In a previous post I discussed the Anselmic model of Satisfaction. In my view, Book of Mormon Christology closely aligns with the Anselmic model in many respects. Sin requires satisfaction and only an “infinite atonement” can provide it. However, the atonement as described in the Book of Mormon provides far more than satisfaction. Many of these “extensions” to the satisfaction model can be explained simply by the different theological assumptions expressed by Anselm and Book of Mormon prophets. However, the nature of, and need for satisfaction itself is also presented quite differently. While Anselm and Book of Mormon prophets agree that satisfaction for sin is necessary, they disagree as to its nature, precursors, and effect. Most significantly, Book of Mormon prophets discuss satisfaction as an act of both God and humankind, requiring the active participation of both parties not to satisfy offenses to God’s honor, but rather, “the demands of justice” (Alma 34:16, 42:15)
Both Anselm and Book of Mormon prophets maintain it is God’s intention to make humankind holy so that they “should inherit the kingdom of God.” However, this inheritance in the Book of Mormon is meant to reward men and women so that “their joy shall be full forever” (2 Nephi 9:18). It is the eternal joy of man which is God’s intention in creating humankind. His entire creation was made to “bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man” (2 Nephi 2:15). These eternal purposes are joy for those who “have believed in the Holy One of Israel” and “endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it” (2 Nephi 9:18).
Lehi teaches that humankind’s attainment of this joy is only possible through the experience of “opposition in all things.” Without this opposition “righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11). Without this opposition there would have been “no purpose in the end of [the world’s] creation” and “the eternal purposes, and also the power and the mercy and the justice of God” would have been destroyed. Man must be exposed to both wickedness and holiness so that “he should act for himself [because] man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:16). It is the act of choice and experience of opposition which enables humankind not only to experience eternal joy, but also to understand and comprehend it.
Therefore, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with “the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter” (2 Nephi 2:15). God then allowed “that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies” to tempt Adam and Eve in opposition to his command to not partake of the forbidden fruit. God did this with the full intention that Adam and Eve would choose to partake of the fruit and by so doing “[bring] forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth” (2 Nephi 2:20). Unlike Anselm, Lehi puts forth that:
“If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, be he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:22-25) (emphasis added)
God then, created the world along with Adam and Eve knowing and intending that they would fall and that through their experience of opposition and their freedom to choose, they would have the opportunity to experience eternal joy.
Of course, Adam’s transgression had its consequences which put separation between God and humankind. Indeed “men [became] lost, because of the transgression of their parents” (2 Nephi 2:21). Jacob, Lehi’s son, described this separation and lost state in terms of two types of death: temporal and spiritual. Temporal death is the separation of the spirit and body and spiritual death is the separation of God and humankind due to sin.
The effects of temporal death, or the spirit in eternal separation from the body which God created, is that the spirits of humankind become “like unto [the devil], 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 9:9). Here Jacob is emphasizing the importance of the physical body which God created. It is what separates human nature from that of the devil, who has no created body but is only spirit. The physical body is a merciful gift from God, which creates separation in the natures of humankind and the devil and prevents humans from becoming “subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more” (2 Nephi 9:8).
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. There was no separation between God and his creation. However, by transgressing God’s law and partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve became separated from God and were cast out of the Garden. Jacob refers to this separation as the “death of the spirit” (2 Nephi 9:10). A later Book of Mormon prophet Alma explains “all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence” because they had transgressed his law (Alma 42:14).
Lehi, Jacob and Alma all emphasize the importance of the God’s law and the necessity for its full consequences to be carried out. Lehi explains:
“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God.” (2 Nephi 2:13)
Thus, God’s law must be carried out with all its consequences, else it is of no effect and “God would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13,22,25) Lehi states there for the law of God there is a “punishment which is affixed which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed” (2 Nephi 2:10) Therefore, if God’s law is either kept or broken, the consequence of punishment or happiness must be carried out. Following his father, Jacob also assigns punishment or happiness to God’s law. Later Book of Mormon prophets Alma and Amulek, also discuss the necessity of God’s law being seen through and carried out. Their specific contributions to Book of Mormon atonement theory will be discussed below.
Just as in Anselm, the Book of Mormon describes the tension between two aspects of God’s nature and both man and God are caught in an unseemly Catch-22. Humankind was created to experience eternal joy, yet because of the fall, which was required for men to experience opposition and choice which allow for the comprehension of joy, they are unable to inherit the kingdom of God because of the transgression of God’s law. Yet, this same law was given to provide the means wherein humankind could experience what God intended.
According to the Book of Mormon’s King Benjamin, the act of atonement “has been prepared from the foundation of the world” (Mosiah 4:6). Thus, the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ were all part of God’s original purpose and intent unlike in Anselm where the atonement functioned to realign and restore God’s original plan. God created humankind intending them to transgress the law he gave in the Garden but he also intended to provide atonement through a savior, to resolve the conflict introduced by the transgression of the law. Therefore, the atonement is meant to provide men and women with victory over the temporal death, which separates their spirit and their body, as well as victory of spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God.
Jacob ties Christ’s suffering and death directly to the resurrection of all humankind:
“He suffereth the pains of all men, yeah the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children who belong to the family of Adam. And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day” (2 Nephi 9:21-22). (emphasis added)
Jacob also explains: “it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men …. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfill the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection.” Otherwise, “this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more” (2 Nephi 9:6-7). Jacob describes this aspect of the atonement as “the power of the resurrection” (2 Nephi 9:12, 10:25, Jacob 4:11). The resurrection is universal and “all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls” (2 Nephi 9:13). Jacob implies that the physical resurrection is necessary in order for humankind to even stand before God to be judged. Why a physical body, or living “soul” is necessary in order to stand before God is not explained, but simply assumed.
Amulek also teaches of the universal resurrection brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ:
“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we are now at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both make and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil” (Alma 11:42-44).
The prophet Abinidi relates Christ’s suffering and death to both the resurrection and Christ’s ability to feel compassion. Abindi correlates Christ’s ministry, suffering, death and resurrection with redemption and the satisfaction of justice. After quoting Isaiah 53 Abindi explains:
“[Christ] suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people. And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Yeah, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father. And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men – Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice” (Mosiah 15:5-9).
Going further than Abinidi, Alma teaches that Christ not only assumes iniquity and transgressions, but also “the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11). Further:
“He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:12-13)
Alma, in quoting and unknown prophet Zenos, speaks of God’s judgments being turned away because of Christ. Zenos in prayer exclaims: “it is because of they Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions … for thou has turned thy judgments away from me because of thy Son” (Alma 33:11).
The Atonement as described reconciles man to God and provides victory over both temporal and spiritual death. However, Christ through his suffering, also experiences the consequences of simply being human. Sickness, pain, and misery, all of which may or may not be related to sin, are experienced by Christ so that he may “know how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). (emphasis added) The Atonement extends well beyond sin.
We see then, in the Book of Mormon, a complex dynamic between the concepts of death, suffering, resurrection, sin, forgiveness, sickness, and mercy; all of which relate to the Atonement in one way or another. Yet, in the midst of these descriptions is the common theme of justice and the need for the demands of justice to be satisfied through Christ’s atoning work. Nowhere is the more explicit than in Alma 34, and 42.
As R. Dennis Potter has pointed out, because both Lehi and Alma have spoken of both punishment and happiness being “affixed” to God’s law, it is easy to read these two chapters with the presupposition of the penal-substitution model. That is: by breaking God’s law we deserve punishment and therefore, Christ sits in as a substitute for the punishment we deserve. However, a careful reading reveals that the Book of Mormon in fact flatly rejects this concept!
In speaking of the need for a “great and last sacrifice” Amulek rhetorically asks: “Now is there not any man that can sacrifice his own blood with will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, nay.” Rather, “the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered” (Alma 32:11-12). Many Latter-day Saints assume that the reason such an arrangement as described by Amulek is unjust is because a mortal cannot, or should not assume the punishment of another – especially in the case of a crime as serious as murder. They then assume that Christ, as an infinite and sinless being both mortal and divine, is the only suitable substitute to stand in for the deserved punishment. Let’s assume for the moment that this reading is correct. In this case, justice would require punishment for sin and in fact, Christ stands in and endures the punishment for all sins. Amulek tells us that those who accept Christ and his message are “[encircled] in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice” (Alma 34:16) This would mean then, that a faithless person would suffer the punishment they deserved according to the demands of justice. This scenario presents a big problem because according to a strict penal model, Christ suffered for all sins, and not just the sins of those who would accept him. Therefore in this reading, justice would be inflicting punishment twice for the same sin which in itself, would be unjust! In order to make such a reading work, we would be forced to adopt some sort of idea of pre-destination wherein Christ suffered for the sins of those whom he foreknew would accept him. This seems to run counter to the Book of Mormon message that salvation is available freely to all and not just some.
If not through punishment, how then does justice become satisfied? Amulek states that the atonement “bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance… and thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice” (Alma 34:15-15) Note that it is mercy that satisfies the demands of justice and not punishment. Alma also teaches “God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15). Further Alma explains that through the atonement “justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42:24). Of course, even if we are to accept that it is mercy, and not punishment which satisfies justice, the question still remains: how can mercy overpower or satisfy the demands of justice and God’s law?
Potter argues that the suffering of Christ and all of his mortal experience allows him to fully understand our condition and thus be sympathetic to the reasons we sin. Therefore, since we have become subject unto Christ and he becomes our judge, he is able to extend mercy due to our extenuating circumstances. Alma 7 would seem to support this reading. While this may be part of the solution, I believe it still fails to account for the explicit need, repeated over and over again within the Book of Mormon for justice to be satisfied through fulfillment of the law.
Part of the problem is the association of the word “punishment” with justice by Lehi and Alma. When Lehi and Alma refer to punishment, they are really speaking of the consequence of sin, and in particular, the first transgression which brought about the fall. Notice that neither Alma nor Lehi use the plural “punishments” but rather the singular “punishment.” Punishment in this context refers to the consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve and not individual “punishments” for sins committed. Consider Alma’s words: “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” (Alma 42:28). What law (notice singular!) is Alma referring to? The original law given to Adam and Eve that if they ate of the forbidden fruit that they would surely die. All of the consequences of sin, including all the realities of a mortal existence, follow from that single transgression. With this in mind, the descriptions of Abinidi and Alma of Christ taking upon himself not only sins, but also infirmities and sickness and ultimately death, take on new meaning. By voluntarily suffering, Christ took upon himself the consequences of sin: pain, sickness, death, and even a brief separation at the end from his Father. Through this experience he offers to lift these consequences from those who show faith in him. Yet, even if we accept that Christ suffered the consequences of sin (of which punishment may be a part) we are still left with the issue of justice being “overpaid” by inflicting its consequences twice: first on Christ, and then on the unrepentant sinner. It seems then, that Christ’s suffering and assumption of sin’s consequences alone is insufficient to satisfy the demands of God’s justice.
The crux of the problem may be that we are placing all of the work of satisfaction on Christ. When Alma and Amulek speak of justice being satisfied, it is always in the context of the “repentance of men in this probationary state” (Alma 42:13). Also after giving his explanation of the justice/mercy dynamic Amulek teaches: “begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you” (Alma 34:17). Repentance and contrition on the part of humankind seem to be a necessary requisite for God’s justice to be satisfied. Atonement, then, requires the action of both Christ and humankind. Christ’s suffering alone (as illustrated by the problem of double-suffering), as well as repentance and contrition alone, cannot satisfy the demands of justice.
Of course, there is more work to be done on exactly how this combination of the suffering of consequences and individual penitence satisfies the demands of justice. Potter has taken a good step forward in explaining this dynamic but questions still loom as to the relation of boundless mercy and the requirements of the law. Regardless of the mechanism however, one thing remains clear in the Book of Mormon text: satisfaction is necessary for salvation and Christ plays the central role in providing that satisfaction.
 This passage presents one of the biggest challenges to claims of Book of Mormon historicity since Abinidi would not have had access to this section of Isaiah. The records Abinidi would have been quoting from (the Brass Plates of Lehi) date from 600 B.C and Isaiah 53 is part of 2nd Isaiah and thought to have been written much later. This, and other similar Isaiah quotations lead Blake Ostler to conclude that such modern quotations of Isaiah are an expansion of an ancient idea in the source material Joseph Smith was working from.
 R. Dennis Potter, “Did Christ Pay for Our Sins”, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 32 (Winter 1999)
 Potter, “Did Christ Pay for our Sins?”