Tuesday, July 16, 2013


From Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets (1987), 263-265

If the things of this world are all an empty show, "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," what is important? The atonement of Jesus Christ—that is the one supreme reality of our life upon this earth! Men have forgotten about it, I grant you; it sounds strange and unfamiliar in our ears, this joyful news of the redemption—a technical jargon, the quaint survival of a solemn terminology from another day of simpler and more gullible souls, the laboring of a forced and unnatural situation, and so forth—if that is what the atonement has become to this generation, so much the worse for us. Atonement indeed! Of course it has no compelling application in modern life—we have fixed that. The vast and variegated stage setting of the modern world, like that of the ancient, with its impressive props and ingenious effects, is carefully designed to conceal the truth that men haven't the courage to face.

What are we afraid of? What do men fear most? Believe it or not, it is joy. Against joy, society erects its most massive bulwarks. The gospel is a message of terrifying joy. What is the culmination of all joy? To stand in the presence of God and behold his face—we don't need to argue that point. Yet what is the most frightening prospect that mortal man can imagine? Certainly, to stand in the presence of God and behold his face! The presence of Jesus was an unbearable torment to wicked men and devils alike; rather than look upon the face of the Lord, the wicked shall beg the rocks and the mountains to cover them; the Apostles who cheerfully faced death at the hands of devilish men were "sore afraid" at the approach of God the Father on the mountain; and when Moses descended from another mountain, the people fell down in deadly fear at the presence of one who had been talking face to face with God, though Moses himself at an earlier time had "hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God" (Exodus 3:6). It is not hell that men fear most, but heaven. Plainly the joy for which man was created is no light and trivial thing. It has more substance to it than all the rest of our existence. We live here, as many a philosopher has noted, in a shadow world of half-lights and unrealities. Everything in our society conspires to dampen and control joy. Our sordid little pleasures are carefully channeled and commercialized; our pitiful escapes to alcohol and drugs are a plain admission that we will not allow ourselves to have joy in our right senses. Only little children can face up to it—they have no hidden guilt to admonish cautious behavior or make joy appear unseemly. The kingdom of heaven is one of joy, and it is literally true that unless we are as little children we cannot possibly inherit it.

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