The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox – Book Notes

Disclaimer: These are my notes and do not represent a balanced summary of the author’s work. I’ve selected portions of the text which were relevant to me and placed them here in my own words, in an abbreviated fashion. Though this article introduces some main ideas from the text, it is bias toward what I felt were ideas of particular importance. This should not be considered a scholarly work, but rather an informal sharing of discovered ideas. I alone am responsible for this article, which I share via my personal non-profit website. -Nate Richardson, editor of RichardsonStudies.com

-They atonement is continuous. We become converted over time.

-Jesus does not just give us eternal life, he gives us the opportunity to progress continually. Otherwise eternal life would be boring.

-The garden of Eden had 2 trees the tree of Life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil these two trees were necessary because they needed to learn how to choose. There needed to be opposition. This life is the real deal, it is not a simulator. The flaming sword protecting the tree of Life was not a sign of God’s wrath, but protected them from getting everlasting life while in their sins.

-The promise of immortality is critical because otherwise we would doing all this work for nothing, or to just start over.

-Elder Bruce C Hafen said Christ will not and cannot save us without effort on our part.

-Elder Neil a Maxwell said the submission of one’s will is really the only unique thing a person has to place on God’s alter.

-Christ does not have everything, he still wants you and me.

-One of the author’s daughters said, “You work hard.” He said “It is how I take care of you.” She said, “I’m sorry, if I wasn’t here you wouldn’t have to work hard.” He said, “Without you my life would be empty, working hard is a small price to pay.”

-When we come to Christ it brings joy to him. When he visited the Nephites and they loved him he said my joy is full. In this way Jesus needs us. Man are that they might have joy, but men are also that they might give Joy.

-The glory of God is intelligence, and we are intelligences, so when we follow him we give him glory.

-If we choose to not follow God he will miss us. where there is attachment and love there is a great risk of pain, but God loves us anyway.

-Through the atonement we can bring Christ joy forever.

-The fall in the garden of Eden was not a mistake. God knew that we would most effectively grow in a telestial world rather than a garden setting. Having a savior is not an afterthought in God’s plan, it is the blueprint of God’s plan.

-The coat of skins in the garden of Eden was the first animal sacrifice, and represented us being covered physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Wearing the garment is a night and day reminder that Jesus Christ has us covered.

-Christ referred to himself as the light. He doesn’t always clear our paths but he does illuminate it.

-The gospel was not given to us to prevent our pain, it was given to heal our pain.

-President packer said we mistakenly think of the atonement as an end of life redemption but in reality that has daily value for us.

-The atonement is not just to help us be resurrected in the end.
It is not just to redeem us in the end.
It is not just a promise eternal togetherness as families.
It is to assistant us in enduring well through life.

-The temple recommend interview states that Jesus is our savior and Redeemer.
This suggests that these two words do not mean the same thing.
He saves us from sin and death but he also redeems us.

-Robert L Millet says when we choose the atonement we choose to be changed.

-The atonement is not just about restoring you to God’s presence otherwise we would have never left his presence in the first place. It’s about changing you so that you feel at home in his presence. It helps you to fill his shoes. To become like him. Not just to go home to heaven, but to feel at home there.

-Being saved by Christ is about getting our sins forgiven, and being redeemed by Christ is about becoming holy.

(Note: This could be why the phrase Holiness to the Lord is the sacred millennial banner. The millennium is a time when we truly become like God.)

-Sacer facere
Latin root words of sacrifice
Sacer is sacred
Facere is to make

-One man said he doesn’t need to go to church because he’s a good person. But whether he’s a good person is not being questioned. He already proved that he is a good person in pre-mortality. This life is about becoming better.

-The Book of Mormon teaches clearly that those without faith in Christ do not have access to the plan of redemption. We can suffer for our own sins and pay the cost of justice, and indeed if we do not use Christ’s help we will have to. But this does not change us. Someone can go to prison and serve their time for a crime and reconcile justice by so doing but yet leave the prison totally unchanged.

(Note: I remember learning of a boy in a residential treatment center who said the therapy did nothing for him but the church did everything. e found a Book of Mormon, read it, and it changed his life.)

We can’t just think that will baptize everyone for the dad and not worry about them all right now. This would, as the Book of Mormon says, send them to meet their God unprepared. Additionally, the refining process of us exerting ourselves to do missionary work is critical to our exaltation.

-Elder Bruce C Hafen said the requirements of the celestial kingdom are simply higher than the laws of Justice. This is why we can’t just pay for our own sins, we have to actually repent. Repentance causes more change than simply paying for the justice debt. Justice is about balance and order, but full rehabilitation can come through a balance of divine help and repentance.

-Just going through a drug rehab doesn’t mean your heart will be changed, you might just go out and do drugs when released. Similarly, even death will not change our attitudes.

(Alma says the same spirit we possess when we go out of this world will possess us through eternity.)

-Elder Dallin H. Oaks said Christ offers us strength to change. To be admitted to God’s presence we don’t just have to be clean, we have to be changed.

-We cannot just pay our debts and then walk into the celestial kingdom. We have to become new creatures, and the atonement is the only way to become a new creature. It is about transforming debtors.

-Privileges in hands of the unprepared can often be curses rather than blessings.

-It’s not enough to be not guilty, you have to become worthy.

-It’s not enough to be saved by grace, you also have to be changed or redeemed by grace.

-We don’t get to heaven on Jesus’ coat tails, rather he changes us until we fit his coat.

-Justification represents clean hands, and sanctification represents a pure heart.

-We need to get rid of our worldly nature and receive a celestial nature.

-There’s no point in God giving us what Jesus has until we learn to live like Jesus lives.

-We are judged by our works not because it pays the debt, but because our works represent a transformation in becoming more like Jesus.

-At the final judgement it will not be people begging Jesus to stay in his presence, but people begging Jesus to leave his presence because they will not be comfortable there. We will be our own judges.

-No unclean thing can enter God’s kingdom, but no unchanged thing will even want to.

-The rich father wants to give his son not only his wealth, but his position and standing among men. In order to do this the son has to learn his father’s ways and gain his father’s characteristics. Only when the son learns the characteristics of the father can the father really give all he has and is to the son.

-Jesus does not only pay our debts, he also pays us in addition. He does not just pull us out of the pit, he lifts us to high ground.

(Note: remember King Benjamin talking about this, how we are always indebted to God, that as we obey him, he blesses us immediately.)

-Don’t just live to see Jesus, eventually everyone will see Jesus. Live so that the countenance of Jesus is seen in you.

-When Jesus changed water into wine it was a divine manifestation that he can change things which seem impossible to change. We should not claim “it’s just the way I am” or “I was born this way.”

-Sheri Dew said theyre is one thing the Lord and Satan having common, they both want us to become like them.

-Jesus chose to become like us so that we can choose to become like him.

-Jesus was the only one both willing and able to save the rest of us.

-The Book of Mormon says the sacrifice of Christ was not a human sacrifice. It’s states that it was instead an eternal and an infinite sacrifice of the son of God.

-The condescension of God was not that he was ordained to save us, but that he chose to do a what he did. He voluntarily went below all things.

-God and Jesus chose to help us because they knew it was the only way, they were and are our only hope.

-Jesus was the only one great enough to become the least.

-When certain non-Christian religions speak of the next life as a happier place as long as we can form to a few standards, they speak like a child who speaks of its parents money without knowing where the money came from. They like a child speak as though you can just go to the bank and get more money when you don’t have enough.

-None of the major world religion starters claimed to be divine except Jesus. Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, Abraham, none of these claimed to be divine. But Jesus both claimed it and backed it up by the way he lived in the miracles he did.

-Even before people learn that no unclean thing can dwell with God, they know that no unclean person can live with their own conscience.

-President Kimball would wake up early and stay up late and accomplished many things throughout the day.

-Christ isn’t life-saving water at the top of a mountain. He comes down the mountain and brings you water so that you can climb to the top and reach the fountain.

-We are not trying to score points to get into heaven, we are trying to become more heavenly.

-It’s not that Jesus helps those who help themselves, it’s that Jesus helps us to help ourselves. Remember the cases of Alma the younger and Saul. They didn’t earn those divine interventions.

(Note: Maybe they earned them in pre-mortality since every blessing is based on a predicated obedience to law. I suppose for that matter that people on this Earth who chose Jesus in the pre-Earth life (which is everyone on this Earth) has the right to some “unearned” blessings. In this sense, mainly the sense that everyone on this Earth is here because they’re being awarded, brother Wilcox’s words are correct.)

-The scriptures make it clear that our works do play a large role in where we end up. This is not because they accumulate points. This is because our works shape us.

-We are not human beings we are not human doings we are human “becomings”

-The original lyrics to the song I am a child of God said teach me all that I must know to live with him (God) someday. President Kimball suggested a change to the words to teach me all that I must do, since knowing is not enough. The author suggests that a better yet lyric might be teach me all that I must be since it is not enough to do.

Some think that going for a lower kingdom will make their lives less complicated, but in reality it won’t.

-CS Lewis said we try to compartmentalize into watertight compartments what we do, and what God does. But that in reality, we are working together with God.

(Note: I’ll always remember a Seventy who taught us in our mission, he often repeated the phrase, “I love working with the Lord, He is so good to work with.”)

-We all make it back to God’s presence. The question is how long do we want to stay there. Our obedience determines that.

-We must be obedient, but not to pay justice, rather to pay Jesus. This makes all the difference. It’s like paying a mortgage rather than rent. Like investing rather than paying debts. Getting someplace rather than walking on a treadmill. Ultimate perfection instead of forever coming up short.

-You don’t have to be perfect. Justice is no longer in charge of us, Jesus is in charge. You just have to be willing to be perfected.

-A mother provides piano lessons for her child. The child does not pay back the mother by practicing, but makes something good of the investment.

(The improvement of the child means more to the parent than the money.)

When the child does not understand why it must practice the piano, it is because it doesn’t have the vision of what can happen if it does.

-CS Lewis said that when we think about how hard it is to do what God has asked us it’s because we don’t have the slightest notion of what tremendous things God intends to make of us.

-We should focus on why Jesus requires things of us rather than what Jesus requires of us.

-As Christ obeyed the father, so must we obey Christ.

-Added perspectives from the restoration concerning the creation fall and atonement:

Creation: The restoration adds perspective to the creation story because we know that there was a pre-mortality so that tells us why God made the Earth – it is because he needed a place for us to come where we can make progress.

Fall: The restoration adds perspective to the Fall in the garden of Eden – it was to set up a probationary state where we could make more progress.

Atonement: The restoration adds perspective to the atonement – we know that there are eternal laws and we know that we have the opportunity to make many attempts of aligning ourselves with God’s will before the final judgement.

-The restoration tells us that there are things that even God cannot do:

he cannot annihilate us,

he cannot break the laws of justice and mercy which coexist with him

he cannot take away our freedom

-God knows that without the law of justice there would be chaos. God must conform therefore to the law of Justice. Without obedience to law, we lose freedom.

-Terryl givens pointed out that if God made exceptions to the law of justice it would make the suffering atonement of Jesus Christ meaningless.

-The Book of Mormon says that the spirit of God is also the spirit of freedom.

-No unclean thing can dwell with God, but no “unfree” thing can either.

-Heavenly Father could not give his life for us because He already had a resurrected body and could not die.

-A hymn says the law was broken Jesus died that justice might be satisfied.

-The blood of Jesus pays Justice and ensures freedom. These things were bought not by man but by God as Jesus is a God.

-Mercy is made possible not by removing justice but by sustaining it.

-The justice of God is also a sign of his love. Even when he destroys a city it is out of love. The people go to the spirit world where they can progress better than they could on the Earth in those conditions.

-God is required to love us. Despite a foreknowledge of our eternity he invests fully in every moment of our lives. His inherent nature is to love us.

-Elder Holland said God the Father and the Son can’t help but bless us, they have to, if we humbly turn to them, for that is their nature.

-Elder Boyd K. Packer said if agency came without the atonement it would have been a fatal gift.

-If the atonement came without love it would have been our fault not our freedom.

-We have hope because we have choice.

-When we know that God’s plan is balanced on love we feel hope instead of discouragement, and security instead of fear.

-Justice is not the enemy, God is not the enemy, we are not the enemy, Satan is the enemy. Satan could not stop the creation, he could not stop the fall, he could not stop the atonement, so now he tries to stop us.

-When people try to find reasons to prove the church false, often they are trying to cover their sins. They think that if they can somehow make God’s kingdom not exist, that they can do whatever they want.

-When people reject God and Christ it is an expression of faithlessness in the human race. It is to say that the human race has very limited potential.

-Studies show that students who leave behavioral rehabilitation centers have success long after the program if they’ve had spiritual experiences and made connections with God.

-The scriptures call for lowliness of heart and humility. This means we must use the atonement to try and escape sin and be comfortable with God rather than trying to escape God and become comfortable with sin.

-A Chinese proverb says identifying the problem is half of the solution.

-Elder M. Russell Ballard said make no mistake about it we know when we are not doing what we ought to do. Everyone is born with conscience the light of Christ and this shows us instinctively what is right and what is wrong related to our personal behavior.

-If you touch of hot stove your instincts tell you to take your hand off so that you don’t get hurt worse. Consider that touching this hot stove is like sinning. When you sin do you say things which are really quite absurd? Let’s compare this to the stove. You could say:

I’m afraid if I take my hand off I won’t be able to keep it off.

I’m only feeling pain because of my Mormon culture.

Just one touch won’t hurt. I deserve this.

I was born with the desire to touch the stove.

It’s my parents fault, they’re the ones who bought the stove.

I just need to adjust to the burning rather than try to overcome it.

I need to become excommunicated so I don’t hurt when I touch the stove.

No one told me touching me stove was bad.

It may hurt but at least I’m touching it with someone I love.

It’s not like it’s totally wrong it’s a gray area.

Everybody else is touching it.

I’ll touch it if I want to it’s my right no one else is going to tell me what to do.

Stove, what stove? I don’t see any stove.

I just don’t care anymore, I’m numb to it.

I know it’s wrong but I will move my hand tomorrow.

You can’t go without touching the stove all the time.

I’ve blown it now I might as well touch it more.

Those who don’t touch are so old fashioned.

At least it’s just my hand and not my whole face.

How will I know it hurts unless I touch it myself.

At least the other stove touchers accept me and don’t judge.

There are others who touch it more than I do.

If God didn’t want me to touch the stove he would not have given me a hand.

-Excuses can’t help us the way God can, and they certainly can’t love us.

-Alma says don’t excuse yourself in the least because of your sins.

-Sin can become an acquired appetite, sometimes even stronger than hunger.

Sin even when wrapped in the tentacles of addiction is always a choice.

President Boyd K. Packer taught that it is contrary to the law of heaven for any soul to be locked into compulsory behavior with no way out.

-The only sins the atonement can’t reach our the unconfessed ones.

Confession makes problems a part of our past, while lying makes them apart of our future.

-Even when we are not fully where we need to be, our worthiness can be defined as honesty with priesthood leaders and working in the right direction.

-2 people can commit the same sin and one be found worthy and the other not. The difference is a repentant attitude, and a willingness to improve.

-Elder Bruce C. Hafen said developing a Christ-like character requires patience and persistence more than it requires flawlessness.

-Our long-term goal is perfection, our short-term goal is progress.

-Mark Twain wrote that habit is habit and is not to be flung out the window by any man, but coaxed down stairs one at a time.

-President Spencer w Kimball said self-mastery is a continual program; it is a journey, not a single start.

-Elder Holland said some blessings from God are freely given and others are earned, but even the earned ones are not completely earned. When we obey God, he gives us blessings greater than what we earned. When someone keeps the commandments of God they are given privileges which are given freely, not technically earned.

-One woman who left the church was asked by the author how she reconciles her current lifestyle with her testimony. She responded that she does not have a testimony and that she never did have one. The author asked you mean to tell me that through all those scripture studies through all those prayers through all those seminary meetings etc. you never felt the spirit? The woman replied that those were just emotions that she made up. The author asked her to hurry up and make them again right now if she’s capable of making them. She said she could not. The author agreed with her that she cannot now, and she could not then! The spirit can’t be manipulated like that. She just needed to remember those feelings and let them lead her back to God.

-Elder McConkie said that sanctification is an ongoing process and we receive it as we overcome the world and become saints in deed as well as in name.

Satan does not have the power to stop us from determining to start again.

-In scripture we learn that not even Christ received a fullness at first but received grace to grace until he had a fullness. We cannot expect our progression to happen faster than Christ’s.

-When we do work in the temple repeatedly we are doing it for someone else. But when we take the sacrament, that ordinance is for us every time. The sacrament is how we receive grace again and again.

-The sacrament prayers speak of our willingness to obey God. We know that we will next week and the next need the sacrament again. We aren’t saying that we’re never going to mess up, we are saying that we’re going to do our best.

-The scripture says we are little children and cannot bare all things now, we must grow in grace.

-We go through various stages of motivation. In the Doctrine and Covenants Joseph Smith is sometimes called a servant, sometimes called a son, and sometimes called a friend. A servant works because he has to, a son works because he is expected to, and a friend works because he wants to.

-The restoration didn’t just bring back rules, it brought back reasons. The scripture says that the commandments were made known to people after the plan of redemption was taught to them.

-Elder Maxwell said when people fall away it is because their perspective shrinks.

Elder Maxwell said he could faithfully endure trials due to having a sense of mission.

-Jesus didn’t merely see the bigger picture, he saw the entire picture. He didn’t just have vision, he had perfect vision. This is what enabled him to do what he did. Pure and perfect infinite love motivated him more than duty or punishment or award.

-Good works are an inevitable outgrowth of faith.

-The important question is not ‘am I saved by grace or works,’ the important question is ‘what motivates my faith, what motivates my works.’

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow speaks of how people who attain greatness did not happen upon it all at once, but that they worked through the night while others slept.

The author would add to this that those who worked through the night were those motivated by love.

-Joseph Smith taught that children who die young will be resurrected into young bodies and be raised to maturity by their parents.

-Even though children cannot sin, it is still necessary for them to have the atonement so that they can learn and grow and develop Christ-like attributes.

-Little children do not need probation, but they do need preparation; and that too is provided by Christ.

Removing the atonement would make us automatically condemned by experience. But with the atonement we are taught by experience.

-President Hinckley said I know life can be discouraging but aren’t you glad it isn’t fun all the time; those valleys of discouragement can make more beautiful the peaks of achievement.

-We remember our past sins so that we learn from them. To erase the memory would do to erase the learning.

-Our experiences, even the painful ones, are like the dark lines in polished marble which make us more beautiful.

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