Jesus Christ/Atonement/Quotes

What is the Latter-day Saint view of the atonement of Jesus Christ?


Question: How do Latter-day Saints understand the significance of Christ's death on the cross?

The importance of Christ's death on the cross is found in all LDS scriptures, and is spoken of frequently by Joseph Smith

The significance of Christ's death on the cross is of major importance to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is found frequently in the Book of Mormon, as well as in modern scripture, and is frequently spoken of by all of the Prophets since Joseph Smith. Some of those statements follow immediately:

  • In his vision of the birth, ministry and crucifixion of the Savior Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, writes: "I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world." (1 Nephi 11:33)
  • Jacob wrote "we would to God…that all men would believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world." (Jacob 1:8)
  • Following His death and resurrection in Jerusalem the Savior appeared to His disciples in the New World. There He reported that "my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works." (3 Nephi 27:14)
  • In modern revelation it was reported "Jesus was crucified… for the sins of the world." (D&C 21:9)
  • In the revelation known as the Vision, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that "this is the Gospel, the glad tidings…that He came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world." (D&C 76:40–41)
  • It is not without significance that the vision regarding the redemption of those who had lived prior to the birth of the Savior, received by President Joseph F. Smith in 1918, came directly as a result of his meditation on the meaning of the atonement. He writes: "I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world; and the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world; that through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved." After the vision had closed, President Smith continued: "And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross." (D&C 138:1–4, D&C 138:35)
  • This is a principle that has been taught from the beginning of the Church down to the present day by its leaders. Joseph Smith taught that God "foreordained the fall of man; but all merciful as He is, He foreordained at the same time, a plan of redemption for all mankind. I believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He died for the sins of all men." [1]
  • John Taylor, one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the third President of the Church, taught that "it was necessary that [Christ] should give up his life a sacrifice for the sins of the world."[2]
  • President Wilford Woodruff stated in 1889 that "the Savior came and tabernacled in the flesh, and…laid down His life as a sacrifice for sin, to redeem the world."[3] Two years later President Woodruff stated on behalf of the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that "we believe also in the atonement wrought by the shedding of Christ's blood on Calvary; that it is efficacious for all the race of Adam for the sin committed by Adam, and for the individual sins of all who believe, repent, are baptized by one having authority, and who receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of authorized hands."[4]
  • In 1892 George Q. Cannon of the Quorum of the Twelve stated with reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, and that through His death and atonement we are redeemed."[5]
  • In 1896 a Methodist minister living in predominantly LDS Evanston, Wyoming, wrote that the Latter-day Saints "believe in the New Testament scriptures, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the atonement for sin secured by his death. Their ritual consecrating the bread and water for the sacrament shows this, as do also the sermons of their preachers."[6] His information is apparently based on personal exposure to the Latter-day Saint preachers, as well as to their sacramental ritual (Sacrament of the Lord's Supper). It is a valuable testimony that their leaders actually taught what is here being quoted.
  • In 1904 Hyrum M. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that Christ "was crucified for the sins of the world and His blood was shed for the redemption of mankind."[7]
  • James E. Talmage wrote that in order "that the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fulness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death."[8]
  • In 1921 Rudger Clawson of the Quorum of the Twelve stated "the atonement made upon Mount Calvary was the supreme sacrifice ever made in all the world."[9]
  • In 1921 Heber J. Grant made reference to "the atoning blood of Jesus Christ… Jesus is the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, who came to the earth with a divinely appointed mission to die for the redemption of mankind."[10] He repeated that reference to His "divinely appointed mission to die for the sins of the world" in 1925.[11] Thirteen years later President Grant reaffirmed that same belief, that "we believe absolutely in Jesus Christ… and that He did come to the earth with a divinely appointed mission to die on the cross as the Redeemer of mankind."[12] In 1929 President Heber J. Grant wrote that Christ "died on Calvary for each one of us."[13]
  • The First Presidency, in their Christmas message for 1931, referred to the fact that the world was "redeemed through the shedding of His blood."[14]
  • Joseph L. Wirthlin, of the Presiding Bishopric, stated in October 1948 General Conference that the emblems of the sacrament (eucharist) provided a "deep and lasting impression of what the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ means and what his great sacrifice on the cross did for all of us."[15]
  • In 1949 George F. Richards, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, referred in General Conference to "his death upon the cross, of which it can be said in truth, that as a gift to mankind it was the greatest ever given; a sacrifice, the greatest ever made; a service, the greatest ever rendered; a demonstration of love such as is possessed only by the Gods."[16]
  • Six months later J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency, also in General Conference, stated that "the central point in the great plan framed in the Grand Council of heaven before the world was formed, was the redemption from the mortal death brought by the Fall… His whole earthly career was pivoted about his atoning sacrifice, his crucifixion and resurrection."[17] Later in the same conference he referred to "the cross when the Son of Man was offering himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world…"[18]
  • President Spencer W. Kimball stated, "In the meridian of time came the Son of God, born of an immortal father and a mortal mother, and as he climbed crucifixion's hill, he carried that Adamic penalty, and as the nails through his hands and feet, and the spear in his side, drained from his body all of his precious blood in this, his voluntary sacrifice, he neutralized and paid for all the Adamic sins."[19]
  • In 1975 Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, stated that "no member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of his trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at his flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of his heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced his hands and feet…. This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha's lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us."[20] In 1986 he bore his testimony thusly: "I believe that through His atoning sacrifice, the offering of His life on Calvary's Hill, He expiated the sins of mankind, relieving us from the burden of sin if we will forsake evil and follow Him. I believe in the grace of God made manifest through His sacrifice and redemption, and I believe that through His atonement, without any price on our part, each of us is offered the gift of resurrection from the dead…. I worship Him as I worship His Father, in spirit and in truth. I thank Him and kneel before His wounded feet and hands and side, amazed at the love He offers me."[21] In April 1993 General Conference he stated "the heaviest price of all was paid by the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He gave His life on Calvary's cross for the sins of all mankind."[22] In 1995 he stated that "nothing done before or since has so affected mankind as the atonement wrought by Jesus of Nazareth, who died on Calvary's cross and rose from the grave the third day as the living Son of the living God, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind."[23] Elsewhere he stated that "in the greatest act of human history, He allowed His quivering flesh to be nailed to the cross and lifted up in an act of atonement for each of us…. Nothing, nothing is of greater significance in all the history of the world than that atoning sacrifice of the Son of God."[24] In the 1996 Christmas message he wrote that Christ "condescended to come to earth and give His life on Calvary's cross for each of us."[25]
  • In 1998 Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote "the marks in His hands and feet are constant reminders to worthy Christians that we are on His errand… We are His; we were bought with His blood. His atonement and redemption mean everything in heaven and earth to us… These wounds in [His] hands and feet (D&C 45.51)…are the absolute and indisputable signs that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Shepherd of the flock, the Redeemer of the world. We will know Him and fall down before Him in exquisite relief and gratitude, wetting the earth with our fallen tears, for we will know that we are His beloved and that because of Him we have been redeemed from the Fall and from our sins."79


Question: How do Latter-day Saints understand the significance of the blood shed by Christ?

It is through the shedding of Christ's blood that we can receive a remission of our sins

  • Joseph Smith made reference to "the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ; by whose blood they have a forgiveness of sins."[26] He also taught that "God…prepared a sacrifice in the gift of His own Son who should be sent in due time, to prepare a way, or open a door through which man might enter into the Lord's presence, whence he had been cast out for disobedience… It must be shedding the blood of the Only Begotten to atone for man; for this was the plan of redemption; and without the shedding of blood was no remission."[27] In 1840 M.L. Davis wrote a letter to his wife outlining some of the things he had heard the Prophet state in a public sermon. He said that Joseph Smith expressed "his total unbelief of what is termed original sin. He believes that it is washed away by the blood of Christ, and that it no longer exists."[28] Brigham Young later reaffirmed this position: "We must believe that this same Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world, that is for the original sin, not the actual individual transgressions of the people; not but that the blood of Christ will cleanse from all sin, all who are disposed to act their part by repentance, and faith in his name. But the original sin was atoned for by the death of Christ."[29] George Laub recorded in his journal in 1844 that the Prophet taught "Jesus Christ left his blood to atone for the sins of the world."[30] One of the principles of the LDS faith is enunciated by the Prophet (and by Brigham Young, the second President of the LDS Church) as stated above by M. L. Davis: that original sin had been done away with in the death of Jesus Christ. The absence of original sin means that the baptism of infants is not necessary. The Book of Mormon is clear on this matter: "Little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world."[31] D&C 29:46 says "little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten." Joseph Smith referred to children as "having been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb."[32] In 1917 Hyrum G. Smith, the Patriarch of the Church, stated that "through the blood of his atonement [little children] shall come forth in the morning of the resurrection with his saints."[33]
  • Brigham Young stated that "the Latter-day Saints believe…that Jesus is the Savior of the world; they believe that all who attain to any glory whatever, in any kingdom, will do so because Jesus has purchased it by His atonement."[34]
  • In 1882 Heber J. Grant, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, encouraged the Saints to "read the revelations given upon the subject and you will find that all mankind, except those who have had the testimony of Christ and rejected it, denying the blood of Christ, will ultimately be saved."[35]
  • That same year John Taylor published his book entitled Mediation and Atonement. After quoting Colossians 1:12–15 he wrote that this passage teaches us "that our redemption is obtained through the blood of Jesus."[36]
  • Joseph F. Smith, in 1895 as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, referred to the conditions that Adam "had to be redeemed from by the blood of Christ."[37] A week later, at the Juab Stake Conference in Nephi, Utah, Elder Smith stated that "by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, he, Adam, was redeemed from the fall and the power of Satan…and we are indebted for our redemption to Jesus our Lord, and our Deliverer."[38]
  • Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that "Jesus Christ shed His blood for our sins—not for His own, for He was immaculate and without blemish—and He laid down His life that you and I should be redeemed from that death which had come upon us because of the fall of Adam. By His death are we redeemed. By His blood are we cleansed from the conditions of the fall."[39]
  • In 1901 Rudger Clawson of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that "the souls of men are so precious in the sight of God that he gave to the world his Only Begotten Son, that by the shedding of his blood he might draw all men unto him."[40]
  • In 1916 Anthon H. Lund of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that the bread and wine "are simply emblems of his body and blood" and that the wine "represented his blood that was to be shed for the remission of sins."[41]
  • In 1937 Charles A. Callis of the Twelve testified that Christ's "blood atones for all our sins, through obedience to righteousness."[42]
  • In 1949 when Alonzo A. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve learned that he had a terminal illness he wrote a letter to the First Presidency of the Church. Part of that letter was read at the October 1949 General Conference. He said, in part: "As to the future, I have no misgivings. It is inviting and glorious, and I sense rather clearly what it means to be saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ."[43]
  • A year later Marion G. Romney of the Twelve stated that "through repentance he may bring himself within the reach of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, so that thereby he may be cleansed from the effects of his transgressions and obtain forgiveness of them."[44]
  • Robert Millet, Professor of Religion at BYU, has recently written about the regeneration of fallen man. He states, "the renewal of which we speak is a conversion from worldliness to saintliness, from being lured by the lurid to being enticed by holiness. It comes to us by virtue of the cleansing blood of Jesus and through the medium of the Holy Ghost, who is the Sanctifier."[45]


Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 78; also in The Teachings of Joseph Smith, 55.
  2. John Taylor, "Reflections On the Sacrament, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 22 February 1863, Vol. 10 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1865), 115–116, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 11.
  3. Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, edited by Brian H. Stuy (City Unknown: B.H.S. Publishers, 1987), 344. Stated in an address on September 1, 1889. Seven years later he stated, "Jesus Christ…came into the world and laid down His life as a great sacrifice for the redemption of the world." [Collected Discourses (1892–1893), Vol. 3, 154.]
  4. This is from a letter he wrote to the editor of Illustrated American, dated January 9, 1891, found in Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 3, edited by James R. Clark (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 206.
  5. Collected Discourses (1892–1893), Vol. 3, 168.
  6. Reverend F.S. Beggs, "The Mormon Problem in the West," Methodist Review (Sept 1896), article VII: online at off-site
  7. Conference Report (April 1904), 51, in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 3:98–99.
  8. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1915), 661, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 144.
  9. Conference Report (October 1921), 36, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:80–81.
  10. Conference Report (April 1921), 203, quoted in Grant, Gospel Standards, 14. McKeever and Johnson claim to have read this volume. It is also quoted in Latter-day Commentary, 371.
  11. Conference Report (April 1925), 7–8, quoted in Grant, Gospel Standards, 6–7.
  12. Deseret News Church Section (September 3, 1938), 7, quoted in Grant, Gospel Standards, 6.
  13. Heber J. Grant, "Marvelous Growth," Juvenile Instructor (December 1929), 697, quoted in Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 141.
  14. Liahona, the Elders Journal 29 (January 5, 1932), 337–339, quoted in Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 5, 305.
  15. Joseph L. Wirthlin, Conference Report (October 1948), 125. Franklin D. Richards, of the Quorum of the Twelve, stated in General Conference October 9, 1887, that "It is /Christ/ to whom if you and I should ever be permitted to attain to the redemption from the dead and the exaltation for which we hope, that we shall sing songs of glory and honor to His name, as the One that has redeemed us… /The Lord's Supper/ is an institution since the crucifixion, since the shedding of His blood… His blood will redeem us." [Collected Discourses (City Unknown, B.H.S. Publishers, 1987), Vol. 1, 83–88.]
  16. George F. Richards, Conference Report (October 1949), 150.
  17. J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report (April 1950), 116–117.
  18. J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report (April 8, 1950), 181, also quoted in J. Reuben Clark, Immortality and Eternal Life, Melchizedek Priesthood Course of Study 1968–1969 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 163. Elsewhere in this latter volume (page 70) President Clark, a member of the First Presidency, referred to "Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer of the World, the Son of God, the Agency through which the world was made, our Savior, he who died to satisfy the penalty that the Fall brought." These comments were first offered in an address at Brigham Young University May 13, 1953.
  19. Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 69–70.
  20. Ensign (May 1975), 93, quoted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 26–7.
  21. Ensign (November 1986), 50–1, quoted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 276.
  22. Gordon B. Hinckley, quoted in Church News 71:36 (September 8, 2001), 15.
  23. St. Louis, Missouri, Regional Conference April 16, 1995, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 28.
  24. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 283.
  25. Ibid., 282–283.
  26. The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1990), 84.
  27. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 2, 15; also in The Teachings of Joseph Smith, 54–55. McKeever and Johnson claim to have read both volumes.
  28. Letter dated 6 February 1840, quoted in The Words of Joseph Smith, compiled by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1980), 33; also in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, 78.
  29. Brigham Young, "The Lord's Supper, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 11 July 1869, Vol. 13 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 143, in Discourses of Brigham Young, edited by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954), 153.
  30. George Laub Journal, 12 May 1844, in The Words of Joseph Smith, 371. Cf. History of the Church, Vol. 4, 554; also quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:268. Although the idea of 'original sin' is not dealt with in this chapter of Mormonism 101, it obviously played a part in the atonement, and was negated by the atonement. Joseph Smith was not the only one who suggested that original sin was removed by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. The English Reformers, in their Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, wrote that the sacrificial death of Christ is defined as the "perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual," article XXXI, introduced and quoted in Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life. Systematic Theology, Vol. 2 (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989): 389. The discussion by Oden, with representative documentation, makes it clear, however, that the redemption, propitiation and satisfaction for sin is applied only to original sin; our actual sins are atoned for only if we exercise faith in the Atonement of Christ.
  31. Moroni 8:12, 22.
  32. Wilford Woodruff Journal, 20 March 1842, in The Words of Joseph Smith, 109. Again, this is a work which was read by McKeever and Johnson.
  33. Conference Report (April 1917), 70–71, in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:379. For a recent comment on the blood of the Lamb saving little children, see Robert Millet, "The Regeneration of Fallen Man," in Nurturing Faith Through the Book of Mormon. The 24th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1995), 128–129, where he cites Moroni 8:12, 22; Mosiah 3:16–19; D&C 29:46, 74:7; and refers to JST Matthew 18:11: 'these little ones have no need of repentance, /for/ I will save them'; and JST Matthew 19:13: 'such shall be saved.' Thomas Oden writes that Hugh of St. Victor (died 1141) wrote that those who die at birth or are retarded "will be saved by this atonement insofar as they are judged to be incapable of refusing it," Hugh of St. Victor, On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith 2:17 paraphrased in Oden, The Word of Life, Vol. 2, 392.Reformed scholar Augustus H. Strong, in defending his belief that infants are "through the grace of Christ certain of salvation," quoted the following from John Calvin: "Infants whom the Lord gathers together from this life are regenerated by a secret operation of the Holy Spirit;" further, those who would exempt infants from the grace of salvation are guilty of an "execrable blasphemy;" it is a "blasphemy to be universally detested." [Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1907), 663.] Strong quotes from several other Reformed scholars in this article (pages 660–664).
  34. Brigham Young, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 24 April 1870, Vol. 13 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 328, quoted in Latter-day Commentary, 37.
  35. Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, 94, citing Journal History, entry for September 9, 1888.
  36. John Taylor, An Examination into and an Elucidation of the Great Principle of the Mediation and Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Company, 1882), 31. One can only wonder why McKeever and Johnson failed to take notice of a book by a President of the LDS Church, with the rather catchy title of "Mediation and Atonement." One would think it would have been the first place to look when seeking information about the LDS position relative to the Atonement.
  37. Collected Discourses, Vol. 4, edited by Brian H. Stuy (City Unknown: B.H.S. Publications, 1991), 230. Delivered January 20, 1895, at the Oneida Stake Conference in Franklin, Idaho.
  38. Joseph F. Smith, Deseret News Weekly 50 (February 1895), 251.
  39. Collected Discourses, Vol. 4, 363–364. Delivered at General Conference, October 5, 1895.
  40. Conference Report (April 1901), 7–8, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:182.
  41. Conference Report (October 1916), 12–14, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1, 274; see also Anthon H. Lund, Conference Report (April 1912), 12: "…we partake of the emblems of His body and blood sacrificed for us," quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 2, 118–119.
  42. Conference Report (October 1937), 122, quoted in Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1, 354–355.
  43. Quoted by Marion G. Romney, Conference Report (October 1949), 43.
  44. Conference Report (April 1950), 84.
  45. Millet, "The Regeneration of Fallen Man," 137–138.