[apologies] To that one kid who told me as a new member…

April 10, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 11:44 am   Category: Life

That Elder Holland had taught that Heavenly Father had hidden in the dark corners of the Universe while Jesus was crucified:


With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.

Yeah, it was 10 years ago, but neener neener neener.

On a more serious note, Elder Holland points to the “aloneness” of Christ as a central component of the atonement, so that he could learn what he needed to know to help us when we are seperated from God by sin, and thus also spiritually alone. 

I can say I felt the spirit very strongly while Elder Holland spoke, but am still thinking through what if any theological implications this may have on the compassionate royal infussion exemplar judge theory of the atonement.  lately, I have sort of been drawn toward this crucifixion being a single instant in an infinite process of atonement where Jesus and Heavenly Father are continually suffering us.  But this aloneness would not be an infinite and eternal aloneness, so there seem to be definite aspects of the atonement which, atleast in terms of time, have a definite beginning and end. 




In 1980, Elder Holland quoted Melvin J. Ballard (see comment #1 below for the quote) here.


Is this a change in doctrine for the church? (doctrine with a lower case d, that is)

In any case, sorry for the neeners, you were right, but things have changed…


  1. It’s from a talk by Melvin J. Ballard:

    In that hour I think I can see our dear Father, behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles until even he could not endure it any longer, and, like the mother who bids farewell to her dying child, has to be taken out of the room, so as not to look upon the last struggles, so he bowed his head, and hid in some part of his universe, his great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for his Son. Oh, in that moment when He might have saved his Son, I thank him and praise him that he did not fail us (Source)

    I notice that they both state it as opinion. Viz., “I think” and “It is my personal belief.”

    Comment by Bryan H. — April 10, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  2. “Thoughts?”

    Just that I agree with you.

    Comment by Clean Cut — April 10, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  3. The English language policewoman would like to remind you that a crucial part of understanding the atonement would be an ability to spell correctly the word “crucifiction.”

    Thank you very much.

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — April 10, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  4. on the compassionate royal infussion exemplar judge theory of the atonement — lol.

    I have to say that the fact you remember little quibbles like this from 10 years ago makes me a little bit nervous. I’m sitting here wondering how many things like this you have in the back of your mind for me. Many neener neeners to come I feel sure.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 10, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  5. Hehe. Adding “fiction” is definitely not an upgrade to the word is it BiV?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 10, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  6. I don’t think anyone can give an adequate explanation for any theory of the atonement where the Son suffers and the Father does not.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  7. If you see the Atonement as a process and not as an event, why is it a problem that “aspects” of the Atonement have a beginning and an end – especially if the effects or results of those aspects continue to linger and repeat within individual lives?

    Comment by Ray — April 10, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  8. without end.

    That should have been included at the end of #7. My fingers got ahead of my brain.

    Comment by Ray — April 10, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  9. The point I am trying to make is that there is no rational explanation for why Christ should do all of the suffering and the Father none of it.

    If you take an absolutist view of omnipotence, there is no conceivable reason why Christ should have to suffer at all for the atonement to be effective.

    If you take a non-absolutist view of the necessity of a suffering atonement, no one can receive any causal benefits of a suffering atonement until the Savior actually starts suffering.

    So we must conclude that either:
    (1) Christ didn’t need to suffer for the atonement to be effective OR
    (2) his suffering has no causal effect OR
    (3) his suffering had no causal effect prior to his death and resurrection OR
    (4) his suffering has causal effect and continues as part of an ongoing process.

    None of those four cases escapes the irrationality of the proposition that the Father lets the Son shoulder all of the burden while he relaxes in eternal bliss.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  10. I absolutely loved the talk.

    Comment by Olivia — April 10, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

  11. As I think Ray was trying to say in #7, even if you did consider the atonement an infinite process, there would be discreet, finite steps in that process. He didn’t suffer in Gethsemane indefinitely and he didn’t stay dead for very long either.

    Wikipedia calls what we hear in Sunday School every week “Empathetic purpose”: Christ suffered so he would know what it felt like. But I never heard anyone say that God withdrew so that he could understand spiritual death. I like it. It makes intuitive sense to me. But logically, it leaves me wondering. If you can assume that Christ had not yet experienced spiritual death because he had not sinned, then couldn’t you say that a child has not either. Does spiritual death suddenly occur on your 8th birthday?

    Obviously not, besides which, I’ve always considered the veil to be the cause of our temporary spiritual death and excessive sin to be the cause of permanent spiritual death. Since I still think that Christ started out life on the same side of the veil as the rest of us, it would have to be that Christ was so much more in tune with the spirit than the rest of us that the effects of the veil were much reduced in his case. Perhaps then the physical/spiritual separation for Christ would have been felt less. Hence, the need to know what the rest of us would experience as/when we sinned.

    Comment by Robert V. — April 10, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  12. Ok, so using Bryan’s quote from #1,, I was able to find where Holland had used it, in 1980 and updated the post, accordingly.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 11, 2009 @ 6:02 am

  13. Mark D., you sum up well the perplexing question of how this finite step would work in an infinite atonement.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 11, 2009 @ 6:06 am

  14. It may be worth keeping in mind that even the way Elder Holland presents his case, it is a demonstrated philosophy of man mingled with scripture. With that said, the scripture on this subject seems a bit deficient and could use a good injection of positive philosophy of man. Thumbs up to Elder Holland’s talk!

    Comment by NorthboundZax — April 11, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  15. At any rate, too often I think it’s us who goes and hides in some dark corner of the universe instead of being their for his atonement…

    Comment by Riley — April 11, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  16. As a son of perdition, i am only recently beginning to realize the size and scope of the atonement. Your truly.

    Comment by dan — April 12, 2009 @ 8:09 am