Doctrine in Doubles

Eternal truths can be found when we understand the blessings of Gospel doctrines.

We’re very familiar with the phrase in James 2:17: “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead.” But we’re less familiar with the truth that agency without responsibility is also dead—and becomes just a series of decisions. Similarly, mercy without justice is dead—we can’t appreciate one without the other. Elder Lynn G. Robbins discusses these doctrinal doubles in his devotional “Be 100 Percent Responsible.” 

A trowel and dirt on wooden boards


The Plan of Happiness requires us to make decisions and learn and grow to be like our Heavenly Father. We cannot do that without our ability to make choices, and we would not learn from our mistakes if we were not responsible for our actions. Sometimes making choices means we slip up and sin. However, the Plan of Happiness allows us to return to our Heavenly Father, who is just. If we were punished for all the sins we commit, the Plan would fail. Justice cannot be filled without mercy. Thankfully, our Savior atoned for our sins so that mercy can balance justice.

Elder Robbins boldly declares, “Faith without works, mercy without justice, and agency without responsibility are all different verses of the same seductive and damning song.” It can be easy to overlook one part of the double in favor of the other one. We’re taught that we can’t pick up the agency side of the stick without picking up the consequence side as well. However, these doubles are not meant to trick us or hold us back in any way. They are meant to be blessings from our Heavenly Father that allow us to become our best selves and experience joy to the fullest.

Read or watch Lynn G. Robbins’ devotional “Be 100 Percent Responsible” to learn more about doctrinal doubles.


—Megan Crook, Latter-day Saint Insights


Find more insights 

Read W. Gibb Dyer Jr.’s talk “Repentance: the Key to Eternal Progression.”

Find out more about Christ’s love for us in Jeffery R. Holland’s talk “Amazed at the Love Jesus Offers Me.”

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