This post was an experiment in whether concentrating on the issues in my previous post would enable me to better put forth a discussion of the atonement. Your input and thoughts are greatly appreciated.
First to give context, I recently read a blog post about a “Reductio ad Hitlerum” film put on by BBC regarding the problem of Evil . At the same time, I was listening to the Book of Job on my commute to work, slowly working my way through the Old Testament for the first time. As I dealt with these two items simultaneously, it renewed my interest in the way the church has dealt with the problem of suffering and evil. It is my opinion that the Church uses its particular theological tenants regarding the Atonement and the way things are as our own theodicy, and that this theodicy is strong.
Now perhaps theodicy is the wrong word, some may argue, but here I am taking theodicy to simply mean a defense of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil . And again, perhaps atonement is the wrong word, as this can sometimes be construed to mean everything between the act in Gethsemane and the entirety of the Plan of Salvation.  For my purposes here I am going to initially begin by framing the problem in the whole of the plan and hopefully drill down to examine the event in Gethsemane in context of that plan.
If we are going to be dealing with suffering, we need to first put it in the context of our LDS cosmology. An essential detail is the eternal nature of matter.  Ultimately as John A. Widtsoe put it; this confines all things to an unending (in both space and time) material universe that is ruled by eternal laws.  As Sterling McMurrin has pointed out in his writings; this means the rules of nature that mandate our suffering were not created by God, but where in existence all along.  Further alleviating God’s culpability is the nature of man, which Mormonism teaches there was a pre-existent state of. While there is some disagreement as to what and what all was involved , the primary ideas of most theories either point back to Joseph Smith teaching that our “mind”(spirit, will or what have you) has always existed and can neither be created or destroyed or on a concept that Brigham Young experimented with where the mind is a natural result of God organizing matter in such a way as to bring us forth.  Either way, God is not morally responsible for the organizational methodology or moral behavior of man. They are free to choose for themselves, governed by either their eternal or naturally existent mind.  This leaves God not culpable for the creation of all “evil” but only responsible for his actions, which would have unduly caused it or which would have failed to alleviate it when he had an opportunity.
So, when God sees us suffering, does he do what he can to alleviate our suffering? Have God’s actions been evil towards us? An important point to look at in our religion is our pre-mortal state. God was with our spirits and dwelt “In the midst of them all”. In the King Follett Sermon, Joseph Smith Teaches that:
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. 
On an Earlier Date Joseph Taught:
Before foundation of the Earth in the Grand Counsel that the Spirits of all Men ware subject to oppression & the express purpose of God in Giving it a tabernacle was to arm it against the power of Darkness 
And Finally, Joseph taught, “God saw that those intelligences had not power to defend themselves” So, in our worldview where the universe has always existed, we were suffering before we were born, oppressed by powers of darkness, unable to defend ourselves. God acted to alleviate our suffering, calling us together, and setting forth, as we have been taught all of our lives as Latter-Day Saints, a plan of salvation which we freely chose. We had always suffered, and there would always be opposition, but God was giving us the tools to overcome that opposition and thus decrease our suffering. It’s like in the Book of Job, Elihu poetically says that in the suffering of this life, God is saving us from a greater suffering  So God, though bound by the eternal nature of the universe we already discussed, acted in our behalf to lessen our suffering.
This brings us to the atonement. David L. Paulsen taught:
â€¦There are apparently states of affair that even God, though omnipotent cannot bring about. Man is that he might have joy, but even God cannot bring about joy without moral righteousness, moral righteousness without moral freedom, or moral freedom without an opposition in all things. With moral freedom as an essential variable in the divine equation for man, two consequences stand out saliently: (i) the inevitability of moral evil; and (ii) our need for a Redeemer. 
I would add that the undisputed reality of natural evil in our daily lives also points to the need for a Redeemer as well. After all if those who deal with the consequences of freely made choices, how much more so those who must deal with consequences beyond anyone’s control? So from the beginning the Atonement had to have been the pinnacle of the plan of salvation, and not just an addition to fix some miscreant fruit nibbling. In fact, in a religion where we praise the “fall forward” of Eve, we know that any and all of the pains we associate with the risks inherent in this life are necessary to our eventual ability to experience a cessation of suffering. 
So we need help. We can’t overcome the obstacles that cause our suffering on our own. God is good, and steps in to help us by providing the means for us to improve if we want to use them. But that isn’t enough and God knows it. However, in our imperfect state God could not approach us without causing more suffering.  So he selected one who was unique among us, one who was good enough to intimately approach God. This was Jesus Christ, who volunteered willingly for this assignment. And Jesus Christ, as we know, succeeded in his mission for God and wrought the atonement. While we do not understand all the details of the atonement , we do believe that it enables God to condescend to be in our imperfect presence, and us to transcend and come to his presence. (Overcoming spiritual death, as we call it) We do believe it enables our physical natures to be joined with our spiritual natures without end. (Overcoming physical death) Through these things, we can see that the atonement enables us to be yoked up with others greater than ourselves who enable us to have greater capacities and overcome the opposition, which causes our suffering. Further, the moral example of the atonement teaches us that suffering is something we must all face and gives us the strength and courage to withstand those challenges that come. Also, the example of Christ shows that just as we can’t make it without the help of Christ, we need to help and be helped by one another as well. Lastly, I believe that Christ, in his atonement put forth something more than his example, but distilled a presence upon us all that enables us to have greater peace, hope, joy and love in this life now, as we turn to that light. 
To Conclude, the Atonement shows that God is doing all he can to alleviate our suffering within the confines of the natural system. Further he is not intentionally seeking to harm us, but is allowing the natural course of nature to hold sway, as he must. Thus God is Just and Good, despite the existence of evil.
Song for this Post:
1. The film is well crafted and performed, and is extremely challenging. Ronan discusses it here.
2. Princeton defines it that way, so I am on good grounds I think.
3. For more on the issue of the confusing nature of our usage of the word atonement, see Geoff J’s discussion here.
4. The Scriptures teach this in D&C 93:33
5. For a Review of Widtsoe’s teachings on these items, see my posts here and here. This is not just WIdtsoe on his Own, Smith taught of “laws of eternal and self-existent principles” in TOPJS pg 181.
6. McMurrin puts for this point of view in his “Theological Foundations” Eric Nielsen has a great review of this here.
7. For discussion of different models theorized for what our pre-mortal existence was like, see here. For the record, Abraham 3:18 points to spirits having no beginning or end
8. Smith’s teachings are most prominent taught in the King Follet sermon and the Sermon in the Grove. Young’s is perhaps best put forth by Scholar Jonathon Stapley.
9. For the sake of this discussion, I am assuming some form of Independent Free Will. For more on Free Will see here.
10. Abraham vaguesly covers this topic here but the quote is from the King Follet sermon. (See Note 8 for a link.)
11. From the Mcintire Minute Book, Jan 19 1841
12. Also from the Mcintire Minute Book, March 28, 1841. Lest I be accused of cherry picking from a longer more bizarre quote, it says in full “God saw that those inteligences had Not power to Defend themselves against those that had a tabernicle therefore the Lord Calls them togather in Counsel & agrees to form them tabernicles so that he might Gender the Spirit & the tabernicle togather so as to create sympathy for their fellowman”
13. Job 33-36
14. For the full text, see here. It is important to note that some may find the word “omnipotent” distracting here. Paulsen uses B.H. Roberts definition, which “proposed that God’s omnipotence be understood as the power to bring about any state of affairs consistent with the natures of eternal existences”
15. For an overview of the General Church Stance on this, see here.
16. The scriptures describe our imperfect state in the afterlife as causing us to shrink from God’s presence, suffering guilt, anguish, pain, and torment (Mosiah 2:38 ) In the Old Testament Moses was taught by God that no sinful man can see God’s face and live. (JST Exodus 33:20 ) It is thus not unreasonable to speculate that our imperfect pre-mortal natures would have impacted our ability to be in God’s presence as well. In fact, Abraham 3:23 notes that while he dwelt among all the spirits, It only mentions his being able to stand in the midst of the noble and great ones. In any event, LDS theologians like James Talmage have long taught that the requirement for a mediator was someone who was both of God and of Man, and God was unable to cross this gap for whatever reason. I hope this speculation does not become a distraction to the overall post.
17. Many excellent discussions of details regarding the atonement can be read here.
18. This idea borrows heavily from this article by Jacob Morgan, though slightly modified.