Boyd K Packer is often maligned for his parable of the atonement he put for in his 1977 conference talk entitled the mediator.
The main point of the recent dislike is that this parable is an example of penal substitution. Penal Substitution could be appropriately defined as Christ taking upon himself the penalty of our sins, leaving us free to go unpunished under our relationship with Christ. It is my intent to show here that this concept of the atonement is not what Boyd K. Packer has proposed with that Parable.
The Parable is pretty simple, really. There is a person, which could represent you or I. He has taken upon himself a debt. For Packer this debt is representative of the mortal probation extended us. He goes so far as to call it a spiritual credit. The Man does not meet the terms of the loan, and is to be foreclosed on. This means you or I have sinned. The Law demands the man lose all his assets and be put in prison. Prison and loss of all assets thus represents the penalty of sin. This is Justice.
Hereâ€™s where the atonement and mercy comes into play, and penal substitution doesnâ€™t come into play. The Mediator steps in. He offers to make an arrangement so the man can go free. He does not take upon himself nor offer to take upon himself the penalty for the man not paying his debts. All of his assets are not stripped away, and he is not cast into prison. He simply has the resources to mute the demands of justice by making it so that the demands of justice are not required to begin with. He intercedes at a personal expense to himself, yes, but he does not bear upon himself the penalties for the debt, he merely takes the debt upon himself and pays it off, so no penalties are even required. So no penal substitution occurs in this parable.
So what does occur? What is president Packer telling us about the atonement?
1- He is showing us that Christ is willing to go to great pains for us to succeed in this adventure of life. We know that this success is equal to us being able to be at one with our Father in Heaven.
2- If this were a court case, we would say that the lender took a settlement, rather than to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. As a settlement has occurred, the law has not been called into play and thus justice has not been evoked. So mercy and justice are both satisfied when mercy makes justice unnecasary.
3- He shows us that the opportunity to progress in this life to be like our Father in Heaven is like a form of spiritual credit, in that we are not guaranteed that we will meet the terms and receive the end result. There is a level of risk that we will fail. Christ comes in and makes this risk more manageable by acting as a guide and by taking our â€œfailures to meet the termsâ€ (ie- our sins) upon himself. (He takes upon him our transgressions (Alma 34) He is our Sacrifice for Sin (2 Nephi 2)) He again, does not take upon himself the penalties for these sins, but he takes upon himself our sins. (There is no scripture I can find which says he bears the penalties of our sins, but plenty which show that he bears our sins.)
So what say you? Can we let Packer off the hook?