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The LDS view of the atonement of Jesus Christ
Critics seriously understate the position of the Church of Jesus Christ with respect to the atonement.
Many of the quotations used by critics regarding the LDS view of the atonement have been taken out of context, or the further comments of the speaker have been ignored. This is an implied a form of "bearing false witness," which is completely against the Gospel that the Savior taught during His earthly ministry. Critics, such as the authors of Mormonism 101, show very little evidence of having "studied the [Latter-day Saint] movement for the greater part of their lives" as they claim. In fact, if one takes up the authors' challenge to check their sources, one finds that in every case they are found wanting, often seriously so. In their "witnessing tip" regarding the Book of Mormon the authors conclude their imaginary dialogue by asking: "If Smith was misleading in this statement, how can I trust his other statements?"
- LDS view of the atonement—
Statements regarding the LDS view of the atonement (Link)
- The centrality of the atonement in LDS thought—
Joseph Smith, the founding prophet, stated that "the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Those appendages include the gift of the Holy Ghost, power of faith, enjoyment of the spiritual gifts, restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.  The atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the central fact of all LDS theological teaching. (Link)
- Was Jesus actually crucified on a cross?—
In the original Greek of the New Testament, accounts of Jesus' death only say he was put to death on "a pole." Is the belief of most of Christianity on "the cross" actually misguided? (Link)
- The garden and the cross—
There is evidence that other mainstream Christians considered the atonement to have at least begun in the Garden, being consummated on the cross, which is what the Latter-day Saints have taught for more than 170 years. Evangelical critics say almost nothing about the universalism of the LDS position, simply mentioning it as one of the two major areas of disagreement. This suggests that for critics the atonement does not provide for all mortals to be resurrected, or saved. Critics do correctly indicate, nevertheless, that the LDS do place a good deal of emphasis on the Lord's experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Link)
- The Atonement as viewed by historical Christianity—
Critics seem to assume that the LDS position is a "ransom" theory of atonement, and that the mainstream Christian interpretation is one of sacrificial death on the cross. They quote some statements from Latter-day Saint leaders emphasizing the Garden of Gethsemane as being the place of the atonement. They write, "Christians have long maintained that this glorious act of sacrifice took place on Golgotha Hill… It was here that God Himself was subject to the humiliating death of a common criminal,"  and note that "Christians realize that salvation is a result of what Jesus did for them on the cross… To even insinuate that this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane is a foreign concept to the Christian."  (Link)
- Comparing the LDS and evangelical Christian views of the atonement—
Critics often make comparisons of what they claim are LDS views of the atonement against evangelical Christian views in an attempt to discredit the LDS perspective. As is so frequently done, the critics attempt to compare apples and oranges by contrasting "resurrection" on the LDS side with "salvation" on the other side. They are contrasting "cross only" with "garden and cross." They are rejecting the possibility of the Israelites having any knowledge whatever of the works of the future Messiah, and therefore being saved by their faith in the future Messiah. The restoration of the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith actually makes the two positions most compatible, at least from the perspective of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. The LDS position is a broader concept, based on further light and knowledge, i.e., revelation from God. (Link)
- Extent of the atonement—
Some time needs to be spent however on the extent to which the atonement is applicable in the world. Critics seem to object that the atonement is applicable to all who have ever lived. They want to restrict it to only those who lived after the Savior ("only after Christ's death" and "for the believer"). This doesn't only limit its accessibility to those who lived before the Savior, it quite literally slams the door on the possibility of their ever receiving salvation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not restrict itself in that manner. All will be raised from the dead; all will stand before God to be judged; all will be expected to give an accounting of their behavior on Earth. And they will all be held to basically the same standard. No one slides into heaven, or gets there by hanging onto the tailcoats of another. No one is saved on borrowed light. (Link)
- The atonement as portrayed in Latter-day Saint hymns—
We note one hymn sung frequently by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ during their worship services. It has been in the LDS hymnals since 1896, and includes the following thoughts: "Reverently and meekly now, let thy head most humbly bow, think of me, thou ransomed one; think what I for thee have done, with my blood that dripped like rain, sweat in agony of pain, with my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee. In this bread now blest for thee, emblem of my body see; in this water or this wine, emblem of my blood divine. Oh, remember what was done that the sinner might be won. On the cross of Calvary I have suffered death for thee. Bid thine heart all strife to cease; with thy brethren be at peace. Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be even forgiven now by me. In the solemn faith of prayer cast upon me all thy care, and my Spirit's grace shall be like a fountain unto thee. At the throne I intercede; for thee ever do I plead. I have loved thee as thy friend, with a love that cannot end. Be obedient, I implore, prayerful, watchful evermore, and be constant unto me, that thy Savior I may be." This hymn, penned by a Latter-day Saint, is even more significant, given that when the new edition of the LDS hymnal was reviewed by a Professor of Music at the University of Toronto, the reviewer indicated that it "would enhance a communion service in any church."  It does so precisely because it emphasizes the atoning sacrifice of Christ for all people. He is the Savior, who shed His blood for us. This has been the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the beginning, and continues to be so. (Link)
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 3 (Salt Lake City, Utah; Deseret Book Company, 1980) : .30 The passage is quoted frequently: Richard R. Hopkins, Biblical Mormonism. Responding to Evangelical Criticism of LDS Theology (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994), 123; Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book Company, 1976), 121.; The Teachings of Joseph Smith, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 55; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 60.; also in M. Gerald Bradford and Larry E. Dahl, "Doctrine: Meaning, Source, and History of Doctrine," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), 1:393–397; Tad Callister, The Infinite Atonement (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), 3–4; Keith W. Perkins, "Insights into the Atonement from Latter-day Scriptures," Principles of the Gospel in Practice. Sperry Symposium 1985 (Salt Lake City, Utah;: Randall Book Company, 1985), 91; Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report (April 1950), 130; quoted in Richard G. Grant, Understanding these Other Christians. An LDS Introduction to Evangelical Christianity (self-published, 1998): 42; My Errand from the Lord. A personal study guide for Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums 1976-1977 (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, 1976), 92. The statement was first published in an early LDS publication, the Elders' Journal I (1832): 28–9. The frequency of appearance of this quotation in LDS literature makes one wonder why it is not to be found in Mormonism 101; indeed, the authors claim to have read the first six references cited here.
- [note] McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 145.
- [note] McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 148–149.
- [note] Joseph L. Townsend, "Reverently and Meekly Now," hymn 185; first in 1896; also in 1906 edition, hymn 331. The reviewer was Hugh McKeller, in the journal, The Hymn (April 1996), quoted in Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns, 200.