The Atonement of Jesus Christ (second edition)
Kevan Kingsley Clawson
Walking the Line Publications, 2002
At the end of the introduction to this book, the author states:
"All opinions contained in this book are my own and do not necessarily
represent the official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, or other Christian religions. As you will discover,
I have taken a very different view of how the atonement works." (ix)
And he has. He asserts that all the Atonement of Jesus Christ did was
bring to pass the Resurrection. The suffering in Gethsemane served to
cause Him to bleed from every pore so that his body would be rid of His
mortal blood while His immortal power allowed Him to continue to live
until it was time to die on the cross and then be resurrected, making
the Resurrection possible for the rest of us so we could return to the
presence of God to be judged.
Clawson asserts that in that way, Christ redeemed mankind as a whole
from the Fall, but did not suffer for our individual sins.
The author goes on to claim that according to the Law of Justice (which
includes the Law of Mercy and the Law of Damnation, all three of which
he explains), everyone is instantly punished for their own sins as soon
as they commit them, because the Spirit withdraws. As soon as each of
us repents of a sin, we obtain forgiveness, which means that the Spirit
returns. So we are the only ones who suffer for our sins, and as we go
through life, choosing repentance or choosing not to repent, we
determine for ourselves what the Judgment on us will be.
In Doctrine and Covenants 19:16, when Christ talks about His suffering,
"16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they
might not suffer if they would repent;
"17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;"
and He goes on to describe that suffering. If the only consequence of
sin is the withdrawal of the Spirit, then why would those who don't
repent suffer even as He?
The structure of this book is rather confusing, because the author
supports his assertions with quotations from scripture and from general
authorities, past and present, but he puts some of his quotations in the
text itself, some as footnotes, and some as endnotes at the end of each
chapter, as well as including many of them in an appendix at the end of
the book. It is unclear how he decided which quotations to insert,
which to use as footnotes, which to include in the endnotes, and so on.
There seemed no particular method in any of it.
It is in the appendix that the author presents what appears to this
reader to be the main support for the whole argument, when he discusses
"This chapter contains a discourse by Amulek to the Zoramites about
Christ. Many of the statements made by Amulek are misread and
misunderstood when taken independently instead of part of the entire
"'8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things
are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come
among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his
people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord
God hath spoken it.'
"Some would read this as a plain statement that Christ _did_ atone
unconditionally for the personal sins of men. But when taken in context
of the entire discourse, it becomes clear that the term 'sins of the
world' is simply another way to saying 'the fall' or 'the fall of Adam,'
and all the consequences that resulted from that act." (79)
Why anyone would think that Amulek is saying Christ atoned
unconditionally for anyone's sins is beyond me. Amulek, when he argued
with Zeezrom in Alma 11, makes it clear he is not teaching that. But
Clawson uses this to support his assertion that "sins of the world"
doesn't mean "personal sins" but only "the fall of Adam" and that Christ
did not atone for anyone's personal sins, unconditionally or otherwise.
Clawson supports his assertion with another quote from Alma 34:
"He then makes a profound statement:
"'11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which
will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold
will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto
"I think that this was Amulek's way of trying to get people to
understand that Christ would not be punished for the personal sins of
men, because this would clearly be unjust. The atonement was something
totally different from what was commonly being taught, even during his
day and age." (79-80)
Well, Amulek was using that statement to explain why God had to do the
atoning "for the personal sins of men" because no man could do it, as he
says in verse 10, right before the one Clawson quotes:
"10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice;
yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of
fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite
and eternal sacrifice."
Then Amulek goes on in verses 12 through 16 of Alma 34 to make it clear
that this "infinite atonement" and "great and last sacrifice" is not
unconditional, but for "all those who shall believe on his name."
Clawson is the one who is taking Amulek's statements independently and
misreading and misunderstanding them. He goes on to support his
assertion about the atonement and personal sins with further verses from
Alma 34 though there is nothing in those verses that says the atonement
only applies to "the fall of Adam."
In all the quotes, whether footnoted or endnoted or inserted in the
text, the author fails to show a scripture that equates "the sins of the
world" with only "the fall of Adam" and excludes "the personal sins of
men." The author also fails to discuss scripture after scripture that
says that Christ would and did suffer our for personal sins. As a
start, I offer Isaiah 53:4-6, 8, 11, 12; Mosiah 4:2; Alma 7:11-14,
11:40, 22:14, 24:10.
As for a teaching from a current apostle and leader of the Church, I
offer Boyd K. Packer's parable, "The Mediator," which clearly teaches
that Christ's atonement applies to personal sins.
This book is for anyone who wants some other teaching about the
atonement of Jesus Christ than what is taught in the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the author says in his introduction. It
is not particularly helpful for those who want to better understand what
the Church teaches in spite of the quotes from Church leaders and Church
scriptures that Clawson uses throughout the book.