At the April 1988 general conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of the Savior's willingness to reconcile mercy and justice through the Atonement.
Elder Packer, who is now acting president of the quorum, said that during the taunting, abuse and scourging before the crucifixion, the Savior remained silent and submissive. "Except, that is, for one moment of intense drama which reveals the very essence of Christian doctrine," Elder Packer said.
"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.)
Elder Packer said that what happened thereafter did not come because Pilate had power to impose it, but because the Lord had the will to accept it.
"Before the crucifixion and afterward, many men have willingly given their lives in selfless acts of heroism. But none faced what the Christ endured," Elder Packer said. "Upon Him was the burden of all human transgressions, 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."
By choice, Christ accepted the penalty "for brutality and immorality, perversion, corruption, for addictions, for the killings, and torture and terror; all of it that ever had been or all that ever would be enacted upon this earth."
Elder Packer said that the words atone, atonement and atoneth appear in the Doctrine and Covenants 11 times, in the Pearl of Great Price three times and that hundreds of other verses help to explain the Atonement.
He said that Christ bore the cost of the Atonement without compulsion, as agency is a sovereign principle that was given to Adam and Eve in the garden and to all their posterity.
"The choice Adam made energized the law of justice, which required that the penalty for disobedience would be death," he said, adding that mercy is of equal rank. "A Redeemer was sent to pay the debt and set men free. That was the plan."
Elder Packer referred to Alma's teachings to Corianton that "repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment." (Alma 42:16.)
"If punishment is the price repentance asks, it comes at a bargain price," Elder Packer said. "Consequences, even painful ones, protect us. . . . I readily confess that I would find no peace, neither happiness nor safety in a world without repentance. I do not know what I should do if there were no way for me to erase my mistakes. The agony would be more than I could bear."