At 09:32 PM 08/24/2003 -0600, you wrote:
In my opinion, the best answer to your question is provided by President John Taylor. In 1882, President John Taylor (written while he was President of the Church) wrote a book called, _The Mediation and Atonement_, and in this book there is a chapter which explains the extent and depth of Christ's suffering. Forgive me for the length but I'll post the chapter in its entirety:
THE Redeemer Himself, when tabernacling in the flesh, said to His disciples on the Eastern Continent, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."—Luke, xviii, 16, 17. And after His crucifixion and resurrection He repeated this same admonition to His Nephite disciples: "And again I say unto you, Ye must repent, and be baptized in my name and become as a little child, or ye can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God."—3 Nephi, xi 38
Without Adam's transgression those children could not have existed; through the atonement they are placed in a state of salvation without any act of their own. These would embrace, according to the opinion of statisticians, more than one-half of the human family, who can attribute their salvation only to the mediation and atonement of the Savior. Thus, as stated elsewhere, in some mysterious, incomprehensible way, Jesus assumed the responsibility which naturally would have devolved upon Adam; but which could only be accomplished through the mediation of Himself, and by taking upon Himself their sorrows, assuming their responsibilities, and bearing their transgressions or sins. In a manner to us incomprehensible and inexplicable, he bore the weight of the sins of the whole world; not only of Adam, but of his posterity; and in doing that, opened the kingdom of heaven, not only to all believers and all who obeyed the law of God, but to more than one-half of the human family who die before they come to years of maturity, as well as to the heathen, who, having died without law, will, through His mediation, be resurrected without law, and be judged without law, and thus participate, according to their capacity, works and worth, in the blessings of His atonement.
Again, there is another phase of this subject that must not be forgotten. From the commencement of the offering of sacrifices the inferior creature had to suffer for the superior. Although it had taken no part in the act of disobedience, yet was its blood shed and its life sacrificed, thus prefiguring the atonement of the Son of God, which should eventually take place. The creature indeed was made subject to vanity not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope. Millions of such offerings were made, and hecatombs of these expiatory sacrifices were offered in view of the great event that would be consummated when Jesus should offer up Himself. With man this was simply the obedience to a command and a given law, and with him might be considered simply a pecuniary sacrifice: with the animals it was a sacrifice of life. But what is the reason for all this suffering and bloodshed, and sacrifice? We are told that "without shedding of blood is no remission" of sins. This is beyond our comprehension. Jesus had to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, the just for the unjust, but, previous to this grand sacrifice, these animals had to have their blood shed as types, until the great antitype should offer up Himself once for all. And as He in His own person bore the sins of all, and atoned for them by the sacrifice of Himself, so there came upon Him the weight and agony of ages and generations the indescribable agony consequent upon this great sacrificial atonement wherein He bore the sins of the world, and suffered in His own person the consequences of an eternal law of God broken by man. Hence His profound grief, His indescribable anguish, His overpowering torture, all experienced in the submission to the eternal fiat of Jehovah and the requirements of an inexorable law.
The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible. As stated, "the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffereth the pains of all men;" and Isaiah says: "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," also, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all," and again, "He hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many;" or, as it is written in the Second Book of Nephi: "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;" whilst in Mosiah it is declared: "He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people."
Groaning beneath this concentrated load, this intense, incomprehensible pressure, this terrible exaction of Divine justice, from which feeble humanity shrank, and through the agony thus experienced sweating great drops of blood, He was led to exclaim, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." He had wrestled with the superincumbent load in the wilderness, He had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there; placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in his agony the blood oozed from His pores. Thus rejected by His own, attacked by the powers of darkness, and seemingly forsaken by His God, on the cross He bowed beneath the accumulated load, and cried out in anguish, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" When death approached to relieve Him from His horrible position, a ray of hope appeared through the abyss of darkness with which He had been surrounded, and in a spasm of relief, seeing the bright future beyond, He said, "It is finished! Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." As a God, He descended below all things, and made Himself subject to man in man's fallen condition; as a man, He grappled with all the circumstances incident to His sufferings in the world. Anointed, indeed, with the oil of gladness above His fellows, He struggled with and overcame the powers of men and devils, of earth and hell combined; and aided by this superior power of the Godhead, He vanquished death, hell and the grave, and arose triumphant as the Son of God, the very eternal Father, the Messiah, the Prince of peace, the Redeemer, the Savior of the world; having finished and completed the work pertaining to the atonement, which His Father had given Him to do as the Son of God and the Son of man. As the Son of Man, He endured all that it was possible for flesh and blood to endure; as the Son of God He triumphed over all, and forever ascended to the right hand of God, to further carry out the designs of Jehovah pertaining to the world and to the human family.
And again, not only did His agony affect the mind and body of Jesus, causing Him to sweat great drops of blood, but by reason of some principle, to us unfathomable, His suffering affected universal nature.
"World upon world, eternal things, Hang on thy anguish, King of kings."
When he gave up the ghost, the solid rocks were riven, the foundations of the earth trembled, earthquakes shook the continents and rent the isles of the sea, a deep darkness overspread the sky, the mighty waters overflowed their accustomed bounds, huge mountains sank and valleys rose, the handiwork of feeble men was overthrown, their cities were engulphed or consumed by the vivid shafts of lightning, and all material things were convulsed with the throes of seeming dissolution. Thus was brought to pass that which was spoken by the prophet Zenos: "The rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God to exclaim, The God of nature suffers." [1 Nephi,xix, 12.] And it is recorded, that so confessed the Centurion, and they that were with him watching the body of Jesus. For when they witnessed the earthquake, and the other things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God." So also was fulfilled that which is written in the prophecy of Enoch:
"And the Lord said unto Enoch, Look; and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men; and he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the Saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory; and as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day." —Pearl of Great Price.
Thus, such was the torturing pressure of this intense, this indescribable agony, that it burst forth abroad beyond the confines of His body, convulsed all nature and spread throughout all space.
The statement previously quoted, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all," could only be in reference to the transgression of our first parent, who, acting as the progenitor and head of the human family, assumed a responsibility not only for himself, but for all of his seed; for the whole of the human family not having then been born, could not be responsible, personally, for acts that transpired before they had an existence on the earth. But as children inherit blessings from their fathers, so it would also seem that they must inherit curses, or share in their calamities. The Lord, in speaking to the children of Israel, said He would visit "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate" him; and furthermore "a bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord, even to his tenth generation." This ostracism or punishment could be for no personal act of their own, for they had no part in the sin of their parents; any more than Adam's progeny had in the original sin or transgression. But it seems to be a principle admitted, that if they share the blessings accruing to their father for righteous acts, they must also share the condemnation for acts that are unrighteous. Hence comes in the atonement of the Messiah, which amply covers all of these acts, and more than that, for as Paul says: "But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ; hath abounded unto many." Hence we say, as above, the atonement covered more, apparently, than the transgression; for Adam, without the transgression, would have had no increase. That transgression opened the way for the increase, as stated by Eve, "Were it not for our transgression, we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." That being the case, all children born among any people, not having arrived at the years of accountability, are saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ, as stated by Moroni:
"Little children cannot repent; wherefore it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. And he that saith, that little children need baptism, denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and endless torment. I speak it boldly, God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment seat of Christ. For behold, that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all they that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing. But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works."—Moroni, viii, 19—23.
(John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1882], 153 - 154.)
-- Steven Montgomery [EMAIL PROTECTED]
It is no accident, then, that so many who gathered at Philadelphia to declare independence and a decade later to draft a constitution were men who had apprenticed themselves to Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero, and who could debate at length on the various constitutional forms of the classical world before they chose one for the new American nation. We owe our very existence as a people in great part to classical learning.----T. L. Simmons
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