Fiona Givens is the author of The Christ Who Heals: How God Restored the Truth that Saves Us. In this podcast, she has a wide-ranging and beautifully enlightening conversation with Laura Hales.
The two cover many topics, including early Eastern and Western Christian theology, early concepts and teachings about the pre-existence, and theological concepts of sin. Two of the more thought-provoking topics covered deal with baptismal covenants, and more importantly, an in-depth discussion about the Atonement.
Fiona Givens mentions that the covenants that we make when we decide to be baptized which are explained in Mosiah 18. She states,
“The first covenant is to carry each other’s burdens; the second is to mourn; and the third is to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I think there would be such strength in covenanting before a community, ‘I covenant that I will carry your burdens; I covenant that I will mourn when you mourn; I covenant that I will comfort you when you stand in need of Comfort.’ I think it’s really interesting that when we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we’re adopted into Christ’s family. Being adopted into Christ’s family is being adopted into the divine family.” (Emphasis added).
Not only are we being adopted into the divine family by making baptismal covenants, but we are making covenants with each member of the Godhead, and each member of the Godhead brings something unique to our new covenant relationship with them.
An interesting insight about our baptismal covenants is that when we make these covenants, each member of the Godhead is participating in the covenant with us. Each member of the godhead brings something distinctive to the baptismal covenant. She continues,
“When we covenant to mourn, the God who mourns is the God who weeps; the God who carries our burdens — especially in Gethsemane and on the cross — is Christ; and the God who comforts is the Holy Spirit. So you have there this beautiful covenant that we are making with the godhead to facilitate healing with each one of us, and that has never been articulated, as far as I know, in any Christian religion. “
Each member of the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, is covenanting with us, and each member of the Godhead is working to heal us.
A second key topic that Fiona Givens discusses is sin as it relates to our concept of the Atonement. She postulates that one of the greatest contributions of the Restoration which was spearheaded by Joseph Smith, Jr. is the focus on the healing aspect of the atonement, rather than the focus being on sin.
Givens puts this idea in almost poetic terms. She says,
“Sin has a tendency to create hierarchies, because you can always find someone who has sinned more greatly than you. Pain and suffering, however, democratize. I don’t think anyone of us would dare to say, ‘My pain is greater than your pain.’ Pain has a tendency to pull us together. If we’re pulled together, we can create Zion — and Zion, at the end of the day, is heaven. That is what we are trying to create, so the emphasis, we think, should be on healing, and we think we find that role model for healing in Christ.”
Givens mentions that Elder Renlund echoes this idea in a conference talk, Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change, where he mentions perhaps the most magnificent aspect of Jesus’ power: our transgressions cause our hearts to be diseased and requires a type of operation – a change of heart; but that change of heart can happen through the Atonement. Shifting the focus from sin to healing is key. Givens continues,
“Yes, we do sin; but we can all attest to the fact that sin is suffering. Sin causes suffering to ourselves, to other people, and then there is the collateral suffering of earthquakes; maniacs who suddenly shoot into a crowd of people at a concert; all of this other stuff over which we have absolutely no control — but it’s the collective suffering of mankind that I believe adds a greater dimension to the Atonement than sin…the Atonement is much more expansive…What is perhaps a principle (aspect) of the Atonement? It is, as Christ exemplified in his life, to heal. It is to heal us of our wounds and our injuries.
Perhaps unique to LDS theology is the idea that God is not meting out punishments for sin; rather, when we sin, there are natural consequences that will follow our actions. God is not trying to punish us, but the consequences of not following the precepts are that we will be injured.
When we crash and burn in the face of our suffering because of our sin, we reach out to him for mercy, strength, and for comfort — and He never says no. He never says no; He never says, ‘You have sinned too greatly; I can no longer help you.’… “There is no sin from which we cannot receive complete forgiveness.” It is this idea of recognizing that Christ is the source not only of our forgiveness but also the healing of what we have done.”
The final thought that Givens leaves with those who listen to this podcast is the idea that the way that Christ heals is through his love.
“This idea of absolute love recurs again and again. ’it is the power of this love that draws us to Him.’— that we can trust in His love, in the power of His love. The power of the Atonement really is that which can atone all of our sins. (God just says) “Keep coming. Keep coming. Keep coming. Keep coming; I’m here.”
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