In the April 1988 general conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer, who now serves as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke about the Atonement. He quoted Alma:
And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.' " (Alma 42:15.)Elder Packer said, "Nephi described what would happen to our bodies and our spirits except an atonement, an infinite atonement, were made. We should, he said, have becomelike unto [the devil].' " (See 2 Ne. 9:7-9).
He explained that the Atonement was "absolutely essential 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 . . . that no unclean thing may enter the presence of God. . . .
"A redeemer was sent to pay the debt and set men free. That was the plan.
"Alma's son Corianton thought it unfair that penalties must follow sin, that there need be punishment. In a profound lesson Alma taught the plan of redemption to his son, and so to us.
"Alma spoke of the Atonement and said, `Now, 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. Consequences, even painful ones, protect us. So simple a thing as a child's cry of pain when his finger touches fire can teach us that. Except for the pain, the child might be consumed.
"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. It may be otherwise with you, but not with me.
"An atonement was made. Ever and always it offers amnesty from transgression and from death if we will but repent. Repentance is the escape clause in it all. Repentance is the key with which we can unlock the prison from inside. We hold that key within our hands, and agency is ours to use it."