The Fall of Adam brought into the world both physical death, which is the separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26), and spiritual death, separation from God or alienation from the things of God (Alma 12:32). The Atonement of Jesus Christ redeems, or ransoms, us from the effects of the Fall. “Redemption,” Bruce R. McConkie, late Mormon apostle (apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints) taught, is of two kinds: conditional and unconditional” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., Bookcraft, 1966, 623.)
Jesus Christ’s unconditional redemption provides two free gifts to mankind. The first unconditional gift is that all who ever have or ever will live in mortality will be redeemed from physical death through the Resurrection, because Jesus “taste[d] death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). John recorded the Savior’s own testimony that all “shall come forth; they who have done good, in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust (Inspired Version, John 5:29).
Whether just or unjust, all will be raised with an immortal body, never again subject to death or the pains, sicknesses, and fatigues of the mortal body (Alma 11:41-45). I came to appreciate that blessing as a teenager. My father suffered from the effects of diabetes, including the loss of sight in the last two years of his life. Although I experienced a great loss when he died during my senior year in high school, I felt peace knowing his spirit would one day be reunited with a perfect physical body that would be free from the physical afflictions he had suffered in this life. I rejoiced to know his passing had restored his sight and that he could see his family for the first time in more than two years. “Jesus said . . . I am come into this world, that they which see not might see” (John 9:39).
The second unconditional blessing of the Atonement is expressed in our second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Although each of us is certainly influenced by the Fall of Adam (that is, we all experience pain, suffering, sickness, and death), the infinite mercy of Christ prevents us from being punished for Adam’s transgression or the sins of anyone else. We may suffer because of the sins of another, but that suffering does not occur as a punishment imposed by God. For God to punish one person for the sins of another would not be just. John recoded the words of Jesus: “The Father . . . hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22) and “my judgment is just” (John 5:30).
Redemption from physical death is unconditional, but redemption from spiritual death is not. “Conditional redemption,” Bruce McConkie said, “is synonymous with exaltation or eternal life. It comes by the grace of God coupled with good works and includes redemption from the effects of both the temporal and spiritual fall” (Mormon Doctrine, 623). We alienate ourselves from God and die spiritually through sin. And because of sin, John reasoned, all have need of the Atonement (1 John 1:8). John further explained that the Atonement provides redemption from spiritual death upon conditions of repentance and subsequent obedience and makes spiritual rebirth possible (John 3:3-5, 8:51). “If any man sin and repent,” John testified, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (JST, 1 John 2:1-2). . .
The word atonement means literally to reconcile or to set at one–one with God. Jesus, who was one with the Father, mediates a reconciliation between God and whereby we are “brought again into communion with [the Father], and [are] made able to live and advance as a resurrected being in the eternal worlds.” (James E. Talmage in Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, 1965, 315). By so doing, Jesus Christ, the “author and finisher of our faith” answers the ends of the law, thus bringing about our eternal happiness, which is the end or the “object and design of our existence” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976, 255). . .
Conditional repentance requires that we repent fully of all our sins. The repentance that brings complete forgiveness requires suffering. Spencer W. Kimball said: “There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment” The unrepentant sinner must pay the full price of sin (“To Bear the Priesthood Worthily,” Ensign, 1975, 78). . . .
Can the repentant sinner escape suffering entirely, or is he still subject to part of the demands of justice? Can the repentant sinner satisfy the demands of justice by his own suffering, by his own works of repentance?
Do these [verses] mean that a person who repents does not need to suffer at all because the entire punishment is borne by the Savior? [No, they mean] that the person who repents does not need to suffer “even as” the Savior suffered for that sin. Sinners who are repenting will experience some suffering, but, because of their repentance and because of the Atonement, they will not experience the full . . . extent of [suffering] the Savior [did] for that sin. . . . The suffering that impels a transgressor toward repentance is his or her own suffering. Bu the suffering that satisfies the demands of justice for all repented transgressions is the suffering of our Savior and Redeemer. . . . Some transgressors . . . [ask] “Why must I suffer at all? . . . Now that I have said I am sorry, why can’t you just give me mercy and forget about this?” . . . The repentant transgressor must be changed, and the conditions of repentance, including confession and personal suffering, are essential to accomplish that change. To exempt a transgressor from those conditions would deprive him of the change necessary for his salvation” (“What Think Ye of Christ, Ensign, November 1988, 67).