The following is a paper I delivered at the 2010 Sperry Symposium on the New Testament.
“God more bounteous” 
At the end of a hard day’s labor in the fields, an old Jewish man walks home alone along a dusty Galilean road. The distant clap of steel and a rising cloud of dust mark the steady approach of a column of Roman mīlitēs, common soldiers. Under the bluing and dusky sky, the laborer quickens his stride so as to arrive home before the Roman soldiers march past. No use, however; as the column passes and dust stings his weary eyes, a soldier trudges alongside the old man. Their glances briefly meet: this Roman is also tired—perhaps more tired, who can say? He throws his impedīmenta to the ground before the old man.
“Pick it up and get going,” he commands bluntly, and the old Jew, muttering a quiet oath against the Roman interlopers, hauls the heavy pack to his bowed and aged shoulder, and struggles to keep up with the soldier for the requisite mile of servitude. “Would that I had lived in the days of Judas Maccabæus, to be saved this humiliation by a Gentile!”
It is a scene that must have played itself out ten thousand times, from Persia to Rome to the ends of the earth, as the conqueror strove to exact the heavy price of maintenance from the conquered. The right of a royal courier, at first, and then even of a common soldier, to enforce a mile’s portage from a subject is well-attested in the ancient empires .
In the midst of one of these ancient empires, in a decadent and conquered Jewry, Jesus Christ was born. In humble circumstances, the long-hoped-for Savior of Israel came not as hoped, but as a Messiah more of plowshares than of swords. To fulfill the law and turn all things upside-down, as expected, he unexpectedly preached the new and everlasting gospel: faith, hope, charity. The raw demand of that gospel is found few places more potent than in the Sermon on the Mount, wherein Jesus made the oppressor cease, stealing the power of humiliation from him forever and placing it firmly in the hands of the meek:
¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: •But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. •And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. •And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. •Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matthew 5:38–42, emphasis added)
Throughout this passage, Jesus Christ recognizes the inexorable imposition of evil, distress, and conflict on our lives. There is no alleviation implied—discipleship does not promise freedom from the daily discomfort of human interaction, because this interaction both hones us for future service and can be so incredibly rewarding, if we endure. Beyond that, Jesus reminds us that the celestial law is not of reprisal, but of forgiveness.
The kernel of this passage is an archetype of Christianity: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matt. 5:41). There is no qualification in the Sermon on the Mount. Whosoever, emphatically anyone, requires of you a mile, you are constrained to go with him or her under the penalty of law. Protestant theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick pointed out our natural reaction that “this [sounds] like [a] gratuitous surrender of a man’s just rights,”  ostensibly validating oppression. The Interpreter’s Bible offers this commentary:
Our imagination recoils before [the teaching of the second mile], and our everyday morality (our speedy recourse to law, for instance, and our ultimate dependence on force) flatly contradicts it. Christ has in mind the injured man. Such a man’s concern for justice is never pure: it is subtly entangled with vindictiveness. Christ warns him against that revenge. Revenge is not sweet, despite the proverb: it is poison, strife breeding strife in endless circle. Has Christ in mind also the man guilty of inflicting injury? … Consider the story of Calvary: he obeyed literally his own precepts. … A literal obedience raises problems in our ambiguous world, but it is better far than the evasion which says, “This is figurative language.” 
In Roman law, there is no escape from the exigence of law without punishment, making this an apt and expansive metaphor for our spiritual rigors and encounters. In a fallen world of war and violence, the proactive service of the second mile enacts forgiveness—a literal obedience to undercut strife. It is the “increase of love” which we are to show when our brother offends us (D&C 121:43). It is the burden of another we bear, not because we are perfect, but because we are not. We snub, we affront, we manipulate, we snap at each other—and yet Jesus commands our response to be not in kind, but in kindness.
We speak too often lightly of “going the second mile,” as if it were a trip to the corner drugstore. There is no casualness in the Sermon on the Mount, and the second mile is a sterner canon than simple service: it is a stumbling-block and a rock of offense, for who would willingly double (or more!) their servitude and subjection? We cast about for escape from the snare of this logic: what must Jesus’ teaching really mean? Somehow submission must lead to freedom, though it be not obvious.
In the second mile, Jesus promises more than a doctrine of winter and harrowing; it is a doctrine of liberty and compassion, fit only for “agents unto themselves” (D&C 58:28). As the second-century Church father Irenæus wrote:
‘And if any one,’ He says, ‘shall compel thee [to go] a mile, go with him twain;’ so that thou mayest not follow him as a slave, but may as a free man go before him, showing thyself in all things kindly disposed and useful to thy neighbour, not regarding their evil intentions, but performing thy kind offices, assimilating thyself to the Father, ‘who maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and unjust.’ (Against Heresies, XIII 3) 
Elsewhere it is revealed that “it is not meet that [the Lord] should command in all things” (D&C 58:26), and we must willingly engage the gospel to have any effect: “if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God” (Moroni 7:8).
We are compelled to go a mile, whether by social mores, ethical injunction, internal conscience, or physical and spiritual law (by which I mean not exclusively the Mosaic law, but the entire ensemble of revealed commandment and covenant). Of this there is no doubt, yet too often we here settle, pitching our tent and hoisting our banner high. We have accomplished the charge given us and fulfilled the requirement of the law. Yet, the clamor of our achievement rings hollow; the bells tolling our victory sound tinny to our ears; there is—dare we say it?—the taste of ash upon our tongue. For all the grim fanfare and accolade that accompanies our self-consolation, do not even the publicans the same?
There is beauty to be had for our ashes. Love must be transformed from passive acceptance into proactive service, love and—yes—suffering, as typified by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. True Christianity consists of “[going] with him twain”—a second mile, freely given, becomes a type and a shadow of the Savior, motivated by absolute love, the charity which “never faileth” (Moroni 7:46). The second mile is freedom in the fullest sense, radically and paradoxically, freedom to transcend one’s birth, station, past, sinfulness.
The parable of the Samaritan
Let us consider one who embraced that freedom and thereby transcended his station.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. •And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. •And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:30–32)
By chance! Rather, “the coincidence of time and circumstance” , or καιρός, the proper time to act (as the power of choice will pass all too quickly). The opportunity to fulfill even the smallest part of their ecclesiastical and moral responsibility presents itself to the rulers of the nation, and they “[pass] by on the other side!”
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, •and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (Luke 10:33¬–34)
This “certain Samaritan,” a member of the despised, broken, bastardized race, unfit to step foot on an inch of Judean soil , contaminator of the very ground upon which he trod, already on a journey, already grimy and weary, dares to inconvenience himself to help a nobody whom the high, the proud, the powers that be, had already passed by as done for. Radically, even subversively, the Samaritan fulfills a moral law that the priest and Levite neglect—in the language of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a “dangerous unselfishness,” he “[projected] the ‘I’ into the ‘thou,’” .
It is morally incumbent to bind up the broken man’s wounds and proclaim charity to him, even to open the doors of the inn for his convalescence. Certainly no less is expected than to comfort those that mourn. Any ethic, any system of moral thought, recognizes that, at least: a type of the first mile.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, “Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” (Luke 10:35)
Yet, to give beauty for ashes—for assuredly, this robbed and beaten Jew is no more than that—to give the oil of joy for his mourning and the garment of praise for his heaviness (see Isaiah 61), requires a further effort than has heretofore been shown. This wayfaring nobody, this Samaritan dog, tremblingly pulls out his purse and promises that the as-yet-unknown future price incurred by the downtrodden Jew—“whatsoever thou spendest more”—will be paid by the Samaritan himself.
The increase over alms which the Samaritan here shows dwarfs the all-too-shallow attempts I make in order to feel “charitable.” Even within the domain of the family, those with whom we interact daily, it can be trying to demonstrate such a level of mercy and care, yet this is the attitude the Savior demands via this parable—to live the Sermon on the Mount in the company of those with whom one is perhaps too comfortable!
The first mile of consolation and compassion complete, the pursuit of the second mile allowed the Samaritan to be then, and ever after, identified by mercy (see Luke 10:36). Without war, protest, or violence, he was enabled to move the world with the long lever of unconditional love.
An assent to suffering
God “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The decision made to come to earth brought to each of us the vicissitudes peculiar to bodily existence in a telestial world. War and famine and pestilence and death will pass around and through and over me, regardless of my spiritual status.
Yet to the litany of pain and distress I already have in my life—or could have, while I am yet speaking (see Job 1:13–21)—I dare to add that of discipleship! Discipleship, the assent to suffering, constitutes a second mile, in which Jesus Christ again snatches the power of death and hell and appropriates it for our salvation.
Neal A. Maxwell suggested that there are three categories of suffering that we will encounter during our sojourn on earth.
Type I. Some things happen to us because of our own mistakes and our own sins, as contrasted with suffering brought on because we are Christian….
Type II. Still other trials and tribulations come to us merely as a part of living…. We are not immunized against all inconvenience and difficulties nor against aging. This type of suffering carries its own real challenges, but we do not feel singled out.
Type III. There is another dimension of suffering, and other challenges that come to us even though we seem to be innocent. These come to us because an omniscient Lord deliberately chooses to school us….
In this paradigm, Types I and II of suffering, brought on by our own mortality and by our own sinfulness, are the common distress of humanity. These afflict us because of our fallen second estate, and cannot be directly alleviated, although all will be set right by Jesus Christ in a future day of restoration. 
The third type of suffering includes that brought on by “choosing to be a disciple and a believer.”  Paradoxically, this offers us the peace of the Lord while at the same time stretching suffering to new, more painful dimensions—the only way for our spiritual muscles to grow.
Although any trial may induce spiritual progress when approached with meekness, there is a further, consecrating element in the specialized tuition of the Lord. Søren Kierkegaard wrote that, “to lose everything and to give up everything … [are not] synonymous. … In other words, if I voluntarily give up everything, choose danger and difficulties, then it is impossible to avoid spiritual trial … which comes with responsibility…. This is specific Christian suffering; it is a whole scale deeper than the ordinary human sufferings.”  This “specific Christian suffering” a loving Heavenly Father administers (or ministers) to us, inasmuch as we have prepared ourselves to submit in all regards to that difficult tutelage, “even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Dag Hammarskjöld reminds us that we cannot afford to maintain the erroneous belief that “in order to educate us, God wishes us [merely] to suffer. How far from this is the assent to suffering when it strikes us because we have obeyed what we have seen to be God’s will.”  Indeed, the Sermon on the Mount impresses upon its hearers and readers the principle of suffering for the sake of the word: “blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matt. 5:11). The response of adequate measure is to “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).
In his brief narration of the mortal life of the Savior, Abinadi took particular note of the assent to suffering Jesus embodied: “the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people…. •Even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:5, 7, emphasis added). The will of the flesh was conquered for the service of the spirit.
To “believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world” (Jacob 1:8) is to accord to the “fellowship of his sufferings” (Phillip. 3:10). We do not incite the “shame of the world”—we do not desire suffering—but neither do we falter and flee because of it. We assent to it as the natural consequence of discipleship, part of the price we may pay in becoming like our Heavenly Father, and still the least part of the leaden price Jesus supplied for our salvation. It is, in any case, part of the price that must be paid to know God.
In a difficult hour Peter wrote to the saints that, “it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3:17). All will suffer; there is nothing to say for it. To “suffer for well doing” can only be the action of a moral agent in the service of the Savior.
The love of Christ implies the suffering of Christ. Thus Bruce C. Hafen: “To love as Christ loves means we will somehow taste suffering ourselves—for the love and the affliction are but two sides of the same coin.”  We will sorrow for the sins of the world, and for the sins of those we love, and for our own sins. We will sorrow for more than sin, as all three categories of suffering afflict us and our families. We will bear burdens and offer comforts for which we have never had the capacity before.
Of course, the mere taking of suffering upon oneself is not the same as discerningly bearing the burdens of those heavy-laden. We run the risk of striving to become like Atlas rather than like Jesus, lifting burdens stoically rather than with the empathy such burdens should evoke. Our activity must invite others to come unto Christ; indeed, without that valiance in Christ, we remain in a terrestrial sphere (ethical, but not excessively so) and are not drawn into the celestial.
The end of all godly sorrow is answered by the Atonement. In a type of this truth, Jesus comforted his disciples,
Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. •A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. •And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:20–22)
The vicissitudes of mortal life are a first mile, compelled and wrested from us. Suffering in and of itself is not salvatory or purgatory, any more than mere death implies resurrection (in the absence of an Atonement). There is no virtue in mere suffering, but only in the meekness that allows the Lord to sanctify the man or woman of God, which sanctification imparts the “joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). The Lord wills to harrow our fallow earth, that we might bring forth abundant harvest. Can we assent to his harrowing?
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
As moral agents, knowing good from evil, we have within our power to choose “liberty and eternal life” over “captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27). The free exercise of our agency to choose the gospel of Jesus Christ renders us susceptible of salvation. However, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The children of God who enter this world consequently owe the “penalty of their transgressions” (D&C 138:59).
We have received the promise that the plan of salvation is not frustrated, but holds provision for our disobedience and subsequent repentance. From before the foundation of the world, One was prepared to show a great light unto those in darkness—most certainly unto all of us, “that dwell in the land of the shadow of death” (Isaiah 9:2). The Savior explains of this “mystery” (D&C 19:8), the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; •but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; •which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink…. (D&C 19:16–18)
Jesus Christ fell to the earth “sore amazed, … very heavy,” even “sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:33–34), before the awful exigence of the price of sin. Strengthened by an angel, he proceeded through the next grim hours, the locus of time and eternity, until through his descent below all things he rose above them: “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19).
The winepress trodden alone in Gethsemane and Golgotha paid the heavy price of the Fall: the law satisfied for the penitent, “as it were [by] great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44); those without accountability redeemed, among “the hosts of the dead, both small and great” (D&C 138:11); and physical death overcome, a quiet garden’s moment (see John 20:16). The Atoning One bore the crushing weight of the Fall, and elevated humanity—and all creation—anew.
Indeed, that the Atonement of Jesus Christ covers sin and death is no new thing—such has been, more or less, the Christian understanding from time immemorial. Jesus Christ bore the requirement of the law, that all will take some advantage of the Resurrection, and those who will may embrace the freely-extended Atonement for sin. Yet, Joseph Smith revealed deeper truth than ever man suspected:
And he [Jesus Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. •And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11–12)
To the consummation of covenantal law, sealed with a simple “send me” æons prior, Jesus Christ added a second mile: “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), He saw fit to furthermore take upon Himself our pain, our sickness, our infirmity.
Jesus Christ as Resurrector voluntarily took upon himself death. As Savior he voluntarily took upon himself sin. In any schema, these were necessary elements for the salvation of a fallen people, a first mile compelled. However, our Atonemaker also elected to take upon himself our infirmities, that he might know how to succor us in them. Succor is a strong word, derived from the Latin succurrĕre, meaning “to run up to or towards.” It denotes the emphatic empathy that is the touchstone’s mark of true Christianity.
Indeed, through these verses of Alma we have in recent years collectively expanded our understanding and vision of what Jesus Christ has accomplished in the Atonement, and why. Just as we strive to gain insight into God through our fledgling discipleship, Jesus has gained the depth of his insight into us through practical experience!
The Atonement fulfills the minimal requirement of the plan of salvation that mortal men and women be rescued from death and hell, but then goes the second mile by touching the full breadth and depth of possible mortal experience for succor’s sake. The deeper requirement—and more glorious triumph!—has too often been forgotten or neglected. At Gethsemane and Golgotha, Jesus Christ set the ultimate example of going the second mile, and succors us beyond what we may view as having been strictly required.
We recognize in the effectual realization of our redemption that, although Jesus Christ fulfilled more than the levied price of sin, no lesser “atonement” would have sufficed. “[Tithes] of mint and anise and cummin” (Matt. 23:23) never suffice. The spare requirement of the law, even fulfilled, cannot exalt—for it is grace that elevates us. What the law enables is less than what grace permits (Romans 3:20–24), and we comprehend how it is said that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life … and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:6, 17).
Legalism tries to perfect the first mile, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel (see Matt. 23:24). As the Pharisees of old it “[looks] beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14), for to expend all one’s energy on the first mile of a longer journey is counterproductive. It is the last mile that will complete the task. Nephi refers to this distinction between mercy and justice in his aphorism that, “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23)—from the “deadness of the law” to “that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:27).
The first mile is a price exacted, often without power to lift us, for all must act alike. The second mile is consecration, the making-sacred of our life and work, single to the glory of God. In total consecration, more than the minimum, ethically required good is performed, and the maximum good is sought.
The Sermon on the Mount does not teach us how to avoid the world, or beat the world at its own game, or hide ourselves away from the world. We are to “resist not evil” (Matt. 5:39), we are to “consider the lilies of the field” (Matt. 6:28), we are to become “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13).
By shockingly referencing the degrading practice of Gentile conquerors, Jesus taught the early disciples (and teaches us) to assent to the world (in the sense of submitting to inflicted evil, not of condoning evil), and to multiply that assent. As the Samaritan defied what the established order had done—or allowed to be done—we are subjected to the fury and disdain of the world as we seek to meaningfully go a second mile in our discipleship. Can we do anything less? “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
And just as surely as we will say to our brother Raca and swear by Jerusalem, take thought for the morrow and disagree with our adversary in the way—just as surely as these—we will be smitten on one cheek, we will be sued at the law for our coat, we will be compelled to go a mile. Our agency determines the nature of that mile: whether the only mile (and thus compelled and resented), or the first of twain (and thus volitional and liberating). All are compelled to go a mile, and all are not saved; go ye therefore twain.
A dusty Galilean road runs alongside the iron rod, two miles long: one from the lonely east marches of Eden to Jordan’s gate, and another thence to the eternal burnings of the tree of life.
 The title is taken from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s translation of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia, Paradiso VII, 115–120: “For God more bounteous was himself to give/To make man able to uplift himself, /Than if he only of himself had pardoned; /And all the other modes were insufficient/For justice, were it not the Son of God/Himself had humbled to become incarnate.”
 “To be compelled to go a mile … refers to the Roman soldier’s custom of obliging the people of a conquered nation to carry his impedimenta. We use the phrase ‘second mile’ to mean working harder than necessary, or being kinder than is expected; but it is much sterner doctrine. We can see in it a legionary saying to a Jew (to Jesus, at the end of a hard day?), ‘Here! Get this on your back and come along!’” (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1979) , 301–302).
 Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Second Mile (International Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association, 1908), 4.
 Buttrick, 302.
 Irenæus, “Against Heresies, XIII 3,” in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 1:477–478.
 “And by chance] κατὰ συγκυρίαν properly means the coincidence of time and circumstance. At the time in which the poor Jew was half dead, through the wounds which he had received, a priest came where he was. So the priest’s coming while the man was in that state is the coincidence marked out by the original words.” (Adam Clarke, The New Testament, A Commentary (New York: Abingdon–Coke Press, 1977), 408¬–409).
 For more on the (unfriendly) relations between the Samaritans and the Jews, see Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 171–173.
 Martin Luther King Jr., “Sermon Delivered April 3, 1968,” in American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King Jr., ed. Michael Warner (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1999), 882.
 Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (Salt Lake City: Desert book Company, 1980), 29–30.
 ibid, 32.
 Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, ed. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 108–109.
 Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, tr. W. H. Auden and Leif Sjöberg (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), 164. Emphasis in original.
 Bruce C. Hafen, “A Disciple’s Journey,” BYU Devotional, February 05, 2008, in BYU Speeches; http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1758&tid=2 (accessed September 13, 2009).