The massive[1] Versailles gardens and park were too big to walk through during our missionary exercise hour.  But racing through the row after row of groomed trees, white statues, and cross-shaped canal on bicycle was exhilarating! Elder and Sister Sumner, another missionary couple serving in the Paris Temple offered to spice up our P-day by lending us their bikes. I took the road-bike and my sweetheart took the Ebike. 

While I pedaled my heart out, my wife could easily keep up on the Ebike.  She wanted to go everyday but this old bottom wasn’t comfortable on a bike seat nor did I like the slumped-over posture of the road-bike.  So, I wasn’t too enthusiastic.

Nonetheless, we explored more and more of the park on these bikes over the year of our mission.  Once we got home and after a little pressure gently applied, (because I had never really been comfortable on a bike… and walking was good enough exercise for a septuagenarian), we made an appointment with a bike shop for a professional fitting.  But once on an Ebike, designed for my body, I was hooked.  Not only have we experienced more beautiful scenery than we ever could on foot, but we love to get out and get good exercise in the process.

During a conversation with some friends about our newfound daily adventures, it became apparent that the idea of an Ebike was conflated with scooter or even motorcycle riding…what kind of exercise is that???  I don’t know what made me do it, but the explanation has turned into this article. 

My Ebike is like the Atonement of Christ, I explained.  My friends got funny looks on their faces as the biking adventure took a terrain transformation.   You see there are some who feel that accepting Christ is like receiving a divine motorcycle that provides an effortless ride and marvelous sense of freedom through an otherwise long and arduous life.  But while Christ offers us a place next to Him in His yoke, it has no value if we expect Him to do all the hard pulling.  An unbalanced yoke simply results in a lame circle rather than an effortless walk on the straight and narrow. 

What He offers us, like a yoke, is to match our efforts and then magnify their results and effectiveness.  During the purchase and orientation process of my bike, I learned what my wife had already been experiencing as she rode behind me, past the sheep shearing, and tourists rowing up the canal through the Versaille park.  The motor on the Ebike doesn’t engage unless you are pedaling.  The harder you are pedaling the more it assists you.  I discovered that my bike had four assist levels from eco to turbo.  As my legs grew accustomed to this new exercise, I found that I was voluntarily using a lower assist level so as to more rely on my own efforts.  

Now, there is no virtue in choosing to go it alone or even partially on purpose, when speaking of Christ’s Atonement, but it seems that there are times when He chooses to allow us to use more of our own strength as we grow in capacity.  I no longer dreaded the hills even the steepest were fun with a combination of gear shifting and assist level change.  The view from one hill on our ride is magnificent but inaccessible without some assist, even with my easiest gear.  And, wow, my endurance and leg strength were really increasing.

One day, I realize that I had forgotten to charge my battery.  As we climbed on our bikes and started out, I noticed the error…I only had one bar on my indicator.  Our hour plus ride usually required a minimum of two bars.  I expressly powered down and worked harder at a lower gear.  I just couldn’t acquire our normal speed, but my wife was patient and I reasoned that my harder work would compensate for the shorter ride. 

Half-way through the ride, while pedaling uphill the assist totally quit.  It felt like I had hit a wall or entered tire grabbing sand.  Wow, I suddenly had to downshift just to keep forward momentum.  We changed course towards a flatter route that would lead home and…I pedaled harder.  I was more than exhausted by the time we pulled into the garage and parked what seemed like a heavy hinderment rather than a sleek and speedy joy.  We had only been out for half the time and my total focus was on my effort rather than the towering cliffs of the red rock of Kayenta.

I have felt days like that many times.  Days where either I have forgotten to charge my relationship battery or have made a conscious choice to prioritize time for someone else’s need over my need to reconnect; skipping my thoughtful prayer and scripture pondering.  Even with attempted compensation, the noticeable brick wall when faced with uphill decisions and no power assist, my gear shifting just wasn’t enough to make the day enjoyable.  Man is that he might have joy, right? …but joy isn’t what most of us feel when stressed and alone.  And, my focus was all on me, rather than being able to lose myself in His service.

Though the benefits of one day’s time and effort investment is more difficult to measure than my battery meter, these times of enabling power of Christ’s Atonement are cumulative, like any relationship based on mutual trust rather than capability.  Though Ebikes only redeem us from the results of slow speeds, the enabling function of pedal assist can’t really be separated from that redemption.  Likewise, the powers of Christ’s Atonement are inseparable even though we parse out the differences.  Being redeemed from our fallen nature and enabled in our rebirth transformation, spiral in both justification and sanctification[2].  But, through the redemptive power of Christ’s Atonement, we rely on His capability to redeem us from our carnal state and resultant sinful propensities. 

In order to do so, He relies upon our willing and contrite submission.  But with His enabling power, we learn to rely on our covenant relationship in that we receive His grace by sharing it through service to others; receiving grace for grace.  The covenant also allows us to rely upon His faithfulness in delivering on His promises as faith-building evidences of His unseen but measurable reality. It also allows us to become more and more reliable or trustworthy by delivering on our promises or repenting for our errors.  The mutual trust is the key to the power. 

OK, I admitted, Christ’s Atonement is exponentially greater than any Ebike…. My friends laughed and then quietly nodded with deep gratitude for our Savior who does more to perfect us by working through us than by working on us!


[1] Almost 2,000 acres (1976.84)

[2] While scripture isn’t always clear in defining these two principles and potential powers of Christ’s Atonement, they do make it clear that they are true: DC 20:30-31.  Quoting these verses, Elder Christopherson defines them in the October 2011 Conference thusly:

“We know that justification [or forgiveness of sins] through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true;

“And we know also, that sanctification [or purification from the effects of sin] through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength”

But there is more, as these powers are both events and processes.  God can forgive us instantly but then it takes the rest of our lives for Him to help us lose the desire for sin which comes through the baptism of fire through the Holy Ghost in His function as the Holy Spirit of Promise: DC 88:3-4, 34

3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise

4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected (justified) and sanctified by the same.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified (perfected).

Thus, a full definition might include:

Justification: forgiveness of sins and the change of one’s nature through capacitating obedience to divine law until perfected in Christ.

Sanctification: purification from the effects of past sin and the continuing purification during our learning curve until perfected in Christ.

Justification, like justification in a word processor perfects the form of the article.  While the spell/grammar checker in the word processor sanctify or purify the article from linguistic error.  Both are required to bring about perfection.  These are only metaphors using unintelligent algorithms while being perfected in Christ includes the wisdom of the eternities so that the writing (a metaphor for us) is totally perfected in form, grammar, and content.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.s