In a memorable moment of Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ, he relates his wife Janet’s intense burnout under the pressure of all she had to do. Famously, Robinson answers this situation with the parable of the bicycle. The result is a theory of grace according to which we do what we can (which isn’t much) and Christ makes up the rest. If we feel despair, it’s because we don’t take Jesus at his word: we believe in Christ without believing Christ. 
Robinson’s book has had the effect of making Mormons not as entirely allergic to the concept of grace as we had been back when we were eager to differentiate ourselves from “born again” Christians. Even so, I don’t think that grace has led us home just yet. Part of the issue, I want to suggest, is that we tend to conceive of salvation in individualistic terms, notwithstanding the strong family orientation of our theology. To get to heaven we have to read the Book of Mormon every day, by ourselves and in our families (and if we don’t have a family, we are to acquire one tout de suite); we have to hold family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evening; we have to do our home and visiting teaching with a diligence extending beyond the required monthly visit; we must actively seek opportunities to share the gospel with nonmembers, while making time to fellowship less-active members in our area; we are to worship in the temple regularly, performing ordinances for deceased ancestors whom we have diligently searched out, even if we are sixth-generation Mormons with faithful BIC ancestors whose work has nevertheless been vicariously performed at least a dozen times, just to make sure, and whose non-BIC ancestors are in much the same boat; on top of all this, we must serve in time-intensive Church callings, all without detracting from precious family time. Nobody else can do this stuff for us. Grandma’s extraordinary commitment to family history work in no way lets you off the hook, and so on ad infinitum.
Even if there is the occasional nod to the reality that nobody can reasonably do all of this stuff at the same time, talks that focus on any discrete element of it tend to emphasize that element’s importance to our salvation and call us to do better. Which is all well and good, except that the cumulative effect can be paralyzing guilt, as it was for Janet Robinson. And then, of course, we feel guilty for not actually believing Christ, and if we sort of hope that he might be able to make up for last month’s dismal home teaching numbers, we’re less hopeful that he can compensate for our basic failure to believe.
Now, I’m going to argue, contra Robinson, that believing in Christ is actually the way out of this dilemma, except that, Inigo Montoya-style, those words don’t mean what you think they mean. (If you want some guarantor that what I’m doing counts as Mormon theology, I’m hoping that a Princess Bride allusion will serve the turn.)
Let’s start from the end and work back to the beginning. The thing to remember about Christ is that it isn’t a name, but a title: Jesus the Messiah. We’re accustomed to thinking about the Messiah as an individual, but it’s not quite that simple. Consider the Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah 52:13-52:12, which we, along with other Christians, read as being so transparently about Jesus that it’s hard for us to see any other way of reading it. As I’ve argued elsewhere (with plenty of outside scholarship to support the position), the literal, surface reading of the Song is about corporate Israel and its role in saving all of God’s children. When Jesus fulfills this role, he acts both as an individual and as the collective body of Israel.
Which leads me to in. I’m becoming increasingly persuaded (with some help from N. T. Wright) that Paul’s New Testament writings don’t show much if any interest in individual salvation.  It’s not so much that individuals are uninvolved as it is that a strong communitarian bent is what gives the entire concept of salvation its shape. The thing for an individual to do, in Wright’s terms, is to become a “Messiah-person,” which is to say a participant in the messianic community.
The difference I’m getting at appears in a key LDS misreading of Paul, in 1 Cor. 3:16: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (KJV). The common LDS interpretation of this verse leads to the idea that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and that therefore we ought to treat our bodies accordingly, by keeping the Word of Wisdom, dressing modestly, and so on. The problem with this reading is that the “you” is plural, not singular: Paul is not addressing individuals, but the collective body of the church. That is, the small group of Corinthian saints meeting in somebody’s house are supposed to be a Temple in which God’s presence can dwell no less than it did in the Jerusalem Temple the Babylonians destroyed.
The collective metaphor becomes stronger later in 1 Corinthians. (Recall that the major problem Paul is addressing in the Corinthian church is schism; see 1:10.) In chapters 12-14, Paul lays out his metaphor of the body of Christ—the metaphor that gives us the idea that we are “members” of the Church. Jesus is—or at least should be—resurrected in us, and the way that resurrection gets actualized is through our exercise of whatever spiritual gift we happen to possess, animated by love. (It’s vital that the great hymn to love in chapter 13 appears sandwiched in the middle of this body-of-Christ discussion of spiritual gifts.)
So, the point is for us to be in Christ, which is to say fully engaged in the messianic community. It’s the community that will be saved (by literally being Jesus, the perfect human to Adam and Eve’s fallen ones, finally able to realize the inherent goodness of God’s creation), and our ticket to salvation as individuals is through the community. (Indeed, there’s much in LDS theology to support the idea of communal salvation: see, for instance, D&C 128:18, which contains the memorable sentence “For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect,” in the context of a “welding link” that needs to connect the entire human family.)
Believing, then, doesn’t mean accepting Jesus’s atonement as a propositional fact, or becoming the mystical equivalent of the Little Engine that Could (“I think I believe, I think I believe, I think I believe…”). Rather, it’s faithfulness to messianic community. We believe in Christ by taking the sacrament seriously: with his name upon us (collectively), we work together to enact the new creation that Paul says is all that matters (see Galatians 6:15; the point comes across more clearly in the NRSV), which is the restoration of the earth and its human stewards.
Putting the pieces together, believing in Christ means being anxiously engaged in the collective work of kingdom-building, using whatever our particular gifts happen to be. The advantage of being in a community is that not everybody has to have every gift. If someone is passionate about family history and has a knack for finding those people nobody else can, she is building the kingdom. If someone finds sharing the gospel with everyone around to be natural and normal, he is building the kingdom. Maybe it’s okay that the first person has less time for missionary work, and the second isn’t particularly involved in family history. Maybe that’s what the baptismal injunction to bear one another’s burdens really means. Maybe the grace of being in Christ is that the community, rather than the individual, becomes responsible for accomplishing all that must be done. After all, at its most basic, being in the messianic community means becoming Christ in the world, enacting the new creation through his power. That’s more than any of us can hope to do alone, but together, in Christ, we can hope (against hope, as Paul says) that it’s possible.
This isn’t to say that our participation in the kingdom should never stretch us, or make us uncomfortable. As Paul’s letters attest (especially those to the Corinthians and the Galatians), making messianic community a reality isn’t easy. Human nature tends to get in the way, and if charity (the pure love of Christ) is the only way such a community can even cohere, there’s a reason that Mormon treats it as a gift for which we have to pray “with all the energy of heart.” We have to learn, in and through the grace of communal life, to love our fellow-laborers, and everything else is really just a means to that end. As Paul says twice in Romans 13:8-10, love is the fulfilling of the law.
So, I’m not suggesting that we (as a community) cease doing family history, missionary work, visiting teaching, or anything else. These things are important, and our reasons for doing them are sound. What I am suggesting is that we stop (either deliberately or inadvertently) piling on guilt about them. We need, collectively, to work out ways of talking about and engaging in these activities that make our (varied according to our gifts) participation in them alive in the spirit rather than dead in the letter. We need, when talking about them, to figure out how to do the kind of “speaking the truth in love” that Paul brings up in a glorious passage in Ephesians that, once again, evokes the different roles that people can play in the body of Christ (pastors, evangelists, etc.), working toward the greater goal of “unity in the faith” and “increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Can we honor the work of the people who are good at a particular task without putting down those who aren’t, but who are contributing to the kingdom in other ways? Can we talk to each other in ways that stir up the love, for Christ and for each other, without which none of this is possible? I think we can, with and in Christ. The grace of it is amazing.
What better example of unity in diversity than these harmonies?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQbjQMaeaIA]
 On the odds that someone hasn’t heard the parable of the bicycle before, here’s the gist: Robinson’s young daughter sees a bicycle she wants in the shop. He can’t really afford to get it for her, so he tells her to save her money. Some time later, she comes to him with 61 cents and reports her diligent efforts at saving. He’s moved with compassion and buys her the bike. The argument is that God is like the father in the story, and we are like the children who bring our 61 cents, upon which a merciful God makes up the rest. For the experience of Robinson’s wife, Janet, see Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1992), 14-17. The parable of the bicycle appears on pp. 30-34.
 The communal quality of salvation is one of the central arguments of N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013). E.g, this summary statement on p. 565: “In fact, as we saw, the ekklesia, in its unity and holiness, was itself the central worldview-marker, the loadbearing symbol, generating its own necessary and organically appropriate praxis in worship, prayer, scripture reading and (what came to be called) the sacraments.” The only thing more significant than the ekklesia, according to Wright, is the question of who God is in the first place. I hardly need say that reading Paul in this way goes quite against the grain of much post-Reformation interpretation.