3 Nephi 27:14 is one of the more rhetorically clever verses in the Book of Mormon. It features an ironic parallelism that explains the point of the Atonement while emphasizing its apparent absurdity.
And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
The part in bold is what’s so impressive. There are several other passages in scripture that speak of Christ being “lifted up” in crucifixion, and a few of those link that with the salvation of mankind, but this verse uses the phrase “lifted up” twice, first to describe the sacrifice of the life of Jesus Christ, and then to summarize the Father’s ultimate goal of saving mankind.
This is ironic in a couple of ways. For one, the same phrase is used here to mean diametrically opposite things: for Jesus Christ, torture and death; for humanity, exaltation and eternal life.
Second, the juxtaposition of these two essential elements of the Father’s plan highlights the reversal of the natural order: who deserves what here? The perfectly pure and innocent lamb of God is physically “lifted up” to the worst suffering ever endured, “which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain” (D&C 19:18). The lost, fallen, and rebellious children of God, who “cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth” (Mosiah 2:25), however, get to be spiritually “lifted up” with infinite mercy and grace leading to salvation.
Of course, there’s the added irony that the phrase “lifted up” clearly indicates raising something—and, indeed, the verse in question uses it to describe Christ being hung on the cross—but that physical lifting is also part of spiritually “descending below” all things (D&C 88:6, 122:8).
3 Nephi 27:14 therefore successfully shows that the first lifting up was necessary for the second lifting up, despite and because of our unworthiness, but to our unending benefit. There’s a lot of power in that verse.