Christ’s Atonement Satisfieth the Demands of God’s Justice upon All Those Who Have Not the Law Given to Them

Jacob teaches that, because of Christ’s merciful Atonement, those who do not have God’s law will not be condemned by it.

“…He has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him. For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 9:25-26)

Those who do have God’s law, on the other hand, will be held accountable for their actions in relation to it (unless they continually draw on the power of Christ’s Atonement and repent towards doing better in relation to it):

“But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God…and that transgresseth them, and wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!” (2 Nephi 9:27)

Questions:

-Who on the earth currently is without God’s law? Are there whole nations and people that are largely free from the demands of this law because they have had little or none of it given to them?

-Is the light of Christ that touches the hearts of all living people part of the law? Does this innate sense of conscience and right and wrong bring all to the law to some degree?

-What do these truths Jacob teaches about the law say about the mercy God extends to those that have severe mental disabilities to the point where they cannot comprehend the law clearly?

-What are the benefits of having God’s law if it has the potential to condemn us once we understand it?

-Is the combination of having God’s law, and having an understanding of the redeeming power of Christ’s Atonement for those who repent, a way to obtain greater opportunities to serve others? Through that increased opportunity to serve and bless, are some given the precious opportunity to grow closer to Christ during mortality?

They Must be Judged According to the Holy Judgment of God

Jacob recounts how the Resurrection occurs prior to the Final Judgment and how these two events solidify each soul’s status in relation to God for eternity.

“…When all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God. And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end. 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 9:15-17)

Questions:

-How generous and loving will Christ be as our Eternal Judge? How willing will He be to extend mercy in whatever ways He can based on the choices we made in relation to God’s law? Could those who never had a chance to receive God’s law during their time in mortality be judged by that law?

-How fortunate will we be to have Christ both as our Judge and our Mediator? (See quote by Jeffrey Holland below.)

-Do “the devil and his angels” that Jacob refers to in the passage above include not only those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal life but also those who, after initially following God’s plan by coming to earth to receive a mortal body, then stubbornly reject the mercy He has extended to them—even after receiving a sure witness from the Holy Ghost of what Christ has done for them in appeasing the law of eternal justice (see sons of Perdition)? Will everyone else—those who are not rebellious and receive Christ’s mercy as they come to understand it—receive at least some Degree of Glory?

-Why will those who are eternally filthy experience torment that is like a “lake of fire and brimstone?”

-Is the Final Judgment also a “Final Chance” to receive Christ’s mercy before all who reject Him are sent away eternally? How important is it to seek Christ’s mercy through repentance now rather than denying the power of His grace until the Final Judgment?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“As ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ he will be our mediator, our intercessor, defending our cause in the courts of heaven. …

“Of course, as noted by Isaiah, Christ is not only a mediator but also a judge [see Mosiah 3:10; Moroni 10:34; Moses 6:57]. It is in that role of judge that we may find even greater meaning in Abinadi’s repeated expression that ‘God himself’ will come down to redeem his people [Mosiah 13:28; see also Mosiah 13:34; 15:1; Alma 42:15]. It is as if the judge in that great courtroom in heaven, unwilling to ask anyone but himself to bear the burdens of the guilty people standing in the dock, takes off his judicial robes and comes down to earth to bear their stripes personally. Christ as merciful judge is as beautiful and wonderful a concept as that of Christ as counselor, mediator, and advocate.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 80–81)

It Must Needs Be an Infinite Atonement

Jacob teaches his people (at around 559-545 B.C. in the Americas) about the Resurrection being an answer to the Fall.

“…Our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God. Yea, I know that…in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man be reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 9:5-6)

“Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and crumble to its mother earth to rise no more. O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself…” (2 Nephi 9:7-9)

Questions:

-What does Jacob mean when he says that Jesus Christ’s Atonement had to be infinite? (for an excellent exploration of this topic read The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister)

-How is being Resurrected with a physical immortal body part of saving our souls from the powers of hell?

-Would remaining as spirits for the eternities after death allow us to reach our full potential as God’s children? In this scenario, could we achieve the same power of spiritual and physical perfection that our Father and Jesus Christ currently have?

-Will the resurrection to a perfected body permanently seal off further spiritual influence from those who will spend eternity without bodies (i.e. Satan and those who followed him in the pre-mortal world)?

-What does it mean to be a subject of Jesus Christ?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“I wish to speak about the greatest event in all history. That singular event was the incomparable Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. This was the most transcendent act that has ever taken place” (James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18).

“If our separation from God and our physical death were permanent, moral agency would mean nothing. Yes, we would be free to make choices, but what would be the point? The end result would always be the same no matter what our actions: death with no hope of resurrection and no hope of heaven. As good or as bad as we might choose to be, we would all end up ‘angels to a devil’ [2 Nephi 9:9]” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 50).

“His Atonement is infinite—without an end. [See 2 Nephi 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:10, 12, 14.] It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope—it was to be done once for all. [See Hebrews 10:10.] And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. [See D&C 76:24; Moses 1:33.] It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension.

“Jesus was the only one who could offer such an infinite atonement, since He was born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Because of that unique birthright, Jesus was an infinite Being” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

“According to eternal law, that atonement required a personal sacrifice by an immortal being not subject to death. Yet He must die and take up His own body again. The Savior was the only one who could accomplish this. From His mother He inherited power to die. From His Father He obtained power over death” (Russell M. Nelson, “Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34).

“Just as death would doom us and render our agency meaningless but for the redemption of Christ, even so, without His grace, our sins and bad choices would leave us forever lost. There would be no way of fully recovering from our mistakes, and being unclean, we could never live again in the presence of [God].

“… We need a Savior, a Mediator who can overcome the effects of our sins and errors so that they are not necessarily fatal. It is because of the Atonement of Christ that we can recover from bad choices and be justified under the law as if we had not sinned” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 50).

Look to the Great Mediator and Choose Eternal Life According to the Will of His Holy Spirit

Lehi, in counseling his sons to choose Christ, also teaches about the most important choices all must make.

“…I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; and not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (2 Nephi 2:28-29)

-How can a person look to Jesus Christ in his or her day to day life?

-What does it mean to be faithful to His words?

-How is keeping God’s commandments a path to greater freedom away from captivity?

-What is the will of the Holy Spirit? Can one’s will become one with the Holy Spirit’s will?

They Are Free to Choose Liberty and Eternal Life or Captivity and Death

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, that the Savior’s redeeming power offers a path of freedom, hope, and eternal life (which otherwise would have been unavailable because of the effects of Adam and Eve’s Fall).

“…The Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil…” (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

-Has every child inherited inevitable physical death, and separation from God, from their parents (going all the way back to Adam and Eve)?

-Will physical death and physical separation from God be permanent for anyone now that Christ has come and redeemed all from these effects of the Fall?

-Will everyone who is resurrected and brought back to God’s presence be comfortable staying there?

-Will Christ save all from spiritual death? Or, does He protect every soul’s freedom to choose whether to accept and follow Him?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ, an act of pure love, overcame the effects of the Fall and provided the way for all mankind to return to the presence of God. As part of the Atonement, the Savior overcame physical death and provided immortality for every one of God’s children through the Resurrection. He also overcame spiritual death and provided the possibility of eternal life, the life that God lives and the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Christians in Belief and Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 71).

“God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness. It is contained in the scriptures and in the inspired declarations of His prophets. …

“Avoid worldly wickedness. Know that God is in control. In time, Satan will completely fail and be punished for his perverse evil. God has a specific plan for your life. He will reveal parts of that plan to you as you look for it with faith and consistent obedience. His Son has made you free—not from the consequences of your acts, but free to make choices. God’s eternal purpose is for you to be successful in this mortal life. No matter how wicked the world becomes, you can earn that blessing. Seek and be attentive to the personal guidance given to you through the Holy Spirit. Continue to be worthy to receive it. Reach out to others who stumble and are perplexed, not certain of what path to follow” (Richard G. Scott, “How to Live Well amid Increasing Evil,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 100, 102).

“When we choose to do the will of our Heavenly Father, our agency is preserved, our opportunities increase, and we progress. … The opposite is also true: when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished. … Obedience to the commandments ultimately protects our agency” (Robert D. Hales, “Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 25–26).

The Temptations of the Devil Blindeth Eyes and Hardeneth Hearts

While teaching Nephi about the meaning of his father’s dream, the Lord’s angel also teaches Nephi about the reality of Satan and his power to deceive.

“…The temptations of the devil…blindeth the eyes and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” (1 Nephi 12:17)

Questions:

-If you knew there was a being striving to keep all people on the earth in darkness and separated from God, would you be more careful about your thoughts, actions, and any easy acceptance of popular opinions?

-What does it take to rise above having one’s eyes blinded and heart hardened spiritually?

-What is the relationship between having a hardened heart and being spiritually blind?

-How can you keep your heart soft in your relationship with God and those around you?

-Are there thoughts you have empowered that are keeping you from feeling God’s love and kindness toward yourself and those around you?

Wo Be unto Him That Is at Ease in Zion

The prophet Nephi describes some of the methods the devil will use in the last days to lull souls into a state of spiritually destructive complacency.

“…Others will he pacify and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion.” (2 Nephi 28:21-24)

Questions:

-Why is spiritual complacency equivalent to spiritual death?

-What forces make it next to impossible to stand still in terms of spiritual growth versus spiritual atrophy?

Messages of the Presiding Bishopric:

“Every act, good or bad, has a consequence. Every good act improves our ability to do good and more firmly stand against sin or failure. Every transgression, regardless of how minor, makes us more susceptible to Satan’s influence the next time he tempts us. Satan takes us an inch at a time, deceiving us as to the consequences of so-called minor sins until he captures us in major transgressions. Nephi describes this technique as one of pacifying, lulling, and flattering us away until Satan ‘grasps [us] with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance’ (2 Ne. 28:22; see also v. 21)” (Richard C. Edgley, “That Thy Confidence Wax Strong,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 40).

The Gentiles Preach up unto Themselves Their Own Wisdom and Their Own Learning

Seeing our time, the prophet Nephi touches on some of the spiritual and organizational characteristics troubling the people (Gentiles) who would largely displace the remnants of his and his father Lehi’s descendants.

“…The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things…” (2 Nephi 26:20-22)

Questions:

-When seeing the weaknesses of the Gentiles, is Nephi focused more on the people of the United States and Canada? Does his critique also refer to the Latin American countries south of the United States? Is there also some reference to all nations throughout this fallen world?

-Are the churches Nephi is referring to Christian places of worship? Or, is his meaning more generalized to refer to all organizations that developed from the Christian churches and the related Enlightenment culture of Europe?

-What stumbling block is Nephi referring to in this passage? And, why does he refer to it as a great stumbling block? Is this a reference to the absence of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (because of apostasy) as these organizations formed?

-What are the organizations that have been “built up” to have the most power and influence in the United States in our time? Have similar organizations been built up in other countries in the Americas and throughout the world?

-Do these organizations focus on the power and miracles of God? Or, do they put greater emphasis on — and give greater credit to — what they perceive to be human power and human wisdom? Do many of these organizations take advantage of the poor?

-Are their many institutions and organizations that (inadvertently or intentionally) cause envying and strife?

-What are secret combinations? What are the consequences of having oath-bound groups in our society that do evil for their own worldly gain?

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?

Reconcile Yourselves to the Will of God

Jacob, speaking as the Lord’s prophet, teaches that the will of God and the will of the devil are active in the pursuit of all human souls.

“…Cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. Wherefore…reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” (2 Nephi 10:23-24)

Questions:

-According to the passage above, what are the results of reconciling yourself to the will of God? On the other hand, what are the results of reconciling yourself to the will of the devil (and the flesh)?

-Is the pull of the two wills strong enough that each individual is either moving toward living in accordance with one will or the other at any given time?

-How can one be reconciled to the will of God?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“[Satan] promotes conduct and choices that limit our freedom to choose by replacing the influence of the Holy Spirit with his own domination (see D&C 29:40; 93:38–39). Yielding to his temptations leads to a narrower and narrower range of choices until none remains and to addictions that leave us powerless to resist” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 49).