How Cockroaches Taught Me About the Atonement

Nov 19, 2012
1 min read

To some of you, this article might just be the most disgusting parable that you’ve ever read, but please, bear with me.

When I was a teenager, I volunteered to sit at a booth for our city zoo at a scout show. I’ve always loved animals and it’s a good thing too because during this event, I was holding a black and white checkered tegu lizard, had about three giant hissing cockroaches climbing on me and a big black scorpion in my armpit, I guess it liked the warm and cozy environment.

As I sat tending to the various critters crawling all over me, I noticed something odd going on in a small container that had two different cockroach species in it (I know, we had a lot of cockroaches). One of the roaches was beginning to molt, and in a brownish environment surrounded by other brown roaches, the bright white roach emerging from its old skin caught my eye.

He struggled quite a bit to get out of that old, hardened skin of his. I took note of how vulnerable he looked and was amazed at how white he was; I had never seen a white cockroach before. At the same time this one roach was molting, I noticed that another roach started acting strange – it was giving birth – live birth! I didn’t even know that roaches did that. A cylinder of white emerged and then broke apart as these tiny white baby roaches began to scurry all over the place.

What struck me is how the big roach and the baby roaches were both this pure white color. I thought of how when we are born, we are pure and innocent but after being exposed to the world, a hardened exoskeleton of sin eventually envelops us. However, like the adult roach, we can shed that exoskeleton of sin and become pure and clean once more.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the humble cockroach it seems. The prophet Alma testified that “all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it…do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). I guess he was right.

Maybe you’ll think twice before squashing another roach ;)


  1. Loved the analogy! Didn’t know that about cockroaches. However, still don’t want them in my house!

  2. I’m an antitheist but even I don’t think you guys are cockroaches. :P And yeah, cockroaches are the victims of bad PR. They’re called waterbeetles in most other languages, except in English they have an ugly name, and a bad rep. They’re quite clean, live in a family unit and are only separated unwillingly by life, and are essential parts of the ecosystem. I find it ironic that after 150,000 years and billions of dollars of R&D we invented Roomba’s and other giant clunky inefficient things that are basically replicating the periplaneta species (and failing at it) when we’re surrounded by them anyway. Catch and release is the way to go with all critters that wander into your home. If you have a roach problem, it’s your own fault, clean the house, no food, and dry your sinks. They usually come in mostly for water, so a water feature in the backyard will get rid of 99% of them.

    • I agree, I’ve never liked killing roaches. My mother and three sisters were terrified of them but I would just catch them by hand and let them go. They’re impressive creatures if you take time to learn about them. Appreciate your comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *