I’m still primed up from the Mormons-aren’t-Christians claims coming from Pastor Robert Jeffress’ and those who share his views of Christianity. My post Jeffress: Cult—any religious group not Evangelical Christian (Catholics get a backhanded pass) directly responds to his “cult” and “non-Christian” label for people in the Latter-day Saint faith community.
Hence my creation of the page “I Believe in Christ“ found at the top right of this website. There, I set out to generate a summary of my reliance on the merits of Jesus Christ, but it ran way too long. Instead, I’m going to make that page a list of summaries with links to posts I write directly about who I believe Jesus Christ is and what I believe He has done for me and for mankind. These will provide snapshots into my Christianity. I won’t be able to communicate it in full and it will take some time to develop out, but I invite you to follow the process.
This is the first post for the “I Believe in Christ” summary page.
Christ Lived the Holocaust, Literally
I believe that during His Atonement for mankind, Christ lived the experiences of those who both inflicted and endured the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Let me explain.
Unique to Latter-day Saint belief is that Christ not only suffered for the sins of the world, but during His Atonement He experienced everything that came into the world as a result of the Fall of Adam. It is this way He overcomes the fallen world.
Somehow, in some way, in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, He experienced the tragedies of every person who has lived and will ever live. This includes pains, sicknesses, fears, anxieties, desperation, despondency, bereavement, loneliness—everything—that happens, even most often by no fault of the griever.
It is no wonder that He bled at every pore. Luke described Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Why? He lived it so He can comfort people who seek His comfort and meet the demands of justice while extending mercy. This way He is empathetic, not just sympathetic.
An ancient American prophet, Alma, expanded the Latter-day Saint understanding of the Atonement beyond suffering for sin only with these words:
And [Jesus] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).
To my mind, this personalizes the Atonement for me beyond just knowing Christ died for my sins. He knows my heartaches because He lived them that He may know first hand how to comfort me if I seek it. (Then I feel it in my heart when I am comforted by His power.)
Humans are capable of tremendous kindness, but also capable of inexcusable horror.
People of the earth throughout its history have experienced soul wrenching pain. Humans are capable of tremendous kindness, but are also capable of inexcusable horror.
I was in high school when I began to understand, even to a limited degree, the degree and amount of terror throughout the earth’s history. Christ lived each individual person’s pains and sorrows during His Atonement. The Holocaust is especially instructive for me. There are no words to explain what the Nazi Party under Hitler’s lead committed. Terrible events pepper the earth’s timeline, but the Holocaust is what fuels my imagination of the Savior’s suffering for mankind.
This scene from the 1993 Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List depicts the Cracow Ghetto Massacre. The Nazis take a small portion of the ghetto’s population for internment in a labor camp and murder the rest. (Warning: this is really graphic, though I did choose a milder scene from the movie that would still show the travesties of the genocide.)
I believe that during the Atonement, Christ experienced the atrocity each person lived that day and night. During the offering of Himself as a sacrifice, He lived the fear and horror that every individual on the earth has ever felt. The Holocaust, namely the events at Cracow in this instance, was only a small portion of His suffering.
I imagine the victims’ fear, anxiety, uncertainty and helplessness by the hands of the Nazis who dehumanized the Jews to vermin. But it’s not just in my imagination. It was real. Christ living it for each individual person was also real. By suffering these pains and horrors He offers comfort and also is able to overcome the fallen world.
I believe that Christ both lived victims’ atrocities that night and also bore the sins of the inflictors.
Christ, the Son of God, was sinless and guiltless. His whole mortal life, He never took a wrong step, not even a minor one. I cringe at thinking He bore the guilt of what the Nazi soldiers did that night.
This scene from the film (Warning: graphic language and behavior ensues) continues the ghetto’s liquidation. The soldiers hunt hiding people and murder them without conscience.
It shows how bad the Nazis were. It seems like fiction, only it was real.
It grieves me to think that Christ was stained with the sins of these murderers. But He also was stained with my own missteps. Learning of Him changes my heart. Learning of Him diminishes my desire to sin. Learning of Him increases my willingness to receive a greater part of His Atonement.
He has done for me and for mankind more than I can understand. From what I do understand, (by the Holy Ghost through scripture study and prayer) it leads me to faithfulness to Him.
(Latter-day Saint media standards can be found here. I watch fewer and fewer movies and TV shows these days because they often promote a standard of morality that grinds against how I choose to live my life in light of my knowledge of God. However, I do watch movies and read books that portray actual historical events, even if they are graphic and disturbing.)