I remember the other day seeing someone saying that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Then the person backed off from that statement saying something like the atonement changed that.
We have this idea that the atonement changed that fact. But that is not how the atonement works at all.
Here is a verse from D&C 1. It was given long after Christ performed the atonement.
D&C 1:31 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
There we have it. A direct revelation from God long after the atonement was performed. It simply states the obvious because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The atonement did not change an unchangeable God.
When we say the atonement conquered sin, we do not mean it changed the way God views sin. It did not change God. And if we will just look at the next verse in D&C 1 we can see what the atonement actually does do.
D&C 1:32 Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
THAT is what the atonement makes possible: forgiveness of sin. Not just arbitrary forgiveness, but forgiveness on condition of repentance and keeping the commandments. Atonement or no, we are never clean of wrong that we are still in the habit of doing. The atonement ONLY grants forgiveness on the condition that we change.
So the reconciliation between God and man did not change God in any way. Otherwise he would not keep saying he was the same yesterday, today, and forever. The atonement made it possible for man to be forgiven.
I’m horribly afraid that these days we hear that and feel like that just isn’t good enough. We feel underwhelmed to be given forgiveness on condition that we change. We don’t shout “Hosanah!” to hear that. It kind of sounds like work.
In the great depression many couldn’t earn enough to feed, house, and clothe their families. A man might have wept for joy to have discovered that he would have the opportunity to provide for his family.
That is what the atonement opens for us: the ability to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. It opens the ability to press forward diligently holding firmly to the rod of iron. It opens the door to the ability to work our our salvation – and I mean work. It says “I will forgive you if you repent” and because of that it becomes possible for us to be baptized for the remission of sins and thereby, through forgiveness, become worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Are we worthy to walk into the presence of the Father and the Son then? No. If we were, would he not allow us to?
The Holy Ghost is a spirit and can dwell in us. That does not mean he is physically present with each of us. He is a spirit being with a spirit body and that allows us to feel his influence and presence in way that is impossible for us to feel the influence and presence of the Father and the Son in our current state.
D&C 130: 2 The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.
When we are willing to live at the level or righteousness required at baptism, Christ’s atonement offers remission of sins through baptism. That bare minimum level is enough for us to begin enjoying the presence of the Holy Ghost. Through the atonement we are clean of those things we have put aside and that is clean enough for the Holy Ghost to dwell in us in some measure.
But let us not pretend the bare minimum required for baptism is perfection. There is a long ways to go. As we move forward and cast off our sins then through the atonement we can be forgiven of those sins. We then enjoy a greater measure of cleanliness and a greater measure of the Holy Ghost.
And we all experience that. As we live better we feel cleaner and we enjoy the spirit more. But that would be impossible if not for the atonement of Christ which offers forgiveness on condition of repentance. Instead, we would be stuck with the consequences of our sins.