The Parable of the Pianist

November 10, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 1:55 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Eternal Progression,Theology

I took a class with Stephen Robinson at BYU in the early nineties. I got the feeling I annoyed him a bit. I suspect I might annoy him even more now (if he spends much time on the Web) since my post on why his parable of the bicycle is wrong now shows up as the #4 Google result for the search term “Parable of the Bicycle”. After bashing the parable of the bicycle I felt obligated to try to find a better explanation of what the atonement does for us so I concocted and presented my own parable and called it the parable of the mortgage. The problem was that I was not really satisfied with my alternative either.

Then yesterday in a discussion over at BCC (and after being goaded by my pal John C.) it dawned on me what the problem with both parables was: They both treat exaltation as something we get. I think it is fundamentally misunderstanding exaltation to regard it as a thing that can be bestowed like a bike or a house. Rather, “exalted” is something we become in our very natures, not something that is given like a wonderful Christmas gift.

So here is my latest parable regarding the atonement and exaltation:

The parable of the pianist

A young orphan shows a great talent for music. A wealthy couple, both of whom are world class pianists and teachers, meets the child and loves her and adopts her as their own. From the beginning the child loves music and desires to be like her loving parents (both in character and in musical skills). The parents know the joy they feel from creating great art and desire to share that with the child. But they also know that while they can give her world-class instruments as free gifts they cannot make the girl a great artist; they can only guide, mentor, teach, and encourage her as she struggles and improves and changes. They are always there for her when she needs questions answered, when she needs technique advice, or even when she needs prodding to not slack in her progress toward her goal. Very early on she makes her mind up that the goal is worth her effort and works very hard at it. It takes long hours over many, many years but she slowly becomes better and better. After a long time, and because of the constant mentoring and hard work of the loving parents, she eventually becomes the musical peer of her virtuoso parents. She discovers that reaching her goal to be like her parents not only brings joy in the music, but also brings even greater joy in truly understanding her parents by treading the path they trod to arrive where they are. They know each other in ways non-virtuosos cannot know them — both because of the shared virtuosity and because of the unifying effect the long, arduous journey had on them. She discovers that the greater understanding and intimacy with her parents is a greater reward than the joys the virtuosity brings her.

She decides that she wants to share that joy and intimacy she feels with others.

Epilogue:

This story may look like a works tale, but it is more a tale of grace and free gifts. The parents did give gifts all along – A home, a family, a piano, and most of all love and guidance. But since her goal was not to get free stuff, but to become like her parents, these gifts would have been useless to her achieving her objective unless she chose to work hard enough to become what she had the potential to become. There was only one path to becoming like her parents and that was the path they trod before her.

Interpretation

If it is not clear, the orphan is us; the parents represent God. We orphans show promise when we exercise faith in Christ and repent. We are adopted by Christ when we are baptized into his church. We decide all along if we really want to be like him. He offers us, as a free gift, his guidance, mentoring, love, encouragement, persuasion, and prodding in our journey to become like him. (This is in addition to our lives here on earth to begin with.) But all of these gifts are wasted and our goal of becoming like him will never be reached unless we, like the girl in the parable, make up our mind that the goal is worth it and choose to work very hard to change and improve for a very long time. I believe those that do become like Christ after the long and loving mentoring process will also discover that the unity and relationship with Him and the rest of the Godhead will be the greatest reward of all.

Probable objections

One thing non-Mormon Christians and even some Mormons will object to is the assumption I make that humans really are the equivalent of adopted children of God – that we really are the same species as God. As John C. said yesterday after I roughly sketched out my parable idea:

In other words, we may be given a piano, but we start out as a cat.

Believing that certainly would throw a monkey wrench into my parable. But I don’t believe it. I don’t think our scriptures support it either. Either we are the children of God or we are not. I have long complained that one of the major flaws in the doctrines of creedal Christianity is the implication that we are more like God’s pets than his children. I believe that we really are God’s children, and as such we can grow up to be like him if we tread the path God trod in the eternities to come.

So there you have my latest atonement-related parable (which may really be more of an exaltation-parable discussing the atonement actually). I like this one better than my last attempt. What do you think?

89 Comments »

  1. I like it. But I’m still left wondering what exactly Christ was doing in Gethsemane. If he is just leading us, guiding us, he could still do that without going through whatever it was that happened there. Christ, after all, was already a virtuoso before entering Gethsemane.

    Comment by Eric Russell — November 10, 2005 @ 5:16 pm

  2. While I think it erroneous to treat exaltation as a thing we are given, and agree it is something we become, it is still a gift.

    Comment by Clark — November 10, 2005 @ 5:18 pm

  3. “(which may really be more of an exaltation-parable discussing the atonement actually).” Well put, well said. I too believe we are the literal children of God and came become like Him. Geoff, this parable is good enough I may have to steal it and use it as my own (no, I’ll give credit where credit is due), but I will steal it…thanks

    Comment by don — November 10, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

  4. Eric (and Clark),

    Well I forgot to mention in the analogy how much those lessons would normally cost had they not been given as a gift… Let’s just say it is a LOT. Plus in the analogy the teacher buys the piano out of pocket for us. So between a top of the line grand piano and expensive on-call lessons forever, there is a lot to be paid for. Perhaps we can analogously call the payment in Gethsemane the way that Christ paid for our opportunity and ongoing lessons so we didn’t have to pay for ourselves. (Indeed I would say they are so valuable and expensive that we could never pay for them. Were it not for the gift from the master we could never have them – and thus we could never become like the master without the gifts.)

    Don- Thanks. I’m sure it will mean a lot when to your class to learn who you got the idea from ;-)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 10, 2005 @ 5:27 pm

  5. Clark,

    I should add that while we could call exaltation “a gift” (see #4) doing so is too imprecise for my tastes. I think it perpetuates false notions about the nature of exaltation.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 10, 2005 @ 7:03 pm

  6. Actually, not a cat, a cricket. :razz:

    There is also the issue with the atonement mediating a change within us. Your analogy suggests that the change is due to our effort and the skill of the instructor. In such an analogy no expiation is required. I believe that the atonement is required for change, not just to subsidize the price of entry.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 10, 2005 @ 10:45 pm

  7. Very nice, Geoff.

    Comment by Bob Caswell — November 10, 2005 @ 10:52 pm

  8. I really like your analogy. In response to what happened in the garden with the atonement, I think this has to do with being able to provide a perfect judgement. Some of us may do our best to become the perfect piano player but may not quite have the talent for it (small hands, lack of dexterity etc.) even though we literally did the best we could. I would like to quote one of my favorite scriptures about this aspect of the atonement:

    And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary….And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgement might come upon the children of men. (Mosiah 3:7-10)

    You analogy is one of the better that I have heard.

    Comment by OOOOOT — November 11, 2005 @ 6:51 am

  9. Good job, Geoff. Your point about Christianity viewing us as God’s pets is perfect — that’s exactly how they explain our relationship with God.

    Borrowing on your parable of the Pianist, we could compare exaltation to winning an athletic event that requires persistent effort and training on our part, like the high jump. The catch is that all of us are born lame, and can only train because of the mercies of the surgeon who corrected our legs. The surgeon also offers to coach and sponsor our training, providing free of charge perfect instruction, food, living quarters, training facilities and, most important, loving encouragement, but despite endless gifts, it is still true that becoming an exceptional high jumper cannot be given. He gives us the opportunity to become one.

    Comment by Matt Evans — November 11, 2005 @ 7:31 am

  10. Thanks Bob.

    J. – I was wondering when you were going to revive the “chirp, chirp” quips. I set you up so well and you had me worried for a minute!

    There is also the issue with the atonement mediating a change within us.

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. I suspect though that you may be attributing some things to the atonement incorrectly. There is no doubt in my mind that we change. My post yesterday was all about fundamental changes that occur with our spirits/intelligences. But I don’t think the atonement is specifically what causes those changes. Rather, I think the atonement provides the underlying playing field whereon such changes can occur. I think actual change to our spirits/intelligences comes when greater light and truth is added (or subtracted). I think that adding specifically happens when the Holy Ghost sears truths into our souls and we become “new creatures” as the scriptures describe.

    Again, none of that could take place without the atonement underlying and enabling that repentance and soul-changing light and truth from God, but I think it is imprecise to say the atonement specifically does the changing of our intelligences.

    The expiation (payment) in the analogy is Christ paying the price for the freely given adoption and mentoring (lessons). The process is all about helping and encouraging us in the journey to be “at one” with him. The at-one-ment only happens when we follow Christ’s commandment to “come, follow me” all the way.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 8:30 am

  11. Geoff, I really like this way of thinking about our eternal progression. I do think Eric has a good point about the Atonement, though. I’m not sure it can explained away just by saying that all these gifts were REALLY EXPENSIVE. As an orphan, we could find out our long lost parents were incredibly wealthy, or we could even go into some new business/stock enterprise and get wealthy ourselves and pay for the whole thing. True, those scenarios are extremely unlikely, but isn’t the point of the Atonement that without Christ it would be impossible, not just unlikely, to progress?

    Even though that question lingers in my mind, though, I still think this is among the best parables of exaltation I’ve heard.

    Comment by Logan — November 11, 2005 @ 8:36 am

  12. OOOT – Thanks. Good additions with the comments on perfect judgment too.

    Matt – Excellent variation on the theme! I like some aspects of your variation even better than mine (that we started lame but part o the gift includes the surgery is a very nice touch.) We are definitely on the same page with this. I am very pleased in the way this approach describes the way that our exaltation could both be a gift and require our total dedication and effort. My hope was that such an approach could help resolve some of the traditional grace-works debate among us Mormons at least.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 8:42 am

  13. Thanks Logan. I think you and Eric have a good point. I just read Matt’s variation on the theme and I suspect that it does a better job of describing the payment aspect of the atonement than my pianist version does. In his version we start off lame and need corrective surgery in our quest to become an olympic athlete like our loving benefactor. I think that surgery part of his analogy tracks well with traditional payment aspect we think of in Gethsame.

    I understand that both analogies could break when pushed too far. Whether we are orphans or in need of surgery things could break down if we imagine reaching the goals without the benefactor. I guess I’ll have to put a caveat in the concept somewhere to make it more clear that there is no other way to reaching the goal.

    Last, I think we might traditionally put too much emphasis on the single payment aspect of the atonement and not enough on the free room and board, constant training, guidance, and love that is the ongoing portion of Christ’s work. I think the ongoing parts of Christ’s work do as much or more than the single (and crucial) garden payment to allow us to become at one with him and the Godhead.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 8:58 am

  14. As you might guess, Geoff, I completely agree with these thoughts.

    Comment by Ryan Bell — November 11, 2005 @ 9:13 am

  15. Geoff,

    My example of a high jumper was trying to respond to the critiques of Eric, Logan and J., as I think everyone understands that it would be impossible for someone in a wheelchair cannot be a great high jumper, and it’s similarly intuitive that we aren’t able to operate on ourselves.

    Maybe an analogy would work better if it were clearer that supernatural intervention were necessary. (Surgery is done by mortals). So maybe the defect should be blindness, since doctors can’t cure it now, and exaltation being a master painter. I think you’re most important contribution is rejecting the comparison of exaltation to a material object, instead insisting that it’s more like a skill (something valuable that can’t be given). Salvation is a gift — we all get the surgery — but exaltation has to be learned.

    Comment by Matt Evans — November 11, 2005 @ 9:33 am

  16. So Geoff, from your perspective was the atonement for Jesus’s sake and not ours?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 11, 2005 @ 9:44 am

  17. I think this analagy is superior to the Debtor/Creditor analogy of Boyd K. Packer. One of my problems with the debtor/creditor is the question of who is the original creditor that Christ pays off in order to provide the possibility of exaltation for the debtor?

    Is it Heavenly Father? I have a problem with this answer. Does God say – someone broke eternal laws, so somebody must suffer? I don’t care who suffers, as long as there is suffering.

    Is it Satan? By sinning do we become a hostage of Satan who demands a ransom from someone in order to free us? I don’t much like this either because it in a way puts Satan over Christ.

    This type of analogy is much better, great insight for me.

    Comment by OOOOOT — November 11, 2005 @ 9:56 am

  18. Matt – I think your adjustment to the theme worked well to better explain the payment concept. But I suspect we couldn’t bring supernatural aspects into the parable without causing it to collapse — the loving parents/mentor/master already represents God after all. We are probably better off trying to caveat the story by making it clear that there is only one path to become what the orphan/cripple wants to become and that is by accepting the loving gifts offered.

    I think you are right that the primary benefit of the overall approach is refusing to compare exaltation to a thing but rather calling it a condition or state of being. In any case, brainstorming it out has been fun. I like the parable. Too bad only a small number of people will get to hear it. (It is hard for the Thang to compete with Robinson’s best seller and all.. ;-) )

    J. – I’m afraid you lost me with that last comment (#16). What are you talking about? It seems foreign to the parable I gave and the discussion so far…

    OOOT – I’m glad the analogy is working for you too. I think there are real benefits to thinking of exaltation as a state of being.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 10:35 am

  19. I’ve always assumed that at least part of the reason Christ took that suffering upon himself was so he could judge righteously, having “descended below all things”.

    Comment by Mark IV — November 11, 2005 @ 10:47 am

  20. Geoff, thanks this whole discussion has been very insightful. Actually I have quoted you before in class…(using you as a reference gives more credibility than just “Brother Clifton” saying someting) pretty soon the class will think you are some important smart guy!

    Comment by don — November 11, 2005 @ 11:30 am

  21. I much prefer the parable of the bicycle, or better yet, the parable of the debtor — as really and simply illustrating the atonement.

    Comment by Zerin Hood — November 11, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

  22. As I read it Geoff, the atonement doesn’t fit anywhere in the analogy. God doesn’t need the atonement to teach piano.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 11, 2005 @ 1:31 pm

  23. J.,

    The entire parable describes the atonement. It describes process by which God helps us become “at one” with him and that is the definition of atonement. In other words, God teaching us to be like him and freely providing the means, support, encouragement for us while also paying for our long schooling process is the atonement.

    I suspect you are thinking that the atonement was exclusively accomplished in the garden of Gethsemane (and possibly on the cross as well). I dispute that notion. Those were clearly the necessary culmination of Christ’s payment for us, but they are not the entire atonement. The entire atonement, by definition, must include the whole process that leads to us becoming “at one” with him.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 1:47 pm

  24. I think part of where the atonement comes in this analogy is that to become like the master piano teacher we will utimately need to have some major physical changes/improvements which will only fully come in the resurrection. In order to qualify for the highest of these physical changes and become as the master teacher we will need to be judged worthy by him. His experience in the garden enables him to be that judge. I think.

    Comment by OOOOOT — November 11, 2005 @ 2:54 pm

  25. I am a newcomer here, and I really liked the parable of the piano, and comments on the bicycle.

    I just finished with a listserv/blog session on an issue of grace, and think I may have learned something. My question going in was: Why do Mormons seem to bring up this grace business more these days, Robinson being a big example? Here is my current short answer to the question.

    The Robinson bicycle parable is a nice way to teach some basic gospel principles to a 6-year old, but it leaves a lot lacking for religiously mature adults, who need and want a more complex message.

    If you are a televangelist, and you have to assume that your audience is made up of religiously immature people, you need to start at the lowest possible level. And you need to give them a “free introductory offer” to get their attention and get them involved – to tempt them in by the promise of free salvation. So teach the golden rule (proper behavior) and grace (free salvation for all), and you have covered the waterfront on the minimum gospel issues.

    Perhaps Mormons are starting to act like protestants for the same reasons that protestants act like protestants. If you are a missionary church and want to spread quickly, you might want to try watering down/simplifying your message to catch a wider audience.

    The difficulty comes in confusing the more mature members. From the new focus on grace, are they to conclude that their more complex understanding of the salvation process should be thrown out as an unnecessary conceit?

    Comment by Kent — November 11, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

  26. Interesting point OOOT. I think the analogy is supposed to take place over an eternity of sorts so like any analogy it would fail when stretched too far (like adding a resurrection to the analogy). This physical limitation thing you mention is best dealt with with Matt’s variation on the theme where we are crippled at first but we are healed by our benefactor too. I think the strength of the musical virtuoso variation is that age concerns come into play much less. Musical virtuosos can remain in top form until very late in life whereas athletes go into athletic decline at relatively young ages. I think I might add that the orphan child is also physically disabled (say needing surgery for her hands) and that the parents also get her the surgery she needs (or are also surgeons themselves) to get her healed up as part of paying the price for her to be like them. That might help with the “payment” complaint some have expressed here.

    Again, no analogy can withstand over-stretching, but I like to consider these sorts of things when choosing the analogy because of the subtle messages they often include.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 4:29 pm

  27. Welcome Kent.

    First, are you talking about the ongoing discussion at LDS-Phil? I have sort of been following and considered pointing this post out but thought it might be too cheesy to link to myself there.

    That is an interesting theory of why Brother Robinson used his analogy. I find it a little hard to buy though because I think he sincerely believes his parable accurately captures what the atonement does for us. I think it is relatively close, but fundamentally fails by treating exaltation as a thing that can be given as a gift after all of our effort in one probationary state. I think one must come to such a conclusion if one believes that chances for spiritual progression end after this life.

    But when we are open to the idea that we can continue to improve and progress for all eternity if we choose to, then we have new possiblilties open to us, like this parable I have presented. (This idea that progression doesn’t end after this life is a key to making my parable work after all… )

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 4:40 pm

  28. Geoff, I am preparing a proper response. It will probably be a post at my site next week (as it will likely be long). That said, as I am your inspiration (*blush*) I feel like I should start in on some aspects of it now.

    How does the following pithy statement fit into this parable?

    Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (Matt 6:27; 3 Nephi 13:27)

    I doubt that exercise or practice are the best analogies (although I do think that they can have good explanatory power, as the acclaim here suggests).

    Comment by John C. — November 11, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

  29. I should probably also say that I am happy to drop the cat analogy and go back to the blastocyst one that I was using earlier around these parts. You’re right, the cat thing raises too many other non-essential issues (and the assertion going was hyperbolic in any case). So, fine, Geoff, can I say that God is giving pianos to blastocysts in your system instead?

    Comment by John C. — November 11, 2005 @ 6:00 pm

  30. As a retired high jumper, I am going to focus on that version of the parable. (I played the piano once too, but I was actually pretty good at high jumping.)

    We are not born lame. Our problem is that, despite our healthy status, we occasionally knock the bar off when we jump. Once we have knocked it off we can never be a perfect high jumper. There will always be that bar clanging to the ground in our past. A complete model of the atonement would include the wiping out of those past misses (or, in the case of the pianist, wrong notes). Surgery, mentoring, and really cool shoes (or pianos) won’t do that.

    Comment by Last Lemming — November 11, 2005 @ 7:10 pm

  31. John C.,

    I’m glad to hear you’re coming up with a responding post. You’d better bring your best stuff because I’m really liking how this turned out so far. ;-) As for your teaser scripture I would respond that it is a nice set up for this effort and repentance focused verse which follows shortly after it:

    But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

    I agree that the cat thing worked against your cause. The blastocyst thing might work better for you, but it causes problems because we know good from evil and make choices and blastocysts don’t. I think it is the probationary state concept and our free agency that work hardest against your exaltation as a free gift model.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 9:33 pm

  32. Last Lemming,

    If we were to used the high-humper variation on the analogy then we would have to assume the trainer/mentor (God) became great without ever missing a jump as well. I don’t believe is the case with our God. Of course the idea that God was once a man like we are now is still controversial (even though Joseph taught it in the King Follet discourse) but I believe it. If that is the case then God made mistakes prior to attaining his exalted state as well. If so then the idea that any mistake in the past makes us not perfect simply doesn’t work.

    What thelogical angle are you coming from when you make the assertion that any past mistakes would make us forever imperfect?

    The model assumes that what we were doesn’t matter. What we are is all that really matters. Do you disagree with that notion?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 11, 2005 @ 10:36 pm

  33. I enjoy this discussion. Just a quick drive-by comment: Elder Oaks talk on “The Challenge to Become” confirms your idea that “it is fundamentally misunderstanding exaltation to regard it as a thing that can be bestowed like a bike or a house. Rather, ‘exalted’ is something we become in our very natures”

    Here’s an extract from Elder Oaks’s talk. I recommend reading all of it. This extract contains Elder Oaks’s own parable:

    “[…]the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts–what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts–what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

    “A parable illustrates this understanding. A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:

    ” ‘All that I have I desire to give you–not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.’

    “This parable parallels the pattern of heaven. The gospel of Jesus Christ promises the incomparable inheritance of eternal life, the fulness of the Father, and reveals the laws and principles by which it can be obtained.

    “We qualify for eternal life through a process of conversion. As used here, this word of many meanings signifies not just a convincing but a profound change of nature.”

    Comment by manaen — November 12, 2005 @ 1:25 am

  34. Geoff, the response is up. Go here.

    Regarding the blastocyst issue, as I said before we are blastocysts in comparison to God. His body is, I suspect, as different from ours as ours is from a blastocyst. But we can become human (or, at least, more human) if we will let Him work with us. Whether (healthy) blastocysts become people is determined by forces outside the blastocyst’s control, yet it does happen. I think that it is helpful to remember that in discussing exaltation (along with keeping a healthy respect for the gap between us and God). I believe that a womb might be a better metaphor for the probationary state than a war in heaven.

    Comment by John C. — November 12, 2005 @ 6:12 am

  35. I like Elder Oaks analogy also. It seems almost identical to the piano teacher just a substitution of a father figure for a piano teacher.

    Comment by OOOOOT — November 12, 2005 @ 6:45 am

  36. manaen – Thanks for the excellent reference. I remember that talk now… I’ll definitely use it as a reference in the future.

    John – Thanks for the heads up. I will respond over there as well.

    I think that free will issues are still the primary problem with your bloastocyst variation:

    Whether (healthy) blastocysts become people is determined by forces outside the blastocyst’s control, yet it does happen.

    I agree; there is zero contribution or choice or agency on the part of the blastocyst. That is the problem — it is a fine example of causal determinism but we believe men are free to choose. Your analogy completely fails for that reason I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 12, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

  37. 1) Do you need to throw in a Brother, who also being a virtuoso pianst, puts it aside (for a while) to get a ‘regular’ (perhaps a doctor) job, to pay for (or actually perform) her surgery?

    2) In some theories (Adam-God??? MMP???) we must eventually perform the same atonement that Christ did. I don’t know if I agree with this, but how would it fit in your parable?

    3) Combine your parable with the parable of the bicycle and the child eventually becomes a world class cyclist.

    Comment by Daylan — November 12, 2005 @ 3:31 pm

  38. Daylan,

    1) I think I prefer treating the Godhead as the “parents”. I might update the parable to have them also be the surgeons.

    2) I think it would fit the parable if that theory were true. The idea is to tread the same path in order to become the same type of being.

    3) Ha! Except I think the parable of the bicycle is wrong.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 12, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

  39. Geoff,
    I would argue that spiritually, as well as physically, we start out as blastocysts, but that there is no reason why we have to remain that way. As I said, I have been saying that we are like blastocysts because, while I believe that we have the potential to become like God, we are really undeveloped at the moment. As regards the issue of agency, I think that there are things that must take place before we can take act as agents (the Atonement, in particular).

    Comment by John C. — November 12, 2005 @ 4:57 pm

  40. My model does not assume that God made no mistakes during his development. Just that he too must have had a Savior who atoned for those mistakes.

    Your analogy seems to reduce repentance to simply not repeating the mistake and everything will be fine.

    Comment by Last Lemming — November 13, 2005 @ 9:20 am

  41. John – I would agree that we figurately are blatocysts very early on, I just think our intelligences have progressed way past that when we come to this earth as the “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve”. My last post is on this exact topic actually. In that post I mention that I think our Garden of Eden narrative shows that that at some point in the eternities past our intelligences progressed to the point that we became largely “like the gods” by becoming sentient in the human sense and having a robust form of free will and knowing good from evil. Further, Abraham chapter three makes it clear that Jesus Christ himself “stood among” the noble and great ones that were slated for this earth. That is not an image of Christ standing among the spiritual equivalent “blastocysts” to me. It is an image of the noblest and greatest of the noble and great ones standing among those that follow him closely in nobleness and greatness.

    I agree with you that the atonement allows us to repent and thus provides a spiritual foundation for our agency. That has long been my contention.

    Last Lemming – Christ could have had a savior in past eternities in my model too (that is why the girl in my parable wanted to do likewise after she became like her parents/mentors).

    Your analogy seems to reduce repentance to simply not repeating the mistake and everything will be fine.

    What else is repentance if not change for the better? The model focuses on becoming — much like the Elder Oaks talk manean mentioned does. I think that if we are always changing and becoming more like Christ everything will be fine.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 13, 2005 @ 7:13 pm

  42. This is very intriguing. And this piano parable seems like a good way of better understanding the atonement.

    However, if it is true, then it is extremely discouraging to me. I am only 30 years old, and I am weary to the bone. All I want to do is rest, but the demands of family (going on four kids now!), church, and career leave me constantly harrowed up. I scream to the heavens- “Where can I turn for Peace?!?”

    And then I read this, and with a sinking feeling in my heart realize that it is probably the proper way to look at things. And if it is, it means that I will never have any rest, nor any peace, as I trudge along this road for probation after probation. That is very discouraging news indeed.

    I need rest. I think I’ll go sleep for a few hours now. But then, like every day for the rest of eternity it seems, I will have to get up and do it again.

    There is no rest, just as the pianist in the parable could never just rest. Maybe being a virtuoso is not all it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps those of us who are tired should leave the climb to virtuosity to others who have more energy and ambition. After all, the use of a “virtuoso” in the parable is very telling- there are very, very few virtuosos in this world, so there are very, very few of us who actually have what it takes to keep pluggin on, and on, and on, and on in probation after probation after probation after probation.

    So where does that leave me when I get too tired and fall by the wayside? Can I ever stop the onward march of probations? Can I opt out of virtuosity? Because I am exhausted already from life, and thinking of things in these terms (which is probably the way they should be viewed) is more than I can bear- and it confirms my deepest fear- that there is never any rest.

    Comment by Jordan — November 13, 2005 @ 7:45 pm

  43. I think that if we are always changing and becoming more like Christ everything will be fine.

    Always…

    *sigh*. My point exactly. No rest.

    Comment by Jordan — November 13, 2005 @ 7:49 pm

  44. Jordan,

    The yoke is easy. The problem many of the saints have is doing the wrong kind of work. The right kind of work is relationship building with God himself. The wrong kind of work is everything else.

    And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

    How hard and discouraging is it to work on knowing God better? It does mean praying a lot. It does take pondering and meditation. But those things are restful. And there is nothing more peaceful yet exhilerating to me than to “break through” during those times of prayer/pondering/meditation and feel/hear the voice of God speaking peace and pure knowledge to my soul. That is the rest I seek.

    I have recently been considering writing a post called:

    Exaltation – It’s All About Who You Know

    If we start focusing on the right kind of work (knowing God) I believe we all will find rest to our souls. And that while we are becoming more like God in the process.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 13, 2005 @ 8:22 pm

  45. One more thing- sometimes blogs just don’t do it for me. I would love to sit up into the wee hours of the morning and discuss these things with Geoff face to face. Such discussions are a treasured part of my life as a member of the Church, but they are few and far between. They make the “endlessness” of our existence more bearable, somehow.

    Comment by Jordan — November 13, 2005 @ 8:14 pm

  46. The yoke is easy.

    Yes, so the scriptures say. So we are told. I have not experienced it, though.

    I hope you’re right, Geoff, and that my focus has just been wrong. But I have tried earnestly, I have thought anyway, for the last 15 years (perhaps longer, but it’s been since I was about 15 that I have really tried to take things seriously and progress as I think I should) and I have felt very little rest- usually my endeavors result in extreme physical, psychological, and mental fatigue.

    Get up super-duper early to take care of the body (exercise) and the spirit (scripture study and meditation), work all day long at a large law firm, come home to church callings and major parental responsibilities (which we must fulfill as perfectly as possible, of course) and after it’s still not quite all done (really- who could finish all of that?!?) retire to bed quite late to face it all again tomorrow. And on and on into the eternities. Not a very heartening thought, for the moment.

    But perhaps I need to exercise more faith, as you wisely suggest, that if I shift my attention to doing the “right kind of work” that I can find rest. But I’m not sure how to make that shift right now, or even that I have not already made it…

    Anyway- I like your parable (the topic of this post), and think it probably more accurately portrays at least my understanding of the scriptures and the “plan of salvation,” but its ramifications discourage and distress me greatly, at least at the moment.

    Comment by Jordan — November 13, 2005 @ 8:24 pm

  47. Thanks for the great comments and insights Jordan. This burnout problem you bring up was the incentive for Robinson coming up with his Parable of the Bicycle to begin with. It is clearly a real, and serious, and widespread problem. I think the doctrinal solution he came up with is just off the mark.

    I think I might actually write that post soon. I believe a large portion of the saints feel like you do.

    In the meantime I actually wasn’t suggesting you need to exercise more faith per se, rather that you try to refocus your thoughts a bit. I think there is danger in the language we use sometime… “More faith” implies more work. I suspect you are doing more work than is even healthy right now. Rather than more work I suspect the greatest returns would be in a paradigm shift (borrowing Covey language).

    I actually have benefited tremendously from some things Covey has taught. One of them is that in our society we have an addiction to “busy-ness”. In most every part of our lives we feel that if we aren’t frantically overworked we are not doing enough. Mormons are very much victims of this false and unhealthy paradigm. Nibley said “We [Mormons] think it more commendable to get up at 5 AM to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one”. He is right. Getting to know God is something that happens as we lie in bed and ponder rather than rush to the gym on some mornings. It happens as we pray in the back of our minds while we work away throughout the day. It happens when we mellow out and unwind rather than frantically prove to the world how busy we are (and thus prove our worth.)

    I actually left the corporate world and became entrepreneurial partially because I don’t have to look busy all the time to succeed in my own business — I just have to get results. The same paradigm shift has helped me in the church as well I think.

    (Sorry if that is getting us off track… Maybe I should post on our busy-ness addiction in Western society instead…)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 13, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

  48. 46 & 47

    There are two ways that Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light.

    1) Freedom from the checklisting that many LDS are caught in. It all becomes much easier when we truly give our whole hearts. Ester Rasband has a good discussion about this in “Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem” pp. 22-31. (out of print but available used on Amazon.com). I’ll post some later.

    2) “easy” and “light” are comparative words. The comparison usually is with the strength of the person wearing the yoke or lifting the burden. Since my conversion and healing through the atonement, I’ve noticed another comparison that fits: his burden is light compared to… mine.

    Comment by manaen — November 13, 2005 @ 10:19 pm

  49. I still think it is important to this type of analogy to include something that expresses that we can not become the full virtuosos without the resurrection. With Christ being a perfect judge. I feel that many of us are much harder on ourselves than we need to be. And if we neglect the potential giant leap in abilities associated with the atonement – that will often lead to despair.

    I think that is a nice aspect of Elder Oaks analogy is that I view the ‘inheritace’ aspect an eternal reward after a single probation that will give a large improvement in abilities based on the evaluation of a perfect judge. I know I am sounding a bit like a broken record on this combination, but thinking these things through like this is new for me and I’m still trying my opinions out.

    Comment by OOOOOT — November 14, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

  50. Oooot,

    I think resurrection is silently included in the “course of time” aspect of the analogy. It is, after all, something that comes with the mortal probation package for all of us.

    Also, I’m not sure that “abilities” make very much difference in our relationship with God. Our character has very little to do with our physical abilities. And since I am sympathetic to the idea taught by 19th century prophets and apostles that there is not just one probation/resurrection throughout the eternities, I don’t believe that the body we happen to reside in has much to do with our real character (or the closeness of our relationship with God).

    Comment by Geoff J — November 14, 2005 @ 5:15 pm

  51. 49
    OOOOOT, Re: your “broken record,” play it and play it and play it! That’s what this life is for!

    Comment by manaen — November 14, 2005 @ 9:48 pm

  52. Geoff,

    I agree that our current abilities do not affect our character or our relationship with God. That is why I would have a tendency to keep our abilities potentially very low during our earth life, and put off our complete becoming like God (particularly when it comes to our abilities) until after the resurrection. I think this can at times keep us from stressing and burning out when our performance seems less than perfect. Our legitimate weaknesses will be part of our perfect judgement.

    I am beginning to feel that part of the reason I resist the multiple probations idea is that it may put to much emphasis on works, checklists, and mortal perfection. I can’t hardly believe that I am saying this. After all those discussions I had with the ‘born again’ protestents during my mission in Georgia. All of them accusing mormons of thinking that we can work our way to heaven. Perhaps they had a point. I don’t want to loose sight of eternal life largely being a gift that has some requirements based mostly on who we are.

    Comment by OOOOOT — November 15, 2005 @ 6:30 am

  53. The impression that I came away with after reading Steven Robinson’s book was that there is a “small picture” of the atonement and a “big picture” of grace. The small picture was presented by the Parable of the Bicycle and the big picture is something very close to Geoff’s Parable of the Pianist.

    The important points of the small picture that I thought were so well illustrated by the Parable of the Bicycle were 1) we are not capable of making it back to our Heavenly Father without a lot of help, and 2) that help involves Christ’s atonement. I think another more subtle point in the parable was that it is important for us to understand that we can’t make it back by ourselves, because we start out believing that we can, until we are clearly shown that we can’t.

    I thought Robinson made his view of the big picture clear when he said that sometime in the next life, “maybe in a million years”, he imagined having a party with all of his friends to celebrate his having finally become perfect. In other words, the big picture of grace that I think Robinson was trying to paint was that the atonement made Robinson’s next million years of development possible. Without the atonement, Robinson would have found himself in outer darkness immediately after his death, and he would have remained there forever. But the atonement is not the end; after this comes the next million years of continued grace until Robinson is perfect. So, Robinson’s million years of progression after his death is the part that is along the lines of Geoff’s Parable of the Pianist–where Robinson is tuitored in perfection until he gets it down perfectly.

    So apparently in Robinson’s view, the point of the “small picture” of the atonement is that what we are really receiving is a gift of time–time to develop. Then during the “big picture” of grace we are receiving everything else, guidance, mentoring, teaching, etc. for as long as it takes for us to “work” toward our perfect.

    Comment by Bill B — December 2, 2005 @ 6:02 pm

  54. Hmmm…

    Well perhaps I should re-read the book, Bill. But in any case, it is the parable of the bicycle that gets all the play among church members and I think it has too many misleading doctrinal implications itself.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 5, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

  55. Well, being a conservatory-trained musician who has dealt with the frustrations of comparing herself to many younger musicians who put in those endless hours of practicing while she herself tried to lead a well-balanced life not letting go of other academic interests, church involvement or a social life, I greatly appreciate this parable of exaltation and the ensuing comments.

    We are not perfect, and yet we set goals the best we can and sometimes rely heavily on instructions from others who have Christ-like attributes or from the very Godhead.

    Many musicians will do much good as entertainers and teachers in this life, without reaching virtuosity. It is, of course, not always in one’s cards to be the best. The fact is, many of us women will not even reach our career potential by choice, deciding it is better to attempt to share this carefully acquired knowledge with our (as yet potential) children, than to hack away in the practice rooms for that coveted position at the top.

    Anyway, I just wanted to comment that as the new year approaches, we may be able to use what the discussion on this parable of the pianist has brought to light, in giving ourselves a break from the busy-ness, even in goal-setting, and in recognizing that the perfect judge hears our song with loving ears. We are all composing the song of our own lives and characters, with instruction from the Master. This is his grace.

    Comment by Katiann — December 28, 2005 @ 11:56 pm

  56. Thanks for the comment Katiann. I hope you come around and comment here at the Thang more in the future!

    Comment by Geoff J — December 30, 2005 @ 1:20 am

  57. Goeff,

    Yes, I agree with this parable. And I disagree with all the commentors that say exaltation is still a “gift.” Can someone give me a definition of gift? If we must become like God to be like God, who is the giver of any such “gifts” we get in getting there, or once we become it? There are no gifts, only consequences. Eternal, uncreated verities are what enabled God to become what He is, and they are what continue to enable us. There is no giver of gifts, no blessor, all the wonderful righteous attributes we can attain (along with their concommitant happiness/power) are simply there for us. Though God, et al, are doing their best to aid us in obtaining them. Their work and sacrifice could be termed a gift.

    Comment by Phil — January 16, 2006 @ 12:46 pm

  58. Though God, et al, are doing their best to aid us in obtaining them. Their work and sacrifice could be termed a gift.

    Yes, I think it should be recognized as a marvelous and gracious gift from God. I think we cannot and should not minimize the role of God as a gift giver, but that we should not misunderstand the nature of the gifts he gives us either. To look beyond the mark could lead to not properly taking advantage of his gracious gifts for us.

    Can someone give me a definition of gift?

    I think it is something that is given without any reciprocation required.

    You are actually wrong when you say: There are no gifts, only consequences… There is no giver of gifts, no blessor… God does give us gifts and without them we would be forever damned and cast out. But as this parable illustrates, they are mostly the gifts of love and guidance and encouragement — not the changing our fundamental natures without our participation.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 16, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

  59. Hi, I’m new here, but jumping right in…

    Geoff,
    With all due respect to your effort and intention, I must confess that the biggest flaw I find with the Parable of the Pianist is a lack of satisfaction; both intellectual and spiritual. It just doesn’t feel good to hear; which is counter to the “good news” aspect of the gospel.

    I think one element that is being overlooked is pedagogy. The reason why Robinson’s parable is so perpetuated is because it is effective in teaching one of the most important aspects of the gospel… faith in and reliance on Jesus Christ. The Bicycle story tells me that immediately, the Pianist tells me at a cursory read that I’ve got a lot of work to do. Let me state that I think you have a heavy thread of truth weaving through your concept, but Elder Oaks’ parable is more resonating and effective pedagogically. I agree with you that if you look at it in a certain way the Bicycle seems to cheapen the atonement, but for so many people this concept of gifting of Grace is manna. This life is running them ragged. If you were to teach your parable as doctrine at a Relief Society conference it would be devastating.

    Gosh, I really hope that the spirit of my comments come through the digital winter, because I do not mean to sound as if I think your parable is bad or false or evil. I just believe that having all detail and doctrine be correct and perfect in every person’s mind is not more beneficial in a probationary or even an eternal sense than coming unto Christ. For so many people, they just don’t have the self esteem sufficient to find any comfort in the idea that it is their own ability that will be maximized with the help of God. Most people can’t even believe they have that ability because their life seems like a string of failures. The Bicycle story offers comfort to the failing because it doesn’t imply that the subject bring any talent to the situation to begin with. Only a desire to have the goal. The same attribute is found in Oaks’ talk. The son isn’t chosen because the father thinks he has the potential to achieve his status, only because the father wants him to have it. I know that distinction is small, but I don’t think the self-esteem issue can be over-estimated.

    That’s where pedagogy comes in. I know that “milk before meat” is tantamount to evil speaking in the bloggernacle, but the thing you must consider is that your own intellectual thirst or curiosity is not universal. Some people want to, or need to, move slower. Some people can’t digest the more correct and more full doctrine until the over-simplified parable builds their self-esteem to the point where it is strong enough to take the weight of responsibility of divine inheritance.

    Comment by Clay — January 17, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

  60. Welcome Clay, and thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    You make some good points but I think there are some problems with your position too.

    A. How it made you feel.

    This is entirely a matter of taste, so I don’t mind you not preferring my style or even the approach of this parable.

    B. You said: The reason why Robinson’s parable is so perpetuated is because it is effective in teaching one of the most important aspects of the gospel… faith in and reliance on Jesus Christ.

    Yes, but it does so by implying false doctrines! The primary issue I have with your comment is that you are implying that teaching false doctrines is ok as long as it makes people feel better. But true doctrines are ok for some, but they are hard to deal with so we should not try to teach them to every one.

    Reminds me of a BoM scripture:

    …if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth-and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. (Hel 13:26-27)

    I’m not saying you are completely wrong — only that I think there is danger in telling people only what they want to hear. And even more danger in leading them astray with regard to their hopes and faith in Christ.

    Now perhaps the problem is with the way I have written this parable. I meant for it to inspire great hope and reinforce the following true doctrines:

    a. You really are children of God
    b. you really can be like him
    c. He is devoting all of his energies to helping you do that
    d. You are the most important thing in the universe to God and he desperately wnats to be closer to you

    If that doesn’t build self esteem I don’t know what would.

    I think the parable of the Bicycle does the opposite. I get the following from it:

    a. You are a child of God
    b. You are a pathetic child of God
    c. The great news is that even though you are a loser, God loves you anyway… so just do the best you can, he’ll have to give you a door prize after your lame attempts are mercifully finished.

    That is a depressing theology to me. And I think it is a false one. I find it much better on my self esteem to learn that being a child of God actually says something about my internal capacity and potential to become like him (with his loving help and guidance).

    Comment by Geoff J — January 17, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  61. Geoff,
    Fair enough about the personal taste. Although, I think I have to play the same card on you about the Bike. I will explain, though.

    I think the parable of the Bicycle does the opposite. I get the following from it:

    a. You are a child of God
    b. You are a pathetic child of God
    c. The great news is that even though you are a loser, God loves you anyway… so just do the best you can, he’ll have to give you a door prize after your lame attempts are mercifully finished.

    Maybe this is expository of my intelligence, but I never got that from the Bike story. It was always uplifting and hopeful to me. Yet, the points you made have made me see that it is incomplete. Notice I said incomplete, rather than agreeing that it is false. I don’t know, maybe because you knew Robinson personally you have a better of idea of what was unspoken about it. As the message is retold, I would only call it incomplete, or better: semantically unclear. I would agree with you that exhaltation, or actually becoming gods and living in Heavenly Father’s presence, seems like something that wouldn’t just be given lightly. But does the parable actually specify exhaltation?

    Also, exploration and speculation is fun but I just hesitate to throw around cast-iron terms like “false doctrine” with confidence. I know the “God’s ways” thing is cheap, but why would I worship a God who is only as smart as I am? There dang well better be some things that I can’t understand yet, because while I like to think I’m right smart I would be severely dissappointed if this was godhood.

    Comment by Clay — January 18, 2006 @ 8:34 am

  62. Clay,

    Good point about throwing around terms like “false doctrine”. That is a pretty loaded term and I will try to be a little more judicious in my use of it. It may be that Robinson would say the bicycle represents something other than exaltation if asked about it — but I doubt that most who repeat the story realize that. If there is false doctrine to beware of here it may very well be incorrect interpretations of the parable rather than the intentions of the author.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 18, 2006 @ 7:33 pm

  63. I just wonder why you’re spending so much time analyzing which parables actually state the real meaning of the atonement instead of working on becoming a “virtuoso.” This whole site seems a waste of time to me and I regret spending any amount of time on it.

    Comment by Rachelle — March 20, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

  64. Rachelle,

    It is hard to get somewhere unless you know where you are going first. This discussion is all about deciding what the end really is supposed to be.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 20, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

  65. I really do like your Parable of the Pianist.

    I don’t know if you have addressed this anywhere, but what happens, given the scenario in your parable, if the girl is ready for her first worldwide concert to show that she is the peer of her parents, after so many years of practice reaching her pinnacle and gaining so much appreciation of music like her parents, and in a moment of folly, decides to go out with her friends for a little celebration (with caution given from her parents because they would not be there) before her big performance and has an accident which causes the severing of several of her fingers on one hand and crushing the nerves in her other hand?

    Has her effort been for naught? She has definitely not become a cat. But, she has, by her foolish choice, irreparably separated herself from her parents in that she can no longer be a virtuoso.

    I am abundant in folly.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — September 6, 2007 @ 5:30 am

  66. I wish to congratulate Geoff J for this marvelous parable, in which he has accurately and in every relevant respect captured the Gospel according to the culture of the Church.

    The cat objection happens to be the orthodox doctrine of the scriptures: it is the effects of the fall of Adam that we cannot, by any effort, overcome; we are, indeed, cats – devils, actually (Mosiah 16:5) unless and until we repent of all our sins and cry mightily to receive a remission of them and are reborn through the atonement of Christ (John 3:5, Mosiah 3:19).

    I guess the fall of Adam is, actually, kinda important, and inasmuch as evolution, which Geoff J believes in, helps keep us in our fallen and carnal state by persuading us that that we can indeed work hard and get where we are going without needing redemption from some mythical fall then it is doing its creator’s work (Moroni 7:17).

    Comment by Log — March 10, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  67. Log,

    I am confused by your comment. Could you give some explanations of what you mean?

    he has accurately and in every relevant respect captured the Gospel according to the culture of the Church.

    Does this mean you think this parable represents the dominant belief about the atonement in Mormonism?

    The cat objection happens to be the orthodox doctrine of the scriptures

    So you believe the orthodox doctrine of our scriptures is that humans are a different species than God altogether?

    unless and until we repent of all our sins

    I take this means you believe cats can repent of… being cats?

    Also, I don’t really get your last run on sentence at all so maybe you can restate that one entirely.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 11, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

  68. Does this mean you think this parable represents the dominant belief about the atonement in Mormonism?

    Definitely.

    So you believe the orthodox doctrine of our scriptures is that humans are a different species than God altogether?

    Yes. A man in his carnal and natural state is necessarily a child of the devil, and not a child of God, because he has not got charity (1 John 3:10). This is true despite our premortal lineage. By the Fall we are necessarily corrupted at an early point in our lives when we begin to become accountable before God (D&C 29:39, 47) and taste the bitterness of obeying the devil’s will (Moses 6:55). We get to choose our parentage (Moses 7:32-33) by either choosing to repent and being born again, becoming new creatures, the children of God, through the baptism by fire which is the application of the blood of Christ to our souls (Moses 6:59-61, 66-68) and receiving charity (Moroni 8:25-26) or by choosing not to repent and therefore not receiving the baptism by fire (Alma 34:35) and remaining in our fallen and carnal state (Alma 41:11).

    I take this means you believe cats can repent of… being cats?

    No; that is impossible. That is why the atonement is needed: to change us from our carnal, sensual, and devilish state into a state of righteousness (Mosiah 27:25-26). And this is only had by repenting of all your sins and crying unto the Lord until you shall have perfect faith in Christ (Helaman 5:40-45, 2 Nephi 9:23). Then you shall be born again by the power of God, and become a new creature: a son of God.

    Also, I don’t really get your last run on sentence at all so maybe you can restate that one entirely.

    The Fall of Adam is of central importance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unless and until you recognize you are a lost and fallen creature, you will not recognize the need to call upon the name of the Lord with all your might to be redeemed from your carnal, sensual, and devilish state. Inasmuch as evolution denies the Fall, it does its creator’s work in hindering the exaltation of those whom otherwise would undoubtedly otherwise choose to repent and cry mightily to be born again. Evolutionary theory is the devil’s work, without question (Moroni 7:12-18). Nobody chooses to serve God because of evolutionary theory, but many choose not to.

    Comment by log — March 12, 2013 @ 1:20 am

  69. Lots to wade through in #68.

    So by your “definitely” I take it you think the majority of Mormons (including many of the leaders) are wrong and you are right when it comes to understanding of the atonement, correct?

    As for this different species thing, you contradicted yourself in #68. First you said that man is a different species than God right now, but presumable could repent (with the aid of the atonement) and become the same species as God. That is nonsense of course. Neither cats nor humans change species when they repent — atonement or not — and you later said as much. (I suspect you are getting confused by the figurative “child of the devil” language in the scriptures)

    Inasmuch as evolution denies the Fall

    This is a false assumption. As far as I can tell Mormons who believe in evolution generally do not deny that man is Fallen or that man is “carnal, and sensual” as the scriptures say. My take is that we are indeed all of those things as a result of inhabiting these mammal bodies. The scriptures are filled with examples of prophets talking about our spirits struggling to overcome the appetites and desires of our physical bodies.

    Nobody chooses to serve God because of evolutionary theory, but many choose not to.

    If your point is that missionaries should not be teaching evolution in the discussions, I agree.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 12, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  70. So by your “definitely” I take it you think the majority of Mormons (including many of the leaders) are wrong and you are right when it comes to understanding of the atonement, correct?

    I do not know about “many of the leaders”. But I do know your view is the prevailing one within the culture of the Church.

    As for this different species thing, you contradicted yourself in #68. First you said that man is a different species than God right now, but presumable could repent (with the aid of the atonement) and become the same species as God.

    That is nonsense of course. Neither cats nor humans change species when they repent — atonement or not — and you later said as much. (I suspect you are getting confused by the figurative “child of the devil” language in the scriptures)

    So, you agree I did not contradict myself.

    This is a false assumption. As far as I can tell Mormons who believe in evolution generally do not deny that man is Fallen or that man is “carnal, and sensual” as the scriptures say.

    Fallen from what? Nature has always been red in tooth and claw, after all.

    If your point is that missionaries should not be teaching evolution in the discussions, I agree.

    Whoever publicly propounds or defends evolutionary theory either is by so doing committing blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, or has lost it once having received it and is in transgression, or has never received the Holy Ghost.

    Evolution persuades no man to do good, no, not one. Therefore we know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil (Moroni 7:15-18).

    The scriptures were given by the power of God through the Holy Ghost. They teach explicitly of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who were the children of God (Luke 3:38, Moses 6:22). They teach explicitly that by the transgression of Adam, death entered the world (Moses 6:59), and mankind became carnal, sensual, and devilish, forever unable to enter into the presence of God without perishing.

    Any man who defends evolutionary theory, which of necessity entails death before The Fall of Adam, therefore contradicts what the Holy Spirit has given, which is what is recorded in the scriptures. God is not a liar (Titus 1:2) and does not contradict Himself; anyone who possesses the Holy Ghost speaks the words of Christ (2 Nephi 32:3), or, in other words, speaks the word of God.

    Therefore, whoever publicly defends or propounds evolutionary theory speaks against the Holy Ghost if they have it, which constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which is unpardonable (Matt 12:31-32), making them sons of Perdition.

    A very bad case, but perhaps recoverable, is if they had once partaken of the gift, lost it due to negligence, and are now speaking against the word of God, for they are in their sins and are in danger of being overcome of the world and being cut down out of it. These may yet repent.

    The more likely case is they’ve never received the gift, and therefore have always been in their carnal and fallen state, and they remain there because of unbelief, having rejected the word of God and preferring to mingle what remains of the scriptures with the philosophies of men, settling for a religion of outward performances and works rather than obedience to the true faith of Christ.

    I find your implication rather interesting – that “many of the leaders” agree with you, therefore you are right, and can cite them as authorities to support your doctrines. If any man’s doctrines contradict the scriptures, the scriptures prevail, and, as Joseph taught, the interpretive rule with the scriptures is no rule; they are to be read as they are.

    The scriptures say to trust no man, but only God (2 Nephi 4:34). The way to know whether any man’s teachings are of God or of the devil, be they inside or outside of the Church, be they leaders or ones with no calling whatever, is according to the test of Moroni 7:15-18, because it is true that by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5).

    Don’t take my word for it: lay aside all your sins and cry mightily unto the Lord to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, as the disciples of Christ did (3 Nephi 19:9-13), that you may be born again. You will know by the power of God what the truth is, and will never again need any man to teach you, so long as you retain the remission of your sins by diligence unto prayer and bringing forth the fruit of the Kingdom.

    The truth you will be taught will make you a pariah if you adhere to it (1 Nephi 8:28).

    Comment by log — March 12, 2013 @ 11:45 am

  71. It is the hyper-literalists who, because they believe the word of God and obey it, receive the word of God, that they know for themselves and need not that any man should teach them. The hypo-literalists are ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the things of God, and, indeed, they consider them to be foolishness even when they hear them.

    Comment by log — March 12, 2013 @ 11:56 am

  72. Log,

    Here are some responses.

    I do not know about “many of the leaders”. But I do know your view is the prevailing one within the culture of the Church.

    Perhaps you should spend more time listening to the leaders of our church then. The idea that we must use our free will as literal children of God to choose to be like Jesus and the Father is as Mormon as it gets. That’s why it is the prevailing view in the church. (Maybe you are too busy setting up your splinter sect so you can teach the True Doctrine of Log or something?)

    So, you agree I did not contradict myself.

    Well you did contradict yourself. You gave a resounding “Yes” to my clear question about humans being a different species (aka ontologically separate) than God. But that was apparently mostly because of weak language skills on your part because it sounds like you really meant no when you said yes.

    Fallen from what?

    Fallen from the presence of God in the pre-mortal worlds. Basic Mormon doctrine. (You are Mormon, right?)

    Whoever publicly propounds or defends evolutionary theory either is by so doing committing blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, or has lost it once having received it and is in transgression, or has never received the Holy Ghost.

    Bwaha! That’s precious.

    Be honest — are you just trolling here? That last rant is so over-the-top looney I have a hard time taking it seriously.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 12, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  73. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.”

    Adieu, Geoff J.

    Comment by log — March 12, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

  74. The problem with those scriptures you quoted, Log, is that you are assuming the poppycock you are spouting is the things of the Spirit of God. It ain’t. Your rantings are the Doctrines of the false Church of Log. Good luck with that new religion you are starting.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 12, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  75. Ahhhh, Geofff…. I’ve missed you. :)

    Log,

    “It is the hyper-literalists who, because they believe the word of God and obey it, receive the word of God, that they know for themselves and need not that any man should teach them. The hypo-literalists are ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the things of God, and, indeed, they consider them to be foolishness even when they hear them.”

    And yet, I can’t seem to find any mention in the scriptures of this literal/figurative distinction which you make so much of. I also can’t find the word “logic” anywhere either. Maybe we shouldn’t be too strict in our interpretations of those verses you quote?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 12, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

  76. Jeff G,

    Neither do we see “oxygen” nor “America.”

    Comment by log — March 12, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

  77. Let me be more clear: logic is necessary for us to describe conditions and consequences, just as oxygen is necessary (most of the time) for us to live.

    Without logic, and in particular the law of noncontradiction, the statement that the Lord “cannot lie” has no content. Likewise, without modus ponens, there can be no content to the Lord’s promises. Logic is a precondition to communication.

    There are very few ways to motivate men to call upon the name of the Lord to be redeemed. If one persists in taking the word of God to be figurative and not literal, one eliminates these ways and hence eliminates motivations to call upon the name of the Lord to be redeemed.

    The missionaries in the Book of Mormon taught of The Fall to persuade their hearers that they were fallen and carnal and never could merit a single good thing in and of themselves, being possessed of a wicked spirit by the effects of the transgression of our first parents, and that the only way to be restored to God was through calling upon His holy name, repenting and confessing their sins before Him, to receive the knowledge of God (Alma 22:13-18).

    There are only three other ways that I know of to provoke this need which produces the perfect faith necessary to come to a knowledge of God, being filled with the Holy Ghost and being sanctified and purified from all sin thereby.

    1. Eventually, through continual diligent obedience, fasting, prayer, and increasing humility, a person finally yields up their heart to God, receives the Spirit, and become sanctified thereby (Helaman 3:35). They stop fighting their internal battles trying to reconcile the world with the word.

    2. The Lord directly calls a person to make the prayer of faith. Such was Enos. Such was Joseph Smith.

    3. The Lord humbles a man by His almighty power and of necessity the man calls upon the name of the Lord for mercy. Such was Alma2. Such were the Lamanites who were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost at the time of their conversion (Helaman 5:40-45), through their faith (3 Nephi 9:20) and that of Nephi and Lehi (Ether 12:14).

    It is better far to repent and call upon the name of the Lord without being humbled by His power first. It is better to willingly stop trying to mingle the philosophies of men with scripture so as to maintain the respect of one’s peers.

    As the prophet taught, contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but receive it, and thereby take upon you the name of Christ (Alma 34:38, paraphrased).

    Comment by log — March 13, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  78. Without logic, and in particular the law of noncontradiction, the statement that the Lord “cannot lie” has no content. Likewise, without modus ponens, there can be no content to the Lord’s promises. Logic is a precondition to communication.

    So is this quote considered scripture or philosophy of men?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 13, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  79. Why not ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and does not upbraid, if they ask in faith?

    Do you not believe He will answer you (1 Nephi 15:9)?

    Or do you ask me for another purpose altogether (2 Nephi 27:32)?

    Comment by log — March 13, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

  80. Forgive me if your unprecedented refusal to come down for or against an issue seems a bit … convenient.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 13, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  81. Jeff G,

    I already said: logic is a precondition to communication.

    Asked and answered.

    Comment by log — March 13, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  82. But here’s the rub: you can’t know whether it is scripture or a philosophy of men, no matter what I say, except by the power of the Holy Ghost, a principle which would have been taught by any who had served a mission (Moroni 10:5), and would pretty certainly have been learned by any who had received a missionary.

    So is your refusal to inquire of the Lord because you fear he will not answer you, or because you are afraid he will?

    Comment by log — March 13, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

  83. The Holy Ghost just said this to me:

    “Behold, verily, thine eyes do not deceive thee; this Log chap really is a wacko. Nevertheless, the Lord loveth nutjobs too.”

    Comment by Geoff J — March 13, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  84. Log,

    I find it interesting that you say that logic and evidence are the only source of justification for our beliefs, but when logic and evidence are used against you, you fall back on questioning people’s faith, spiritual experiences, spiritual progression, etc. Whatever you might want to call these tactics, they are not logic or evidence.

    (And on that note, I’d like to acknowledge how my comments in this thread have had exactly nothing to do with the original post. Sorry!)

    Comment by Jeff G — March 13, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

  85. This post is nearly eight years old, Jeff. The fact that we are commenting in this thread at all is a minor miracle so no worries about tangents. There must some statute of limitations on worrying about threadjacks…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 13, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

  86. Jeff,

    Your characterization of our interactions might seem accurate from your perspective, but it is not how I see things.

    You’ll find philosophy, or building syllogistic structures from questionable axioms, is a poor replacement for the experience of revelations and visions and visitations. But that stuff only comes if you will believe the word of God you have received.

    And you’ll probably say by so saying I’m questioning your spirituality – but I’m not: I accept that you have had spiritual experiences. You go to church and are trying to do what you believe is right. I’m trying to get you to reconsider your attitude towards the things you sneer at, and to try an experiment in believing the things you now think are false, because you at least on paper accept the principle that God does answer prayers and does give knowledge which is valid in the so-called “real world” we all live in. But it is very hard to get an answer to inquiries when we don’t believe what has come before.

    I have no skin in the game whether you finally do or do not inquire of God, but I hope you do. Wouldn’t you like to know for yourself, and no longer have to suppose, assume, and deduce?

    What stops you from pursuing what Joseph saw? If you knew you could enter into the presence of God through mighty prayer unto faith, laying aside everything which divides you from the single-minded pursuit of the will of God, what stops you from doing it?

    Anyways, you don’t have to answer me. Just consider it.

    Comment by log — March 13, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

  87. Log, if there’s no Home Teaching in your church, count me in. Just make sure to tell me what the scriptures really say so I don’t deny the Holy Ghost…

    Comment by Riley — March 14, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

  88. Log,

    The more likely case is they’ve never received the gift, and therefore have always been in their carnal and fallen state, and they remain there because of unbelief, having rejected the word of God and preferring to mingle what remains of the scriptures with the philosophies of men, settling for a religion of outward performances and works rather than obedience to the true faith of Christ.

    You and I both know that this is the case. It is going to take something new to break people out of the cocoon they are in. The mind is blind and the heart is hard, but I appreciate your efforts. If it is any consolation, I have faith that the Lord will soon provide that “new thing,” which will cause people to begin to take the word of God a bit more seriously and also more literally.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — March 14, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

  89. I suppose it would be unfair of me to point out that the parable of the pianist utterly misses the point of the gospel without providing a parable of my own.

    There was once an isolated people who, having both ears and eyes, could neither hear sound nor see in color. Having never been able to sense sound or color, the people never formed the idea of the existence thereof.

    Among this people were kept texts of divine origin whose pages were composed of dots of varying intensity of lightness and darkness. Sometimes these dots were arranged in the form of words while other pages appeared to be chaotic masses containing no words. Some of the dots that formed words that could be read spoke of something called colors, and a divine mandate to “share and share alike”. The texts were venerated as fuel for traditions and a justification for the existence of an idle priesthood, but the divine mandate was held, in essence, to be a child’s tale – the real world required trade and hoarding of resources, of course, and sharing was commonly, and cynically, used as a tactic for inculcating a sense of obligation to purchase one’s products.

    There came a man among them who promised that, if any individual would but perform a simple task, he would give them power to see more than other men. He said if they would pray to the divine with full purpose of heart until they received a response from the heavens, cast aside economic exchange, or the principle of quid pro quo in relating to others, and covenant to be free and familiar with their substance among them who had likewise entered the covenant, he would open their eyes, and so long as they abode in the covenant, they would keep their sight.

    Few accepted the offer, but as many as did, received the power to see in color, thus becoming immediately and intimately aware of truths about the world they could not possibly have imagined before. Those who could now see in color were taught the words for the colors by the man, and could understand the color references in the texts. It was easy for the color-sighted to tell if a man was able to see colors by merely observing their use of the words for colors. Through ignorance and arrogance, some words had picked up many definitions – “colored”, for example, had twenty-one separate meanings.

    More interesting to these color-sighted individuals was that the pages in the ancient texts which appeared to be merely masses of pointless dots were, in fact, arrangements of words using dots of different colors but the same brightness. These hidden texts contained words of wisdom, exhortation, and expounding upon the nature of the covenant entered into, as well as instructions which, if followed, promised another power that was unimaginable. Among the instructions was the charge to spend one’s life trying to persuade the non-color-sighted to enter into the covenant according to that which had been taught by the man.

    They tried. There were occasional successes. But the general rule was failure and persecution. The mass of the people could not imagine a society not founded, in the end, upon the principle of quid pro quo, and viewed the covenant people as threats to humanity – seemingly either fools or knaves. The idle priesthood sought to cast the covenant people from among them, as their trade required them to speak smooth things unto the people that they might continue to be supported in their indolence, and the notion that “share and share alike” ought to be the rule rather than quid pro quo was intensely unpopular among the rich and those who aspired to so be, who were among the priesthood’s biggest supporters and largest audiences. Even when the covenant people showed that the texts, even as could be understood by the color-blind, supported their teachings, they were almost uniformly rejected. Besides, not being able to imagine color, the mass of the people disbelieved utterly in the existence of colors, so what could possibly be in it for them to “share and share alike” and give up the marvelous advantages economic exchange gave them over their fellows, just to see the world differently?

    Some of the color-sighted ceased trying to persuade their brethren to join the covenant. Some honored the covenant as they had entered into it, sharing and sharing alike among their fellow color-sighted, and thus retained their color-vision. Some ceased from the covenant altogether, and lost their color-sight, but accounted this as a light thing in exchange for exercising power over men through the time-honored principle of quid pro quo. They became more brutal in their strivings for mastery over men and harbored a special distaste for their former brethren.

    Others continued to strive to persuade men to enter the covenant. In the process of time, the man who had given them their sight found these, one by one, and gave unto them the power of hearing, thus revealing to them a whole new universe of meaning and sensation in the world. No longer did these, who could now hear, require the use of sign-language among themselves, and neither did they need the texts, for they could hear the voice of the divine which gave the texts and which spoke to them from the heavens always. It was required of them to continue as they had been, lest they lose their hearing and their color-sightedness.

    Through the proselyting efforts, a group arose of them who styled themselves of the covenant. They shared some things, but traded in others, and their understandings were perpetually imperfect: they could not help but use the color words incorrectly, being unable to perceive color, but they diligently imitated the language of the color-sighted and they pored intently over the texts, finding interesting and unintended meanings in the dots whose differences they could not discern. These often strove to make proselytes among the non-color-sighted, but only rarely did one join the covenant by their efforts; usually, this kind of success happened despite the efforts of the hapless missionary, rather than because of it. Usually where they appeared to succeed, it was only to make a convert which, like the teacher which brought them into the group, did not understand the covenant and could not see color. Sometimes, one of the non-color-sighted who earnestly strove to imitate the color-sighted would take seriously the texts that they could understand, began to believe in the existence of color even if they couldn’t imagine it, seek to apply the texts literally to their conduct, desire with their whole heart to enter into the covenant, and the man would find them in secret and grant them their color-sight. These, however, were rare; most who began without full commitment to the covenant never developed it.

    In the end, a voice could be heard inviting them who could hear it to a feast in a far-away land, and warning of impending doom for them who stayed behind. The hearing, nearly to a man, left as instructed. Then there were flashes of light in the sky, which all perceived, and a message was written there in color, with the same brightness as the rest of the sky, instructing the color-sighted on how to escape the calamity which was swiftly approaching. The color-sighted, almost to a man, also left as instructed. All who chose to remain lost their abilities, became as the others, and joined them in destroying themselves in seeking power and gain amongst each other. Those who remained after the slaughter were slain by natural disasters, and thus the world had peace for a season.

    Comment by log — March 25, 2013 @ 11:49 am

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