Sunday, December 31, 2006

Atonement and Judgement - Who Really Demands Justice?

The point of the atonement is to make us clean so that we may re-enter the presence of God (3 Nephi 27:19). Sin has made us filthy. But what is this filth? Yes, we can say it is sin that we have committed, but where does this filth actually exist and why? And why do we need it removed to be in God's presence?

The scriptures tell us that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16). Why? To please himself? Did Christ really perform the atonement because Heavenly Father insisted for self indulgence? What kind of a God of love would that be?

I believe Mosiah 2:38 answers these questions. "Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever."

This demonstrates that it is us who demands justice: Our "immortal soul". It also is stating that it is our own sense of guilt that causes us to stay out of God's presence. In addition to this it is saying that it is us who send ourselves to hell.

So how does this fit in with statements about Jesus being the judge, and the saints being judges etc? I believe this refers to the idea that any person who has taught us any truth is our judge in the sense that their words stand to praise or condemn us. Depending on whether we listened or not. Christ provided the atonement that anyone can accept. If a person doesn't then that also stands as condemnation in that judgement of ourselves. His words stand to condemn or praise; depending on our acceptance also.

Heavenly Father arranged for a saviour to come into us and do the suffering on our behalf. But this requires us to open to him and to really repent. A truly repentant person doesn't go out doing the same thing again. Jesus was the chosen saviour. And he suffered for these sins in the garden.


Rob Osborn said...

I once had a dream where I was walking from my prison cell to the gas chamber and had an awful thought come over me- the fear of committing such a grave sin that no law on earth could pardon me. As I was in this most awful situation I awoke in a desperate panic of endless doom and realized it was just a dream. This got me to thinking though of the torment that comes to the wicked who commit such hurendous crimes in society.

I have often wonder after the sin of David who had Uriah killed. According to D&C 132 he committed an unpardonable sin. He has fallen from his promised exaltation and is still awaiting with fear (hell) of the holy judgment to come down upon him. He spent the rest of his life in sheer agony, constantly pleading before God to forgive him. I wonder if what he felt was not the same feeling I had in that dream- that of committing a sin so hurendous that it could not possibly ever be pardoned. That to me is sheer hell in and of itself. Anyone who experiences that feeling of helplessness and no hope has experienced what I believe awaits the sons of perdition!

Doug Towers said...

What I have expressed in the post is that it isn't actually God who holds the grudge. It is us who won't forgive ourselves.

I did something bad to someone when young. Every time I thought about it I felt terrible. But after years of this, one day I thought about it and my spirit inside said that I had suffered enough for that. I was content that the price had been paid. I didn't feel bad about it anymore. I had gone through the hell. It was me that demanded the justice. Not God. He just loves everybody. Do you hate your son if he does wrong? Isn't it the wrong that you hate? Not the person.

Anonymous said...

so are you saying it's our consciences that won't allow us to inherit the celestial kingdom if we remain and die in our sins? Do you see the law of justice as simply the law of self-imposed guilt? What do you do with scriptures that talk of God being a God of justice and mercy. It seems there is something coming from Him as well...??? Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

e.g., "justice of God in punishing the sinner" ....Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would ccease to be God. 14 And thus we see that all mankind were afallen, and they were in the grasp of bjustice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
(Al. 42)

I think it was likely the law of justice which required that God cast Satan and his followers out. It wasn't just their feelings that made them leave; He cast them out.

I'm just wondering where these things fit into your thoughts. :)

Anonymous said...

p.s.s. it's not that I don't see scriputural support for what you are saying, but I wonder if that's all justice really is, because there are scriptures that put God in the role as Executor of Justice.

Doug Towers said...


Thanks for your thoughts. And some good point for dicussion, as always.

Satan being cast out.
I believe the statement about Satan being cast down to be a bit of a John and Betty (first grade reader). I consider that situation to be one that would just flow. Why would Satan want to stay in heaven when his potential followers were all coming down here? The debate was over up there. It was just a natural next step.

God and Judgement
The concept that judgement will be just, is one that puts us all at ease. To know that God will make sure that all is fair. Then there are the many who want to be assured that vengence will take place. That those terrible, wicked people who [blank] will suffer excruciating agony in the firry pits of hell. Etc.

Justice is an eternal law. And if those laws didn't exist, God would cease to be God. So I definitely agree with Alma.

But these laws existing, there are ways to use other eternal laws that can end such suffering. This is where Christ came in. And so being merciful Christ's action has satisfied our demand for justice.

Doug Towers said...


I missed answering your first comment fully.

I believe that the thing that keeps people out of the Celestial Kingdom is the old "birds of a feather flock together" principle. Can you imagine someone really feeling comfortable in God's presence when they aren't really love inclined? His whole existence is dedicated to service. But Mos 2:38 may also bear some relevance.

How does that all sit with you?

Anonymous said...

Like I said, I think some of what you say makes sense but it doesn't all gel. I think there is more to it than just conscience and guilt. Blessings as well as punishment result from the law of justice.

I read Elder Scott's talk on this topic last nite. He said this:

Each of us makes mistakes in life. They result in broken eternal laws. Justice is that part of Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness that maintains order. It is like gravity to a rock climber, ever present. It is a friend if eternal laws are observed. It responds to your detriment if they are ignored. Justice guarantees that you will receive the blessings you earn for obeying the laws of God. Justice also requires that every broken law be satisfied. When you obey the laws of God, you are blessed, but there is no additional credit earned that can be saved to satisfy the laws that you break. If not resolved, broken laws can cause your life to be miserable and would keep you from returning to God. Only the life, teachings, and particularly the Atonement of Jesus Christ can release you from this otherwise impossible predicament.

It just seems to me if the only result of a broken law is feeling bad, then the blessings would be "feeling good." If that were the case, why doesn't Elder Scott speak of one blessing (feeling good, without guilt) as the only result of keeping law and/or repenting? Of course, that is part of the result, but God has promised all that He has if we strive to be obedient and receive ordinances and endure to the end in faith. He's not promising simply that we will feel good and feel comfortable to be with Him...He will make us like Him, with all power and glory that He possesses! Doesn't that seem like more is at stake than just birds flocking together because they feel good? That seems to take God out of His role as the granter of all blessings, and as an active executor, an agent who chooses perfectly each time to provide the perfect balance of justice and mercy for our best good, according to the laws of both.

Also, eternal marriage and family relationships are also more than just feeling good and comfy in my mind. Consequences of not obeying all of God's laws can result in these blessings not being received in the next life.

I also just see God as being more active in many scriptures than just sitting back and waiting for conscience/guilt to do its work. Not that those things dont have their place, but I do think there is more.

For example, I don't believe Satan just decided to leave because he didn't feel good anymore. I take scriptures and other teachings (think temple) that he was actively and specifically expelled from God's presence.

Again, I think the conscience thing is part of what the Atonement helps overcome, but I have a hard time believing that is all.

Doug Towers said...


I have obviously done a bit of a Paul, and not explained myself fully. My post is focused on the idea that it isn't God who demanded a sacrifice for his good will and pleasure, but that we demanded justice, and Christ suffered to set our conscience at ease. This doesn't detract from other consequences of sin. If I punch my hand against a wall I have my conscience saying that I have done evil in not preserving that which God gave me. But I am also going to have a sore hand. In committing adultery a person has the conscience of the effect on the co-offender and their spouse/s. Then there is the effect on the children. An effect upon society etc. I'm sure Brother Scott was taking all these things into consideration in his talk. So I agree with you that it isn't just about our conscience.

And, as you say, there is the good effect on things like our families, as we do good. Also Love grows within us as we love others and Heavenly Father. I believe the Scriptures also inform us that our intelligence actually exists more as we obey. This is something I have proven in reading the Book of Mormon. I went from winning Freecell (computer card game) 86% of the time, to winning it 99% of the time. I have thrown out this challenge to non-members, and seen them prove it in their own lives.

One area where we may not see eye to eye here is that I see Heavenly Father's role a little as you are saying I do. I see his role to us as being just like an earthly father. I also look at it like he is a carpenter and we the apprentices. He is teaching us our trade. If we listen to him, and follow his instructions we will eventually learn the information, and, through practice, gain the skills and develop the abilities within ourselves to be a carpenter too.

This is just like our fathers and mothers here. They can teach us the principles to follow to become like them. They warn us of dangers to avoid. They watch over us to help us learn. And at times we get the proverbial kick in the rear. And only if we follow their principles will we be like them. The only difference being that while we sometimes get it wrong as parents, Heavenly Father is always right.

So I see God does have a very active role in the outcome. He works with us all the time. Generally through the Holy Ghost. But I also believe that the Scriptures state that God can't have any effect upon our intelligences: That they are must be totally independant of his will or they cease to exist. He can co-exist with us in a harmony of oneness. But he can't affect anything permanent upon us, such as power, ignorance, pain, guilt, godhood etc. These are done by following or breaking eternal principles. Ask God to move mountains - no worries. Ask God to create a universe - no worries. Ask him to change a person - problem.

You have said,
"That seems to take God out of His role as the granter of all blessings.."

That idea of God giving out blessings seems to fit God perfectly. The part where I believe it comes adrift is where it must then follow that he is the granter of all cursing. This just doesn't fit a loving parent at all. And what greater loving parent is there than God? Would you discipline a child permanently? Isn't the point of discipline to teach a child to do better next time, rather than an act of revenge? And what sin could possibly require that a person suffer forever without ceasing to make justice?

Does your heart really believe, deep inside, that this is our truly loving Heavenly Father? I can testify that it isn't. Justice is a natural law of the universe. Heavenly Father is our loving instructor, friend, helper, supporter. With patience and love that is endless and unconditional.

Anonymous said...

Ask him to change a person - problem.

Hmmm...I think this is a place where we differ. Consider this:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the abands of death, and the bchains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them."

King Benjamin's people also talked about a mighty change wrought upon them. God DOES change us, but only if we let Him do it.

Secondly, I suspected that your point of view was based in a belief that God can't be a punishing God or one who executes "curses" on His children. I never, ever said that God acts in spiteful revenge as we would consider that word to be, nor would I ever want to imply such a thing. He does everything from a place of perfection. I worry that we might be running into semantic difficulties with this issue, but let me present a scripture or two as examples.

You could read the OT for lots of examples of how God (through His Son, usually) executes things such as punishment, cursing, wrath, vengeance, etc. And, for example from the BoM

2 Ne. 1: 7, 18, 22
7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
• • •
18 Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil.
• • •
22 That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body.

That doesn't sound all warm and fuzzy to me. :) But that doesn't undermine my belief in a perfectly loving, perfectly perfect Father. But He cannot overpower the demands of justice unless we do what is necessary to open up mercy. There are parents even in our sphere who have to make decisions that leave their children essentially banished from the home because of choices the children have made and influences that simply cannot be allowed in the home. A parent's love cannot overpower the effects of choices that sometimes lead to so much darkness that there must be a permanent separation. That doesn't reduce the love of a parent, but that love (or, better said, the benefits of that love) are in part determined by the choices of the child. The door is always open when repentance occurs, but punishment is a real consequence and is executed by righteous, loving parents. Don't know if I'm making sense here....

I wonder what you do with scriptures that talk of God's wrath, vengeance, anger, punishment, cursing, etc...such as (and there are many, many more such as these):

And the Lord said unto me: Go to this people, and say unto them—aRepent, lest I come out and smite them with a curse, and they die.

54 Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the acurse might be taken from him.
55 But Alma said unto him: If this curse should be taken from thee thou wouldst again lead away the hearts of this people; therefore, it shall be unto thee even as the Lord will.
56 And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor; but he was acast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food.

7 And the LORD thy God will put all these acurses upon thine benemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
• • •
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and acursing: therefore bchoose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their afaces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be bconsumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an cexecration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.
• • •
22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a adesolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.

DON'T get me wrong. I still believe in a loving Father. But I believe that love is only fully evident if we receive His love, receive the Atonement, and allow that love to change our hearts and lives. God's love, as you have stated, can't act upon us without our consent. But on the flip side, there are clearly limits to what God will sit by and let happen as well. That is supported in scripture repeatedly. The challenge with all of this is trying to understand these concepts of negative emotions, if you will, with the limits of language. Whatever God does is right, so I don't question his anger, vengeance, cursings, punishments or whatever else He might "see fit to inflict" upon His children. I just know that at the foundation of all He does is perfect love, mercy, justice and all the other attributes that make Him our perfect Father.

Sorry for the long response. I think this is a typical bloggernacle discussion, and one that probably won't come to resolution because I know people interpret these things differently.

Doug Towers said...


No need to apologise for the length of the comment. I enjoy your input. And my response will probably be long.

I think that we are in more agreement than you seem to feel. I just think it is that we haven't established correctly where we differ.

When I said that God can't change people I was referring to the idea of him just doing so without input from us. I certainly know the wonderful changes he has made in me. That truly is the greatest miracle. So we aren't in disagreement there.

In regard cursings etc. I see this as having 2 aspects. Firstly we have situations like Uzzah putting his hand to the ark and God strikiing him down. This was a clear cut murder (to speak plainly). And God has done these sorts of things, or commanded others to do so. But his reasoning has always been right. I don't know the heart of Uzzah. But one thing is plain, and that is that God was leading a very spiritually backward people. Had he let this go it would have lead to very serious problems. And God only killed him. Which seems a big deal to us, but God is looking at the whole picture. If Uzzah was sincere he will be none the worse in the long run. There is also the case of Israel looking at the serpent on the rod to be saved from being killed. So I accept this type of physical activity by God. And I agree with you that this doesn't detract from his love.

A second reason why people are cursed when disobeying God is a principle that I believe to be natural. If we hate other nations, other nations will hate us, and come in upon us. Any turning from the ways of God is a turning toward the dark side (if you understand me using that term). And then nature works against us. To try and explain this properly. I used to go to the beach sometimes at the Gold Coast. As I would drive toward there I could feel this relaxed atmosphere many miles before I got there. And I could feel it back there when I left. I believe people's attitudes reflect out and affect others. Thus a righteous nation will be respected by those around it. But an unrighteous nation will bring war on itself. Also nature responds to this. When Adam and Eve transgressed they brought imbalance to nature. Things don't grow as well for the unrighteous. I knew a lady (church member) who grew these absolutely enormous vegetables, without using any fertalizer etc. She played nice music to them, and talked to them each day. Those vegetables had to be seen to be believed. It was like the land of the giants. I believe that God teaches us natural laws, that if obeyed will bring peace. So he can rightly say that disobedience to the things he is commanding will bring destruction. And he can see it coming.

Your point about parents making children leave does make me reconsider the whole Satan leaving heaven thing. I'm still not feeling I have it totally, but that could be because there is so much I am yet to learn. I have all these draws in my head that I leave ideas in until something new turns up, and I pull them out and re-think them relative to the new information.

You have asked what I feel about the places where God talks of his anger etc. God has anger at evil, but not evildoers (in reality). I feel strange writing that with some experiences I've had. But I still see it this way. And in saying this I would have to add that I would never dare cross him. As it wouldn't be what he would do to me, so much as what he would stop doing for me. Only a fool bites the hand that feeds you. I think Christ made a far more clear picture of Heavenly Father in his sermon on the mount.

But the thing I was expressing in the post is that God doesn't punish people inside. Satan will suffer forever because he will never change to good. So he will just keep shooting himself in the foot (so to speak) and spend forever dancing around in pain.

Is that all as clear as mud?

Anonymous said...

But the thing I was expressing in the post is that God doesn't punish people inside.

I think this clarified things for me a lot. Guilt is simply an invitation to repent and return to peace. I think too often we carry it too far and focus on the sin rather than on Christ and make guilt something that it need not be. I'm planning on writing on this topic sometime, actually, because I've been thinking about it a lot.

That said, I wonder if it's always completely true, now that I'm thinking about it more. From D&C 19:

15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. [This suffering sounds imposed on on.]
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might bnot drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; [again, something imposed on us, not just experienced within] and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.

If He withdraws His Spirit, isn't that a punishment of sorts inside? [I'm mulling over this all because I'm trying to learn, not because I have it all figured out...just as you said.]

As to Satan, another thing to consider is that he and his followers will NEVER have the chance to come back. They will never get a body, never be able to progress, never have any semblance of joy. Imagine even if it was that Satan didn't feel comfy in God's presence anymore; God didn't (or couldn't) allow him back to a place where he could progress. That's a big deal. Satan reached a point where he had shot himself in the foot for the last time, passing a point of no return. There are certain things that even God can't do. He can't force us to accept His light, and clearly there is a place where enough rebellion can happen where even God can't help us back. We have to put ourselves in a place to be blessed.

The difference between us and Satan et. al. is that God offers us the chance to change, repent and progress, which is a great comfort. But, like you said, we don't want to experience the loss of His help and light!

Doug Towers said...


In regard D&C 19. Christ expresses the enormous pain he felt in order to relieve us of our sins. I don't see him doing that just to stop Heavenly Father from imposing some pain upon us. That just doesn't make sense. I see his threats as being the old KISS principle: keeping it simple stupid. He talks to us like kids. Do it or else I'll come in there and really give it to you. The D&C seems to be a spattering of the gospel of Christ mixed with the Law of Moses.

As to him withdrawing the Spirit being a punishment. Totally. I have had him do that for a week at one time. He allowed me one question a day only. It was dark inside me. I never want that again. I see what you are saying that this is an inside effect. But I would see this more as a withdrawal of a benefit, rather than something bad imposed upon us inside.

In regard what you are saying about Satan. I totally agree with all you have said. I would probably add, though, that I believe that if Satan were to repent (which I agree with you that he won't - but just to express the principle) Heavenly Father would take him back with open arms. Having said that, I do firmly agree that Satan has passed the point of no return in himself. I believe God will allow us all to reach that point in ourselves, whatever path we choose and to what degree.