Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Opposition in All Things (Part 2)

In yesterday's post, I painted a somewhat bleak picture of the consequences of sin for all men. Today, I continue in 2 Nephi 2 to see how we can be saved from those consequences:
 6  Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
 7  Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

Because the Holy Messiah is full of grace and truth, or power and light, He is able to reverse our trajectory and redeem (save) us from the negative consequence of our choices.  Let me refer for a moment to Newton's laws of motion.  The first law (paraphrased) says that "objects in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by some external force."

Imagine yourself on a frictionless skating pond.  On one end of the pond lies happiness, and at the other end misery. One day, you make a choice that propels you in the direction of misery.  Because the skating pond is frictionless, you will be unable to turn, to steer, or to alter your course in any way.  You have become subject to the law.  The laws of motion have not been broken, nor can they be.  Otherwise they would be called the "guidelines of motion."  You made a choice, and the law simply enforces the consequences of your choice, they same as they would if anyone made the same choice.

Now imagine you have a friend standing on the ice who sees you careening towards misery.  In an effort to save you, your friend reaches out her hand and grabs you. To her surprise, she will find that both of you are now sliding towards misery together.  Without friction, the amount of force that she can apply is very limited.  In fact, any amount of force that she applies to propel you in the direction of happiness will necessarily force her in the direction of misery.  This is Newton's third law. For every force, there must be an equal force in the opposite direction.

You may have heard that Chuck Norris doesn't do push-ups, he pushes the earth down.  Actually, this is half true.  With every bit of force that he pushes down on the earth, the earth pushes back in the opposite direction. Perhaps a better example is two friends on the frictionless skating pond.  If both friends stand still, and then Friend 1 pushes Friend 2, what will happen?  If you said that Friend 2 will go sliding away, you are only half correct.  Let's assume for now that these friends are the same weight.  Even if Friend 1 does all the pushing and Friend 2 does not push back, Friend 1 will be propelled backwards at the same speed that she propelled Friend 2 forward.

Skaters showing Newton's third law

 So what does all of this have to do with 2 Nephi 2? Redemption comes through the Holy Messiah because "he is full of grace and truth," or might I say, full of forward momentum. Christ is so full of grace and truth that he has the power to right our wrongs. He can apply enough saving force to stop our slide towards misery and propel us towards happiness. Of course, being slow to learn we will inevitably make more choices that will cause us to start backsliding, but as many times as we let Him, He has the power to turn us around again.

So how do we take advantage of His 'forward momentum?' By a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  All it takes is for us to recognize that we have made the wrong choice, and to feel regret for our actions.  Once we realize that we have made a mistake, and that no amount of skating, kicking, or flailing is going to fix it, we can ask Him to help us make it right. If we do this, then the law has been satisfied.

The dictionary has many definitions for the word "end," but there is one which I think best fit its usage here. I don't think that it means "the termination of a state or situation," or "death or ruin," because the law is eternal and has no beginning or end. It could mean "a goal or result that one seeks to achieve." However if the law has a goal that it is meant to achieve, it must have been created at some time by someone in order to meet that goal.  That also does not seem possible if the law without beginning or end.  The definition that I think fits best is "the furthest or most extreme points of something."

The laws of motion can not be broken, nor can the eternal laws be broken. If Christ had not sacrificed for our sins, the eternal laws would not be broken. We would be careening towards misery with no hope of redemption because of the law. Thankfully, with Christ as our Mediator and Savior, he can answer the ends of the law on our behalf.


  1. What do you think it means to "answer the ends of the law?" Is it possible for some laws to be "broken?" If so, what does that mean?

    1. That was well said. I agree with what I think you were saying - that Christ answers the ends of the law by fulfilling it to the furthest extremes.

      As for "breaking" laws, I think sometimes we enforce laws that are consistent with our understanding of how things work, but that are not consistent with the way that God works.

      For example, I am not aware of a way to levitate or fly up through my ceiling without some external means of locomotion. Nor can I pass through said ceiling without breaking a hole in it. Moroni did pass through the ceiling and did levitate or fly up (and down, for that matter) when he visited Joseph Smith. I can hypothesize how he might have been able to do some of those things, but I don't know and I have no laws that can account for that. In our perception of the universe, he violated or "broke" several laws. As such, he must be subject to some higher set of laws that allow him to do what he did. It may be that our law is insufficient to describe what he did, and therefore is conditional upon the state in which you live and your perception of things, or it may be that it is not a law at all, but only the best explanation that we can come up with for what goes on around us. But either way, the "laws of the universe", as we understand them, were broken, or at least appear to be.

      I guess my point is this: Laws that we have established may or may not be true laws in all spheres of existence. Furthermore, there may be higher laws and means of acting that supersede the laws as we understand them. Either way, laws can be broken in this manner.

      As for laws that God has established, they are effective in the spheres where he has defined them and those who are subject to them may not break them without consequence, but they may still be broken. I suppose we could get into a discussion of what "those who are not subject to them" could do, but its rather far afield and I'm not sure who or what would fall into that category.


    2. It seems like there may be a few different connotations of "law." Some laws are eternal in scope and apply universally, and others are laws given by way of commandment. I agree that Moroni flew in the face (no pun intended) of what we understand to be the laws of physics, but surely his movements were still governed by some physical law. This law likely has no beginning and no end, and cannot be "broken."

      I remember a funny seminary video that had a lesson that has always stuck with me. You can watch it for yourself if you like, but the part that I have always remembered from it is that laws do not restrict, rather "laws tell us which choice is right, and which choice is wrong." When we make a choice, we are also choosing the consequence that is attached to that choice, whether it is good or bad. In that sense, to "break the law" doesn't necessarily mean that the law has no effect on you, it means that you made a choice with a negative consequence attached, as described by the law. (D&C 130:20-21

  2. What do you think it means to "answer the ends of the law?" Is it possible for some laws to be "broken?" If so, what does that mean?

  3. Nibley says:
    Verse 7: “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends [the set terms] of the law be answered.” This is where you come in, you have to be able to accept this. Merely keeping the law isn’t going to do it. You can keep the set terms and the ends and escape the sentences etc., but this is another thing entirely, you notice, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A court can’t test you on that or anything else like that. They can’t look into your heart; they have to deal with facts, always with facts. Of course, this is silly. “Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth [this great gulf between us and reality], that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God.” That is the question, you see. Standing up in the court and getting cleared by the judge or the jury is one thing. But standing in the presence of God who can see everything, every flaw and everything you have in you, that’s another thing. We would rather have the rocks and the mountains cover us than have to do that. That’s the worst torment we can have—worse than any hell. Anything but that, you see. [People might say], “Give us hell, we can enjoy hell, but don’t let us have to do that.” Well, that’s true. That’s the hardest thing we could do, to be so completely out of place. Hell is a place where you are out of place, where you don’t want to be. But the worst thing about hell is that you belong there, that you are among your own kind, etc.

  4. I struggle on these concepts a little since I only have access to our laws. So my simple understanding gets stuck on the "ceases to be God" quote from Alma regarding the law... But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.


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