Atonement of Jesus Christ
The third article of the Mormon faith reads as such: “We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (These articles were written by Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, and are still precepts of the Mormon belief today.)
The Fall of Adam separated mankind from God, and subjected us to sin and death. We are unable to avoid sin and, therefore, unable to return to God on our own. For us to be able to return to the presence of God, we needed a Savior – a perfect being who could do what we couldn’t (and can’t).
And what do Mormons believe about this Savior? Jesus Christ was chosen to be our Savior, before the world began. He was chosen to bring us back into God’s presence, to save us from our own sins that we, ourselves, are unable to put aside alone.
Again, the Fall of Adam brought sin and death into the world – both the spiritual death (for being cut off from God is the spiritual death) and the physical. Christ has saved us from both of these deaths. In Mormon beliefs, because Christ died and was resurrected, we will all be resurrected, no matter what we have done or not done. Through Christ’s Atonement, we can be saved from the worse death, the spiritual death. The power of repentance, of putting our sins aside, is given to us because Christ suffered for our sins. Because of Christ, we are able to return to God and be redeemed from the spiritual death. Christ was the only one who could atone for us, for He was the Son of God.
Christ’s suffering was great. In the Garden of Gethsemane, His agony was so terrible that blood literally sweat from His pores. Because He was the Son of God, however, even such incredible agony could not kill Him. He had power over death. That He died on the cross was a voluntary giving up of the ghost. He completed His atonement for us when He resurrected on the third day after His death. For His life, and the First Presidency of the Mormon Church testifies, did not begin in a stable in Bethlehem or end on the cross on Calvary. Christ, the Redeemer of the World, lives today.
And Mormons believe His atonement is universal. Jesus Christ didn’t die for a handful of people – He died for everyone. His sacrifice was voluntary, and accepting His sacrifice, His atonement, is also voluntary. Mormonism teaches that we, and only we (not Adam, not our parents) are responsible for our sins and we have the responsibility to accept Christ’s sacrifice. We have the responsibility to accept the Atonement. We must decide to accept Christ as our Exemplar and try to live as He lived. The Book of Mormon tells us that Christ’s Atonement saves us after all we can do – this is the Mormon balancing of faith and works. We are saved by grace, but we must follow God’s commandments.