Prophets or Evolution - An LDS Perspective

 

Chapter 7

 

About Christ

 

 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

 

 

Introduction

 

It is a historical fact that a man named Jesus lived on this earth about 2,000 years ago.   Whether atheist or Christian; no one can deny the actual life of Jesus as a historical event.

 

It is the interpretation of who He was that is one of the most profound and important issues facing individuals.  Was this Jesus the Savior and Redeemer of the world, meaning was He the "Christ?"

 

The LDS church teaches that Jesus was the Christ and was and is the one and only Savior of the world.  It is taught very plainly that without His life, atonement and resurrection; after our death, each of us would be subject to satan forever (see Jacob 9:7-9).

 

The theory of evolution can portray Jesus as nothing but an impressive teacher and leader, who founded one of the largest religions on earth - Christianity.  To the theory of evolution, when Jesus died, that was the end of him as a living being.  To evolution, Jesus had no spirit; He had no preexistent life; He did not create the earth (because He did not exist prior to birth); He was not the Savior because there was no need for a savior in the theory of evolution.

 

  7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet.  Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words--they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.

1 Nephi 19:7 [Nephi]

 

Thus, the theory of evolution would also say that the appearance of the Savior and Heavenly Father to the boy prophet Joseph Smith was a fabrication or that Joseph was deceived.

 

Mormons are Christians.  While Latter-Day Saints love and highly respect Joseph Smith as a great prophet, and we love and respect the other prophets in this dispensation; it is Christ, and only Christ, who is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

 

The prophets are great men; but they report to, and follow the directions given by, the Savior.

 

  9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

  10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

1 Nephi 1:9-10 [Nephi describing a vision given to Lehi]

 

In these two versus, the Savior, by Himself, is compared to a glory greater than that of the sun at noon day.  On the other hand, the twelve apostles in the time of Christ, as a group, are only compared to the brightness of the stars.  Have you ever tried to grease your car by starlight?

 

Yet, it is these twelve apostles who will lead the twelve tribes of Israel, so they are among the greatest of the apostles of all time.

 

 

Christ Was Chosen

 

Christ was chosen to be both the Creator of this world and the Savior of this world.  He was chosen because He was the greatest among us prior to the creation of the earth.

 

These are the words of the prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon:

 

  23 For we saw him [Christ], even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father -

  24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

  25 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,

Doctrine and Covenants 76:23-25

 

Thus, in the preexistence, Christ was "in the bosom of the Father" and it was He "whom the Father loved," meaning the Father had a special love for the Savior, because surely God loves all of His children.

 

As the above verse states (verse 24): Christ created this world and everything associated with it.

 

 

History of Christ as King of the Jews

 

Christ, as prophesied in the Old Testament, was born in Bethlehem.

 

In the Jewish nation, starting with King David, the king of the Jews was always officially a descendant of King David.  A person's genealogy determined whether he was the king of the Jews or not.

 

Christ, through the genealogy of Mary, his mother, was officially born as the future king of the Jews.  Because Mary and Joseph were first cousins, even though Joseph was not the father of Christ; the general public and religious leaders would have considered Christ to be the future king of the Jews because of the genealogy of Joseph or Mary.

 

There are two accounts of the genealogy of Christ in the New Testament.  Both place Him as the rightful heir of David's throne.

 

However, in the time of Christ, the Jewish nation was under Roman rule.  Even prior to Roman rule, men who were not the rightful heir to the throne of David had usurped the leadership of the Jewish nation.

 

Those who were the rightful heir to the throne were ignored by those who stole the leadership from the rightful heirs.

 

In fact, there is no evidence that the rulers of the Jewish nation in the days of Christ ever questioned the fact that Christ was the rightful heir to the throne of King David and that He was the rightful king of the Jews, by birthright.  One of the parables of the Savior makes it very clear that the Jewish leaders knew he was the king of the Jews by birthright.

 

 

The Atonement and Resurrection

 

Prior to, and during, the crucifixion of the Savior, was the most momentous series of events in the history of the world - the atonement of Christ.  The resurrection was the result of the atonement; meaning without the atonement there would have been no resurrection.

 

It was in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion, that the Savior took upon Him the sins of the world, which was the first phase of the atonement.  It was an infinite and eternal sacrifice.  The atonement was completed during the crucifixion, which concluded the last phase of the atonement.

 

The clearest versus on the importance of the atonement are found in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 9:7-9.  There is so much in these 3 versus; they will be analyzed one at a time:

 

  7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement--save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption.  Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration.  And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.

2 Nephi 9:7

 

What is the "first judgment" that Jacob refers to?  The scriptures are not clear exactly what it refers to, but what is clear is that this "first judgment" would have "remained to an endless duration" without the infinite atonement (the significance of the word "infinite" will be explained as we go along).  In other words, the ramifications of this "first judgment" would have been eternal.

 

The term "first judgment" (in the above verse), would not have been overcome without the Savior and His atonement; thus when we died we would never have been resurrected and returned to God for Judgment (see also: Helaman 14:15-18).

 

  8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!  For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.

2 Nephi 9:8

 

Now things start to become clear.  Had it not been for the atonement of Christ, not only would we never be resurrected; our spirits would have become subject to satan unconditionally.

 

  9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

2 Nephi 9:9

 

Now things are very clear.  Without the atonement and resurrection of Christ three things would happen to each of us:

1) We would never be resurrected, meaning we would be spirits forever (verse 7),

2) We would become subject to satan at death (verse 8),

3) We would eventually become like satan, meaning we would become miserable forever (verse 9).

 

While the atonement keeps us from an automatic state of eternal damnation (though some people may qualify for eternal damnation due to their personal actions), the atonement also provides great blessings to those who follow the living Savior.

 

There are various degrees of glory in the eternal worlds as a result of our actions on this earth.  But none of the degrees of glory would be available to us without the atonement.

 

Because of the atonement, those who qualify can have their sins remitted and can eventually become like God.

 

The doctrine that we humans have the potential to become like God is peculiar to the LDS church.  However, because we are the children of God this should not seem such an unusual doctrine.  Don't children generally have the opportunity to become like their parents?

 

However, had there been no atonement, we would have had no choice for our eternal outcome; meaning even if we had been righteous in this life we would eventually have become like satan forever and would have become like satan.

 

How can any event in the history of this world compare to the atonement!!!  No other event in the world's history can even be compared to the atonement!!!

 

Consider these versus, which come from a vision shown to President Joseph F. Smith.  President Smith was viewing the scene just after the death of the Savior, and prior to His resurrection.  During this short time He appeared to the righteous saints in the spirit world who had died prior to his death:

 

  11 As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.

  12 And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality;

  13 And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer's name.

  14 All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

  15 I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand.

  16 They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death.

  17 Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy.

Doctrine and Covenants 138:11-17

 

Thus, with the atonement, everyone will be resurrected and many will be able to live with our Heavenly Father and become like God, male and female (see Moses 2:27).

 

But without the atonement we would all become like satan forever, and there is nothing we could do about it.

 

Nothing in the history of the world can compare to the importance of the atonement and resurrection of Christ!!!

 

With the atonement we can progress eternally, and spiral upwards and upwards forever.  Our joy would forever be increasing.

 

Without the atonement we would automatically be spiraling downward and downward forever.  Our misery would forever be increasing.

 

This is the meaning of the term "infinite."  It not only refers to an infinite amount of time, but also to an infinite amount of increasing progression versus an infinite amount of increasing regression and misery.

 

How can any event in the history of the world compare to the atonement?  None can even come close!!!

 

This was spoken prior to the coming of Christ:

 

  7 For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all--for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.

Alma 7:7 [Alma the Younger]

 

 

No Unclean Thing

 

A person might wonder why the atonement was necessary; after all, aren't we all the children of God and doesn't God want what is best for his children?

 

There are many things we cannot comprehend when it comes to the comprehension of God.  While we can use words to explain why some of the children of God will be judged such that they will never become like Him; exactly why such eternal judgments occur is far beyond our current comprehension.

 

But what we do know is that "no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God."

 

Here are the words of the first Nephi in the Book of Mormon:

 

  32 ... for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.

  33 Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.

  34 But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.

  35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

  36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

1 Nephi 15:32-36 [Nephi]

 

This verse makes it clear that the kingdom of God is not filthy.  Since all of us who can read and can understand this chapter have made mistakes, how can we be cleansed?  That is where the atonement of Jesus the Christ comes into action.

 

  2  ... after the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken--yea, he drew out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life--

  3 Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit--

  4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.

   ...

  9 Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall [of Adam] had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.

  10 Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.

  11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.

  12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

  13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice.  Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

  14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

  15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

  16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.

Alma 42:2-4 and 9-16 [Alma the Younger]

 

It is the atonement that gives us the opportunity to become clean before God.  Without mercy, a single mistake by us (and all of us have made many mistakes) would forever prevent us from living with Heavenly Father.

 

Thus, without the atonement, a single mistake would cast our souls into satan's grasp forever, because there would be no mercy; there would only be justice.

 

Without the atonement we would all live in perdition forever because it is not possible we could live in this life without making a mistake.

 

  3 For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.

  4 Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.

Mosiah 16:3-4 [Abinadi]

 

In the great sermon by Samuel the Lamanite, he clearly describes the relationship between the fall of Adam and the need for the atonement:

 

  15 For behold, [Christ] surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord.

  16 Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death--that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.

  17 But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.

  18 Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.

Helaman 14:15-18 [Samuel the Lamanite]

 

The concept of repentance is not only effective in this life, but in a way we do not fully understand; it is effective for many people in the spirit world, after they have died.  This is why there is missionary work going on in the spirit world as well as in this world.  This is also why members of the church do their genealogy and perform temple ordinances by proxy in the temples of God for those who have died.

 

If we could comprehend even 1% of what the atonement has made possible for us; we would gladly serve the Lord, as requested by His servants, in any way we were asked by those with the proper authority.

 

The concept of repentance is what can turn our life around and head us in the right direction.

 

  18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18 [Jesus Christ]

 

The atonement, and its companion repentance; are available to those who are willing to conform their lives to the will of God.

 

 4 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

Ether 12:4 [spoken during a conversation between Moroni and Christ]

 

The Savior said: "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?  Verily I say unto you, even as I am." (3 Nephi 27:27)

 

That should be our goal.  The Savior not only fulfilled the atonement, He also set the standard to which we should reach.

 

These are the words of President Kimball:

 

One young man, when called on a mission, replied that he didn’t have much talent for that kind of thing. What he was good at was keeping his powerful new automobile in top condition. He enjoyed the sense of power and acceleration, and when he was driving, the continual motion gave him the illusion that he was really getting somewhere.

 

All along, his father had been content with saying, “He likes to do things with his hands. That’s good enough for him.”

 

Good enough for a son of God? This young man didn’t realize that the power of his automobile is infinitesimally small in comparison with the power of the sea, or of the sun; and there are many suns, all controlled by law and by priesthood, ultimately—a priesthood power that he could have been developing in the service of the Lord. He settled for a pitiful god, a composite of steel and rubber and shiny chrome.

Spencer W. Kimball,

“The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, p. 3

 

The Savior of the world not only fulfilled the atonement, He was our perfect example of service and how we should live.

 

 

Final Comment

 

Look again at the quote at the top of this chapter.  Note the phrase: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

 

I have heard many interpretations of this scripture.  However, this is the interpretation I like the best.

 

What is the "burden" of satan?  The burden of satan is eternal damnation.  Satan is trying to destroy all of us and make us miserable forever.

 

What is the "burden" of the Savior?  His burden is for us to keep the commandments, serve our fellow man and follow the Lord's anointed prophets.

 

Whose burden is lighter, the burden of satan or the burden of Christ?

 

The burden of Christ is not only lighter, it leads to eternal joy.  Indeed, the Savior's "yoke is easy, and His burden is light."