Last Sunday, we talked about the general meanings of the words "apostasy" and "restoration", then we talked about how the concepts of apostasy and restoration fit into the concept of atonement. We didn't talk about specific instances of organizational / societal apostasy, and we didn't talk about "The Restoration"; instead, we talked only about the concepts and what they mean at the big picture level.
One of the
students started by defining both terms. He started by asking everyone
how they define the terms. The answers were really good for that age
group, including the example of restoring furniture and antiques by
returning them to their original condition. The student then gave the
definitions he had found, which included both "abandonment" and
"digression / deviation".
I wrote the following on the board:
abandonment, digression/deviation ---> re-establishment, return ---> bringing together, fixing
drew a crude outline of the classic Plan of Salvation picture - the one
with circles for the Pre-Mortal Life, Earth and the Three Degrees of
Glory and lines connecting them. I asked them when apostasy officially
began relative to our lives. Earth was mentioned initially, but we
focused on the War in Heaven and the fact that apostasy didn't occur
when Lucifer proposed a different plan. Rather, it occurred when he
insisted on that plan once Heavenly Father had said, "No, this is what
we will do." I talked about a Ward
Council and how there is no hint of apostasy when people in a council
disagree about solutions to any problem, and not even when people don't
agree with the decision of the council, but only if someone then takes a
different path and tries to implement it
instead of the decision of the council. Thus, apostasy happened
only after Lucifer rebelled and recruited people away from Heavenly
Father and to himself. (I also told them that I like the interpretation
of ancient numerology that believes 1/3 means "an unspecified minority"
and 2/3 means "an unspecified majority" - since, in terms of the War in
Heaven, that interpretation means we can say that some spirits followed
Lucifer, but most followed Heavenly Father and Jehovah.)
then turned to mortality, and I asked when apostasy started here on
earth. The consensus was The Fall, so we talked again about how
apostasy started there only when Adam and Eve chose to follow Lucifer's
plan instead of what God had commanded them - not when they first
questioned the commands. I also told them that I personally view the
story of the Garden of Eden as a figurative retelling of the War in
Heaven and our need to be in mortality where Lucifer was cast, but I
emphasized that I don't really know for sure.
We then talked
about when apostasy first begins for us as individuals. In the sense of
"digression/deviation" that is when we are born - since birth separates
us from God and makes us subject to heredity and all the crap with
which we deal in this life; in the sense of "abandonment" that happens
when we sin, by choosing to do things we know we should do. One is not
our fault, since we simply were accepting God's plan for us; the other
is our fault, since it involves choices we make that are in opposition
to our consciences. Thus, the effects of one (transgressions due to
birth) are covered automatically by the Atonement (2nd Article of
Faith), while the other (sin due to choice) is covered conditionally
upon our effort to repent (change).
We then turned to the concept of Atonement and how it fits more fully into the eternal progression picture.
asked them which plan (Lucifer's or Heavenly Father's) was the best
plan IF, and only if, the ultimate purpose was simply to bring God's
children back to him - to "restore" them merely to their former
condition. It took a little thought, but they all saw that Lucifer's plan was perfect for that purpose.
I then stressed that what I was about to say should not be how they
explain this to other Christians, without substantial background and prior discussion, since it can sound much harsher than I
mean it to be, but the picture of being spirits in the presence of
God praising him forever with no true growth or progression is
Lucifer's plan - precisely. That is exactly what he proposed - and it
was pointless, since that same condition is exactly what we possessed
prior to birth. That plan makes ALL of the pain and suffering and
trials we experience in mortality pointless, and it makes God a sadist
who allows us to suffer terribly for no reason other than to make us
praise him for saving us from what he demanded we do - which is why
Lucifer's plan essentially would have eliminated all of our mistakes in
the first place.
plan, there would have been no need for restoration, since there would
have been no apostasy. Thus, no need for atonement of any kind, if atonement meant merely returning to live with God - if it meant nothing more than "restoration of condition",
like the example of the furniture being restored to its former beauty.
To have any meaning, restoration and atonement need to go beyond that
and include some other kind of condition - which I labeled as "restoration of potential".
mentioned that the promise we were given in the Pre-Mortal existence
was the potential to become like God, not just to live with him.
Apostasy (both the transgressive aspect as a result of the Fall and the
sinful aspect as a result of our choices) thwarts that potential; Jesus
paid for that apostasy through his life, in the Garden and on the Cross;
he restored us to our former condition of purity and empowered us, as a
result, to claim our promised potential. He took care of the
restoration of condition completely on his own, as a gift freely given;
we tackle restoration of potential through taking his yoke upon us,
taking up his cross, etc. and trying to become Christ-like / godly (all aspects of full repentance). He freed us from the debilitating guilt of our human-ness to pursue our potential for godliness
- and we deny the Atonement and accept Lucifer's plan, in a very real
way, when we reject that godly potential - in ourselves and in others.