What is an advocate? And what does it mean when we say we need an advocate with our Father? The 2021 Come, Follow Me lessons for Doctrine and Covenants 45 talks about our need for an advocate. This article explores some of what that all means.
We read in many places in the scriptures that Christ is our advocate with the Father. That raises a number of questions in my mind.
- What is an advocate?
- Why do we need someone to act as an advocate for us?
- What is the power or advantage of having an advocate?
- Do we have a responsibility to the person who advocates for us?
Let’s see if we can shed some light on these questions one at a time.
What is an advocate?
Here is one line from the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary for the word advocate. This line struck a chord in me. As a side note, the word literally means “to call.” Voca is Latin for voice. When Christ advocates for us, he literally calls upon God, our Father, to listen to his plea and the reasons for his plea on our behalf. He asks the great lawgiver to grant to him his request on our behalf, and he reasons with God by presenting his earned right to ask what he does for our benefit.
AD’VOCATE, verb transitive To plead in favor of; to defend by argument, before a tribunal; to support or vindicate.
Compare this definition with the following verses in Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5.
3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.
One might be tempted to say this comparison was completely scripted.
- In verse three Christ declares himself to be our advocate to our Father by pleading our cause before him.
- In verse four Jesus says ‘Here are the reasons I have the right to ask what I do for these whom I love.’ These are his arguments for his right to be our advocate. God, our Father, is the lawgiver, the upholder of all eternal justice. Even Christ must appeal to and satisfy the laws of justice in order to offer us mercy. So he must appeal to his Father as the dispenser of justice on our behalf.
- Finally, verse five tells us why he is supporting us and desiring that we be vindicated from the accusations of the law against us. As the only one of all of God’s children who is completely worthy before the law to ask for anything from the lawgiver, he pleads for mercy that we might be spared. By sparing us from the punishments of the law we are able to “come unto [Christ] and have everlasting life.”
The need for an advocate
Doctrine and Covenants 1:31 is a side note given by the Lord in some instructions given to the Saints.
31 For I the Lord cannot look upon with the least degree of allowance;
What does it mean that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance? It means that there can be no tolerance for the sinner. How much God may love the sinner is beside the point. The law is the law, is the law. Any law of God cannot be violated and not have the punishment which was affixed to it when it was created carried out. God’s love for us has nothing to do with the requirement that as the giver of the law (plural) He must also carry out the punishment, as well as the rewards of those same laws. His mercy can only be administered by a third party, since God, Himself, cannot both administer the justice of the law AND grant mercy from the effects of the law. Someone else must step in and do that part. That someone else is Christ.
Here is a series of verses from Alma 42. This is a mini sermon on why even the smallest transgression caused Adam and Eve to be cut off from God’s presence, bringing about the Fall of all humanity, their permanent separation from God. We know this as the spiritual death, our separation from God.
7 And now, ye see by this that our first parents were both temporally and spiritually from the of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own .
Being cut off from the presence of the Lord put us in a state of damnation. We were able to follow our own will because we were already damned, cut off from the presence of God, with no way for us to return to him. It didn’t really make any difference at this point what choices we made, because the damage was already done.
9 Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the had brought upon all mankind a spiritual as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.
I will be referring back to the content of these paragraphs in a moment, but let me just say here that this is where the mission of Christ enters into the picture. It is by he, through whom we are able to obtain mercy from the strict demands of the the law, that we are able to return to God and be saved from our damned or cut off state.
10 Therefore, as they had become , sensual, and devilish, by , this became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.
11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were , being cut off from the presence of the Lord.
14 And thus we see that all mankind were , and they were in the grasp of ; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
The Fall of Adam and Eve brought about the permanent separation of them and all their descendants from God. This was a forever separation. The only way for this to change was to have someone who could satisfy the demands of God’s justice with a payment that would transcend all of time and eternity, so that God could never claim that we were still obliged to pay for something that we did either accidentally or deliberately here in mortality. This is what Christ paid for us in Gethsemane and on the cross. We could not save ourselves from our own misdeeds. Only someone qualified to advocate for us before the throne of God could offer us a reprieve from the punishments of God’s laws. This is why we needed, and will always need an advocate in the eternal courts above.
The power of advocacy
The whole point of advocacy is to plead on behalf of someone else, to plead their cause before a court. Advocacy relies on the principle of vicarious works. One of the most powerful principles of the plan of salvation is the ability of one person to do something for someone else who cannot do it for themself. Literally all the most fundamental parts of the gospel plan rely on this ability allowed by the laws of God.
As examples of the power of vicarious works, and how they fit into the plan of salvation, look no further than the atoning sacrifice of Christ and the work we all do in the temple. We could not pay for our own sins, as we do not have the capacity to do so. God permitted Christ to pay for our sins in our behalf. Yes, there were conditions that even Christ had to live up to and meet, but he was able to, and he did. This is what permits him to advocate for us before the Father of us all.
The second example is temple work. Most of Adam and Eve’s posterity left mortality without any possibility of hearing the gospel or of being able to make the exalting covenants found only in God’s temples. Vicarious work performed by us in the temples of God for our brothers and sisters is what allows them to be able to accept the work we did in their behalf, and continue their spiritual progression towards their own exaltation. This is why the scriptures refer to us as saviors on Mt. Zion, we literally are doing a work for others, similar to the work Christ did for us, that they cannot do for themselves. What a grand privilege it is to go to the temple!
It is specifically because Christ is the only one who was able to live a perfect life, AND pay for sins that did not even belong to him, that he is able now to approach the tribunal of God and plead for our immortal souls. And Christ did not plead on our behalf just once. The scriptures are full of references of Christ pleading with the Father to give mercy to us, though we do not merit that mercy based on our own performance. This is grace. Every time we pray, we approach our Father in prayer and ask in the name of His beloved Son whatever it is we feel we need. It is because the Savior of our souls is constantly pleading our case (advocating for us) before God that God answers our prayers. This is the very reason we are taught in the scriptures that there is no way back to our Father, except through Christ. It is his power of advocating our cause that enables us to be forgiven for our sins and receive the changes in our hearts that make us little by little more like him, more godlike and more Christlike. This is the power of Christ’s advocacy for us with our Father.
Our responsibility to our advocate
Does everyone on the planet have a responsibility, a debt to be paid, to our spiritual advocate? YES! Do we have to honor that debt or fulfill that responsibility? No, we don’t. But remember why we have the advocate given to us from our Father. We have already been cut off from His presence. If we don’t turn to our advocate and demonstrate proper gratitude and reverence for what he continually does for us, we will have to answer for our own sins in the final day of judgment.
We often forget that forgiveness of sins has an expiration date, and that date is the day of our final judgment. Once we reach the pleasing bar of God to be judged for our behavior while away from God’s presence, if we have not taken advantage of Christ’s advocacy on our behalf, we will quickly realize that what could have been a pleasing bar of God is, instead, a very frightening tribunal where we will be held personally accountable for our stubbornness and our all too willingness to follow the enemy of God while we were away from His presence. Instead of a great day of the Lord, it will be the terrible day of the Lord.
Our moral agency, as we currently know it, is on loan for just the duration of this mortal trip. Once we come here we can choose anything we please, but there comes a day when we must answer for those choices. And once that day of reckoning arrives, it is too late to change our mind or recall what we have already chosen to do with our soul. In that day we will face our reward. That reward will determine where we end up for the rest of eternity. Taking advantage of Christ’s mercy today, which is only available because he advocates our cause or repentance and change with our Father in Heaven on an hourly basis, is all that prevents us from being punished by the very laws we break on such a regular basis.
The title of Advocate with the Father is bandied about frequently, but do we really consider what an important role this is? Do we appreciate what it took for Christ to qualify to be our advocate? How deep is our gratitude that we have someone who was so willing to submit himself in all things to the will of the great lawgiver just so he could turn around and offer us God’s mercy on His behalf?
I haven’t answered all the possible questions about advocacy, neither have I asked all the questions that could be asked. I have only scratched the surface of this topic, and I hope it has helped you to feel a greater sense of gratitude to our Savior for what he did for all of us, and what he continues to do as he pleads our cause at the feet of our eternal lawgiver.
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