Grace and works in Mormonism
I didn’t know what was expected the first time I heard someone say, “Let us say grace.” The family bowed their heads, said a memorized prayer and began the meal. I realized that their “grace” was similar to the un-memorized blessing on the food we had each meal as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (referred to as Mormons or LDS).
It didn’t take long to learn that “grace” had even more meanings. But the most meaningful to me refers to the grace extended from God.
The Bible, together with the Book of Mormon and other modern-day scriptures provides a comprehensive explanation of Grace.
From the Bible we read:
In the writings of Paul, grace is freely given to all mankind because of the love and tender mercy of Jesus Christ.
The LDS Bible dictionary defines Grace in this way:
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. 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. 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.
Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient…
When Jesus suffered in Gethsemane for the sins and sorrows of mankind, He freed us from the prison of death—we were saved with no strings attached. However, we are expected to follow His teachings, example and commandments.
Some churches use biblical scriptures to argue that nothing more is required than the faith that Christ is one’s personal Savior. However, in the New Testament, James made it clear that faith alone is not enough:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? (James 2:14-17)
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)
Gerald Lund, a Mormon Educator, quoted President Joseph Fielding Smith in an article in the April, 1981 Ensign Magazine, “Salvation: By Grace or By Works?” :
So Paul taught these people—who thought that they could be saved by some power that was within them, or by observing the law of Moses—he pointed out to them the fact that if it were not for the mission of Jesus Christ, if it were not for this great atoning sacrifice, they could not be redeemed. And therefore it was by the grace of God that they are saved, not by any work on their part, for they were absolutely helpless. Paul was absolutely right.
And on the other hand, James taught just as the Lord taught, just as Paul had taught in other scripture, that it is our duty, of necessity, to labor, to strive in diligence, and faith, keeping the commandments of the Lord, if we would obtain that inheritance which is promised to the faithful. …
The Book of Mormon confirms that it takes more than saying we believe; we must live as Christ commanded:
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.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
Dallin Oaks, an apostle of the LDS Church, explained (Ensign Magazine, May 1998, “Have You Been Saved?”):
…what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “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” (Moro. 10:32).
We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).
We must take action now to gain exaltation later. Exaltation is different than salvation. It means being exalted into the highest kingdom of heaven into the very presence of God. The gift of grace guarantees that the end of life (death) is just the beginning of eternity (immortality). We must strive to become better each day.
Using the standard dictionary definitions of Grace, Christopher J. Sexton, a recent convert to Mormonism, told how grace works in his life.
1. Elegance, beauty, and smoothness of form or movement. This is how things go in my life when I allow God to drive the bus, and I just follow instructions.
2. Politeness, dignified and decent behavior. This is how I try to act as I pray and ask for the continued humility, strength and love to accept His will for me, knowing He knows best.
3. Generosity of spirit, a capacity to tolerate, accommodate or forgive people. This is the never-ending Love of my (our) Savior and all He does for me during the trial of this existence.
Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet, taught that through grace and following Christ (works) we will be redeemed:
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.)
I am humbled by the Grace of God. Because of Christ’s redeeming love, I deeply desire to be worthy of the incomprehensible sacrifice He made in my behalf. I am grateful for His arms of comfort and mercy that encircle me and strengthen me when I am weak. I pray that others will come to know, as I do, that Jesus is the Christ, filled with Grace and truth and that He is available to all who seek Him.
Gerald N. Lund – “Salvation: By Grace or by Works?
Elder Dalin H. Oaks – “Have You Been Saved?”
Bible Dictionary: Grace
LDS Scriptures: New Testament