This post grew out of a need to explain my discomfort with the “Parable of the Bicycle”, as well as a complaint from a friend that too often the bloggernacle refers to other older posts and does not leave room for new conversations. Because I do not wish to be critical directly of the faith of others, I have decided not to directly critique the “Parable of the Bicycle” but instead to focus on the Gospel as I understand it, as simply as I am able. In that, Mormon Culture sometimes calls for us to define salvation and exaltation as two different things, I am here asking you not to.
The words saint and sanctity both come from the same Greek root hagioi, meaning to set apart, or make holy, and entails a change of being through choices, experiences, and works. It is a process which requires the free use of agency and defines who we are in relation to God, others, and ourselves. In relation to the atonement, we typically refer to this as sanctification.
This process of sanctification is typically coupled with justification. This is often defined as an instantaneous legalistic act which declares the sinner free of sin due to the goodness of Jesus Christ. It requires no use of agency on our part, as it is Christ freely declaring us free from sin. In fact, justification comes from the Greek dikaioo meaning “to declare righteous”.
These terms, justification and sanctification are not new. Much of the New Testament, and especially the Pauline Epistles, used them often. It is from readings around these two terms that I believe much of the debate regarding faith and works has come into Christianity.
Mormonism itself has a unique view on these terms, in that the day Joseph Smith was commanded to organize his church, he was given instruction regarding them, noting both to be by the grace of God, but that sanctification additionally required action on the part of the person to realize. Also it noted that a person, though justified, was free to depart from the living God and reject his grace.
Perhaps the greatest LDS sermon to focus on this concept was given by current Apostle, D. Todd Christofferson.  He noted the infinite nature of eternal law, and in perhaps the most impactful moment of apostolic exegesis I’ve come across in recent memory, closed the circuit for me on a few thoughts I’ve been fumbling with in regards to the atonement.
Elder Christofferson noted that in this context , D&C 76:4 could be understood as:
“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear [justify] the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness”
Blake Ostler has noted that Christ chooses to live in unity with us, even though, at this time, His unity to us requires that He bear our sins, and these sins cause Him pain. In the scriptures we read that those who are sanctified cannot look upon sin save it is with abhorrence. In that there is no one more holy than God, it is especially true that they would feel this aversion to sinfulness, and yet they bear these sins to be with us and live and love with us. They give up their own good for ours. They do this at no cost, and it requires no choice on our part. Even if we rejected them, they would still choose to come unto us. I propose that this is justification. Though the eternal law of cause and effect notes that sin must cause aversion, the Lord does not turn away, and removes the affects of sin (separation from God) and death (more separation from God) by choosing to step over the brink and come to our aid. He declares us righteous enough to merit his love and aid despite our imperfections.
No payment is required on our part for this aid. This rescue is completely an exercise of the Lord’s free will. Again, we can neither accept nor decline it. It is His act, not ours. I propose this is grace.
However, even though the Divine comes to us, we are not like them, and may even, in our sinfulness, be averse to them. We, being free, must choose them and choose to be like them. This is sometimes called Theosis. Due to the availability of divine guidance via justification to show us what we wish to become, we can repent. We may begin to slowly, imperfectly work to love God as he first loved us. Through this process we call the plan of salvation, and his continued interaction, we may grow to be like he is. Being like he is will make us happy, and this happiness is the object and design of existence. We call this exaltation.
And so that to me, as simply as I can express it, is how the atonement works.
 D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 18