Christ, Atonement, and Human Possibilities in Mormon Thought
The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism
Oxford University Press
Humans have existed eternally as intelligences in the presence of a Heavenly Father and Mother who created (or adopted) them. Earthly probation and embodiment, entailing sin, are needed to shepherd humans from premortal existence to a life and state like God’s. The atonement is the most important doctrine in Mormon thought. Mormonism denies original sin, but the reality of sin and alienation from God requires a remedy that includes Christ’s death on the cross. Atonement theory must reconcile God’s desire to save all with the sanctity of personal choice. Christ preserves justice, which is another name for a cosmic framework in which choice leads to predictable consequences. His suffering the consequences of human sin, subject to their repentance, safeguards justice, allowing a process that gradually achieves sanctification. Salvation, exaltation, or theosis culminates in a life like God’s, which is principally defined by eternal, loving relationships with a heavenly family.