Saved by Grace, pt. 1

The next few posts  will be parts of my husband’s talk on grace, given on February 17, 2008. I’m posting it in pieces because it is long. I loved the conclusions he made.

Grace: A Necessity

Introduction

The topic for my talk today is grace. Now, if you are like me, the first thing that comes to mind is “Works! Faith without works is dead! You can’t be saved without effort!” I want you to suppress those “greenie missionary” thoughts and really contemplate on the role of grace in LDS theology. This is a talk, so no one is going to argue with me and I certainly don’t need to defend Mormon doctrine to any of you, so I feel comfortable in saying, as Nephi does, that “it is by grace that we are saved.”

The full verse of Nephi’s proclamation is found in 2 Nephi 25:23 and reads, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

This is a weighty verse since there are key words with multiple meanings and connotations. So as not to be paralyzed by semantic arguments, let’s define some of these phrases carefully.

Dallin H. Oaks, in a talk 10 years ago, gave 6 different definitions for the salvation while addressing the question of being saved. Without going to that level of detail, I wish to put forth working definitions for ‘grace’, ‘saved’, and the phrase ‘all we can do’.

From Bible Dictionary we read, “The main idea of the word [grace] is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” A standard dictionary gives the following definition, “a favor rendered by one who need not do so; unmerited divine assistance.” Finally, one LDS author wrote “Grace is God’s love in action. It is his doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” (“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Jul 1989, 59–61)

So, in the simplest terms, grace is simply help from God. Of course, the greatest help that any of us can receive is forgiveness of our sins through the Atonement of Christ. This is the grace that Nephi is talking about – the unmerited favor from Christ, given through love, that allows you and me to overcome sin and become clean to stand before our Father in Heaven, that is, to be saved. In some sense, Grace (with a capital G) is the Atonement of Christ. This falls in line nicely with King Benjamin’s words “that salvation [is only] through the atoning blood of Christ.” (Mosiah 3:18)

One appealing aspect of this definition of grace is the inclusion of idea of grace being unmerited. We do not earn it, we don’t even deserve it. Christ gives it freely. Quoting Lehi, “salvation is free” (2 Ne 2:4), that is to say, Christ freely paid for our sins and satisfied the demands of justice. Again we see that the Grace of God is most important when equated with Christ’s sacrifice in our behalf. Revisiting Nephi’s words “it is by grace that we are saved”, we can interpret this as “through Christ’s atonement we are saved.”

As I mentioned earlier, Dallin H. Oaks outlined six different definitions of salvation. For this verse, I think we can say that when Nephi talks of being saved, he means exalted in the Celestial kingdom.

The trickiest part of the words of Nephi deal with the final phrase “after all we can do.” I say tricky because some could argue that “saved by grace, after all we can do” qualifies grace to be earned and we just said that grace is unmerited. However, the qualification is not on grace, but rather on salvation. Salvation is obtained only by the combination of grace (i.e. the Atonement) and “all we can do.”

So what is “all we can do?” As I pondered this question it seemed that no one could look back at his or her life and say “I did all that I could do.” Even limiting the discussion to just this morning, could you say with certainty that you did all you could do? Couldn’t you have spent a little more effort in prayer or been a little more patient with a family member? Clearly, even fulfilling our own potential, let alone being perfect, is impossible. So “all we can do” must mean something else. I propose that all that we really can do in relation to our salvation is repent. What more can you do? True repentance is the act of pleading for the grace of God while trying to follow the path of Christ. It is my firm belief that all we can do is repent.

Examining Nephi’s words once more “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” can be interpreted as “salvation is obtained through the Atonement of Christ if we are willing to accept that Atonement and repent.”

To recap, grace is unmerited divine assistance, the best of example of which is the Atonement. We can return to live with God only through his grace which we accept by following the teachings of Christ and practicing repentance.

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~ by woundedhart on February 20, 2008.

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