Sunday, February 18, 2007

Redemption from the Fall

The Fall of Adam and Eve was necessary for the purposes of God to roll forward: It made it possible for us to be born and created the conditions necessary for us to be tested. But we must not fail to recognize that the Fall, without Christ’s Atonement, would have been enough to damn all mankind for eternity.

God kept His promise that Adam and Eve would die in the day that they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. No, they did not forfeit their physical bodies the same day that ate the fruit, but they did forfeit the privilege of remaining eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Alma said that "our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; . . ." (Alma 42:7). By partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve died spiritually in the day they ate of it. Furthermore, "it was appointed unto man to die [physically]" (Alma 42:6). These two deaths are what the scriptures call "the first judgment" (2 Nephi 9:7).

Speaking of what would have happened if Christ had not come, Lehi’s son, Jacob, said, "[save Christ should perform] 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. . . . [And] 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. 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; . . ." (2 Nephi 9:7-9).

In other words, if Jesus Christ had not saved us from the Fall, we could not be saved. In fact, we could live a perfect life and still be damned. Not even little children who die in their infancy could be saved (see Moroni 8). Consequently, agency would also have been destroyed because we would not be able to choose between God and Satan, eternal life and damnation, joy and misery, etc. . . . There would have only been one option: death.

Yes, the Fall was a good thing, but only because of Christ.

In the Meridian of Time, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, the Son of an Immortal Father and a mortal mother. The duality of Christ’s physical nature enabled Him to have power over death (John 5:26) while at the same time allowing Him to become subject to infirmity, sickness, and death (Alma 7:10-12). Our Savior could have remained upon the Earth forever, but instead, He "suffer[ed] himself to become subject unto man in the flesh" (2 Nephi 9:5). "And the world, because of their iniquity, [judged] him to be a thing of naught; wherefore, they scourge[d] him, and he suffere[d] it; and they [smote] him, and he suffere[d] it. Yea, they [spat] upon him, and he suffere[d] it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men" (1 Nephi 19:9).And after He was mocked, scourged, and tortured, "he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world" (1 Nephi 11:33).

Truly, "it is wonderful that he should care for [us], enough to die for [us]" ("I Stand All Amazed," Charles H. Gabriel), especially when we realize that He didn’t have to.

Yet Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross was not the end of His gift to us. On the first day of the week after He was crucified, certain women went to anoint properly Jesus’ body for burial. But the stone which had covered Jesus’ tomb had been rolled away, and two men in shining garments shocked them all when they declared, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen" (Luke 24:4-6).

Later that day, Mary Magdalene wept outside Jesus’ empty tomb when a man, whom she thought was a gardener, asked, "Woman, why weepest thou?" (John 20:15). Mary requested the man to tell her where he had laid Jesus’ body, but when the Man spoke her name, Mary knew it was Jesus (John 20:15-16). Later, Jesus appeared to his apostles (20:19-23).

And Jesus’ appearances weren’t limited to Jerusalem. He appeared to the inhabitants of the American continent and declared, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. . . . Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world" (3 Nephi 11:10-14). And over two thousand men women and children went "one by one" and touched, and felt, and knew that Jesus Christ had been resurrected and was their Savior (3 Nephi 11:15)!

Because Jesus Christ was resurrected, all those who ever lived will be resurrected as a free gift (Alma 11:44-45). Our physical bodies, once subject to pain, sickness, and death will become perfect. And "not so much as a hair of [our] heads will be lost," and we will no longer be able to die (Alma 11:44).

In addition to freeing us from the physical death, Christ’s resurrection also redeems us from the Spiritual death which came upon all mankind because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, at least temporarily. Samuel the Lamanite, an ancient Book of Mormon prophet, taught that Jesus Christ died "to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord. 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. But behold the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea evan all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord" (Helaman 14:15-17).
No matter how wicked or vile a person is, he will return to see the God who gave him life. But this reunion may not be permanent. Rather, it is when he will be judged of his works, whether they were good or evil (Alma 11:44). And if a person failed in this life to accept Jesus as his Savior and to keep His commandments, then it is necessary to be cast off forever from the presence of his Heavenly Father. But if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and obeyed his commandments, we will enter into eternal life, which is to dwell with God eternally.

Therefore, we must strive to be worthy when we return to our Heavenly Father’s presence. Before we came to Earth to be tested, we knew and worshiped our Heavenly Father. He loved us perfectly. Remember that "nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us" (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, December 1988). I cannot imagine anything more painful that standing before the loving Father whom I knew for eons before I came to this Earth only to be told that I wasn’t worthy to remain with Him. (see 2 Nephi 9:38).

But Jesus Christ, by His resurrection, has given us the opportunity to return to His Father and Him and remain there. By taking upon Himself death and by being resurrected, Jesus Christ overcame the negative aspects of the Fall of Adam and Eve.

But to remain with our Heavenly Father, we must first be redeemed from our sins.

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