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Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Law of Mercy

"Consider for a moment, "Elder D. Todd Christofferson asked, "the significance of the Resurrection in resolving once and for all the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth and the great philosophical contests and questions of life. If Jesus was in fact literally resurrected, it necessarily follows that He is a divine being. No mere mortal has the power in himself to come to life again after dying. Because He was resurrected, Jesus cannot have been only a carpenter, a teacher, a rabbi, or a prophet. Because He was resurrected, Jesus had to have been a God, even the Only Begotten Son of the Father.

Therefore, what He taught is true; God cannot lie. (Enos 1: 6)
Therefore, He was the Creator of the earth, as He said. (See for example 3 Nephi 9: 15; John 1: 1-5, 14)
Therefore, heaven and hell are real, as He taught. (See for example Doctrine and Covenants 76)
Therefore, there is a world of spirits, which He visited after His death. (Doctrine and Covenants 138, 1 Peter su'm) 
Therefore, He will come again, as the angels said, (Acts 1: 10-11) and "reign personally upon the earth." (Topical Guide: Jesus Christ, Millennial Reign)  
Therefore, there is a resurrection and a final judgment for all. (See for example 2 Nephi 9: 15; Matthew 16: 27)

Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, doubts about the omnipotence, omniscience, and benevolence of God the Father--who gave His Only Begotten Son for the redemption of the world--are groundless. Doubts about the meaning and purpose of life are unfounded. Jesus Christ is in fact the only name or way by which salvation can come to mankind. The grace of Christ is real, affording both forgiveness and cleansing to the repentant sinner. Faith truly is more than imagination or psychological invention. There is ultimate and universal truth, and there are objective and unchanging moral standards, as taught by Him." (The Resurrection of Jesus Christ) Therefore, God must not sway in truth, and is perfectly just. "Justice is an essential attribute of God." Elder Christofferson declared this past conference, "We can have faith in God because He is perfectly trustworthy... We rely on the divine quality of justice for faith, confidence, and hope. But as a consequence of being perfectly just, there are some things God cannot do... He cannot allow mercy to rob justice..." In clarification of this observation of eternal law, President Boyd K. Packer once told a story, or parable:

"There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt. He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to do and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later. So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn't worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important. The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come. But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full. Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well. "I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so," he confessed. "Then," said the creditor, "we will exercise the contract, take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced." "Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?" the debtor begged. "Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?" The creditor replied, "Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?" "I believed in justice when I signed the contract," the debtor said. "It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well." "It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty," the creditor replied. "That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice." There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other. "If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy," the debtor pleaded. "If I do, there will be no justice," was the reply. Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also? There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended--but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time. The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer. "I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison." As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, "You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just." And so the creditor agreed. The mediator turned then to the debtor. "If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?" "Oh yes, yes," cried the debtor. "You save me from prison and show mercy to me." "Then," said the benefactor, "you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison." And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken. The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was fully satisfied. (The Mediator)"

"Having satisfied the demands of justice," Elder Christofferson noted, "Christ now steps into the place of justice; or we might say He is justice, just as He is love. (1 John 4: 8) Likewise, besides being a "perfect, just God," He is a perfect, merciful God. (Alma 42: 15; Mosiah 15: 8-9) Thus, the Savior makes all things right. No injustice in mortality is permanent, even death, for He restores life again. No injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of His ultimate justice and mercy. By the same token, we are all accountable to Him for our lives, our choices, and our actions, even our thoughts. Because He redeemed us from the Fall, our lives are in reality His. He declared, "Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you--that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And 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: 13-14)"

"So," Elder Christofferson more recently explained, "God does not save us "just as we are," first, because "just as we are" we are unclean, and "no unclean thing can dwell … in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man [of Holiness]."(Moses 6: 57) And second, God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become. Truly He loves us, and because He loves us, He neither compels nor abandons us. Rather He helps and guides us. Indeed, the real manifestation of God's love is His commandments... We know that it is "the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom [the Father] wast well pleased; … the blood of [His] Son which was shed" (Doctrine and Covenants 45: 4) that satisfies the demands of justice, extends mercy, and redeems us. (Mosiah 15: 9) Even so, "according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance." (Alma 42: 13) It is the requirement of and the opportunity for repentance that permits mercy to perform its labor without trampling justice. Similarly, Christ died not to save indiscriminately but to offer repentance. We rely "wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save" (2 Nephi 31: 19)  in the process of repentance, but acting to repent is a self-willed change. So by making repentance a condition for receiving the gift of grace, God enables us to retain responsibility for ourselves."

"Christ's arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child." As Brad Wilcox explained. "Mom pays the piano teacher... Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something... Practice! Does the child's practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child's practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom's incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom's joy is not found in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice... In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, 'Follow me (Matthew 4: 19), Keep my commandments (John 14: 15)." Change; repent; become better. "If we see His requirements as being too much to ask... maybe it is because... We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us." Hence, His requirement for us to repent. Elder Christofferson said, "Repentance respects and sustains our moral agency: "And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption." (Alma 34: 16)"

There are those who think to themselves, "I don't want to repent (change)." Then, they give an excuse, "I'm too old; I was raised to live like this; that is too hard; etc..." If we look at it in terms of the piano analogy, they are essentially saying, "Don't you realize how hard it is to practice? I'm just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right." To them Brad Wilcox says, "Now wait. Isn't that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don't say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don't expect him to be flawless. We expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction."

Without Jesus Christ, we are nothing, we could not, and would not, become better. He is the perfect Mediator who perfects us. As we rely heavily on His teachings, and apply His Atonement into our lives through the Doctrine of Christ, we will experience lasting peace, and eternal joy. He has offered us a chance to change, through repentance. We can access His grace today, not just later after this life. I am a witness to that truth. I testify of His Love and Mercy in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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