“We Don’t Believe in Grace”
Prominent BYU Religion Professor Robert Millet recalls:
“I was reared in a Latter-day Saint home in Louisiana, where most of my boyhood friends were Protestant. Just before leaving on my mission, I asked my father — a lifelong Southerner and member of the Church — a few doctrinal questions. One question was, ‘Dad, what does it mean to be saved by grace?‘ He answered quickly, ‘We don’t believe in that.‘ ‘We don’t?‘ I said. ‘Why not?‘ Without any hesitation re replied, ‘Because the Baptists do!‘” (Robert L. Millet, Book Review, “The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences,” by Bruce C. Hafen, 1989)
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the First Principle
The first principle of the gospel always has been, is, and always will be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must accept Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Redeemer. It is only by and through His name and His grace that we are saved and exalted.
The Prophet Joseph Smith proclaimed: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
Overreactive Efforts to Separate Ourselves from Traditional Christianity
I fear that, like Professor Millet’s dad, in our desire to separate ourselves and the restored gospel from traditional Christianity, a few of us Latter-day Saints overreact.
For example, in an effort to prove that “faith without works is dead,” we can get dangerously close to advocating “works without faith.”
We Latter-day Saints sometimes spurn the ancient symbols of Jesus and Christianity like the crucifix and ichthys fish. We occasionally avoid wonderful traditional Christian hymns, like “Amazing Grace.” We often shun Christian jewelry, like “WWJD” (“What Would Jesus Do”) wristbands. And then we wonder why some people do not consider us to be Christians!?
The Doctrine of Grace is Central to the Restored Gospel and Book of Mormon
The doctrine of grace is central to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon “abounds in the language and logic of grace.” (Robert Millet) In fact, “grace” is taught more fully and eloquently in the Book of Mormon than in the New Testament
The Book of Mormon declares:
- We are saved by grace.
- We are reconciled to God through grace.
- Grace allows us to overcome sin.
- Grace enables us to overcome sin.
- Grace redeems us.
- We are created through grace.
- We are preserved through grace.
- We are blessed because of grace.
- We are changed from the natural man by grace.
- We are sanctified by grace.
- We are perfected by grace.
- Grace gives us second chances.
- Grace empowers us.
2 Nephi 10:24 – Salvation comes only through His grace
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”
Jacob 4:7- His grace empowers us
“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.”
Moroni 10:32-33 – His grace is “sufficient” to sanctify and perfect us
“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.
“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.
Mosiah 2:20-25 – We will always be indebted to the Him who, by His grace, created us, preserves us, and blesses us
“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another.
“I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
“And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf: We cannot “earn” our way into heaven, grace is our hope
“Even if we were to serve God with our whole souls, it is not enough, for we would still be “unprofitable servants.” We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own. The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope.” (“The Gift of Grace,” Gen. Conf. Apr. 2015)
2 Nephi 25:26 – Christ is the only source of the remission of our sins
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
Ether 12:27 – His grace is “sufficient” for those who humble themselves
“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weaknesses. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
2 Nephi 25:23 – By grace we are saved “after all we can do”
“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 verse is often misunderstood. Some people interpret this passage as saying Jesus extends his grace to us only “after” we have done everything that we can possibly do. This is a dangerous concept. Since no one has ever really done “all” they can do, no one is worthy to receive grace. What did Saul of Tarsus, or Alma the Younger, or the woman taken in adultery, do to “earn” or be “worthy” of His grace?
Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained “after all we can do”
“Because we have all “sinned and come short of the glory of God” and because “there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God,” every one of us is unworthy to return to God’s presence.
“The prophet Nephi made an important contribution to our understanding of God’s grace when he declared, “We labor diligently … 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.”
“However, I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase “after all we can do.” We must understand that “after” does not equal “because.”
“We are not saved “because” of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?
“Many people feel discouraged because they constantly fall short. They know firsthand that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They raise their voices with Nephi in proclaiming, “My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.”
“I am certain Nephi knew that the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin. This is why Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren “to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.”
“After all, that is what we can do! And that is our task in mortality!
“The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope.”
Alma the Younger — Rescued by Grace
As Alma the Younger, and his apostate friends, were trying to destroy the church of Christ, they were confronted by a destroying angel. Years later, Alma described to his son what happened.
This is one of the most beautiful and poignant accounts of grace in all scripture. This is one of the most memorable stories of conversion and getting a second chance through grace.
“For I went about … seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.
“And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us.
“But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up,and beheld the angel.
“And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.
“And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs. “…. I was struck with such great fear … lest … I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more.
“But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
“Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
“Yea … I had led [his children] unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
“Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pain no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
“… there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
“[I thought] I saw …God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.
“But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.
“Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost….
“For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God.
“And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.
“And I know that he will raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory; yea, and I will praise him forever … (Alma 36:6-28)
(See: Brad Wilcox, “His Grace is Sufficient,” BYU Devotional, July 12, 2011; Stephen E. Robinson, “How LDS Often Misunderstand the Phrase, “After All We Can Do,” LDS Living, Nov. 16, 2019, adapted from “Believing Christ;” Dieter F. Uchtdorg, “The Gift of Grace,” Gen. Conf. Apr. 2015)
(Other “Sunday Sermons” go to londonedition.home.blog or http://www.londonedition.net)