Need a Little Help with that Spleen? My Discomfort with the Bicycle Analogy

The bicycle analogy of the Atonement, from Stephen Robinson’s generally praiseworthy and excellent book, Believing Christ, has become well known among Latter-day Saints. I’ve usually just thought of it as a simple way of illustrating one aspect of the mercy of Christ in reaching down to help us overcome our hopeless deficiencies in love (and that’s probably how it was intended), but after hearing it read in detail and emphasized in a recent meeting – during one of those moments when I was paying full attention (couldn’t help it – the speaker was well prepared and gave an excellent talk) – I became uncomfortable with some aspects of the analogy because of what might be misunderstood.

A friend of mine, Walter Reade (named used with permission) approached me after the meeting and expressed concerns similar to mine. Had the girl had been more industrious or had she found a hundred dollar bill or two, she would have been able to get the bike on her own, with no need for mercy from above. But that is nowhere close to our situation. It’s not just that our pennies are numerically short of the price and only get us part way. We are entirely, not just partly, dependent on the Atonement of Christ and His Mercy.

Consider the Resurrection. How much of your body can you resurrect on your own, and how much of it does Christ need to resurrect for you “after all you can do” on your own? Can you handle, say, the legs and the liver on your own, but really need some extra divine help to take care of the spleen, lungs, spine, and cranium? No, we can’t resurrect a single particle on our own. It’s all grace. (And yes, I recognize that a resurrected body may not have a spleen or liver as we know it.)

So how many of your sins can you erase on your own? Can you gain forgiveness for, say, some mild cursing and a few white lies on your own, but need a little extra help to wipe out the time you flushed your sister’s goldfish down the toilet or cheated on your taxes? No, your sins are hopelessly yours, no matter how much fine home teaching you do, no matter how kind you become, unless you accept the gift of grace from the Savior and let Him remove the burden of sin from you.

We have no pennies to contribute to these accounts. The concept of saving up cash and having some kind of difference to be covered is simply inapplicable. We have nothing that can possibly contribute toward the goals of immortality and forgiveness of sin that we seek through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I fear that people might misunderstand some aspects of the Atonement and our relationship to Christ if they take this popular analogy too seriously or too far. I don’t wish to be critical of its outstanding author, but simply wish to note that we need caution in using metaphors. And perhaps we need to rely more heavily on the powerful and beautiful words from the Book of Mormon, which has the most majestic information on the Atonement that you can find, in my opinion.

The bicycle analogy might seem to be consistent with 2 Nephi 25:23, which says that we are saved by grace “after all that we can do.” Doesn’t that mean that grace makes up the difference after we’ve done our part?

Walter made a great point in citing 2 Nephi 10:24 to provide some insight into what Nephi probably meant:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

Even after we are reconciled to God, it is still only through the grace of God that we are saved. It’s not that we can be saved partially by doing our best to become reconciled with God and live his commandments. Even when we are fully reconciled, that doesn’t do it: it’s still the grace of Christ that saves us.

Yes, we must follow Christ. The path of accepting Him and His grace in a covenant relationship calls us and leads us to do all we can to follow and obey, to grow and learn. The gift is offered conditionally, but is not earned, not even partly. Our efforts do not save us in the least – His do. (And yes, I agree with the comment posted below that this is consistent with what Stephen Robinson has been teaching about the Atonement. I certainly agree that his writings represent an important contribution in LDS thought and have touched the lives of many people for good.)

Author: Jeff Lindsay

44 thoughts on “Need a Little Help with that Spleen? My Discomfort with the Bicycle Analogy

  1. I don’t think Brother Robinson would argue with you in the slightest. All analogies break down at some point. Clearly he didn’t imagine any other way for her to make the money in the parable. Robinson was one of the first I encountered to point out that we have no merits on our own. But we do have to do all we can do to come to Him. He can’t save us fully if we are turned from Him.

    Incidentally, I know someone who took a class from him a couple of years ago and said that if he were to go back and write the book again, he’d focus even more on the grace (less on the pennies, even, if you will), so you are most likely preaching to the choir.

    I think it’s valuable to look at the good the parable did for so many. There’s nothing wrong with getting a better understanding of the Atonement as one goes along, but I don’t know that I see the value in analyzing (criticizing) things like this to such a degree. That book changed a lot of people’s lives and gave them significant understanding of what it means to have a Savior. That’s no small thing, and I believe he was inspired to do so. (His book was also recommended by an apostle in a BYU talk, not something that happens often.)

  2. “[Alma 13:11-12] indicates an attitude which is basic to the sanctification we should all be seeking, and thus to the repentance which merits forgiveness. It is that the former transgressor must have reached a ‘point of no return’ to sin where there is not merely a renunciation but also a deep abhorrence of the sin — where the sin becomes most distasteful to him and where the desire or urge to sin is cleared out of his life.” – Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 354

    “What then is the law of justification? It is simply this: ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations (D. & C. 132:7), in which men must abide to be saved and exalted, must be entered into and performed in righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can justify the candidate for salvation in what has been done. (1 Ne. 16:2; Jac. 2:13-14; Alma 41:15; D. & C. 98; 132:1, 62.) An act that is justified by the Spirit is one that is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or in other words, ratified and approved by the Holy Ghost. This law of justification is the provision the Lord has placed in the gospel to assure that no unrighteous performance will be binding on earth and in heaven, and that no person will add to his position or glory in the hereafter by gaining an unearned blessing.” – Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 408. Quoted without last sentence in “Doctrines of the Gospel”

  3. One of the points that bothered me in Robinson’s book is a story he tells about his wife experiencing a sort of spiritual breakdown. As I read it, he assumed that he had the answer to her problem. It struck me as entirely possible that she was on the right path (in a process leading to true discipleship) and that he needed to learn from observing the adjustments that she’d be making down the road.

    But that’s just my take on it.

  4. I would agree with the first post. I had a course from Robinson myself. He doesn’t seem to take the analogy too seriously (he said that he’s tired of hearing about it–and he wrote it!).

    However, I think it depends on what one views the “pennies” as. I personally think of them as repentance. We can all agree that we MUST repent in order to receive the atonement in our lives vis-a-vis personal sanctification.

  5. I read the book last year and am taking a New Testament course from Brother Robinson right now (I’m a BYU student). I’ll ask him about tomorrow in class, and report back!

  6. I have always had a problem with the “…after all we can do…” declaration.

    What defines “all we can do?”

    No matter how much we do, there is always more that can/could be done. By this reasoning, we never actually do all we can do, and therefore never achieve the Grace component.

  7. IMO, Robinson’s book is the most important LDS book of our generation, and should be required reading for all Latter-day Saints.

    Bishop Rick, John Tvedtnes answered that exact question for me once by pointing out that the Book of Mormon explains what “all we can do” is:

    And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain. (Alma 24:11)

    This fits in nicely with the astonishing number of other Book of Mormon references to self-sufficiency of Christ’s grace.

  8. I don’t know that I see the value in analyzing (criticizing) things like this to such a degree.

    I would have no problem with the parable as it stands, EXCEPT that it seems to encourage the line of thinking that “Christ makes up the difference.” (That statement was given as true doctrine over the pulpit yesterday.)

    If I do more good works than Jeff, do I need less of the atonement than he does? Of course not! So, while I understand that all parables break down, this one seems to encourage a line of thinking that incorrect.

    I’ve heard others express this incorrect doctrine as follows: “Salvation is like climbing over a wall. Our ladder is too short, but if we climb to the top of our ladder, Christ will throw down a rope and pull us up the rest of the way.”

  9. This is an interesting conversation. I agree with most of it, but do we not teach that faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and confirmation by the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost is necessary to our salvation?

    I do not believe that these principles and ordinances help us “earn” part of our way back to our Heavenly Father, but qualify us for the Savior’s Atoning power.

    I don’t believe its incorrect to teach that their is effort required on our part, and not just a passive belief, to qualify for the Atonement of Christ.

  10. FOLLOWUP: I just got out of Brother Robinson’s class and I asked him about it. The first thing he noted was that all analogies fall apart at a certain level, and as such, this bicyle analogy does fall apart on the level of the type of unit used to present to the father and pay for the bike. That said, he emphasized that the analogy is a true story the he experienced; his wife was the one to point out the doctrinal illustration of the experience. He summed it up by dismissing any notion that the analogy fails to present the doctrinal concept of the futility of man’s works and the ultimate necessity of the grace of Jesus. The pennies from the little girl were certainly not presented at the register to buy the bike. The father probably accepted the coins, placed them in his pocket, and wrote out a check for the whole bike.

  11. One of the beefs many non-LDS have about LDS beliefs is that they think the LDS doctrine is that man can earn his way to salvation, if not completely, then partly. I think this misunderstanding arises in part because orthodox Christians don’t understand the gradations of salvation that are offered.

    The atonement provides a free pass to the Telestial Kingdom, a kingdom of glory, along with resurrection. No works required. Those who wish to qualify for upgrades may do so by repenting and doing good works, etc. But we LDS frequently gloss over the part about the free pass, because that really isn’t our goal. Perhaps we should be more vocal about it in our public expressions of gratitude.

    By doing good works do we “qualify” for upgrades, or do we “earn” them? I suppose it depends on how you define “earn”. In the strictest sense, humans aren’t really capable of earning anything. But we don’t normally use it that strictly. Nevertheless, I tend to view upgrades more like gifts than payouts.

  12. There must be a better term than earn to use for salvation. Most christians see there are to places to go, heaven or hell. We actually agree on the salvation not earned because that is the telestial Kingdom. It might be better said that we are already saved but we need to work for exaltation.

  13. Hey KC,

    Thanks for the follow-up. I’m very curious . . . would Bro. Robinson agree with the statement that “Christ fills in the difference”? That’s is my sticking point (and not necessarily the correctness of the analogy). If could find out, I’d appreciate it!

  14. Jeff, I am new to your blog. Thanks for letting me jump in for a minute. I am a conservative Baptist pastor living in the great city of Idaho Falls (born and reared here actually).

    I have read Robinson’s book. I have another volume as well, Following Christ.

    Concerning the atonement, may I ask you a question? What is your view on the penal-substitutionary atonement?

  15. In the book, Robinson points out that “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” in 2 N 25:23 should probably be read “we know that is by grace that we are saved, despite all we can do”.

    I don’t have the book with me now, so I can’t give the page or the exact wording, but (if I remember correctly), he emphasized that grace is absolutely required in everyone’s life, and that no matter how much you do (or how many pennies you earn), the price will always be too great for you.

    In fact, as he describes in the opening pages of the book, the price is perfect obedience, 100% of the time. None of us will ever attain that, so we need a mediator.

  16. KC, thanks for the update. I recall from Robinson’s writings that he teaches the Atonement beautifully and naturally emphasizes our hopelessness without God’s grace. My problem is not with his use of the bicycle analogy as a real-life story that sheds some light on the mercy of Christ, but with its popular use among Latter-day Saints, where, as I mentioned, it may be misunderstood. In the hands of some people, it can become the “missing increment satisfaction theory” of the Atonement. As Walter reminds us, the objection is from the concept of Christ “just” making up a finite difference between our works and the standard, as if He wouldn’t really be necessary if we had just done more. No one teaches it that way, that I know of, but my discomfort came from the possibility that even a fine talk using a passage from a great book could be misunderstood. Call me sensitive.

    Say hello to Brother Robinson for me. His efforts to help us better appreciate the Atonement and the need to truly believe Christ and accept His grace have been wonderful contributions.

  17. Todd, thanks much for dropping in. The penal-substitutionary theory of the Atonement, as I understand it, resonates with Isaiah 53 and many passages in the Book of Mormon. I am comfortable with the idea that Christ paid the price of my sins, that he suffered in my place. But just as I am uncomfortable with any analogy of the Atonement that I have encountered so far, I am uncomfortable with the penal-substitution theory because I don’t think it can capture all that the Atonement is. I’ve personally relied on related analogies in trying to teach the Atonement, but like the bicycle analogy, I think they all fall short.

    I am almost daily in awe at the majesty of life on this planet – the intricaices of DNA, of cellular growth, of vision, taste, and so forth. And then there is the issue of the human brain and the nature of self and the human experience. We understand much, but still so little about this mortal life we experience. All our theories about life and human nature are still incomplete and inadequate. How, then, can we feel comfortable with theories about an event that bridges Divine Life with human life, the process of At-one-ment?

    The Atonement is the central act of God’s ongoing work with mankind. It is far more amazing and miraculous than anything we have encountered in biology, chemistry, or astrophysics. It strikes me as too multidimensional to be fit into any one theory or analogy, though I personally think that it is not wildly inconsistent with major aspects of the penal-substitution theory – and with some aspects of competing and equally incomplete theories as well.

    I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying “I don’t know enough to say.”

  18. I am relieved that I cannot, no matter how hard I try, live up to the point where I do not need 100% grace to save me. Most protestants have figured that out too. They make a big deal about baptism being unnecessary since it involvement a little bit of work and if it requires work it does not count anyway. While analogies do break down, lets not come away thinking nothing counts for anything.

  19. Upon reading this, my first thought was — like some others here — of course analogies break down when taken too far. I remember, long before the book came out, Bro. Robinson giving this analogy in the new testament class that I attended. I have come to like it more and more for the simple sweet analogy that it is.

    The topic got me thinking about a baptist preacher that I know. I’ve attended a couple of funeral services that he conducted. Each time he has made a point of emphasising the “saved by grace and not by works” diatribe — and this time he followed by reading scriptures of how we will be judged from the books according to our works — and then he said, “so works do matter.” I wonder if he has ever thought about that before. Of course we’re not saved by our works, but only by “grace” no matter how many good works we do. But there are specific ordinances required for the celestial kingdom.

  20. I actually think there’s no problem with the analogy. In fact this discussion has actually deepened my respect for it precisely because of the “making up the difference” doctrine it can support, because I believe it to be true doctrine. I’ll explain why.

    After several months on my mission, it dawned on me that a lot of my life had been effectively wasted and I had lost time. This made very despondent initially as I felt that meant I was to be everlastingly behind. There was no way I could ever actually keep my covenants once broken (covenants that are offered because we are already fallen and lost).

    I promptly realised that the Atonement not only offers us a covenant through which to be saved, but also the grace to ‘make up the difference’ on our side of that covenant. That’s sort of what the sacrament is all about. We haven’t kept our baptismal covenants fully, only in part, but we promise to keep trying our best and after “all we can do” Christ will support us and so we start again with a new covenant that comprehends all previous ones.

  21. If I do more good works than Jeff, do I need less of the atonement than he does? Of course not! So, while I understand that all parables break down, this one seems to encourage a line of thinking that incorrect.

    Maybe this has been addressed already, but it doesn’t really matter how much you have or “do” on your own…it won’t be enough. This isn’t a competition, and Ronbinson’s point is that Christ has to make up the difference for ALL of us.

  22. p.s…and the difference isn’t just related to what we “can do” — we certainly couldn’t resurrect ourselves or heal the earth. He is our everything, but can only help us fully gain what we hope for (eternal life) if we come to (and stay with) Him in covenant.

  23. I’m interested that this has started up again. Let me restate what I said earlier — the atonement provides a free pass to the Telestial Kingdom, a kingdom of glory, complete with resurrection, no works required.

    By works and ordinances, we “earn” / “qualify” for upgrades.

    Assuming this is correct, I’m curious what others think about the nature and effect of works and ordinances. Some might argue that our works make us what we need to be to endure a higher glory. Others might argue that our works indicate our willingness to be molded into what it takes to endure a higher glory, but that the molding is an act of grace. Any thoughts on these? Is the truth somewhere in between the two extremes? Can works change our natures?

  24. If the atonement only takes us to the telestial kingdom, then what’s so infinite and eternal about it?

    I don’t know of a single scripture that states “it is by works ye are saved, after you have been atoned for.”

    I do know of a scripture that says there is no name under heaven–including our own–by which we can be saved except through Jesus Christ (Mosiah chpt. 3)

  25. What’s eternal and inifinite about the Telestial Kingdom? Try getting there without the atonement. Try resurrecting yourself. And don’t forget, it is a kingdom of glory.

    And if you can’t get to the Telestial Kingdom or be resurrected without the atonement, then you certainly can’t get to the Terrestrial or Celestial kindgoms without the atonement, either.

    Note that I didn’t say “the atonement takes us only to the Telestial Kingdom”. I said it gets us there without works.

    If you want to go beyond the Telestial Kingdom, you need works. The question is, what is the interplay between grace and works for qualifying for the Terrestrial and Celestial kingdoms? Perhaps this is an area where Bro. Robinson’s analogy is more apt than some might have suspected — that is, we provide all the works we are capable of providing, and the atonement makes up the difference.

    In other words, the bicycle analogy builds on top of the foundation of saving grace.

  26. Note that I didn’t say “the atonement takes us only to the Telestial Kingdom”. I said it gets us there without works.

    Alright, I see where you’re at now. I just have a knee-jerk reaction whenver I hear the word “earn” in relationship to eternal salvation. You’re right–the question is the interplay between the grace and works.

    I do still maintain that “all we can do” is repent. I just worry about the attitude of even focusing on good works in the least. I’ve noticed the instant I begin thinking that I’m doing good on my account, I’m corrected in some way. I think that if we view every good “work” in the context of repentance, however, we won’t stray too far off.

  27. I hear you. In the absolute sense, we humans are not capable of earning anything. Especially not salvation.

    The thing about works is this: celestialization is a two-part process. One part is the removal of impurities. The other part is the developing of celestial attributes, most especially charity, the pure love of Christ.

    The effort to repent could be called “works” on our part, the actual forgiveness is most certainly grace. I think grace takes the front seat and works the back seat on this one.

    What about the development of positive attributes? I think serving others helps us develop love for others, but are we really capable of changing our own natures in a significant way, or sufficiently to become celestial? Or does Christ intervene, by virtue of his atonement, and make subtle and incremental changes to us?

  28. I think serving others helps us develop love for others, but are we really capable of changing our own natures in a significant way, or sufficiently to become celestial?

    Absolutely, positively NOT. Read Moroni 7 carefully and it is very, very clear that charity is a gift. Clearly, there are things we need to do so that that gift can be possible in our lives (pray, be true followers), but we can’t truly have charity alone. It’s Christ’s to give to us.

    I agree that all we can do is repent. Repenting means replacing bad choices with good ones, but more deeply, it means turning to Christ and recognizing in all humility that we are NOTHING without Him. I finally realized a few months ago that the reason I get so discouraged about how much charity I don’t have is because I have spent my life trying to develop it on my own. It CANNOT be done. The Spirit is what changes our natures. Read Alma 5: 7, 12-14, 26; Mosiah 5: 2, 7; Alma 19: 33; Hel. 15: 7. A change of heart, a change of nature is something that happens to us (we are recipients, not independent actors); it’s not something that we can bring about ourselves.

    I think it’s hard to pin down how things balance out because works (repentance, obedience) are absolutely essential for eternal life. But an analogy I have been mulling over is this: our works are like plugging a plug into an outlet. We get no light if we don’t plug the light in. We turn to Christ, repent, obey, etc. so we can be “plugged in” to His power and grace. When we sin, and if we stay in our fallen state of sin, then it’s like we have unplugged from our source of Power. Can the cord say ought of itself? Or looking at the analogy a little differently, can the lightbulb that shines take credit for the light? (“Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” (Isa. 10:15))

    All we can do is connect ourselves with Christ’s grace through covenant-making and -keeping, and keep our temples clean so HIS light can shine in us and purify and change us. But we of ourselves have no light alone. Without Him, we are nothing. But with Him, someday we can have and be everything.

    Incidentally, I posted a bit on this a while back here.

  29. Thanks, m&m.

    I wonder a little about the “all we can do is repent” concept. When a person shovels the snow off a neighbor’s driveway, is that repentance? I’m not sure I catch your drift on that.

    I will assert that we need to engage in two processes, and refer to the “not commanded in all things” passage in D&C as backup for the second:

    (1) the elimination of impurities through repentance and obedience, and

    (2) the development of positive attributes (through good works)

    in order to become a Celestial being. I agree about the source of power that accomplishes both the cleansing and the changing of nature. And not forgetting that it is pure grace and nothing but grace that gets us to a position where we can play any part in determining our final destiny.

  30. I would suggest further that anything–ANYTHING–that rids us of a negative trait constitutes a form of repentance. Shoveling the snow can help us develop humility and concern, something we mortals typically don’t have, being the carnal people we are. As a consequence, we are “repenting” (if you wish to use the term) of our undesirable qualities. I much prefer this term than to the term, “works”–if only because of the baggage the word “works” brings with it.

  31. But what about the development of Positive Traits? Does absence of impurity alone qualify one for Celestial glory? If a person has all their defects removed by Christ, will that uncover a perfect Celestial being?

    Think about it as working out for a weight-lifting competition. The exercise causes growth, but not sufficient to make it. Perhaps not even enough to notice. The intervention of Christ, as we work out, acts as the super-steroid that in concert with our exercise will provide the growth we need.

    Or, the exercise and growth could be described as “removing weakness”, hence a form of repentance. (It’s hard to get past the semantics on this topic.)

  32. I’m not sure I catch your drift on that.

    Having just had a storm with snow drifts, that came across as a good pun to me. 😉

    For me it has become helpful to realize that any good works I do come because of changes that have happened in my nature. Yes, those changes imply that I have exercised my agency in some way to choose good, but in the end, I don’t think the choices themselves change me at all, which I think you agree with. (?)

    Repentance to me means more than just going through a checklist of recognition, confession, forsaking, etc., although it is certainly all of that. Repentance is ultimately about turning to Christ, turning my life over to Him. That means I will constantly be seeking to remember Him, to let His Spirit guide my life, and to be humble and meek. I could be shoveling the driveway for my neighbor without charity filling my heart or being the source of motivation if I’m not doing it with coming to the Savior underlying the motivation.

    “The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. [This is more than just renouncing sin!] Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin, and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    (BD entry on “Repentance” — emphasis added.)

    In the end, though, we are probably talking about similar things, just in slightly different ways. There is no way we can sit back and let grace carry us to celestial glory. It takes real effort on our part, but the effort is less about doing works to progress per se and more about bringing us and our hearts and lives closer and closer to Christ, IMO.

    Part of the reason we sometimes get a bad rap with fundamentalists is because we focus a lot on the checklist of things we are to do instead of realizing the purpose of the commandments. It’s all about coming to Christ!

  33. hard to get past the semantics on this topic.

    Indeed. Does that BD entry help? I think it helps to remember that repentance is more than just overcoming weakness. It is also about turning our lives and hearts and characters over to God so He can do His wonderful work on us. 🙂

  34. “If a person has all their defects removed by Christ, will that uncover a perfect Celestial being?

    Certainly. If a person is 99% perfect, they might as well be 1% perfect from Christ’s point of view. If one does not think, talk, and do as Christ would do in EVERY waking moment of every day, then that person is imperfect–at least in any matters pertinent to eternity. If they fail to show self-discipline in magnifying their talents ie not practicing the piano when they should, they technically stand in need of gaining more self-discipline and becoming more like Christ

    (note that we’re speaking of eternal characteristics, not just merely mortal features, like athletic or musical gifts–though even these could be described as magnifying one’s talents).

    The weight-lifting analogy does not quite jive with scripture. As Mosiah 3-5 makes clear, we can profit NOTHING on our own. The atonement is not merely a pick-me-up. It is the ONLY way up AT ALL. If left to our own devices, we might do a little good, but only within our context of mortality. In the eternal scheme, such acts don’t even count as pennies–“filthy rags” are how the Bible describes them.

  35. How about another analogy. The fabrication of integrated circuits can be thought of as comprising two steps (obviously skipping a bunch).

    Step one: remove the impurities from the silicon.

    Step two: lay down the circuitry.

    Repentance can be viewed as the removal of impurities. A slice of silicon with the impurities removed is pretty to look at, but not all that useful without any circuitry.

    I’m okay with the idea that God performs both — he removes the impurities, and he puts down the circuitry, so to speak. Our repentance puts us in a position to have impurities removed, and our good works put us in a position to have strength added to us. Out with the bad, in with the good.

    “But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded … the same is damned.” I’ve left some out, but it sure sounds like it’s important to get out and do good things of our own free will. That’s what I call “works”.

  36. All analogies aside (save those Christ himself uses of course), I’ve often heard the verse cited to support doing works of our own will.

    And of course we ought to use our will to do good. The problem is that the context of the verse must be understood in the way the church was directed at the time of Joseph Smith. A “commandment” almost always meant a direct command from the Prophet. Martin Harris used it in this way, as did others. When we must wait for the prophet to command us to do good things we already know we should be doing, then you’re right–we are not going to be blessed to the same degree.

    In contrast, when we follow the Spirit’s promptings (which themselves are a function of the Atonement–after all, God cannot communicate with man in an impure state. The Spirit thus cleanses us and enables us to receive revelation), we are doing good of our own will. Therefore, it is the Atonement that enables us to receive revelation and therefore do good of our own accord.

  37. Given my understanding of the breadth of what repentance means, I think I could define repentance as both cleaning the chip and laying down the circuitry possible — as repentance is becoming more to me than just getting rid of bad stuff. I suspect we are probably talking about the same thing in slightly different ways. 🙂

    One other thought, though — think also about how we are told that if we don’t do good works for the right reasons. Even works themselves have to have heart behind them, a heart given to and changed by Christ.

    However, I do believe that sometimes doing works for the sake of doing them can be a step in coming to Christ. But, again, I agree ultimately with Walker that our desire for good works comes as a result of our turning our hearts and thoughts to God in some way, which unleashes the power of the Atonement in some way, which changes our hearts to cause us to want to do good works. 🙂

  38. The perspective I’m coming from is that repentance, in the strictest sense, involves thinking about oneself — one’s errors and weaknesses. At some point, you have to forget about yourself and go out and do good stuff. If I spent all day thinking about my weaknesses and errors, I would end up shooting myself 🙂 .

  39. Ah, that helps me understand where you are coming from. So, what did you think about the BD entry, thought, which took repentance far beyond just looking inward. In fact, the definition there talked expressly of repentance being a turning of heart and mind to God. If we think about repentance in that expanded view, that makes scriptures like “preach nothing but repentance” a lot deeper and richer and broader, don’t you think?

  40. I think the BD entry was a cheap shot. If you’re to use that definition of the word, it should include a little trademark symbol (TM) or something — you know, “Repentance(TM)”.

    Just kidding. (This has been a demonstration of how silliness doesn’t work on electronic interchanges, and should thus be avoided.)

    We obviously don’t disagree about anthing. It’s been fun.

    BTW, my final conclusion on the original topic is that Brother Robinson’s analogy is pretty much okay, as long as it is prefaced with “grace carried you over the bottomless pit and beyond the grave and put you in a position where you can think about ‘earning’ a few pennies as a symbolic token of your willingness to submit your will to God” or something to that effect.

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