Alma 12:16, LeGrand Baker, The Atonement as the Conclusion of the Creation

Alma 12:16, LeGrand Baker, The Atonement as the Conclusion of the Creation

Alma 12:16
16 And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness.

A persistent theme that runs throughout the 12th chapter of Alma is the contrast between life and death. It is easier to understand what Alma was talking about if we consider the two parallel ancient concepts of cosmos and chaos, for, in fact, it is chaos with which Alma is threatening Zeezrom. Alma described darkness in this world as one’s not knowing the mysteries, and then adds, “Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” He then discusses both the “temporal death,” which is the death of the body; and “a second death, which was an everlasting death.” These, as Alma describes them, are three magnitudes of chaos,

In contrast, Alma offers Zeezrom the blessings of eternal life—which is ultimate cosmos.

In the attached short essay, “The Atonement as the Conclusion of the Creation” I have tried to show that the atonement was the final act of creation, performed by the same Saviour by whose powers the worlds were originally created. And that he did, as the prophets testified he would, defeat of the final vestiges of chaos—the twin monsters of death and hell—to complete the creation process that he had begun eons before in the Council in Heaven.

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ATTACHMENT:

Alma 12:16 — LeGrand Baker — The Atonement as the Conclusion of the Creation

The entire story of the “creation” covers the full sweep of human existence, from the time we were intelligences until our future grand “beginning” when we receive fully functional resurrected bodies. The story of that creation is primarily an account of the workings of the Saviour’s atonement—of his bringing chaos into cosmos.
Chaos is confusion and disorder. It is represent in ancient writings as the unpredictable movements of a raging sea. In Lehi’s vision it is the mist of darkness through which he must find his way to the tree of life. In the whole of First Nephi it is the raging storm that Nephi controls by faith, through which Nephi is identified as legitimate king and priest. In the entire Book of Mormon it is the three days of darkness that precedes the coming of the Saviour, then, at the end, it is the spiritual darkness into which the people sank, preparatory to the eventual coming forth of the Book of Mormon to the Prophet Joseph.

Cosmos is order that expresses beauty. It is the perfect structure of the stars in the heavens. It is the precise and predictable movement of the planets that foretell the seasons, show the time for planting, and demonstrate the unchanging power of God. It is the tree and the fruit in Lehi’s vision. It is the Zion of Fourth Nephi. It is the promise of Moroni, found on the last page of the Book of Mormon:

31 …put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled. (Moroni 10:31)

Creation is organization—arranging, classifying, separating, and restructuring until the result is cosmos—perfect symmetry, balanced proportion, and symphonic harmony. The object of the physical creation is to achieve that end. We usually think of “the creation” as the time when Jehovah and the Council brought this physical world into existence. However that was only one step in a series of events that would result in perfect harmony. The earth, and all other of God’s creations, needed to pass through a sequence of “creations” in order to attain perfection. The first was the spiritual creation, then the physical, and finally the resurrection. One can describe the whole of that sequence as “the creation.”

The sanctification and resurrection of the earth, and all else the Lord has created, is a gift given to all things, without price, by virtue of the Saviour’s resurrection. However the quality of one’s resurrection is conditional upon the quality of the spiritual truth, light, and love one has chosen to assimilate. The reason is that there must ultimately be an absolute compatibility between the quality of one’s spiritual Self and the quality of one’s physical Self.

The account we have of the physical creation begins in the Council in Heaven, where Jehovah instructed the gods, “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:24-25)

In those instructions, Jehovah identified two kinds of incompleteness—of chaos. The first was space (and matter) without structure. The second was a group of intelligences without perfection. The plan that was then discussed would answer the needs of both—it would bring them into perfection together, thus bringing universal cosmos out of universal chaos.

Both had to be accomplished together because each was dependent on the other. As the Lord explained,

33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
35 The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple. (D&C 93:33-35)

All material element must be brought into a perfection that is consistent with the perfection of the intelligences who inhabit it. For celestial persons, not just their individual physical bodies, but the earth also—must be brought to a celestial perfection…

17 …that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
18 Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified….

25 And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—
26 Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it. (D&C 88:17-26)

The issue of material (physical) cosmos is entirely taken care of by the power of the Saviour’s resurrection. Similarly, the matter of spiritual cosmos is entirely taken care of by the Saviour’s atonement.

The ultimate rectitude of the atonement’s powers enables intelligences to seek and achieve perfection according to their own sense of fulfillment, wholeness, cosmos. It can only come as the fruition of their own agencies—the product of their individual self-identification, and the ultimate maturation of the laws of their own beings.
Perfection is a state of wholeness. Moroni described celestial perfection as being “holy, without spot.” (Moroni 10:33) Paul described it as “holy and without blame before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4) Mormon described it as being “…filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.” (Moroni 7:48) The Lord explained, “They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace.” (D&C 76:94) In each of those descriptions there is no incongruity within one’s Self. There is only perfect harmony—“holy [wholly, complete, perfect] without spot.”

If perfection is a state of integral wholeness, but one’s self-definition is something different from celestial love, then there must be accommodation for a kind of perfection (internal unity—cosmos) that is different from celestial glory. And there is, as the Lord has explained.

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. (D&C 88:28-32)

Perfection, as statement about a thing’s wholeness, need not necessary be a reference to its relative value. Thus there can be a perfect diamond setting for a ring, a perfect crystal goblet, and a perfect plate glass window. To say each is perfect only says there is an internal integrity with no flaws. The value is found in the object that is perfect, not in the perfection of just any object. For intelligences who define their sense of self in terms different from “the pure love of Christ,” there is a state of perfection and glory that is compatible with their self-definition. But for those who love as the Saviour loves, the perfection of that compatibility is equivalent to eternal life. For the intelligences who receive celestial resurrected bodies, cosmos is perfect symmetry and harmony—in their physical persons, their personal sense of Self, and also in their social environment.

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.
41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever. (D&C 88:40-41)

Since the success of the entire plan of salvation has always rested upon the Saviour’s providing an opportunity for people to come to this earth where they could define themselves in an environment away from the overriding influence of the presence of our Father in Heaven, a path had to be provided so that people could leave his presence and then return again. But to leave the presence of God was to enter chaos.

To enable the intelligences to achieve a final perfection of self-identification and cosmos, they were given bodies and introduced into new conditions of chaos that followed the same sequence as the earth and other material creation. The first was that they received a spirit body in a world where they could learn and choose to obey. From there, the intelligences (now spirits), are introduced into physical bodies, and into our present chaotic environment where the quality of our love can be challenged by avarice, advantage, and the desire to acquire authority. Chaos in this world is our confrontation with never-ending choices and seemingly equivocal consequences, and it is living among people whose choices and consequences cover the full range of the possibilities of good and evil.

It is in the tensions and contrasts of this world that we are enabled to define who and what we are. We do that by identifying and seeking to replicate—and ultimately to perpetuate—the experiences and relationships in which we find fulfillment and happiness. We are here to discover for our Selves whether that fulfillment is consistent with telestial, terrestrial, or celestial glory. For us to be able to do that, this world’s environment must be full of difficult choices with inexplicable tensions and contradictions. For us, coming here introduced us to a new kind of chaos, in a darkness we have not known before. Its experience is invaluable, but to remain here would be an eternal damnation.

Our coming into this chaos would have accomplished nothing if a way had not been provided for us to get out, and return home in the full bloom of our cognizance. Therefore a way had to be provided so we could escape. But that way appears from human perspective to be an even greater chaos—the natural consequence of mortal sin—to be entombed by the twin monsters of death and hell.

The escape rout through death was explained to Adam when the earth was created—when he was in the Garden, but before Eve had come to join him.

12 And the Gods commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
13 But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the time that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. (Abraham 5:12-13)

The promise of death is the guarantee that this earth-life experience is a part of the journey, and not its conclusion. Death is the way out of this world. It is a foreshadowing of something beyond—of continued eternal progression. Thus, death, and the world into which it introduces us, is (like birth and the experience we now share) among the greatest blessings of the atonement. But from a human perspective it is as dark and foreboding as a closing grave. Without the final acts of the Saviour’s atonement, the odyssey of the intelligences who are traversing linear time and space to find perfection, would have ended in the eternal darkness of death and hell.

I visualize it this way. The Lord tied a rope around our waist and lowered us into this present life where we can learn to distinguish between good and evil. He will then lower us again, this time into death, where we can re-reevaluate our experiences here, and make a final decision about who and what we are. We agreed to come here, and to die, because the Lord covenanted with us that he would never let go of his end of the rope. Alma explained,

1 And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.
2 Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee. For behold, 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.
5 For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.
6 But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.
7 And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.
8 Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.
9 Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall 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. (Alma 42:1-10)

The fullness of the creation that began with the work of Jehovah in the members of the Council in Heaven could not be accomplished until death and hell are defeated by the Saviour’s atonement. When the atonement was accomplished, cosmos, light, and life arose from all the benighted domains of hatred and chaos.

Thus, the Saviour’s triumphs at Gethsemane, on the cross, in the congregation of the dead, and in the tomb of the resurrection—all of those triumphs together constituted the culminating act of creation—of defying infinite chaos and establishing eternal cosmos.

The prophets of all ages have testified of the atonement, and the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles temple drama brought its reality into sharp and tangible focus. Near its conclusion, it portrayed the death of the king (and symbolically of all mankind), and showed that Jehovah himself would descend into death and hell, and he would rescue the entombed king. Psalm 18 recounts that event from the king’s perspective.

1. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. [chaos]
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.
19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.(Psalms 18:1-19)

In that same psalm, the king tells why Jehovah had condescended to do this. Later, in the Beatitudes, Jesus will cite this psalm as a reciprocal promise to those who are merciful to others.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
24 Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure…(Psalms 18:20-26)

The Beatitude are short quotes or paraphrases from Isaiah or the psalms. If the one that reads, “Blessed are all the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” was intended to remind the Saviour’s audience of Psalm 18, then the statement in the Beatitude is apparently a promise of one’s ultimate triumph over death and hell.

In another psalm, the king recalls the Lord’s salvation, and again expresses his wonder and his gratitude.

1 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalms 116:1-9)

We hear of the same triumphal events described from a different perspective in President Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead.

23 And the saints [those in the spirit world] rejoiced in their redemption, and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell.
24 Their countenances shone, and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them, and they sang praises unto his holy name. (D&C 138:23-24)

The Book of Mormon prophets had a perfect understanding of this principle of salvation, and spoke of it often. {1} Jacob was the most explicit.

5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.
6 For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.
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.
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.
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.
10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
11 And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.
13 O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect. ….

19 O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
20 O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day….
26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 9:5-26)

Thus, it was planned from the beginning that we should live, and die, and live again. In several revelations to the Prophet Joseph, the Lord explained something about how it was done. In one of those revelations, the beginning of creation is described this way.

6 And John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him. (D&C 93:6-10 – italics added)

The powers exercised by the Saviour in the beginning were the same powers by which he defeated death and hell. Those powers are his perfection of character, and his loving kindness. He said,

1 Hearken, O ye people of my church, to whom the kingdom has been given; hearken ye and give ear to him who laid the foundation of the earth, who made the heavens and all the hosts thereof, and by whom all things were made which live, and move, and have a being.
2 And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.
3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life. (D&C 45:1-6)

Finally, we have this testimony from the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is part of A Vision, his poetic version of the revelation that is now section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

And while I did meditate what it all meant,
The Lord touch’d the eyes of my own intellect.

Hosanna, for ever! They open’d anon,
And the glory of God shone around where I was;
And there was the Son at the Father’s right hand,
In a fulness of glory and holy applause.

I beheld round the throne holy angels and hosts,
And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,
In holiness worshipping God and the Lamb,
For ever and ever. Amen and amen.

And now after all of the proofs made of him,
By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea, he lives!
And sits at the right hand of God on his throne.

And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers. {2}

Thus, through the Saviour’s atonement, all the covenants made at the Council in Heaven are fulfilled. Perfect order is accomplished in material things through the resurrection, and perfect order is given the intelligences according to the limitations or expansiveness with which they choose to define themselves. Perfect Love brings Perfect Love. All else is perfected in its own right. The only chaos remaining is for those who choose “to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.”

ENDNOTES
1 See also: the remainder of 2 Nephi 9; 2 Nephi 28:19-27; Jacob 3:10-14; Alma 5:6-11, 13:27-31.

2 At the request of W. W. Phelps, the Prophet re-wrote the vision that is now the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants in poetry form. It was published in the Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843, and republished in the Millennial Star, August, 1843.

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