Alma 34:14-16, LeGrand Baker, Mercy and Justice

Alma 34:14-16, LeGrand Baker, Mercy and Justice

14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
16 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 34:14-16).

Compared with:

22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God (Alma 42:22-25).

In the above, the first by Amulek and the second by Alma, a quick reading seems to discover a conflict in the words, but a careful reading makes both more clear because each reinforces the power of the other. The apparent conflicts read:

…mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit.

It is a common belief among Christians that Christ’s mercy overpowers justice and will give them salvation without repentance. For Catholics, the words of the priest enables the mercy that brings one to heaven. For Protestants it is saying “I believe,” then “just doing one’s best,” and believing that God will “make up the difference.” In either case, the doctrine is that God will take one as he is, and do a miraculous change on him to make him good enough to get into heaven. The fallacy in the doctrine is that it teaches that it is God who imposes the change in our natures, and in doing so, it reduces heaven to the level of whomever God puts into it.

The scriptures do promise that there CAN be such a change in our natures, BUT they insist that it must come about by faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then making and keeping covenants that come in conjunction with the ordinances of salvation. There is no shortcut. It is a mater of continual repentance and refining of one’s Self. This refining process is enabled as a gift of the Saviour’s mercy. Exactly as Abinadi said:

15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of MERCY, which overpowereth justice, and BRINGETH ABOUT MEANS unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

The origin of the idea that God can use mercy to overcome our individual agency is easy to come by. It is based on false premises. False premises cannot bring one to a true conclusion, so the conclusion is false as well. The false premises are these:

1. When one does not believe in a pre-mortal existence.

A religion that does not understand that we have a pre-mortal existence, cannot understand that much of what we are now is a product of what we have chosen to become. We come into this world innocent, but we bring two things with us: our personality and our integrity. Our personality stays in tact, it is our integrity that is tested here. But if one believes our cognizant Self was first created at birth then it must follow that whatever circumstances we are in, in this life is a product of chance, or of the workings of a capricious and incomprehendible God. By eliminating a premortal life in their teachings, they pretty much eliminate or severely curtail the importance of free agency. That leaves us as only a product of our environment and our genes. If our being here, and the circumstances in which we come is entirely happenstancial— something over which we had no control— then so are the circumstances that dictate the events of our lives. If agency is not an issue, then we are not wholly responsible for our actions. If we are not wholly responsible then God is responsible for our situation, and if he is responsible for putting us here, then he must also be responsible for getting us out of here and into heaven. That is the rationale, and with that logic there can be no way we can get to heaven except it be through God’s grace.

However, we did have a premortal life, and during that life we made some very important decisions about this life. President McKay said:

How the law of spiritual attraction works between the spirit and the expectant parents, has not been revealed, neither can finite mind fully understand. …. Of this we may be sure, each was satisfied and happy to come through the lineage to which he was attracted and for which, and only which, he or she was prepared. (Llewelyn R. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1956], 229 – 230.)

2. The other false premise is that after this life we go directly to heaven or to hell. A religion that teaches that one goes directly to heaven or hell when one dies allows no time or place for learning or repentance except in this earth life. Thus, they see this life as the only time given to us in which we can determine whether we wish to be saved or not saved.

The rationale is that since it is apparent that heaven is not available in this life, it follows that people cannot be saved on their own merit. As those religions have no place for priesthood and temple ordinances, they have to conclude that since God puts people on the earth as he chooses, he must also be totally responsible for saving them. Therefore (again) the conclusion that if we are to be saved at all, it must be only by God’s grace.

However, for God to simply “make up the difference” would negate the power of our own free agency, violate the purposes of the plan of salvation, and make ordinances and covenants (for the living as well as for the dead) of no use whatever. If one believed that everything that we will be throughout the eternities is determined by only what happens to us in this short, unpredictable earth life, there can be no promise of salvation except the one that is taught by the Protestants. That is, that in order for us to be saved, God simply must “make up the difference.”

The scriptures insist that is not true. Because we obeyed in the spirit world before we came here, we qualified (through the blessings of the atonement) to come into this physical world, and we became innocent from whatever sins we committed before we came here. A veil was dropped over our memory when we come into this world, so we could begin this life from the condition of innocence. The Lord explained that we have been made innocent twice. Once when we were born as spirit children of our Father in Heaven, and a second time when we were born into this world:

38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God (D&C 93:38).

Between the first and the second we had an opportunity to learn, repent, and obey. (That we could sin then, can be no question. A third committed irreparable sins and did not keep their first estate.) Our obedience gave us an opportunity to come to this world and answer the all-important question: Why did we obey. If the answer is that we love God and his children, then love will lead us to the quality of obedience that will enable us to accept the full blessings of the atonement.

That situation continues into the post mortal spirit world, thus enabling every individual (whether they lived in this world 5 minutes or a hundred years) to continue the experience of this existence until they have a full opportunity to accept or reject truth and repent. Thus, through the cleansing power of the atonement all persons have an absolute opportunity to become precisely what they choose to be.

Mercy (the blessings of the atonement) is the enabling power that permits one to repent and become his true Self. Amulek also testified:

8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it (Alma 34:8).

In this life, the atonement (mercy) suspends us above the powers of justice, giving us the opportunity to repent until we have completely defined who and what we wish to be. That takes a long time in this life, and may take much longer in the spirit world that follows. But when we are what we choose to be, and repentance has run the full course that we wish it to run, then mercy has also done all it can do, as Alma explains:

22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God (Alma 42:22-25).

So in the end, it is mercy that ENABLES us to repent so we can QUALIFY to go to the Celestial Kingdom, but it is justice that ENABLES us TO GO here— Just as Amulek said:

16 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 [pistis] UNTO repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption (Alma 34:16).

This entry was posted in Alma. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply