negated by the atonement. Joseph Smith was not the only one who suggested that original sin was removed by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. The English Reformers, in their Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, wrote that the sacrificial death of Christ is defined as the "perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual," article XXXI, introduced and quoted in Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life. Systematic Theology, Vol. 2 (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989): 389. The discussion by Oden, with representative documentation, makes it clear, however, that the redemption, propitiation and satisfaction for sin is applied only to original sin; our actual sins are atoned for only if we exercise faith in the Atonement of Christ.
  31. Moroni 8:12, 22.
  32. Wilford Woodruff Journal, 20 March 1842, in The Words of Joseph Smith, 109. Again, this is a work which was read by McKeever and Johnson.
  33. Conference Report (April 1917), 70–71, in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:379. For a recent comment on the blood of the Lamb saving little children, see Robert Millet, "The Regeneration of Fallen Man," in Nurturing Faith Through the Book of Mormon. The 24th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1995), 128–129, where he cites Moroni 8:12, 22; Mosiah 3:16–19; D&C 29:46, 74:7; and refers to JST Matthew 18:11: 'these little ones have no need of repentance, /for/ I will save them'; and JST Matthew 19:13: 'such shall be saved.' Thomas Oden writes that Hugh of St. Victor (died 1141) wrote that those who die at birth or are retarded "will be saved by this atonement insofar as they are judged to be incapable of refusing it," Hugh of St. Victor, On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith 2:17 paraphrased in Oden, The Word of Life, Vol. 2, 392.Reformed scholar Augustus H. Strong, in defending his belief that infants are "through the grace of Christ certain of salvation," quoted the following from John Calvin: "Infants whom the Lord gathers together from this life are regenerated by a secret operation of the Holy Spirit;" further, those who would exempt infants from the grace of salvation are guilty of an "execrable blasphemy;" it is a "blasphemy to be universally detested." [Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1907), 663.] Strong quotes from several other Reformed scholars in this article (pages 660–664).
  34. Brigham Young, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 24 April 1870, Vol. 13 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 328, quoted in Latter-day Commentary, 37.
  35. Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, 94, citing Journal History, entry for September 9, 1888.
  36. John Taylor, An Examination into and an Elucidation of the Great Principle of the Mediation and Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Company, 1882), 31. One can only wonder why McKeever and Johnson failed to take notice of a book by a President of the LDS Church, with the rather catchy title of "Mediation and Atonement." One would think it would have been the first place to look when seeking information about the LDS position relative to the Atonement.
  37. Collected Discourses, Vol. 4, edited by Brian H. Stuy (City Unknown: B.H.S. Publications, 1991), 230. Delivered January 20, 1895, at the Oneida Stake Conference in Franklin, Idaho.
  38. Joseph F. Smith, Deseret News Weekly 50 (February 1895), 251.
  39. Collected Discourses, Vol. 4, 363–364. Delivered at General Conference, October 5, 1895.
  40. Conference Report (April 1901), 7–8, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:182.
  41. Conference Report (October 1916), 12–14, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1, 274; see also Anthon H. Lund, Conference Report (April 1912), 12: "…we partake of the emblems of His body and blood sacrificed for us," quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 2, 118–119.
  42. Conference Report (October 1937), 122, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1, 354–355.
  43. Quoted by Marion G. Romney, Conference Report (October 1949), 43.
  44. Conference Report (April 1950), 84.
  45. Millet, "The Regeneration of Fallen Man," 137–138.
  46. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 3 (Salt Lake City, Utah; Deseret Book Company, 1980) : .30 The passage is quoted frequently: Richard R. Hopkins, Biblical Mormonism. Responding to Evangelical Criticism of LDS Theology (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994), 123; Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book Company, 1976), 121.; The Teachings of Joseph Smith, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 55; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 60.; also in M. Gerald Bradford and Larry E. Dahl, "Doctrine: Meaning, Source, and History of Doctrine," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), 1:393–397; Tad Callister, The Infinite Atonement (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), 3–4; Keith W. Perkins, "Insights into the Atonement from Latter-day Scriptures," Principles of the Gospel in Practice. Sperry Symposium 1985 (Salt Lake City, Utah;: Randall Book Company, 1985), 91; Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report (April 1950), 130; quoted in Richard G. Grant, Understanding these Other Christians. An LDS Introduction to Evangelical Christianity (self-published, 1998): 42; My Errand from the Lord. A personal study guide for Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums 1976-1977 (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, 1976), 92. The statement was first published in an early LDS publication, the Elders' Journal I (1832): 28–9. The frequency of appearance of this quotation in LDS literature makes one wonder why it is not to be found in Mormonism 101; indeed, the authors claim to have read the first six references cited here.
  47. B.H. Roberts, The Seventy's Course in Theology, Fourth Year (1911): The Atonement (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Company, 1994), iv–v. This is a reprint edition of this book, first published by Deseret News Press, 1907–1912.
  48. Joseph F. Smith, "Principles of Government in the Church" (September 13, 1917), Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 5, edited by James R. Clark (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971), 83; first published Improvement Era 21 (November 1917), 3–11.
  49. Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1969, 1941), 24. McKeever and Johnson claim to have read this volume. The statement cited is also quoted in a student manual: Doctrines of the Gospel (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of the Church, 1986), 9.
  50. Grant, Gospel Standards, 6, citing Deseret News Church Section, September 3, 1938, 7.
  51. Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report (April 1985), 11, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 17; also, Robert Millet, "Foreword" to Callister, The Infinite Atonement, x. off-site
  52. Brigham Young, "Character and Condition of the Latter-day Saints, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 8 May 1870, Vol. 14 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1872), 41, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 9.
  53. Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 7; in Latter-day Commentary on the Old Testament, edited by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc., 2001), 385.
  54. Ensign (May 1975), 93 off-site; cited in Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1997), 26–27.
  55. Ensign (May 2001), 77 off-site.
  56. Joseph Smith, History of the Church 2:5–6, 23; cited in The Teachings of Joseph Smith, 481–482.
  57. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 10. ( Index of claims )
  58. Partially quoted in Oden, The Word of Life, Vol. 2, 383. Entire paragraph is given at Henry Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma, translated by Roy J. Deferrari from the 30th edition of Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum (Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 2002), paragraph 319.
  59. I. Howard Marshall, "Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles," The Grace of God and the Will of Man, edited by Clark Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 56.
  60. Marshall, "Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles," 69.
  61. Marshall, "Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles,"68–69.
  62. Miethe, "The Universal Power of the Atonement," 72. Miethe's thesis is actually a quotation from Donald M. Lake, "He died for all: the Universal Dimensions of the Atonement," in Grace Unlimited, edited by Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 31.
  63. Miethe, "The Universal Power of the Atonement," 78–79, emphasis in the original.
  64. Ibid., 79. In the footnote Miethe refers to Norman F. Douty, The Death of Christ: Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? (Irving, Texas: William and Watrous, 1978), 136–163, who lists "over 70 of the Church's leading teachers—from the early centuries to the present one." Miethe also states that John Calvin himself must have been a believer in unlimited atonement, page 85–86. Alan Clifford concurs, Atonement and Justification, 72–73: "there is considerable evidence to suggest that, judged by seventeenth-century criteria, he did not subscribe to, nor believe in, the doctrine of limited atonement." On page 73 Clifford quotes Calvin: "God commends to us the salvation of all men without exception, even as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world" (Comm Galatians 5:12). See in general the entire treatment by Clifford, in Part Two: The Theology. Atonement and Grace: Chapter Five: Authentic Calvinism, pages 69–94.
  65. Miethe, "The Universal Power of the Atonement," 80, quoting Frederick F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1972), 197. No source is given for the Calvin comment, but it is probably from Calvin's Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, three volumes, translated by William Pringle (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1979), in volume 3, on Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24.
  66. Miethe, "The Universal Power of the Atonement," 80, quoting Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1984), 830.
  67. Ibid., 82, quoting Culpepper, Interpreting the Atonement (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1966), 125.
  68. Ibid., 88–90. The quotation is from the Institutes 3.24.6. Miethe also refers us to the following passages: Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.1.1; 3.24.17; Eternal Predestination of God 9.5, and commentaries on Isaiah 53.12; Romans 5.15; Colossians 1.15.
  69. Ibid., 92.
  70. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 10. ( Index of claims )
  71. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 148. ( Index of claims )
  72. Michael Winter, The Atonement (Collegeville, Minnesota: Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 1995), 30.
  73. 73.0 73.1 73.2 Leon Morris, "Atonement," Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, second edition, edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Books, 2001), 114. The passage is also quoted in Terry L. Miethe, "The Universal Power of the Atonement," The Grace of God and the Will of Man, edited by Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 71–72. Notice the emphasis Morris places on the need for our acceptance of the atonement for it to be efficacious in our lives. This is exactly the position taken by the Latter-day Saints.
  74. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Second Edition (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), 163. One wonders how the LDS position could be considered in error if no particular theory has received unanimous consent.
  75. Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1: The Triune God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 186.
  76. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 375. McKeever and Johnson cite this volume several times, so should have been aware of this statement. In 1914 Melville Scott referred to "the fact that, up to the time of Anselm, there was no specifically Latin theory of the Atonement," [Melville Scott, Athanasius on the Atonement (Stafford, England: Mort, 1914), xi]. Lutheran scholar Robert Jenson writes, "the closest approach to a historically successful theory of atonement is that of Anselm… But Anselm's theory has never enjoyed favor in the East, and also in the West has been under continuous devastating attack, maintaining its hegemony mostly, one suspects, for want of a better alternative," (Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, Vol 1, 186). Burnell Eckardt wrote, "it was St. Anselm of Canterbury who had first given celebrated status to the question of the necessity for the atonement, in his Cur Deus Homo," [Brunell Eckardt, Anselm and Luther on the Atonement. Was it 'Necessary'? (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992), xvii]. Eckardt also quotes Gustaf Aulen to the effect that Anselm has given the first "real beginnings of a thought-out doctrine of the atonement," [Eckardt, 173, quoting Aulen, Christus Victor: an Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement, translated by A.G. Hebert (New York: MacMillan, 1969), 1]. Aulen's book is a classic in the field. Eckardt also quotes Lutheran scholar Gerhard Forde: "Anselm was the first to pose the question about the necessity for the actual event of the cross," [Eckardt, 173, quoting Forde, The Law-Gospel Debate: An Interpretation of Its Historical Development (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg, 1984), 21 ff]. Abelard was the first to respond to Anselm; he also asked why it was necessary for God to become man, but concluded only that God could have chosen to simply remit the debt man owed God (Eckardt, 173, note 2).
  77. Apparently we cannot expect an agreed upon definition anytime soon: Morris writes on page 12, "with few exceptions people are not writing about the atonement." McKeever and Johnson refer frequently to this book.
  78. Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr., Christian Doctrine, Revised Edition (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 252–259 (quotation from page 259).
  79. David Broughton Knox, The Doctrine of Faith in the reign of Henry VIII (London: J. Clarke, 1961), 6.
  80. William Ragsdale Cannon, The Theology of John Wesley, with Special Reference to the Doctrine of Justification (New York: Publisher Unknown, 1946), 208.
  81. Crawford Knox, Changing Christian Paradigms and their Implications for Modern Thought (Leiden, Netherlands,: E.J. Brill, 1993), 62–3.
  82. Pliny (ca. 115 AD), epistle 10:96, in Pliny. Letters, Vol. 2, translated by William Melmoth, Loeb Classical Library (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1958), 403. Pliny's letter to the Emperor Trajan can be found online at http://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html. See now, Margaret Daly-Denton, "Singing Hymns to Christ as to a God (cf. Pliny Ep. X, 96)," The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism, edited by Corey C. Newman, James R. Davila, and Gladys S. Lewis (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1999), 277–292. She points out that there are two types of hymns in the New Testament: hymnic and liturgical. The liturgical hymns are about Christ, not to him.
  83. Daniel Liderbach recently wrote that prior to Nicaea the hymns appeared to embody expressions that had their origins in response to the Spirit moving the congregation. "However after the Council of Nicaea and again after that of Chalcedon /451 AD/, the tone of the hymns used by the community shifted to polemical, theological insistence upon the doctrine that the church at Nicaea and Chalcedon had approved," Daniel Liderbach, Christ in the Early Christian Hymns (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1999), 79–80.
  84. Alan C. Clifford, Atonement and Justification: English Evangelical Theology 1640–1790. An Evaluation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 99. Estimates for the number of hymns composed by John and Charles Wesley vary between 6500 and 8000. They published at least 57 hymn collections during their lifetime. The most significant one was in 1780, and was based in part on eight previous collections. In the preface to the 1780 edition John Wesley wrote, "It is large enough to contain all the important truths of our most holy Religion, whether speculative or practical; yea, to illustrate them all, and to prove them by Scripture and Reason." He also wrote that "the hymns are not carelessly jumbled together, but carefully ranged under proper heads, according to the experience of real Christians. So that this book is, in effect, a little body of experimental and practical divinity." Quoted in Ken Bible, "The Wesley's Hymns on Full Redemption and Pentecost: a Brief Comparison," Wesleyan Theological Journal 17:2 (1982).
  85. See D&C 25:11–12 for Emma's call to edit the volume. The Preface to the 1835 edition states: "In order to sing by the Spirit, and with the understanding, it is necessary that the church of the Latter-day Saints should have a collection of 'Sacred Hymns,' adapted to their faith and belief in the gospel, and, as far as can be, holding forth the promises made to the fathers who died in the precious faith of a glorious resurrection, and a thousand years' reign on earth with the Son of Man in his glory. Notwithstanding the church, as it were, is still in its infancy, yet, as the song of the righteous is a prayer unto God, it is sincerely hoped that the following collection, selected with an eye single to his glory, may answer every purpose till more are composed, or till we are blessed with a copious variety of the songs of Zion," quoted in Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1947), {{{vol}}}:93.
  86. John Newton, "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken," hymn 46 in the 1998 version. Newton, an Anglican clergyman, was also the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace."
  87. Isaac Watts, "He Died! The Great Redeemer Died," hymn 192 in the current hymnal. It is hymn 56 in the 1906 (1889) edition.
  88. W.W. Phelps, "Come, All Ye Saints Who Dwell on Earth," hymn 65 in the current hymnal; 114 in the 1906 edition.
  89. W.W. Phelps, "O God, the Eternal Father," hymn 175 in the current edition, 255 in the 1906.
  90. 90.0 90.1 90.2 90.3 90.4 90.5 90.6 90.7 90.8 90.9 The Latter-day Saints Psalmody, Third Edition (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1906). Citations are to hymn number, not page number.
  91. Eliza R. Snow, "How Great the Wisdom and the Love," hymn 136; number 195 in the current hymnal.
  92. William W. Phelps, "O God, the Eternal Father," hymn 255. It is hymn 175 in the 1998 edition. The 1835 edition contained eight verses; the fifth verses included "He is the true Messiah, that died and lives again; we look not for another, He is the Lamb 'twas slain."
  93. James Allen, "Glory to God on High,"., hymn 262. Hymn 67 in the current edition
  94. 94.00 94.01 94.02 94.03 94.04 94.05 94.06 94.07 94.08 94.09 94.10 94.11 94.12 Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 1986).
  95. Also in the 1906 edition, hymn 50.
  96. Richard Alldridge, "We' Sing all Hail to Jesus' Name," hymn 182. It was first published as a poem in the Millennial Star, 1871, with music in Juvenile Instructor, 1883 (both LDS publications). It originally had a sixth verse which read, in part: "Then hail, all hail, to such a Prince who saves us by his blood!", in Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1988), 199. That a verse is occasionally dropped from an earlier hymn book to a more recent one should not be interpreted as necessarily significant; John Wesley also did the same during his lifetime; see Bible, "The Wesley's Hymns on Full Redemption and Pentecost: a Brief Comparison," in the section headed "Overlap of the Two Collections."
  97. Eliza R. Snow, "Again We Meet Around the Board," hymn 186; first published in the Millennial Star, 1871, later in Utah Musical Times, 1877. It was included in the 1906 hymnal, hymn 13. The additional verse was included in the hymnals from 1950 until the 1985 edition; Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns, 201–202.
  98. William H. Turton, "O Thou, Before the World Began," hymn 189; in LDS hymnals since 1927.
  99. Frank Kooyman, "In Memory of the Crucified," hymn 190. Notice that both the Garden and the cross come into play here, with the strongest emphasis being on the cross, where the sacrifice took place.