The Infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ
“Chapter 5: The Infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 39
Man, by reason of any thing that he himself could do or accomplish, could only exalt himself to the dignity and capability of man and therefore it needed the atonement of a God, before man … could be exalted. 1
From the Life of John Taylor
In a Sunday meeting with members of the Church, Elder John Taylor spoke of the joy he found in pondering the Atonement of Jesus Christ: “I take pleasure in meeting with the Saints. I like to break bread with them in commemoration of the broken body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and also to partake of the cup in remembrance of his shed blood. And then to reflect upon the associations connected therewith. Our relationship to God through our Lord Jesus Christ; our relationship to each other as members of the body of Christ, and our hopes concerning the future; the second appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, when, we are given to understand, he will gird himself and wait upon us, and we shall eat bread and drink wine with him in his Father’s kingdom. I like to reflect upon all these and a thousand other things connected with the salvation, happiness and exaltation of the Saints of God in this world, and in the world to come.” 2
Teachings of John Taylor
Jesus covenanted to fulfill the Father’s plan by atoning for the sins of the world.
At [the] Council in the heavens the plan that should be adopted in relation to the sons of God who were then spirits, and had not yet obtained tabernacles, was duly considered. For, in view of the creation of the world and the placing of men upon it, whereby it would be possible for them to obtain tabernacles, and in those tabernacles obey laws of life, and with them again be exalted among the Gods, we are told, that at that time, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” [Job 38:7.] The question then arose, how, and upon what principle, should the salvation, exaltation and eternal glory of God’s sons be brought about?
It is evident that at that Council certain plans had been proposed and discussed, and that after a full discussion of those principles, and the declaration of the Father’s will pertaining to His design, Lucifer came before the Father, with a plan of his own, saying, “Behold, [here am] I, send me, I will be thy Son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore, give me thine honor.” [See Moses 4:1.] But Jesus, on hearing this statement made by Lucifer, said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” [Moses 4:2.]
From these remarks made by the well beloved Son, we should naturally infer that in the discussion of this subject the Father had made known His will and developed His plan and design pertaining to these matters, and all that His well beloved Son wanted to do was to carry out the will of His Father, as it would appear had been before expressed. He also wished the glory to be given to His Father, who, as God the Father, and the originator and designer of the plan, had a right to all the honor and glory.
But Lucifer wanted … to go contrary to the will of his Father, and presumptuously sought to deprive man of his free agency, thus making him a serf, and placing him in a position in which it was impossible for him to obtain that exaltation which God designed should be man’s, through obedience to the law which He had suggested. … If man had not had his agency, or if he had been deprived of his agency, he could not have been tempted of the devil, or of any other power; for if the will of God prevailed, and was carried out without man’s action or agency, it would have been impossible for him to have done anything wrong, for he would have been deprived of the power of doing that wrong. This was the position that Satan desired to place, not only the spirits in the heavens, but also mankind upon the earth. And Satan said, “Surely I will save every one of them, wherefore, give me thine honor.” 3
[Satan’s] plan … was rejected as contrary to the counsel of God, his Father. The well beloved Son then addressed the Father, and instead of proposing to carry out any plan of his own, knowing what His Father’s will was, said, “Thy will be done; I will carry out thy plans and thy designs, and, as man will fall, I will offer myself as an atonement according to thy will, O God. Neither do I wish the honor, but thine be the glory;” [see Moses 4:2] and a covenant was entered into between Him and His Father, in which He agreed to atone for the sins of the world, and He thus, as stated, became the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [see Moses 7:47]. 4
We need the Atonement in order to overcome the effects of the Fall.
In the event of man having his free will and being subject to the power of temptation, the weakness of the flesh, the allurements of the world, and the powers of darkness, it was known that he must necessarily fall, and being fallen, it would be impossible for him to redeem himself, and that, according to an eternal law of justice, it would require an infinite, expiatory atonement to redeem man, to save him from the effects and ruin of the Fall, and to place him in a condition where he could again be reinstated in the favor of God, according to the eternal laws of justice and mercy; and find his way back to the presence of the Father. …
And hence, as Jesus Himself said, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” [Luke 24:46–47.] 5
In the economy of God and the plan proposed by the Almighty, it was provided that man was to be placed under a law apparently simple in itself, yet the test of that law was fraught with the gravest consequences. The observance of that law would secure eternal life, and the penalty for the violation of that law was death. … If the law had not been broken [through the Fall], man would have lived; but would man thus living have been capable of perpetuating his species, and of thus fulfilling the designs of God in preparing tabernacles for the spirits which had been created in the spirit world? And further, could they have had the need of a mediator, who was to act as a propitiation [or atoning sacrifice] for the violation of this law, which it would appear from the circumstances was destined to be broken; or could the eternal increase and perpetuity of man have been continued, and his high exaltation to the Godhead been accomplished, without the propitiatory atonement and sacrifice of the Son of God? 6
If it were not for the atonement of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice he made, all the human family would have to lie in the grave throughout eternity without any hope. But God having provided, through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the medium whereby we can be restored to the bosom and presence of the Father, to participate with him among the Gods in the eternal worlds—he having provided for that, has also provided for the resurrection. He proclaimed himself the resurrection and the life. Said he, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25.) By and by the tombs will be opened and the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they shall come forth, they who have done good to the resurrection of the just, and they who have done evil to the resurrection of the unjust. 7
To carry out the Atonement, Jesus Christ took upon Himself our sins and suffered death in the flesh.
We are told that “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sins [Hebrews 9:22]. This is beyond our comprehension. Jesus had to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, the just for the unjust. … As He in His own person bore the sins of all, and atoned for them by the sacrifice of Himself, so there came upon Him the weight and agony of ages and generations, the indescribable agony consequent upon this great sacrificial atonement wherein He bore the sins of the world, and suffered in His own person the consequences of an eternal law of God broken by man. Hence His profound grief, His indescribable anguish, His overpowering torture, all experienced in the submission to … the requirements of an inexorable law.
The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible. As stated, “the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffereth the pains of all men;” [see D&C 18:11] and Isaiah says: “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” also, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and again, “He hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many;” [see Isaiah 53:4, 6, 12] or, as it is written in the Second Book of Nephi: “For behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam;” [2 Nephi 9:21] whilst in Mosiah it is declared: “He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be the anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people.” [See Mosiah 3:7.] …
… As a God, He descended below all things, and made Himself subject to man in man’s fallen condition; as a man, He grappled with all the circumstances incident to His sufferings in the world. Anointed, indeed, with the oil of gladness above His fellows, He struggled with and overcame the powers of men and devils, of earth and hell combined; and aided by this superior power of the Godhead, He vanquished death, hell and the grave, and arose triumphant as the Son of God, the very eternal Father, the Messiah, the Prince of peace, the Redeemer, the Savior of the world; having finished and completed the work pertaining to the atonement, which His Father had given Him to do as the Son of God and the Son of man. As the Son of Man, He endured all that it was possible for flesh and blood to endure; as the Son of God He triumphed over all, and forever ascended to the right hand of God. 8
The Savior thus becomes master of the situation—the debt is paid, the redemption made, the covenant fulfilled, justice satisfied, the will of God done, and all power is now given into the hands of the Son of God—the power of the resurrection, the power of the redemption, the power of salvation, the power to enact laws for the carrying out and accomplishment of this design. Hence life and immortality are brought to light, the Gospel is introduced, and He becomes the author of eternal life and exaltation. He is the Redeemer, the Resurrector, the Savior of man and the world. …
The plan, the arrangement, the agreement, the covenant was made, entered into and accepted before the foundation of the world; it was prefigured by sacrifices, and was carried out and consummated on the cross.
Hence being the mediator between God and man, He becomes by right the dictator and director on earth and in heaven for the living and for the dead, for the past, the present and the future, pertaining to man as associated with this earth or the heavens, in time or eternity, the Captain of our salvation, the Apostle and High-Priest of our profession, the Lord and Giver of life.
Is justice dishonored? No; it is satisfied, the debt is paid. Is righteousness departed from? No; this is a righteous act. All requirements are met. Is judgment violated? No; its demands are fulfilled. Is mercy triumphant? No; she simply claims her own. Justice, judgment, mercy and truth all harmonize as the attributes of Deity. “Justice and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” [See Psalm 85:10.] Justice and judgment triumph as well as mercy and peace; all the attributes of Deity harmonize in this great, grand, momentous, just, equitable, merciful and meritorious act. 9
Jesus Christ was the only one who could carry out the Atonement.
It may here be asked, What difference is there between the Son of God, as the Son of God, the Redeemer, and those who believe in Him and partake of the blessings of the Gospel?
One thing, as we read, is that the Father gave Him power to have life in Himself: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;” [John 5:26] and further, He had power, when all mankind had lost their life, to restore life to them again; and hence He is the Resurrection and the Life, which power no other man possesses.
Another distinction is, that having this life in Himself, He had power, as He said, to lay down His life and to take it up again, which power was also given Him by the Father. This is also a power which no other being associated with this earth possesses.
Again, He is the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person. Also, He doeth what He seeth the Father do, while we only do that which we are permitted and empowered to do by Him.
He is the Elect, the Chosen, and one of the Presidency in the heavens, and in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, which could not be said of us in any of these particulars.
Another thing is, that all power is given to Him in heaven and upon earth, which no earthly being could say.
It is also stated that Lucifer was before Adam; so was Jesus. And Adam, as well as all other believers, was commanded to do all that he did in the name of the Son, and to call upon God in His name for ever more; which honor was not applicable to any earthly being.
He, in the nearness of His relationship to the Father, seems to occupy a position that no other person occupies. He is spoken of as His well beloved Son, as the Only Begotten of the Father—does not this mean the only begotten after the flesh? If He was the first born and obedient to the laws of His Father, did He not inherit the position by right to be the representative of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world? And was it not His peculiar right and privilege as the firstborn, the legitimate heir of God, the Eternal Father, to step forth, accomplish and carry out the designs of His Heavenly Father pertaining to the redemption, salvation and exaltation of man? And being Himself without sin (which no other mortal was), He took the position of Savior and Redeemer, which by right belonged to Him as the first born. And does it not seem that in having a body specially prepared, and being the offspring of God, both in body and spirit, He stood preeminently in the position of the Son of God, or in the place of God, and was God, and was thus the fit and only personage capable of making an infinite atonement? …
… Though others might be the sons of God through Him, yet it needed His body, His fulfilment of the law, the sacrifice or offering up of that body in the atonement, before any of these others, who were also sons of God by birth in the spirit world, could attain to the position of sons of God as He was; and that only through His mediation and atonement. So that in Him, and of Him, and through Him, through the principle of adoption, could we alone obtain that position which is spoken of by John: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Thus His atonement made it possible for us to obtain an exaltation, which we could not have possessed without it. 10
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• When we learned of Heavenly Father’s plan—with Jesus as our Savior—“the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Why do you think we felt so joyful?
• Satan proposed to take away mankind’s agency, but Heavenly Father rejected that proposal. Why must we have agency in order to receive exaltation? (See also D&C 29:39–44.)
• What can we learn from the Savior’s response to Heavenly Father’s will in the Grand Council in Heaven?
• Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, all people are subject to physical death and to spiritual death, or separation from God. What did the Savior do to overcome the effects of the Fall?
• What would have been the fate of all mankind without the Atonement? (See also 2 Nephi 9:6–10.)
• Why was Jesus Christ the only one who could carry out the Atonement?
• How do you feel when you ponder the Savior’s atoning sacrifice? How can knowledge of the Atonement offer hope and reassurance as we live each day?