Alma Chapter 42
Alma 42 Alma counsels his son Corianton on the atonement, justice, and mercy.
Alma 42:22 Alma teaches his son Corianton the principle of justice. If there is no repentance, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law.
In this chapter Alma addresses the topic of the delicate balance between justice and mercy.
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.
verse 1 "I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind" Alma is gentle and diplomatic as he addresses his doubting son. Apparently Corianton is having trouble accepting a fact that should have been intuitively obvious to him: A just God must impartially mete out rewards or punishments to his children based on their obedience or disobedience to eternal gospel principles. One can just imagine Corianton's verbalized concerns. His figurative pendulum has swung too far to the side of mercy and away from justice. We can almost hear him say, "If God is loving and merciful, how can he, at the same time, be demanding and coldly cruel. How can he mete out punishment to man. He knows we are weak. He is kind and merciful, and would not punish his beloved creations."
There's nothing out of date in this type of logic. One need only consider the doctrine of Evangelical or conservative Protestants today. For them, in order to be saved one need only confess Christ. Then it matters little what you do next. Protestants today clearly evidence an apostate imbalance in the issue of justice and mercy.
Corianton is like many of us sinners. He prefers to concentrate only on God's mercy and compassion and ignore the fact that the Father is also a God of justice. Corianton was guilty of a grave sin, and justice demanded serious consequences. I suppose it is not surprising that Corianton was not inclined to plead for the Lord's mercy. Rather, he is questioning the fairness of his justice.
"the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner" See The Law of Justice in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 12.
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-
verse 2 "to till the ground, from whence they were taken" This phrase refers to that fact that the bodies of Adam and Eve were formed of the "dust of the earth." Thus they were driven out of the garden to till that "dust" or "ground."
"he drew out the man" This expression is clarified in Genesis 3:24: "So he drove out the man" (emphasis mine). This phrase suggests that Adam and Eve were reluctant to leave the security of the garden and therefore had to be driven out. Oliver Cowdery apparently misread the original manuscript when he was making the printer's manuscript. He read, in the original manuscript, "he drove out the man" and copied it as "he drew out the man."
"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" What are "cherubim"? We have previously discussed this question. We will repeat that discussion for the convenience of the reader: Many animals and plants live in God's presence, and it is likely that we have never heard of or seen many of them. John the Revelator saw and heard such animals in God's presence (Revelation 5:8-14), and Joseph Smith recorded how these animals praised and glorified God (TPJS, 291-92). In D&C 109:79, Joseph Smith describes Seraphim in God's presence. Joseph refers to them as "bright, shining seraphs" (emphasis added). Joseph also taught that God dwells in "everlasting burnings" and that righteous beings (human and animal) dwell with him in a state of continual burning or glory (TPJS, 372-73, 347, 361). Another type of winged heavenly creature is the cherub (singular) or cherubim (plural). Ezekiel teaches that cherubim also have hands and faces (Ezekiel 10:7; Ezekiel 10:14). Mesopotamian tradition and art represent them as winged bulls with human faces, but this need not necessarily correspond with the truth. An alternate explanation of seraphim and cherubim is that they are angels in the celestial presence of God who belong to the human family and are assigned to guard holy places, and that the descriptions of their non human parts ("wings") is only figurative and symbolic. Perhaps their "wings" are figurative representations of their power to move and to act.
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-
verse 3 "the man had become as God" Adam and Eve had "partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil." We might ask, "Is this tree literally a plant, or is 'the tree' symbolic of something else?" Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: "The account is speaking figuratively. What is meant by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that our first parents complied with whatever laws were involved [or perhaps broke whatever laws were involved] so that their bodies would change from their state of paradisiacal immortality to a state of natural mortality." ("Christ and the Creation," Ensign, June 1982, 15). Adam had become "as God" only in the specific sense of being able to understand the difference between good and evil. There remained considerable distance between him and the fulness of the Father.
"lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever" We are taught that if Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life in their fallen state, they would have lived forever in their sinful mortal state eternally alienated from God. Are we also to regard the tree of life in the Garden of Eden as a literal tree, or is it a symbol contained within an allegorical account of the Garden of Eden? Certainly here, just as in the visions of Lehi and Nephi, the tree of life is not just a plant. It is symbolic of the Savior and the message of the eternal gospel which emanates from him. Perhaps the cherubim were dispatched to prevent Adam and Eve from having access to the ordinances and teachings of this gospel which might have somehow led to an untimely and inappropriate eternal extension of their mortal state.
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.
verse 4 "a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God" The "probationary time" through which each of us must pass includes not only our mortal lives on earth but also the period of time that some will spend in the "spirit prison." Those blessed to be assigned to "paradise" need no further probationary state since they have already completed their probation. The fact that it is possible to repent after this mortal life (in the spirit prison) is not emphasized in the Book of Mormon.
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.
verse 5 This verse proposes a hypothetical situation which could never have come to pass because the word of God has stated otherwise. If Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life, they would have lived forever in sort of suspended state of eternal agony where they were guilty of sin but unable to repent. They would have a type of immortal body. Though they had transgressed in the garden and knew right from wrong, there would be no mortal period of probation available to them. There would be no opportunity to be tried and to repent. They would be unable to earn their exaltation. The rest of us would also suffer. We would be stuck in our pre-existent, unembodied state. Thus, "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.
verse 6 "it was appointed unto man to die" It is essential that all men die physically and spiritually. All men must die a physical death in order to gain victory over mortality. Without death there can be no resurrection and eternal glory. Also men must die a spiritual death. They must be cut off from the presence of God. This provides an opportunity for men to be tried and tested outside of God's presence. And although many will be lost in the process, it does give to some the opportunity of returning to the presence of God. Because of Adam's transgression, both types of death came upon mankind.
Keep in mind the dual nature of the fall. The phenomenon of the fall includes:
1. the fall of Adam and Eve. This fall resulted in physical death and spiritual death (the "first death"). Both of these are temporary as the Lord's atonement automatically absolves each man of both of these consequences. Each man will be resurrected and all will return to the presence of God following this life at least long enough to be judged.
2. the fall of each individual, also termed "the fall of man" or "the fall of you and me." The consequences of the fall or sin of each individual-spiritual death (the "second death")-is "permanent." That is, it is not automatically removed because of the Savior's atoning sacrifice. It requires persistent repentance and obedience, indeed "a broken heart and a contrite spirit" (2 Nephi 2:7).
"therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth" This phrase speaks of man's being "cut off from the tree of life" and "cut off from the face of the earth." What do these phrases mean? Actually, -both phrases speak of man's being cast out of the Garden of Eden. And they had to be cast out in two general ways-physically (temporally) and spiritually. As has been previously stated, it essential that all men die. "Therefore," as they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they "were cut off from the tree of life." They were cast physically out of the garden. It is also essential that all men be tested in a mortal environment-outside of the presence of God. So, all men must "be cut off from the face of the earth." The "face of the earth" is the presence of God in Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden, they were spiritually driven out of the presence of God.
"man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man" This phrase would be literally true only if there had been no atonement. The word "forever" here means they were truly fallen and would remain permanently so lest they be rescued or redeemed.
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.
verse 7 "our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord" See the commentary for the previous verse.
"they became subjects to follow after their own will" The man of the world seeks to do his own will; to satisfy his own lusts; and to seek that which is immediately satisfying. The spiritual man seeks to do the will of the Father; to defer his own desires to the promptings of the Spirit; and to patiently await the Lord's pleasure in all things.
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.
verse 8 "it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death" It was not expedient that Adam be allowed to partake of the fruit of the tree of life and thus avoid the fall which would frustrate the "great plan of happiness"-another name for the plan of salvation (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:6).
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.
verse 9 "as the soul could never die" Here again the "soul" refers to a man's spirit which is absolutely and eternally indestructible. Since the spirit of man will last forever and since by virtue of the fall it is left without a body and cut off from the presence of God, it is imperative that man's spirit be rescued or redeemed.
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.
verse 10 The Book of Mormon does not teach the doctrine of human depravity, but it does teach that man has a "fallen" nature and is prone to disobedience and ingratitude. Robert L. Millet wrote: "No, of course we do not believe, with Calvin, in the moral depravity of men and women. No, we do not believe, with Luther, that man, because of his carnality and depravity, does not even have the power to choose good over evil. And we do not believe that children are born in sin, that they inherit the so-called sin of Adam either through sexual union or by birth. Rather, children are conceived in sin: meaning first, that they are conceived into a world of sin, and second, that conception is the vehicle by which the effects of the fall (not the original transgression, which God has forgiven) are transmitted to Adam's posterity. To say that we are not punished for the transgression is not to say that we are not subject to and affected by it. . . . Adam's fallen nature is passed on to his children and thereby from generation to generation. Thus, sin is implanted in man's nature at conception, just as death is implanted at the same time. Both of these-death and sin-are present only in seed form at conception, and therefore a child is neither dead nor sinful when born. Death and sin do, however, come to pass as a result of man's nature as he grows up. Sin comes naturally, just as does death" (Life in Christ, 24-25).
It is important to acknowledge here the natural self of every man. This natural self did not magically come into being at the moment of the fall of Adam and Eve. Indeed, this natural self has always existed. Please see The "Natural Self" and "Spiritual Self" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5.
11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.
verse 11 "laying it aside" That is, assuming that the Redeemer would never atone for our sins. We know that the unavoidable and inevitable fate of all men, in this instance, would be to become sons of perdition forever (see 2 Nephi 9:8-9).
12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;
verse 12 Adam and Eve brought upon themselves their fallen state through their "own disobedience." According to the law of justice, they had to be punished. In addition all other men, including all of Adam and Eve's posterity, are or will be guilty of sin. Hence each man falls of his own accord. Thus, each man experiences a spiritual death because of his own disobedience. Since man is not capable of paying the entire price demanded by the law of justice himself, a Redeemer is essential.
"And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state" Alma is still postulating the hypothetical state of there being no Savior or Redeemer-"laying it aside."
It is important to understand that Adam and Eve were noble and proven leaders who, in the premortal state, fought valiantly on the side of righteousness. Adam, or Michael the Archangel, in the first estate was captain of the heavenly hosts who cast Satan and his fallen angels out of heaven (JST Revelation 12:7). Adam and Eve were hand-picked to lead the human family. They were the best qualified among all of the children of God. They did not, indeed they would not, do anything to destroy the plan of God. They were foreordained to fall, and their disobedience or transgression in the garden was deliberate and necessary. Adam and Eve were placed in the garden as immortal beings. Christ inherited an immortal nature from his Father. Adam, Eve, and Christ were the only beings who possessed immortality by their very natures. They alone had the option to live on indefinitely or to die. They each realized the necessity of choosing to die. "Adam fell that men might be" (2 Nephi 2:25). Adam's choosing to become mortal enabled us, his offspring, to be born into mortality. Jesus explained, "I lay down my life, that I take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again" (John 10:17-18).
13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
verse 13 The phrase "the plan of redemption could not be brought about only on conditions of repentance" actually means that the plan of redemption could only be brought about by conditions of repentance.
"except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice" The phrase "these conditions" refers to the state of fallen man's being irretrievably lost without repentance. If men were exalted without having to repent, then mercy would destroy justice. The law of justice would be no longer valid and binding-a situation that cannot be.
"Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God." Is it possible that God could ever cease to be God? If God were to become arbitrary and impulsive rather than just and consistent, would he continue to be God? He would not. Joseph Smith explained: "It is . . . necessary, in order for the exercise of faith in God unto life and salvation, that men should have the idea of the existence of the attribute justice in him; for without the idea of the existence of the attribute justice in the Deity, men could not have confidence sufficient to place themselves under his guidance and direction; for they would be filled with fear and doubt lest the judge of all the earth would not do right, and thus fear or doubt, existing in the mind, would preclude the possibility of the exercise of faith in him for life and salvation. But when the idea of the existence of the attribute justice in the Deity is fairly planted in the mind, it leaves no room for doubt to get into the heart, and the mind is enabled to cast itself upon the Almighty without fear and without doubt, and with the most unshaken confidence, believing that the Judge of all the earth will do right" (Lectures on Faith, 4:13).
God's power actually derives from those whom he governs (D&C 63:59). If God were to fail to be just, then his creations would disavow him. He would then lose his power and cease to be God. God is God because he possesses all the attributes of godliness. He is unfailingly just. His law is absolute. This idea is communicated by the scriptural phrase, "his course is one eternal round." God will always and inevitably be a God of justice. Hence, in actuality, he can never cease to be God, though it is theoretically possible for him to do so. Exalted beings do not apostatize. They do not backslide.
We thus understand clearly why men cannot be saved, as many contemporary Christian denominations proclaim they can-solely by the grace or mercy of God, without repentance and obedience. This erroneous doctrine isolates one of the attributes of Deity, that of mercy or grace, at the expense of others-especially justice-and thus robs God of the very nature of godliness.
14 And thus we see that 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.
verse 14 "they were in the grasp of justice" Fallen man is indeed in the grasp of the law of justice. Without proper repentance and without a redeemer, they are "consigned . . . forever to be cut off from his presence." Again, we are also reminded that without the application of the law of mercy, when man is subject only to the law of justice, he is forever lost (2 Nephi 9:8-9).
15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore 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.
verse 15 "the plan of mercy" This is the law of mercy and is defined in the commentary for verse 1 of this chapter. Without the atonement, the law of mercy could never be applicable to man. Why? Because the law of mercy, in order to become active in the lives of humankind, demands that it (the law of mercy) be administered by a perfect judge. And if the Lord Jesus Christ had not atoned, there would not have existed a perfect judge (Alma 7:11-12; Hebrews 2:18; John 5:22). See The Essence of the Lord's Atonement in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 19.
"demands of justice" Just who or what is it that enforces the law of justice? See a discussion of this topic in The Law of Justice in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 12.
16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.
verse 16 "repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment" This phrase teaches the important truth that an individual cannot completely repent of sin without experiencing punishment. President Spencer W. Kimball quoted this scripture in a priesthood meeting of general conference and then taught the brethren: "Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This [law] is as eternal as is the soul. . . . Please remember these things when somebody comes before you who has broken the laws of God. It is so easy to let our sympathies carry us out of proportion; and when a man has committed sin, he must suffer. It is an absolute requirement-not by the bishop-but it is a requirement by nature and by the very part of a man" (CR, April 1975, 115).
There is nothing of arbitrariness in the plan of our Father in heaven. He does nothing for purely punitive purposes. He does not mete out suffering without productive purpose. We might classify the suffering of sin into two categories. First, the sinner who makes no effort to repent-he who merely languishes in sin inevitably suffers some remorse. There is no happiness in sin (Alma 41:10). Indeed, there is inevitably unhappiness in sin. The second type of suffering occurs when man attempts to change-to repent. A man cannot repent without subduing and overcoming his natural self. And this overcoming is always painful. It requires real effort, and it hurts. It is an important form of suffering.
"affixed opposite to the plan of happiness" Just as there is a plan for man's ultimate happiness (exaltation), there also exists "unhappiness." For him who violates the laws of justice and fails to repent in an optimal and timely manner, there are also eternal consequences or provisions-an eternal plan. These will receive a lesser eternal reward. While this lesser reward may not actually result in a man's eternal unhappiness, it fails to provide its recipients with the full measure of happiness experienced by the fully obedient. We may thus refer to these aspects of the Lord's plan of salvation as the plan which is "opposite to the plan of happiness" or the plan of unhappiness.
17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
verse 17 This verse implies that the concepts of law, sin, and punishment are intimately interdependent upon one another. Intuitively it is easy to understand that if law didn't exist, there would be no sin. Hence, "How could he sin if there was no law?" Also if no punishment existed for disobedience of the law, then the law would be a useless sham. Hence, "How could there be a law save there was a punishment?" A law cannot actually exist without consequences for obedience and disobedience to the law.
What is the relationship between God and the law? Is God the author of law? It may well be true that there is an eternal or natural law that governs the universe to which even God is subject. It is logical to suppose that God was not the author of this law. Though God may not have invented the law, for us the Father and the Son are the law. They are the very prototype, the supreme exemplars, the epitome of the law. They have drawn upon eternal resources to make the law applicable to us. It is for this reason that we refer to the law as God's law. And we refer to those laws also as the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is one type of law we might call "regulatory" law. There may at first seem to be a certain element of arbitrariness in these law. These are laws given so the Church may function as an organization or perhaps so that we might learn obedience and humility and thus grow toward godhood. Examples of the latter include many of the highly specific laws given to ancient Israel in Moses's day and to us today. We must be baptized by one having authority. We must join with others in his Church and then support and become subject to the organization of the Church. These so called regulatory laws are a vital part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We presume God has authored these laws for our benefit to lead us to happiness.
18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
verse 18 "remorse of conscience" Just what is conscience? It seems to be the direct consequence of possessing the light of Christ or the spirit of Christ, that small inclination given to all men to yearn and seek for a higher meaning here in mortality. It would not be surprising to learn that this spirit of Christ is provided to all men by the Holy Ghost himself. In fact, the spirit of Christ may well be a modicum of responsiveness to the influence of the Spirit of God which is received by each and every individual at their birth. It inclines each man to yearn subtly for truth and righteousness. When our behavior is inconsistent with this spirit of Christ, we then suffer the "remorse of conscience." ". . . of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest [the most painful] are these: 'It might have been'" (John Greenleaf Whittier).
Is it possible for a man to bury or nullify the light of Christ through his own disobedience, so that its influence is no longer felt? Most certainly it is.
19 Now, if there was no law given-if a man murdered he should die-would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
verse 19 Alma supposes another hypothetical situation: If the law decreeing that a murderer must die had never been given, then would a man be afraid to commit murder? He would not.
20 And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.
verse 20 One of the purposes of the law is to provide man with the motivation and incentive to obey. Part of our motivation to obey is our fear of punishment should we disobey. President Harold B. Lee taught: "Think about that for a moment. If there were no opposition to good, would there be any chance to exercise your agency or right to choose? To deny you that privilege would be to deny you the opportunity to grow in knowledge, experience, and power. God has given laws with penalties affixed so that man might be made afraid of sin and be guided into paths of truth and duty (see Alma 42:20)" (Stand Ye In Holy Places, 219-20).
21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
verses 22-26 To understand these next five verses, it is vital that you understand the "law of justice" and the "law of mercy." See the discussion of these laws in the introductory commentary for chapter 41.
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.
verse 22 "But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed" The previous verse postulates the hypothetical situation: "And if there was no law given." If this were the case, then there would be no such thing as justice or mercy simply because the law did not exist. There can be no law of justice or law of mercy if there is no law. This verse sets the situation right. There is a law, and the law of justice does exist-there is "a punishment affixed."
"there is . . . a repentance granted" The opportunity to repent is granted unto man.
"which repentance mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law" Since man, if left alone with the law of justice, cannot fully repent to the point of his exaltation, the law of mercy must exist as an addendum to the principle of repentance, hence-"repentance mercy claimeth"-the law of mercy claims the principle of repentance as an integral part of itself. If there were no law of mercy, man would indeed be left alone with the law of justice-"justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment." Man left alone with the law of justice is lost, since it is not possible for man to completely pay the debts he incurs to the law of justice.
"if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God" If there were no justice and mercy, God would cease to be God. To review the line of logic whereby God would cease to be God, review the commentary for verse 13.
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.
verse 23 "But God ceaseth not to be God" The law of justice and the plan of mercy are alive and well.
"mercy claimeth the penitent" The Lord's mercy is extended to the sincerely repentant. We become beneficiaries of God's mercy only if we submit to his gospel and repent of our sins.
"mercy cometh because of the atonement" By some mysterious and awful process in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, the Savior qualified himself to be able to absolve us of our sins even when, according to the law of justice, we do not completely deserve that absolution.
"and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead" Through Christ's atoning sacrifice, all men will be resurrected as a free gift.
"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" Again, this verse, if taken literally, might be confusing. It is true that following their resurrection, all men will stand before God to be judged. But it is also true that this event is probably more of a formal or ritual judgment which will stand as an eternal witness for or against each man. The literal judgment takes place at the moment of resurrection since each man comes forth in the resurrection with that type of body which clearly indicates the place of his eternal abode.
"to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice" While it is true that we will be judged according to our works and according to the law of justice, it is also true that the Lord's mercy will be extended and considered in our judgment.
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.
verse 25 As stated by verse 24, the Savior paid for the sins of men in a way that will not rob justice. His atonement requires that men repent in order to qualify for the payment he has made in their behalf. If men do not repent then the law of justice alone claims them. The Savior's administering of the law of mercy is perfectly fair, perfectly equitable, and perfectly acceptable for all of God's creatures. Those who enforce the demands of justice are fully content with the Savior's judgments. When Jesus appeals for an exception to the law of justice for any individual, that exception is granted without reservation. Among these enforcers there is no sense of the law of justice's being robbed or violated.
President John Taylor explained how justice and mercy relate to one another in the atonement of Christ: "Is justice dishonored? No; it is satisfied, the debt is paid. Is righteousness departed from? No; this is a righteous act. All requirements are met. Is judgment violated? No; its demands are fulfilled. Is mercy triumphant? No; she simply claims her own. Justice, judgment, mercy and truth all harmonize as the attributes of Deity . . . in this great, grand, momentous, just, equitable, merciful and meritorious act" (The Mediation and Atonement. Salt Lake City: Stevens & Wallis, 1950, 167).
For a discussion of the phrase "God would cease to be God," see the commentary for verse 13 of this chapter.
26 And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.
verse 26 "prepared from the foundation of the world" In this commentary, we have always interpreted the expression "from the foundation of the world" as referred to our premortal existence when plans were made for the creation and existence of this world and the other worlds of our Father. In this case, the Father's great plan of happiness was not specifically prepared for this round of creation but has certainly predated our round of our Father's creative adventure. It has always existed and has always applied to every God and his rounds of creation.
God's "great and eternal" plan which was "prepared from the foundation of the world" consists of both the plan of happiness and that part of the plan which we may call the plan of unhappiness.
27 Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
verse 27 "whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come" The Savior is the tree of life and the waters of life. We partake of the fruit of the tree of life, we eat the bread of life, and we drink the waters of life when we come to him and commit ourselves to strive to obey him and become like him. The Lord himself would later, during his mortal ministry, refer to himself as the "living waters" (John 4:4-42).
Man has his unfettered agency, but the eternal laws of God will never bend or break. It is absolutely true that no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of heaven.
"in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds" Here again is a verification of the law of restoration. See also the following verse. This law may be simply summarized: The quality of our eternal lifestyle is contingent upon what is in our heart (what we actually are) because our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel reflects our hearts' desires.
28 If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.
verse 28 "in his days" This phrase refers to a man's probationary state-mortality and the spirit world.
29 And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.
verse 29 Alma here advises Corianton to quit worrying so much about the doctrinal questions and start worrying more about his sins and his need for repentance.
30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.
verse 30 Sway here means influence; weight; or authority. It would seem that we must each have firmly implanted in our hearts and minds both the principles of justice and the mercy. How do we hold them in proper balance? We strive and struggle to keep the commandments, yet we must realize that it is not enough. We must humbly acknowledge that without the Lord's mercy we are lost. This latter realization should truly bring us "down to the dust in humility."
31 And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.
verse 31 There is good evidence that Corianton's repentance was complete. We have good reason to believe that he returned to the ministry and full fellowship in the church. We will read of Corianton's labors about one year hence: "Thus ended the nineteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. Yea, and there was continual peace among them, and exceedingly great prosperity in the church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman, and Shiblon, and Corianton, and Ammon and his brethren, yea, and by all those who had been ordained by the holy order of God" (Alma 49:29-30). We will also read of him some twenty years later, and we will note that he is still doing the work of the Lord: "And it came to pass in the thirty and ninth year of the reign of the judges, Shiblon died also, and Corianton had gone forth to the land northward in a ship, to carry forth provisions unto the people who had gone forth into that land" (Alma 63:10).