In his April 1988 general conference address, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve said:
"During all of the taunting, the abuse, the scourging, and the final torture of crucifixion, the Lord remained silent and submissive. Except, that is, for one moment of intense drama which reveals the very essence of Christian doctrine."That moment came during the trial. Pilate, now afraid, said to Jesus: `Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?' (John 19:10.)
"One can only imagine the quiet majesty when the Lord spoke. `Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.' (John 19:11.)
"What happened thereafter did not come because Pilate had power to impose it, but because the Lord had the will to accept it. `I lay down my life,' the Lord said, `that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.' (John 10:17-18.)
"Before the Crucifixion and afterward, many men have willingly given their lives in selfless acts of heroism. But none faced what the Christ endured. Upon Him was the burden of all human transgression, all human guilt.
"And hanging in the balance was the Atonement. Through His willing act, mercy and justice could be reconciled, eternal law sustained, and that mediation achieved without which mortal man could not be redeemed."
Elder Packer, further in his address, said he seldom uses the word absolute. "I use it now - twice," he said. "Because of the Fall, the Atonement was absolutely essential for resurrection to proceed and overcome mortal death.
"The Atonement was absolutely essential as the means for men to cleanse themselves from sin and overcome the second death, which is the spiritual death, which is separation from our Father in Heaven. For the scriptures tell us - seven times they tell us - that no unclean thing may enter the presence of God."
Elder Packer said that in mortality men are free to choose, and each choice begets a consequence. The choice Adam made energized the law of justice, which required that the penalty for disobedience would be death. The Redeemer paid the debt and set men free.
Label of traitor's kiss ever linked to Judas' name
In one of the most chilling events recorded, Judas is identified as the apostle who betrayed Jesus.
Some may wonder how a man of such weak character was numbered among the Savior's chosen 12 apostles.
President Ezra Taft Benson explained: "The Lord distinguishes between the Church and its members. . . . During His ministry on earth, the Lord spoke of the gospel net drawing in fish. The good fish, He said, were gathered into vessels, while the bad were cast away. (See Matt. 13:47-50.)
"It is important to realize that while the Church is made up of mortals, no mortal is the Church. Judas, for a period of time, was a member of the Church - in fact, one of its Apostles - but the Church was not Judas.
"The Lord strengthened the faith of the early Apostles by pointing out Judas as a traitor, even before this Apostle had completed his iniquitous work. (See Matt. 26:23-25.) So also in our day the Lord has told us of the tares within the wheat that will eventually be hewn down when they are fully ripe. But until they are hewn down, they will be with us, amongst us." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 88-89.)
In an October 1983 general conference address, Elder Thomas S. Monson, then of the Council of the Twelve, said:
"Matthew records the apparent necessity of that wicked multitude of sinners who would seek after the life of the Lord to conspire with the betrayer Judas, that he might point out to them who of the apostolic group was the Jesus whom they sought. These chilling verses from sacred writ torment the reader: `Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
" `And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
" `And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.' (Matt. 26:48-50.)
"The label of a traitor's kiss had identified the Master. Judas now wore his own label of inescapable shame and revulsion."
Applying the scriptures
When people lie, cheat, defraud or seduce others and lead them into sin, they, in essence, become enemies of God, explained Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve in his April 1982 general conference address.
"Since Christ stands for righteousness in all things, what is our position before Him if we renounce His teachings by our evil acts? Can we say that we are any different from those of His day who turned their backs upon Him and rejected Him?"
"They were so sadly deceived as they walked into tragedy completely blind to the facts - blind even amid the light of heaven which He offered them."
Elder Petersen further said, "The crucifers of Christ were blind when they called down His sacrificial blood upon their own heads and upon the heads of their poor unsuspecting and hapless children. (Matt. 27:25.)
"The traitors from within who helped to bring about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith were very, very blind - oh, so blind!
"Shall we allow selfishness and greed to similarly blind us? Shall we become our own worst enemies by resorting to dishonesty and all that it leads to?"
Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.
Information compiled by Gerry Avant
Sources: Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson; Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, by Boyd K. Packer; and April 1982 and October 1983 general conference reports.