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76:25-27. God provided a way by which His spirit-children would become embodied as a means of advancement; Satan introduced degeneracy and death in an attempt to thwart the Divine purpose.
Death may claim its victim in infancy or youth, in the period of life's prime or when the snows of age have settled heavily upon the venerable head; it may come through disease or accident, by violence, or as what we call the result of natural causes; but come it' must, as Satan well knows; and in that knowledge lies his present though but temporary triumph. But the ways of God, as they ever have been and ever shall be, are infinitely more potent than the deepest designs of men or devils; and the Satanic machinations to make death perpetual and supreme were foreseen and provided against even before the first man had been clothed in flesh. The Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ was ordained to overcome death, and to provide a means of ransom from sin and consequent deliverance from the dominion of Satan.
As the natural and inevitable penalty incident to Adam's fall came upon the race through individual transgression, it would be manifestly unjust and therefore impossible as part of the Divine plan to make all men suffer the results thereof without provision for emancipation. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (Rom. 5:12, 18). And further: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:21, 22; see further Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:11, 12).
Without assistance from some power superior to his own, fallen man would remain eternally in his state of spiritual banishment from the presence of God. He is tainted and defiled through sin; and though he must pass the gates of death, that change from the embodied to the disembodied state cannot consistently be regarded as a means of ransom. from the effect of transgression. We find in Nature an analogy applicable to our present demonstration; though in its use the present writer claims no credit for originality.
The lifeless mineral, belonging to the lowest of the "three kingdoms," may grow big through accretion of substance, and may attain relative perfection of structure and form as in the crystal. But, though placed in the most favorable environment, no mineral particle unassisted by the power incident to life can become part of a living organism such as the plant. The living plant, however, may reach down to the mineral plane, and by absorption and assimilation make the mineral part of its own organic tissue. So the plant, though of itself utterly powerless to attain the yet higher plane of animal tissue, may be assimilated by the animal and become part thereof. And so with respect to either plant or animal substance becoming a constituent of human tissue.
So for the advancement of man from his present fallen state to the higher condition of spiritual life, a power greater than his own is requisite. Through the operation of laws obtaining in the spiritual world man may be reached and lifted; himself he cannot exalt. A Redeemer and Savior is essential to the accomplishment of the Father's plan, which is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Pearl of Great Price, p. 7); and that Redeemer and Savior is Jesus the Christ, beside whom there is and can be no other.
CHRIST'S UNIQUE STATUS
As Redeemer and Savior of the World
NO hosts of earnest and thoughtful people, comprising many who devoutly believe in the efficacy of our Lord's atoning death as a means of redemption from death and salvation from sin, it is a matter of surpassing wonder that the sacrifice of a single life could be made an effective means of emancipation for mankind.
Scriptures ante-dating the Savior's earthly life plainly aver that the Atonement to be made by Him was to be a vicarious sacrifice, voluntary and love-inspired on His part, and universal in its application so far as human-kind would avail themselves of its beneficent means. These conditions were confirmed by the personal affirmations of the embodied Christ, and are attested by Scriptures post-dating the tragic consummation on Calvary.
The concept of vicarious service, in which one may act or officiate for and in behalf of another, is as old as the It is, however, fundamentally opposed to the unscriptural assumption that the merits of one man may be accounted to the cancellation of another's sins. Scriptures both ancient and modern, the traditions of the human family, the rites of altar sacrifice, and even the sacrileges of heathen idolatry involve the basal conception of vicarious atonement. This principle, of Divine establishment in its original and uncorrupted form, was revealed to Adam (Pearl of Great Price, pp. 19-20), who offered sacrifices in the similitude of the then future death of the Lamb of God, and was taught and practised by later prophets down to the time of Christ.
The Scriptures relieve us from the assumption that any ordinary mortal, by voluntarily giving up his life even as a martyr to the best of causes, could become a ransom for the sins of his fellows and a victor over death. Jesus Christ, though He lived and died as one of the human family, was of unique nature. Never has another such as He walked the earth. Christ was the only Being among all the embodied spirit-children of God suited to and acceptable as the great sacrifice of atonement, in these definite and distinct respects:
1. He was the One chosen and foreordained in the heavens to this specific service.
2. He was and is the Only Begotten of the Father in the body, and therefore the only Being ever born to earth who possessed in their fulness the inherent attributes of both Godhood and manhood.
3. He was and is the one and only sinless Man who has lived in mortality.
Concerning our Lord's foreordination as the Redeemer and Savior, He has given us personal testimony with which the utterances of prophets who lived before His birth and apostles who taught after His death are in harmony. Twenty-two centuries before the meridian of time, the then unembodied Christ revealed Himself to a Book of Mormon prophet, saying: "Behold I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold I am Jesus Christ." (Book of Mormon, Ether 3:14). Unto Moses the Father spake, saying: "Thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten, and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 2). These Scriptures are in accord with Peter's testimony of Christ as "a Lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." (1 Peter 1:19-20).
As the Eternal Father's Only Begotten Son in the flesh, Christ possessed the inborn power to withstand death indefinitely, and this just as naturally as that He, being the offspring of a mortal mother, should derive the ability to die. Jesus Christ inherited through the operation of the natural law of heredity the physical, mental, and spiritual attributes of His parents-the Father immortal and glorified, the mother human. He could not be slain until His hour had come, the hour in which He would voluntarily give up His life, and permit His own decease as an act of will. How else are His definite asseverations concerning Himself to be construed? Consider for example this: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." (John 10:17-18). And further: "For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." (John 5:26).
Christ died, not as other men have died or shall die, because of inability to escape death, but for a special purpose by voluntary surrender. Thus, the atoning sacrifice was no usual death of an ordinary man, but the decease of One who had the power to live. It was a sacrifice, indeed!
As a sinless Man Christ was exempt from the dominion of Satan; and was sublimely conscious of His own perfect probity. He challenged assailants with the pertinent demand "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46); and in the hour of His entrance into Gethsemane solemnly averred: "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." (John 14:30).
*For comprehensive treatment see the author's work "Jesus the Christ," 800 pp., The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah.