For me, no testimony found in scripture can project the power of the Savior, Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, and the potential to access His guiding hand in our life more than Jacob’s witness in 2 Nephi 9, a chapter of the Book of Mormon, a record of scripture that chronicles the writings of prophets as witnesses of Christ in the ancient Americas.
As one of such prophets, Jacob spoke of the ability that the Savior’s Atonement– His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, along with His crucifixion and resurrection on the third day– has to guarantee our very own resurrection, as the apostle Paul testified in a letter to the Corinthians when he said, “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Through Adam and Eve’s choice to give into the temptation of eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, we are all privy to physical death. But it is our Savior’s own resurrection which indicates that we, too, have the promise to physically live again since we are not responsible for dying. Without such a physical redemption, our spirits would remain separate from our bodies, no longer to reunite, as the Book of Mormon prophet Alma promised when he spoke to his wayward son, Corianton: “the soul (spirit) shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul… yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost” (Alma 40:23).
Just as we would not have our spirit and body reunite without the Savior’s help, we too would remain in our sins without His willingness to answer the demands of justice by suffering for the times in which we mortals act contrary to the laws of God. Again speaking to Corianton, Alma explained the necessity of appeasing this law of justice when he spoke of its eternal connection with action:
Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was now law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
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?
And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin (Alma 42:17, 19-20).
It is for this very reason that our Savior, chosen to be the sacrifice for all of His own creations, had the love to be willing to bleed from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane. The ancient American prophet King Benjamin taught as much to his people, when he said that Christ’s anguish for “temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue,” let alone sin, would bring about a horrendous reality— something that would kill a typical man with ease. Truly, only “God himself,” as the prophet Abinadi said to a wicked king in Mosiah 15:1 of the Book of Mormon, would be able to accomplish such a task! The creator of the world, the God who led the prophets of the Old Testament, who was sired with godly attributes through the unique virgin conception of his mother, Mary, would have been capable of enduring such pain to the point of death typically thousands of times over, only to survive. The Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane was followed by His agonizing death on the cross, finishing His atonement for us. Christ could not be killed by men, but chose to give His life freely. The Savior’s passing into the world of spirits truly was on his own terms, when He told His Father, “it is finished” (John 19:30).
Understanding that we would forever remain as spirits full of sin is the premise for Jacob’s message to his people, the Nephites, in 2 Nephi 9:
O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
And… we [would] become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.
O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
I can never thank our Savior enough for His perfect love, the only motivation He had to free us from this “awful monster” of physical and spiritual death.
We learn from the New Testament that this God of Israel raised many from the dead, walked on water and established a church in the midst of the political oppression of His people. But there is no doubt that the most important work He accomplished while on earth— and the single action which mankind least understands, in spite of all of the sociological, medical and technological advances that society has made in history— was his success in completing the terrors that beset Him as He freed us from death and gave us the opportunity to receive the blessings of eternal life.
This very passion that was His alone is what we ought to devote ourselves to understanding, at least as these chosen Bible and Book of Mormon prophets did. Though I cannot understand remotely everything about this flawless sacrifice, I can do all possible to comprehend it and only be more prepared to weep at His feet when He returns to earth again to reign over those who have followed Him in truth and sincerity of heart.