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Gethsemane and the Atonement Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
April 1, 2021 9:08 pm

Gethsemane and the Atonement Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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April 1, 2021 9:08 pm

John Hilton III wrote an article titled “Jesus Suffered, Died, and Rose Again for Us” in the April 2021 issue of the LIahona church magazine. Just where did Jesus pay for the sins of His people according to traditional Mormonism. And where do Christians point? Bill and Eric discuss the Mormon teaching versus what is … Continue reading Gethsemane and the Atonement Part 3 →

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Mormonism 101, a book by Mormonism Research Ministries, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, has helped many who want to understand what separates Mormonism from the Christian faith. In 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. So glad you could be with us for this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism.

I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. Well, today is Good Friday, a day that Christians have historically set aside to commemorate the death of Christ on the cross at Calvary. Traditionally, we look at his death on the cross at Calvary as where our atonement took place. And this is the controversy that we've been talking about for the last couple of days because there's an article in the April 2021 edition of Liahona Magazine, an article titled, Jesus suffered, died and rose again for us by John Hilton, an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. And what Mr. Hilton is doing is, I guess we can conclude, he's trying to dispel a myth that I would argue is primarily among those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a myth that the atonement took place only in the Garden of Gethsemane. But as Mr. Hilton is arguing, it actually took place in three separate locations, not only in the Garden of Gethsemane, but on the cross at Calvary, and then with the resurrection of Jesus at the tomb that was owned by Joseph of Arimathea. Traditionally, Christians have looked to the cross, and that's why today is set aside to commemorate that.

Bill, we have two different articles that people might want to look up. One is slash Gethsemane hyphen atonement, and it critiques this article, and you also wrote one. Yeah, the Latter-day Saints don't have crosses on their churches, and I believe the URL is slash no hyphen crosses. And it talks about Gordon B. Hinckley when he was discussing the subject of crosses with a Protestant minister.

This Protestant noticed that there were no crosses on any LDS churches. And so what Hinckley said, which we find to be quite telling, he said, for us, the cross is a symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ. And my argument in that piece is just because we use the cross as a symbol of Christianity does not at all hint that we don't see the significance in a living Christ.

So I really found Gordon B. Hinckley's answer to this Protestant minister to be very lacking and not very good. Besides, the Latter-day Saints do commemorate the death of Christ every time they partake of the sacrament. That's all about the death of Christ.

So it makes you wonder why Hinckley came up with an answer like that, because I don't think it really suffices. Bill, would you say that there is a disdain amongst the LDS leadership as far as the atonement by the cross, the death that took place on the cross? Even the symbol of a cross has seemed to draw the ire of many of the LDS leaders, especially 50 years ago, like Bruce McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, and others.

Well, I would think that perhaps the symbol of the cross being worn as jewelry or something like that certainly has been criticized, but I don't know if I would go so far as to say that any Latter-day Saint might have disdain towards the cross, because even past leaders talked about the cross, and even when they talked about Gethsemane, sometimes they would throw in the cross. But it always is in the context of the significance being placed in the Garden of Gethsemane and not the cross. Or, as we're seeing now, where they kind of split the purpose between the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross, which, as we were mentioning yesterday, well, if he paid for all the sins of mankind in the garden, what was left to do on the cross? What point is the cross at that juncture in a Mormon context? Traditionally, the cross almost seems to be an afterthought. I mean, it gets added in there, as you're saying, but for the average LDS leader, it seems like Gethsemane has talked about ten times more.

And that's even true in their artwork. Now, in this article that is in the Liahona for April 2021, there is a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross with the two thieves on page U13, but many times when you look in the older editions of their publications, it's only a picture of Jesus praying in the garden. Not that there never is a picture of him on the cross. I'm not trying to imply that at all.

But the emphasis always seems to be in the garden. Let's set aside where it took place. Okay, let's just set that aside. My question is, the atonement itself, and what does it do for an individual Latter-day Saint? And it's interesting that in this article, he has a footnote, Mr. Hilton has a footnote, footnote number two, that cites a sermon that was given by James Faust, James E. Faust, who was a member of the first presidency before he passed away. It was a conference message titled, The Atonement, Our Greatest Hope. You can find this in Ensign, November 2001, on page 18. I found that to be significant that he would reference this sermon, because we've talked about this sermon given by Mr. Faust on a number of occasions on this show.

But I want to go back to that. Since Hilton brings it up, I think we should go back to see what did James Faust say about the atonement in this sermon that John Hilton III references in this article. This is what he says in a sermon, The Atonement, Our Greatest Hope, published in the Ensign magazine, November 2001, page 18. Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the atonement, and he cites Mosiah 4, 6, and 7 in the Book of Mormon.

Such acceptance requires a continued effort to understand it more fully. The atonement advances our mortal course of learning by making it possible for our natures to become perfect. All of us have sinned and need to repent to fully pay our part of the debt. When we sincerely repent, the Savior's magnificent atonement pays the rest of that debt. Now, if you're listening carefully to what James Faust said in that sermon, and you're a New Testament Christian, I hope some red flags went off, because listen carefully again to what he says. He says all of us have sinned and need to repent to fully pay our part of the debt. But yet, the whole purpose of Gethsemane, I understand, was that he paid for all of our sins. Wouldn't that also include our part of the debt? But apparently not.

At least not according to James Faust. There's something left over that needs to be taken care of. And you, as an individual member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are responsible for paying that part of the debt, which is your part of the debt. He says when we sincerely repent, the Savior's magnificent atonement pays the rest of that debt. So what's all this talk about Jesus paying for all of our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane? It sounds like there's something that didn't get covered in that payment. And how does an individual Latter-day Saint take care of that part of the debt?

Well, it sounds very simple. You have to repent until you look carefully at the LDS definition of repentance. And as I mentioned earlier in this series, it involves not only confessing your sins, it also includes abandoning that sin. Now does that mean that down the road you can commit that sin again? Well, if you commit that same sin again, you didn't truly abandon it. So you didn't truly repent. You have to abandon it for the rest of your life if you are to truly repent. If you don't do that, then we can assume by what James Faust is saying, if you don't sincerely repent, then the Savior's magnificent atonement doesn't pay the rest of that debt. And Faust does talk about repentance on the next page, page 19, and he says, The atonement cleanses us of sin on condition of our repentance. Repentance is the condition on which mercy is extended. After all we can do, that's from 2 Nephi 25-23, to pay to the uttermost farthing and make right our wrongs, the Savior's grace is activated in our lives through the atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us. Does it sound, Eric, in the way that James Faust worded that, that the Savior's grace is activated prior to you accomplishing this deed of repentance?

No. No, it's conditional on doing that. And not only that, the Doctrine and Covenants makes it very clear in section 1, verse 32, that you need to repent, keep the commandments, then you receive the forgiveness of sins. Now you've got a double whammy thrown in here for the poor Latter-day Saint, because not only do they have to confess and abandon all their sins, they have to keep all the commandments. Now if they keep all the commandments, you would think they would never have to repent again. Because what is repentance for? It's for not keeping all the commandments. You can see how this is putting a Latter-day Saint between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

In essence, in Mormonism, a person has to become his own Savior. I mean, Jesus does pay part of it, but you have this big responsibility. And here we are on Good Friday, Sunday is Easter, and for Christians all over the world, we're going to be celebrating the Resurrection as victory that we get to celebrate in.

But it was nothing that we did. It was everything that Jesus did. In fact, we have a hymn by Isaac Watts called At the Cross, and it's a beautiful hymn.

And this is what the refrain says, At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day. And what he is expressing is what all Christians who believe in what the Bible teaches, is that Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, and there's nothing that I have done. But according to Mormonism, according to James Faust, the only way you're going to get mercy extended is by you paying every farthing. Well, it gets even worse, Eric, when you look back at the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith. He was the tenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Volume 1, pages 135 to 36 in his book, Doctrines of Salvation, he said, Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. Can you imagine that? There are certain things that a human being can possibly do that will place that transgressor beyond the power of the atonement of Christ.

Listen to the solution for an individual who has done that. Smith went on to say, If these offenses are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins, even though they repent. Therefore, their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone as far as possible in their behalf. And he goes on to say, This is scriptural doctrine and is taught in all the standard works of the Church. That's a statement by Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the Church, citing the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith. You can see their view of the atonement is very, very different than what New Testament Christians have historically believed. We hope you have a great Good Friday and a glorious Resurrection Day. Here we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-08 11:11:45 / 2023-12-08 11:16:58 / 5

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