God Breaketh the Bands of Death

The prophet Abinadi foretold (in about 148 B.C.) how Jesus Christ, during His mortal life on earth, would unfailingly do His Father’s will—even as doing so would lead to Christ’s suffering and death which He would endure in our behalf. Christ now stands, with great compassion and mercy, between all mankind and justice.

“…He shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father. And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.” (Mosiah 15:7-9)

Questions:

-Will justice still be applied to those who rejected Christ in this life (after coming to a full knowledge of His gospel) and who will reject Him at the time of the Final Judgement? Will He apply His merciful power against anyone’s will?

The Natural Man is an Enemy to God

King Benjamin teaches that the default path of least resistance in life (e.g. letting genetics and the weight of a materialistic worldview have full sway in one’s life) sets a soul in opposition to God. But, there is a remedy…

“…The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19)

Questions:

-How easy is it to yield to the enticement of the Holy Spirit and overcome the natural man?

-Does overcoming the natural man occur suddenly? Or, is it usually a gradual process?

Ye Are Eternally Indebted to Your Heavenly Father to Render Him All That You Have and Are

A second time, during his sermon to the Nephite people, King Benjamin teaches about each individual’s true standing with God.

“…Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are.” (Mosiah 2:34)

Questions:

-Is it easy for you to wrap your mind around what Benjamin is teaching about each individual’s debt to God? Or, is indebtedness to God a foreign concept for you?

-Is it demeaning to be in a position in indebtedness in relation to Deity? Has God given all He has to us grudgingly? Or, is His giving inspired by perfect and eternal love?

-If joy is tied to connecting with the truth, does Benjamin’s teaching give you insight into why those who are grateful find greater joy in life?

-What does it mean to give all that you have and all that you are to God?

It Is by Grace That We Are Saved After All We Can Do

Nephi taught his people that reconciliation with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ was more important than anything else. He understood that no matter how close he (or anyone else) came to living God’s law perfectly, salvation would always depend on Christ’s merciful intervention.

“…We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

 Questions:

-While establishing faith in Christ that allows us to be reconciled with God is absolutely foundational, how important is what we do to build on that foundation going forward in our lives?

-Once one understands that Heavenly Father will, because of repentance available through Christ’s Atonement, choose the better part of a mortal life by treasuring up and eternally magnifying all the good that person does, is it likely that living by God’s law and doing good works will become more important or less important to that person?

-What can God make of “all we can do” with Christ on our side?

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

“I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase ‘after all we can do.’ We must understand that ‘after’ does not equal ‘because.’

“We are not saved ‘because’ of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” 110).

“We do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 19).

“‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. It includes living his commandments.

“‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellow men and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. It means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and giving ‘succor [to] those that stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:16)—remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto him.

“‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Redemption through Christ after All We Can Do,” Liahona, Dec. 1988, 5).

“As a Church, we are in accord with Nephi, who said, ‘It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23.) …

“By grace, the Savior accomplished his atoning sacrifice so that all mankind will attain immortality.

“By his grace, and by our faith in his atonement and repentance of our sins, we receive the strength to do the works necessary that we otherwise could not do by our own power.

“By his grace we receive an endowment of blessing and spiritual strength that may eventually lead us to eternal life if we endure to the end.

“By his grace we become more like his divine personality” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Redemption through Christ after All We Can Do,” 4–5).

When That Day Shall Come That They Shall Believe in Christ…It Must Needs Be Expedient That They Should Believe These Things

Nephi prophesies that the Jewish people will be scattered through the centuries until the time comes that they begin to believe in Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. Those who come to worship the Father in Christ’s name, with pure intent and good works, will believe the writings of the Nephite prophets (as found in the Book of Mormon).

“The Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations. And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation, until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.” (2 Nephi 25:15-16)

Questions:

-Why will it be “expedient” for the Jewish people who believe in Christ, and strive with sincerity to live righteously, to also believe in the writings of the Nephite prophets as found in the Book of Mormon?

-Did Nephi know that these Jewish people, as part of the house of Israel, would be naturally receptive to the spirit and message of Nephi’s and his descendants’ writings (which focus on Christ as the Savior)?

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).

He is the Firstfruits unto God

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the power of Christ to bring about the resurrection for all mankind and salvation for those who believe in Him:

“…The Holy Messiah…layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 2:8-9)

Questions:

-Does the word “Spirit” in this passage have any reference to the Holy Ghost or God the Father’s spiritual strength? Or, is it only a reference to the power of Christ’s individual spirit?

-Do the members of the Godhead do anything without mutual support and approbation for one another?

-Has any spirit, besides Christ, had the power to resurrect his or her earthly body after death? How did Christ’s resurrection ensure that all of God’s children will be resurrected?

-What does it mean to believe in Christ?

-Is it sufficient only to believe? Or, it is more meaningful and pleasing to God if a person is valiant in his or her testimony of Christ?

-Is there a difference between salvation and exaltation?

It Is by Grace That We Are Saved After All We Can Do

Nephi taught his people that reconciliation with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ was more important than anything else. He understood that no matter how close he (or anyone else) came to living God’s law perfectly, salvation would always depend on Christ’s merciful intervention.

“…We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

 Questions:

-While establishing faith in Christ that allows us to be reconciled with God is absolutely foundational, how important is what we do to build on that foundation going forward in our lives?

-Once one understands that Heavenly Father will, because of repentance available through Christ’s Atonement, choose the better part of a mortal life by treasuring up and eternally magnifying all the good that person does, is it likely that living by God’s law and doing good works will become more important or less important to that person?

-What can God make of “all we can do” with Christ on our side?

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

“I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase ‘after all we can do.’ We must understand that ‘after’ does not equal ‘because.’

“We are not saved ‘because’ of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” 110).

“We do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 19).

“‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. It includes living his commandments.

“‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellow men and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. It means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and giving ‘succor [to] those that stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:16)—remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto him.

“‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Redemption through Christ after All We Can Do,” Liahona, Dec. 1988, 5).

“As a Church, we are in accord with Nephi, who said, ‘It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23.) …

“By grace, the Savior accomplished his atoning sacrifice so that all mankind will attain immortality.

“By his grace, and by our faith in his atonement and repentance of our sins, we receive the strength to do the works necessary that we otherwise could not do by our own power.

“By his grace we receive an endowment of blessing and spiritual strength that may eventually lead us to eternal life if we endure to the end.

“By his grace we become more like his divine personality” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Redemption through Christ after All We Can Do,” 4–5).

When That Day Shall Come That They Shall Believe in Christ…It Must Needs Be Expedient That They Should Believe These Things

Nephi prophesies that the Jewish people will be scattered through the centuries until the time comes that they begin to believe in Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. Those who come to worship the Father in Christ’s name, with pure intent and good works, will believe the writings of the Nephite prophets (as found in the Book of Mormon).

“The Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations. And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation, until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.” (2 Nephi 25:15-16)

Questions:

-Why will it be “expedient” for the Jewish people who believe in Christ, and strive with sincerity to live righteously, to also believe in the writings of the Nephite prophets as found in the Book of Mormon?

-Did Nephi know that these Jewish people, as part of the house of Israel, would be naturally receptive to the spirit and message of Nephi’s and his descendants’ writings (which focus on Christ as the Savior)?

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).