The motive inspiring and sustaining Him through all the scenes of His mission, from the time of His primeval ordination to the moment of victorious consummation on the cross, was twofold: first, the desire to do His Father’s will in accomplishing the redemption of mankind; second, His love for humanity, of whose welfare and destiny He had assumed charge. Far from cherishing the least feeling of vindictiveness against those who put Him to death, He entertained for them compassion to the last. Hear Him in the hour of extreme agony, praying aloud: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Not less is the Father’s love, as shown by His accepting the Son’s offer and permitting Him whom He delighted to call His Beloved to suffer as only a God could suffer: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Further, we hear the teaching of the apostle, whom the Savior loved so well: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
The Atonement Foreordained and Foretold-As already shown, the plan of the Father to open a way for the redemption of mankind, then to leave all men free to exercise their agency, was adopted by the council in heaven to the rejection of Lucifer’s plan of compulsion. Even at that remote period Christ was thus ordained as a mediator for all mankind; in fact, “a covenant was entered into between Him and His Father, in which He agreed to atone for the sins of the world, and He thus, as stated, became the ‘Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.’” Prophets who lived centuries before the time of Christ’s birth testified of Him and of the great work He had been ordained to perform. These men of God had been permitted to behold in prophetic vision many of the scenes incident to the Savior’s earthly mission, and they solemnly bore record of the manifestations. The testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophecy, and without it no person can rightly claim the distinction of being a prophet of God. Adam’s despair incident to the fall was changed to joy when, through revelation, he learned of the plan of redemption to be wrought by the Son of God in the flesh. Righteous Enoch taught the same truths, which had been declared to him from the heavens. This testimony was borne by Moses, Job, David, Zechariah, Isaiah, and Micah. The same declaration was made by John the Baptist who was characterized by the Lord as more than a prophet.
Should there be doubt as to the application of such prophecies, we have the conclusive testimony of Christ that they refer to Himself. On that memorable day, immediately following His resurrection, while walking incognito with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He taught them the scriptures that had been written concerning the Son of God: “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” A few hours after this event the Lord appeared to the eleven at Jerusalem. He operated upon their minds “that they might understand the scriptures; and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer,” in this way testifying that He was fulfilling a previously ordained plan. Peter, one of the Savior’s most intimate earthly associates, refers to Him as “a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” In his epistle to the Romans, Paul characterizes Christ as the one “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” These are but a few of the Biblical evidences of Christ’s foreordination; both Old and New Testament writings abound in proofs of the Messiah’s appointed work.
Book of Mormon prophets are characterized by the directness of their testimonies concerning the Messiah. Because of his faith the brother of Jared was permitted to behold the Savior, twenty-two centuries prior to the meridian of time, and to be shown that man was created after the image of the Lord, at the same time being taught of the Father’s purpose that the Son take upon Himself flesh and dwell upon the earth. Note the personal declaration of the foreordained Redeemer to this prophet: “Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have light, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.”
Nephi records the prophecy of his father Lehi concerning the future appearing of the Son in the flesh, His baptism, death, and resurrection; and this prophetic utterance specifies the exact date of the Savior’s birth-six hundred years after the time of Lehi’s exodus from Jerusalem. The mission of John the Baptist is described and even the place of baptism is designated. Shortly after the time of Lehi’s vision, Nephi was shown by the Spirit the same things, as also many others, some of which he has written but the greater part of which he was forbidden to write, as another, the Apostle John, had been ordained to set them forth in a book which should form part of the Bible. But, from the partial account of his vision we learn that he saw, in Nazareth, Mary the Virgin, first alone and shortly afterward with a child in her arms; and that the demonstrator of the vision informed him that the infant was the Lamb of God, the Son of the Eternal Father. Then Nephi beheld the Son ministering among the children of men, proclaiming the word, healing the sick, and working many other wondrous miracles; he saw John, the prophet of the wilderness, going before Him; he beheld the Savior baptized of John, and the Holy Ghost descending upon Him with the visible sign of the dove. Then he saw and prophesied that twelve apostles would follow the Savior in His ministry; that the Son would be taken and judged of men and finally be slain. Piercing the future even beyond the time of the crucifixion, Nephi beheld the strife of the world against the apostles of the Lamb and the final triumph of God’s cause.
Jacob, brother of Nephi, prophesied to his brethren that Christ would appear in the flesh among the Jews, and that He would be scourged and crucified. King Benjamin lifted his voice in support of the same testimony, and preached unto his people the righteous condescension of God. So also declared Abinadi, Alma, Amulek, and Samuel the Lamanite prophet. The literal fulfilment of these prophecies furnishes proof of their truth. The signs and wonders indicative of Christ’s birth and death were all realized; and after His death and ascension the Savior manifested Himself among the Nephites while the Father proclaimed Him to the multitude.
The ancient scriptures, then, are plain in declaring that Christ came upon the earth to do a work previously allotted. He lived, suffered and died, in accordance with a plan that had been framed in righteousness even before the world was, for the redemption of the children of Adam. Equally important and explicit is the word of latter-day revelation through which the Son has declared Himself as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, man’s Advocate with the Father, the universal Redeemer. Consider a single citation from the many revelations concerning Christ given in the present dispensation: “Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever. I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one.”
The Extent of the Atonement is universal, applying alike to all descendants of Adam. Even the unbeliever, the heathen, and the child who dies before reaching the years of discretion, all are redeemed by the Savior’s self-sacrifice from the individual consequences of the fall. It is proved by scripture that the resurrection of the body is one of the victories achieved by Christ through His atoning sacrifice. He Himself proclaimed the eternal truth: “I am the resurrection, and the life”; and He was the first of all men to rise from the grave to immortality-”the firstfruits of them that slept.” The scriptures leave no room for doubt concerning the fact that the resurrection will be universal. The Savior announced to His apostles the beginning of this work of deliverance from the tomb; hear His words: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” or, as the latter part of the declaration has been rendered through inspiration in the present day, “They who have done good in the resurrection of the just, and they who have done evil in the resurrection of the unjust.”
Paul preached the doctrine of a universal resurrection: “That there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” On another occasion he wrote: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” John the Revelator testifies of his vision concerning futurity: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; * * * And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.” Thus it is plain that the effect of the atonement, so far as it applies to the victory over temporal or bodily death, includes the entire race. It is equally clear that the release from spiritual death, or banishment from the presence of God, is offered to all; so that if any man lose salvation such loss will be due to himself, and in no way be the inescapable effect of Adam’s transgression. That the gift of redemption through Christ is free to all men was specifically taught by the apostles of old. Thus Paul says: “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” And further: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all.” John spoke of the Redeemer’s sacrifice, saying: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
The same truths were taught among the Nephites. Benjamin, the righteous king, preached of “the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.” In revelation of the present day we read of Christ’s having come into the world, to suffer and to die: “That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him.”