A Meditation on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and on Our Willingness to be Saved and to be Exalted
By Ken K. Gourdin
We have such an incomplete, fragmentary, through-a-glass-darkly understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and yet it is the central doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. God and Christ are omnipotent. That means that there is nothing they cannot do—except for one thing. Yes, God loves all of His children. Yes, He wants them to be saved and exalted. But the one thing He cannot and will not do is save or exalt anyone against his will. That’s it. So the real question isn’t whether anyone wants to be gay, or straight, or [fill-in-the-blank-with-adjective-here, ad infinitum] in the next life. The only real question is whether someone wants to be exalted—is he willing to be exalted?
To find out if I’m willing to be exalted, God has asked me to obey Him: Much of the time, I fail at that—miserably. Yes, my puny efforts to obey Him might add, in some infinitesimally small, barely perceptible way, to His glory: Glorifying Him and the life He has given me is another of my tasks, a task at which, like obedience, I fail, miserably and often. And yet there are moments—all-too-rare, all-too-fleeting, and seemingly-ephemeral and ethereal, perhaps, here amidst mortality’s prevailing “mists of darkness,” but transcendent and sublime moments, nonetheless—in which God tells me as He told Moses, “Thou art my son.” To quote the beautiful, oft-repeated refrain from the book of Isaiah, though I stumble, though I fail, though I fall (and that’s the real problem: we’re all fallen!), “His arm is stretched out still.”
Yet, here we are, so often groping about in mortality’s mists of darkness, hoping, somehow, in our mortal, fallen condition, to see the truth of the vision described by the Apostle Paul. To the Romans, in Romans 8:38-39, he described it this way:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 2:9, he described it this way: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
And how do we demonstrate our love for God? “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15. And, though it occurs in a different context, I’m reminded of Peter’s exchange with the Savior: “Ken, lovest thou me?” “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love Thee.” “Keep my commandments.” (See John 21:15-17.)
“Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9:24.