At a worldwide conference for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on the subject of redemption from a Mormon perspective. (Mormon is a nickname the world sometimes uses when talking about members of the Church.)
Elder Christofferson explained that there are two parts to the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first atones for the Fall of Adam, taking away many of the consequences of that choice. When we die, we can be resurrected because of the atonement. We are also saved from spiritual death, which Elder Christofferson describes as being separated from God. We receive both of these gifts freely without any effort or action on our part. Everyone receives it.
However, there is a second aspect to the atonement. While God has planned, through the atonement, to protect us from being punished for Adam’s choices, we do not have a free pass on our own choices. Satan works hard to convince the world that sin is good and he has been quite successful. It is our responsibility to resist his lies and enticements. Of course, no one is perfect other than Jesus Christ, and so we will all, from time to time, sin.
The atonement made it possible for people to repent—but they do have to repent. The Bible makes that very clear. When we do something wrong, we have to pay a certain price. Jesus paid the price that made it possible for us to be forgiven through Gethsemane and the cross. However, there is still something left for us to do.
“The Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane and His agony on the cross redeem us from sin by satisfying the demands that justice has upon us. He extends mercy and pardons those who repent. The Atonement also satisfies the debt justice owes to us by healing and compensating us for any suffering we innocently endure. “For behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21; see also Alma 7:11–12).4”
We are accountable for the choices we make in our lives. We have the right to choose good or evil, but we don’t have the right to live a consequence-free life. The Bible says that when we do something wrong, we have to act by repenting. This involves feeling true sorrow for our sins, making restitution, turning away from the sin, and living a Christ-like life. The atonement does not leave us free to sin as we choose once we’ve proclaimed ourselves Christians. Repentance is an ongoing process. Every time we sin, we must repent.
This means the fullness of the atonement is conditional. Most Christians, even though they say they believe no acts are saved, actually do believe some acts are required. Accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior is an act. Repentance is an act. So is baptism. It is not, then a matter of whether or not acts are required, but which acts. To a Mormon, a commandment from Jesus Christ is not a suggestion. It is something we must do and if we fall short, we must repent.
Elder Christofferson suggests that there is another interesting aspect of the atonement. Although Jesus atoned for our sins and no one else could have done that, we have certain responsibilities to assist in the work. One responsibility is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ so that others can learn of Him and also choose to receive the full measure of the atonement. Another is to serve others in the way Jesus Christ did. When we serve another person we are sending the message that God has seen his trials and has sent in someone to help. This helps them to feel God’s love and presence and that makes them more open to the idea of salvation.
Because we’ve received the blessings of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to go out and share it with the world, as missionaries and as givers of loving service.
Read the entire talk on redemption.