Monday, November 9

The Grace of God: 3 Questions

I spoke in church yesterday and my new friend D asked if I would share my notes with her. Since I write out my talks, I thought I would just post the text of it here, as part of my testimony of the Savior and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The topic on which I was asked to speak was "The Grace of God."

First, what is grace? For all doctrinal definitional questions, the first place I turn to is the Bible Dictionary, which teaches that “the main idea of the word [grace] is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” When I ponder the sort of help or strength the Savior has given me, I am immediately reminded of Elder David A. Bednar’s April 2005 General Conference address on the tender mercies of the Lord: “the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is through the mercy, then, or we could say the grace, of our Savior that we receive blessings each day of our lives. The extra strength we receive to pull an all-nighter the day before a big exam; the inspiration we need in order to solve an especially puzzling problem at work; the healing we experience when our physical bodies are sick and weak; the promptings we receive in our hearts to warn us of danger; the comfort we receive to know that even though your vehicle has been stolen, everything will be okay; the love that we feel when we are frustrated, depressed or disappointed; the answers we receive after offering many heartfelt prayers for guidance; the soft whispers from the Spirit to remind us that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father; the gentle assurances we receive when even though we feel nothing is going according to our plan, everything is going according to His plan. These are the “very personal and individualized blessings” we receive through the grace of Jesus Christ.

But grace as a “divine means of help or strength” is only half of the definition. The Bible Dictionary continues: “It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life…This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.” Grace, then, can be used interchangeably to describe the Savior’s Atonement. The grace of Christ makes possible the resurrection. The grace of Christ is that enabling power we receive in order to “lay hold on eternal life and exaltation.” How grateful I am for the grace of my Savior. It is the power of His Atonement and the source of His love. Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy described it in an April 1993 General Conference address as “the great gift of grace the Father has given to us through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ.” So, to answer our first question – what is grace? – it is a gift. A gift from our loving Heavenly Father, accessible to us through the Atonement of our Savior.

Which leads me to my second question: How do I obtain grace? The answer to this question is easily found, but more challenging to understand and live. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi, who “[delights] in plainness” and “[speaks] plainly that [we] cannot err” teaches “that is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:4, 20, 23). Really? That’s all? We will receive grace after all we can do?! Fantastic. Let me just add that to my list of things to do. Can’t wait to put a check mark next to that one! A daunting and seemingly impossible charge, indeed.

Elder Cook suggests five principles that will help us obtain the grace that we seek. The first principle is FAITH. Romans 5:1-2 reads: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace.” Said Elder Cook, “It is evident that this grace, or enabling power, is accessed by faith. No wonder faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel.” He continues, “How clear Christ’s question was to a sinking Peter, after he had walked on the water: ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ The moment Peter doubted and took his eyes off the Savior, he severed himself from the power of Jesus Christ that had sustained him on the water. How many times, likewise, as we have prayed for assistance or help with our problems, have we severed ourselves from the power of God because of doubt or fear, and thus could not obtain this enabling power of God?” Faith and fear will always live in opposition with each other. We must plead for faith, exercise our faith and continually strengthen our faith in order to receive the grace of God to assist us through the challenges of this life.

The second principle Elder Cook suggests is REPENTANCE: “The grace of the Lord through the Atonement can both cleanse us of sin and assist us in perfecting ourselves through our trials, sicknesses, and even ‘character defects.’ We are both sanctified and justified through the grace of the Lord…That great truth ought to fill us all with hope, as long as we are quick to remember that the effect of grace in our lives is conditioned upon repenting of our sins.” Moroni teaches in Helaman 12: “Therefore, blessed are they who will repent. … And may God grant … that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works” (Helaman 12:23–24). Elder Cook continues, “A repentant heart and good works are the very conditions required to have grace restored to us. When someone pleads fervently in prayer for an answer, the answer may be more conditioned on repentance of personal sins than on any other factor.”

The third principle is HUMILITY. Ether 12:27 – “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me.”

Elder Cook’s fourth principle brings us back to the words of Nephi: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Again, a very daunting charge, to do all we can do. But I believe Elder Cook’s words offer comfort and assurance: “Thus, unless one has done all in his own power, he cannot expect the grace of God to be manifest. What a glorious principle to understand: the Lord’s assistance to us—whether we have strong faith or weak faith; whether a man, a woman, or a child—is not based just on what we know, how strong we are, or who we are, but more upon our giving all that we can give and doing all that we can do in our present circumstance. Once one has given all he can, then the Lord, through His grace, may assist him.” He continues, “Clearly, the Lord’s role and our role in our receiving divine help come into clear perspective in these inspired words: ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’ (Philip. 4:13).”

The fifth and final principle that Elder Cook suggested in his Conference address is KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS. “To obtain grace,” he said, “one does not have to be perfect but he does have to be trying to keep the commandments the best that he can. Then the Lord may allow him to receive that power.”

So we now know what grace is and we know how we can obtain it. My third question, then: Why do I need grace? I believe the answers to my first two questions answer this third question – I need grace because it is the power of the Atonement. It is the means by which I will be resurrected. I need grace because after all I can do, the Lord will compensate for what I lack. I again turn to the Bible Dictionary: “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.” I need grace in order to serve others. I need grace in order to become more like my Savior.

Moroni closes the Book of Mormon with this testimony: “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” (Moroni 10:32-33). His grace is sufficient to make us perfect, to sanctify us.

In 2 Nephi 10:24, the prophet Jacob offers this challenge to us: “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.” That is why we need grace – through it, we are saved. Through it we are forgiven of our sins. Through the grace and love and sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, we are brought back to the presence of our Heavenly Father, to live with him “in a state of never-ending happiness” (Alma 28:12).

Jacob continues in verse 25: “Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine.” Even our praise and our gratitude and our thanksgiving are made possible by the divine grace of God.

Again, how grateful I am for the grace of my Savior. I add my testimony to that of Ammon: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles [have been wrought in my life], for which [I] will praise his name forever” (Alma 26:12).

I know that my Savior lives. This is His gospel and His church. President Thomas S. Monson is His prophet on the earth today and Joseph Smith was called as His prophet to restore the gospel and the church to the earth in this last dispensation. The Book of Mormon contains His words and truly testifies of His divine mission and atonement for all mankind. It is through His infinite love and grace that we will be able to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father someday, to be with our families forever. I know these things to be true.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this talk! I'm so excited to reread! :)

    ReplyDelete