Saved and Enabled by the Grace of Jesus Christ

Camille Fronk Olson

Camille Fronk Olson, “Saved and Enabled by the Grace of Jesus Christ,” Shedding Light on the New Testament: Acts–Revelation, ed. Ray L. Huntington, Frank F. Judd Jr., and David M. Whitchurch (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 46–66.

Camille Fronk Olson is an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

Although both ancient and modern scripture profess the necessity of Christ’s grace, the doctrine is often overlooked and misunderstood. For example, a missionary bore a powerful witness of Jesus Christ after being at the Missionary Training Center for only a week when she observed that she had never thought about the grace of Christ before beginning her mission. Since she had been at the MTC, however, she had thought of it and prayed for it every day. Why is the doctrine of grace so foreign to many of us? Why is it easy to recite from memory and explain that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20) but difficult to teach “for by grace are ye saved through faith; . . . not of works, lest any man should boast”? (Ephesians 2:8–9).

A man introducing himself as a member of the Church requested clarification on Nephi’s declaration, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). After hearing so many differing explanations for the passage, he was puzzled. Words in the first verse of a well-known sacrament hymn echo his uncertainty: “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me.”[1] What is so confusing about grace?

In Hebrew, the term grace literally means “favor” or “goodwill compassionately given.”[2] In the Greek, it is a gift—freely given and unmerited; the divine influence upon the heart that inspires the receiver to generosity and good works.[3] The term connotes favor on the part of the giver and appreciation on the part of the receiver. Theologically, grace refers to God’s predisposition to empower us in our vulnerability and weakness, if we do not resist or reject it. Much like faith, hope, charity, mercy, and other gifts of the Spirit, grace is an endowment made possible only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It has been described as “an enabling power,” “divine means of help or strength,” and “assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to [our] own means.”[4]

The term grace appears 130 times in the King James New Testament and in every book of scripture from Acts to Revelation with the exception of 1 and 3 John. Collectively, New Testament writings reinforce these descriptions of the doctrine. Leaders of the early Christian Church knew the meaning of grace and its implications toward their weaknesses and inability to progress without the merits of the Redeemer. For example, the Apostle Paul taught that grace was “the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7) and that we are each afforded gifts of ability through the grace of Christ (Romans 12:6). He stressed the importance of understanding that we are “justified by [the Savior’s] grace” (Titus 3:7) and foreordained us to “an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). James taught, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. . . . Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:6, 8). As a reminder that all have received the gift of Christ’s grace, the Apostle Peter urged us to “minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). And John’s prayer at the conclusion of his remarkable revelation was that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (Revelation 22:21). In clear and certain teachings, Christian leaders in the first century deemed the doctrine of Christ’s grace as fundamental to their beliefs.

The root of our confusion over the grace of Jesus Christ stems not only from our definition of the doctrine but from our failure to appropriately incorporate it into personal practice. How do we confuse our receipt of this gift from God? At one extreme, we focus on our own unaided efforts as though Christ’s role is to wait at the finish line to welcome us when we finally succeed. At the opposite extreme, we justify a life of sin by claiming the more we experience both good and evil, the better we will appreciate Christ’s offering. In either case, we neither comprehend the grandeur of Christ’s Atonement nor receive the singular sweetness of His grace. We are therefore left without the enabling grounding or perspective to sincerely respond to God in the humble manner required.

Revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith provides validation, illustration, and explanation to strengthen our understanding of the doctrine of grace that was so frequently referenced by New Testament leaders. By linking teachings and history in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, from faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in two different lands and in different eras, we can observe multiple angles for applying the doctrine of grace and replace our perplexity with greater clarity.

As “another testament of Jesus Christ,” the Book of Mormon is particularly insightful as a commentary to New Testament teachings on grace in at least four ways. First, it exposes root philosophies that foster polarization between grace and works. Second, it explains our fallen natures and reiterates New Testament teachings of why we desperately need Christ’s enabling power. Third, through specific teachings and numerous examples, the Book of Mormon expounds what God requires of us in response to His grace, a requirement that is easily misconstrued as works of the law of Moses when referring to the New Testament alone.

Additionally, the Book of Mormon contains repeated warnings about pride, the sin that destroyed the Nephites, blinded many early New Testament Christians, and continues to plague our society today. In a prayer recorded on the brass plates, the prophet Zenock suggested that our misunderstanding of grace occurs because we choose not to recognize our dependence on Christ: “Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son” (Alma 33:16; emphasis added). The sins and weaknesses warned about most often in the Book of Mormon underscore our mortal tendency to rely on self-righteousness rather than on the Savior’s righteousness. Because of pride we choose to believe that we succeed either by our own greatness or by assuming no responsibility in our salvation. Therefore, pride is the enemy to grace—in every era and culture.

The Destructive Dichotomy

Anciently and today, believers have struggled between these two opposing yet equally destructive philosophies. As the first-century Church expanded, people from diverse cultures clashed in their attempts to embrace the gospel while retaining conflicting religious traditions. On one side were Christians with Jewish background, who emphasized their strict observance of the law of Moses to earn favor with God. Judging righteousness by outward performance irrespective of inward motives prevented them from seeing the Savior’s enabling power in their own lives and the lives of Gentile converts. For them, strict observance was the end, not the means.

To these misguided Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. . . . For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. . . . Where is the boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:20, 23–24, 27–28). The Joseph Smith Translation of the passage is even more emphatic of the necessity for grace by replacing the word freely in verse 24 with only, rendering the passage, “Therefore being justified only by his grace.” Similarly, the JST adds the word alone to verse 28 to read: “a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.”[5]

On the other side of the New Testament Church were converts from a Greco-Roman culture saturated with idol worship. Under their former practices, each worshipper derived an individual mode of adoration for the gods. No universal standard such as the law of Moses or the collective words of prophets defined specific requirements for their acts of obedience and sacrifice to the various deities. After accepting Christianity, these followers struggled to mesh the doctrine of Christ with views that no lifestyle is too licentious and no behavior is beyond their God’s ability to accept. Everything therefore depended on Christ; nothing was required of them. To these confused believers Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. . . . What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (Romans 6:1–2, 15).

Awareness of these diverse religious perspectives among the early Christians gives insight into the tone and emphasis in Paul’s missives. He stressed either grace or works, depending on his audience’s blind spot.

The same pair of opposing beliefs is found in Nephite society. The Book of Mormon treatise, however, also discusses the dogmas that foster the dichotomy. Two false teachers represent these polar responses to Christ’s grace. One is Nehor, a false prophet who became immensely popular and wealthy among the Nephites by preaching that “all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4). Nehor’s version of universal or cheap grace was so appealing that “many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money” (Alma 1:5). According to Nehor, nothing we do makes any difference to our salvation; a loving Redeemer has already saved us.

Arguing from the opposite extreme was the anti-Christ Korihor, who “[led] away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness” (Alma 30:18), with teachings that men and women “fared in this life according to the management of the creature, . . . prospered according to [their] genius, and . . . conquered according to [their] strength” (Alma 30:17). Drawing on the natural man’s desire for control, Korihor argued that people carve out success through their own intellect, brawn, and organizational skills. Therefore only the weak ones would feel a need for a Redeemer to atone for their inadequacies (see Alma 30:16–17). Because Korihor valued only the “independently” strong in society, he concluded that the grace of Christ was unnecessary.

To those who share Korihor’s philosophy, the hardworking and intelligent Apostle Paul offered a humbling reminder: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Identifying the destructive dichotomy in ancient times can alert us to this equally enticing trap in our day. C. S. Lewis observed that the devil “always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. . . . He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.”[6]

Latter-day Saints are often accused of emphasizing works rather than Christ’s grace. Perhaps it is our reaction to what we think sounds like Protestant doctrine that drives us to avoid even the mention or thought of grace. But our leaders have warned that serious dangers spring from a zealous focus on works. In 1913 the First Presidency of the Church counseled members, “People who pride themselves on their strict observance of the rules and ordinances and ceremonies of the Church are led away by false spirits, who exercise an influence so imitative of that which proceeds from a Divine source that even these persons, who think they are ‘the very elect,’ find it difficult to discern the essential difference.”[7] By assuming that those who claim that they are saved by “grace alone” are confused into thinking that a belief in Christ alone will save them, we can tip the scales so far in the opposite direction as to neglect the Savior and His enabling power altogether, falsely concluding that it is our works that will therefore exalt us.

Wholeheartedly accepting and reverencing Christ and His precious gift of grace without resorting to either extreme may seem like a tricky balancing act. But even in this endeavor, the Lord does not leave us to fare alone. His enabling power directs, supports, and instructs us toward success. This help, however, is almost impossible to detect until we acknowledge we need it. The cure isn’t apparent until we understand and accept that we have a serious ailment.

Our Lost and Fallen State

Every standard work is peppered with reminders that without Christ we are “unprofitable servants,” “less than the dust of the earth,” and “lost.” Paul cautioned, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:11–12). A repentant son of King Mosiah taught, “Since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins” (Alma 22:14). And Mormon observed, “All things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them” (Moroni 7:24).

Before we can appreciate the grace of Christ, we must acknowledge and mourn the incredible lack inherent in our fallen condition. The scriptures are long in reminders to put God first—before ourselves and others. That perspective is critical to objectively view our abilities and limitations in relation to the omniscience, omnipotence, and perfect love of Christ. Prophets and apostles assist us to see our standing before God accurately. Paul stated: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). John taught, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). To the Ephesians, Paul witnessed:

In times past in the lusts of our flesh, . . . [we] were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, . . . and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:3–7; emphasis added)

Unless we honestly admit that we have offended God, we will always be confused about His grace. We only find the Lord when we admit we are lost.

Again, the Book of Mormon offers additional insight and examples to reinforce this doctrine taught in New Testament times. Father Lehi illustrated it through his dream. When he first saw himself in the dream, he was “in a dark and dreary waste”; without purpose or perspective, he wandered around “for the space of many hours in darkness”; and finally “began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me” (1 Nephi 8:7–8). Lehi didn’t find or even notice the tree of life (clearly the focal point in the dream) until after he saw himself as lost and pled to God for mercy. By partaking of the fruit from the tree (representing the “love of God,” or Christ’s Atonement and grace), Lehi experienced a joy and fulfillment that he had never before imagined. As a result of his dream, Lehi taught his family that “all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer” (1 Nephi 10:6).

King Benjamin described his people as being “a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (Mosiah 1:11). Not until King Benjamin’s landmark address led them to see their own nothingness and divine indebtedness, however, did they fall to the earth because “they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified” (Mosiah 4:1).

Nephi’s appreciation for the Lord’s grace grew through multiple experiences that revealed that his strengths were weak in relation to the monumental mission God called him to fulfill. For example, before his first attempt to secure the brass plates from Laban in Jerusalem, young Nephi boldly proclaimed that God would prepare a way for them to accomplish their mission (1 Nephi 3:7). His confidence of success as he and his brothers returned to Jerusalem is notable. Nephi’s initial actions, however, indicate that he had to learn how to apply the principle of trust in the Lord’s prepared way. Nephi didn’t follow “the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6) until after he had tried his strength (“being large in stature”; 1 Nephi 2:16), his intellect (being “taught in all the learning of my Father”; 1 Nephi 1:1), and his family wealth (it being “exceedingly great”; 1 Nephi 3:25). After he tried all he could do and acknowledged his abilities were woefully insufficient did he discover “the way” that the Lord had prepared for him.

Later, the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship, seaworthy to transport his family to the promised land. This time, Nephi acknowledged his need for divine help through words and actions. He simply replied: “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (1 Nephi 17:9). Nephi’s younger brother, Jacob, would later teach, “The Lord 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” (Jacob 4:7).

These few examples from the Book of Mormon reinforce the message taught by New Testament leaders. We cannot clearly understand the grace of Christ and acknowledge our dependence on Him until we realize our own lost and fallen condition.

Like the Apostles Paul and John in the New Testament world, Lehi, the people of King Benjamin, and Nephi in the Americas also found that God will lead us beyond the edge of our own abilities to where there is no one else who can help us but Him. Only then are we sufficiently humble to appreciate that it is by grace that we are saved, despite all we can do. Only then can we see that coming to this realization is in itself another manifestation of the grace of God. The Lord gave Lehi the dream. He gave prophets to the Nephites to teach them of their fallen condition and need for a Redeemer. He gave Nephi and others assignments that exceeded their natural ability and invited them to rely on His strength for success. No wonder Paul exclaimed, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

The Enabling Power of Grace

Once we acknowledge our need for Christ and His grace, we realize that He is always the source of strength and wisdom in our successes—past, present, and future. The Apostle Paul acknowledged that Christ’s grace enabled him to even begin his missionary labors or “lay the foundation” of faith among potential converts (see 1 Corinthians 3:10). He later taught that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you” so that you are always able to “abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Elder Bruce C. Hafen taught, “Growth . . . means learning from our mistakes in a continual process made possible by the Savior’s grace, which He extends both during and ‘after all we can do.’”[8] Moroni verified this truth with the exhortation to remember that “every good gift cometh of Christ” (Moroni 10:18). Ancient prophets identified numerous ways that we are recipients of Christ’s grace even in our pursuit of righteous desires and endeavors. In complementary ways, the New Testament and Book of Mormon remind us that we owe all our successes to the Lord.

The commandment to pray provides one example of how the grace of Christ assists us in all we can do. Paul taught, “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). Even in our struggles to communicate our unspeakable desires to God, we are enabled by divine grace. Similarly, Elder David A. Bednar confirmed, “When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”[9]

The Book of Mormon further explains Christ’s grace in our prayers. First, we could not even access God through prayer but for the Atonement of Christ and its attendant grace. The prophet Zenos prayed, “And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me” (Alma 33:11; emphasis added). Note that Zenos did not say that God hears us due to our good works and brilliant contributions. God hears us by virtue of His Son’s merits because of our need.

A second example of receiving assistance while doing all we can is found in Paul’s writings to the believing Ephesians, who had already received some experience with being “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). His list of ways that Christ’s grace prepared, sustained, and prospered them holds equal benefit for us. The Savior chose us before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:4). He adopted us as His children according to His goodwill (see Ephesians 1:5). Through His redeeming blood, He forgives our sins and makes us acceptable to God (see Ephesians 1:6–7). He pours out all wisdom and prudence upon us, making known to us His will (see Ephesians 1:8–9). By foreordination, He promises us an inheritance (see Ephesians 1:11). Paul’s list invites memories that we have not succeeded thus far in life by our own strength, wisdom, and management skills.

In his dream, Lehi did not see all the ways that God helped him to arrive at the tree until after he saw the world from the perspective of the tree. Only then did he see that he had been guided to the tree with a “rod of iron, [that] extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood” (1 Nephi 8:19). Solely from the perspective of the tree could he see how dangerous and close the temptations of the devil and the depths of hell were to the path and the tree. The dream’s undergirding message seems to be that we are strong and wise only when anchored to the tree. Only then do we have an accurate perception of life—which things are in reality good, and just how dark and treacherous evil really is.

The larger context surrounding Nephi’s teachings of Christ’s grace “after all we can do” recites repeated instances when the Israelites failed to heed the warning voice of prophets when God had prepared a way for their success if they would come to Him. In a one-verse summary statement, Nephi observed,

As the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved. (2 Nephi 25:20)

In gentle chastisement, the Savior likewise whispers, “As often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time” (D&C 14:6). An honest review of life reveals countless ways that the Lord has enlightened, orchestrated, warned, and enabled us, either directly or through others, to bring us to our current favorable circumstances. Of what then have we to boast?

“All We Can Do”

Recognizing our overwhelming need for the Savior, does anything remain for us to do? Prophets in every era are direct and unequivocal in their reminders that we have a role to play in our redemption. Again, the essence of grace reflects not only a gift given but also a gift humbly received. By our receipt of the gift, we confirm our faith that “in the strength of the Lord I can do all things” (Philippians 4:13; see also Alma 26:12). But specifying our role in receiving help presents another temptation to misunderstand. How do you separate our role from the Savior’s grace that enables us to perform that role?

Choosing to accept His grace is at the heart of “all we can do.” Both James and Peter stressed that God gives grace to “the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). In all His magnanimous offering, the Lord will not force us to accept Him or His enabling power to return to God. “For there is a God, and he hath created all things, . . . both things to act and things to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:14). We are not mindless robots waiting to be programmed to conform to Christ’s law. We are more than empty vessels waiting to be filled. Our role is therefore neither passive nor independent of Christ’s enabling power.

Nephi’s discussion of salvation by grace “after all we can do” concludes with free will and actions describing our essential part: “Believe in Christ, and deny him not; . . . wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Nephi 25:29).

More specifically, Christ taught that our role in His gospel is to have faith in Him, repent of all our sins, be baptized in His name, “be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost,” and endure to the end (3 Nephi 27:13–20). In essence, this constitutes “coming to Christ.” These same requirements are reiterated and reinforced elsewhere in scripture as being interconnected to the grace of Christ.

Exercise faith in Christ. Paul taught, “By whom [Christ] . . . we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” (Romans 5:2, emphasis added; see also 4:16). Alma counseled priesthood leaders to trust in the Lord and not the people for support in their office. “For their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit . . . that they might teach with power and authority from God” (Mosiah 18:26). By having faith in the Lord’s grace, they were enabled to teach with power from on high. The same is true for us.

Repent of all our sins. Peter testified, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, . . . but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Accepting Christ’s gift of grace is nowhere more resplendent than when we choose to turn our lives around to follow Him. To his son Corianton, Alma explained: “The plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, . . . for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice” (Alma 42:13). In profound awareness of the grace of Christ in their conversion and rebirth, the king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies reminded his people, “For it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain” (Alma 24:11; emphasis added).

Be baptized in His name. Paul wrote, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . . And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye . . . heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27, 29). Of all the requirements listed by the Lord in His gospel, the need for baptism carries the greatest potential for confusion. We can mistakenly assume that the ordinance saves us, rather than Christ. It is not far to next conclude that we deserve and earn salvation through our works.

Do we really think the ritual of baptism itself cleanses us from sin? Do baptismal waters literally absorb our sins while we emerge as spotless newborns? Of course not. So why does God command us to be baptized? Of all our requirements, this one is the tangible evidence, the outward expression, the unquestionable experience that witnesses to us, the Church, and to God that we have entered into the covenant of obedience to Christ, that we have become His child, that we acknowledge our dependence on Him. The ritual is for our benefit, not to impress the Lord or jump-start salvation.

Not surprisingly, the Book of Mormon teaches this relationship best. At the waters of Mormon, Alma explained:

And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to . . . stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, . . . that ye may be redeemed of God. . . . Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18:8–10)

One of the reasons that the Lord commands us to be baptized is so that we can remember we have made a solemn covenant to honor Him, follow Him, and worship Him.

Receive the Holy Ghost. As soon as we confirm our covenant with God by choosing baptism, He grants us yet another gift to support us in our promise to obey. Our responsibility here is “to receive.” By opening our hearts, minds, and souls to receive the gift of His Spirit, we are again the recipients of the Lord’s grace, as testified by the people of King Benjamin. “The Spirit of the Lord Ominipotent . . . has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Like these grateful Nephites, our ability to keep our promise to the Lord is not only possible but inevitable when we heed the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Endure to the end. God answered Paul’s plea for help by teaching, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; see also Ether 12:26). Without the enabling power of Christ, the command to endure to the end is impossible. Because of the length and difficulty of mortal life, we could mistakenly think that God sets us up for failure. Fortunately, our Lord’s grace knows no bounds. Like His Atonement, Christ’s grace is infinite. It is amply sufficient for all our needs every day. “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor, labor fear; but with joy, wend your way,” the pioneer anthem reaffirms, “Though hard to you this journey may appear, grace shall be as your day.”[10] When combined with our sincere faith and regular and sincere repentance, His enabling power will always be enough. “Wherefore, ye must press forward . . . in Christ, . . . behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).

Amaleki admonished, “I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and prayer, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26). The Apostle John added that we receive divine assistance in our efforts to endure, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If we look at faithful endurance from the perspective of Lehi’s dream, the Lord is the gate, the path, the rod of iron, the tree, and the fruit of the tree. He is with us every step of the way in our promise to “endure to the end.” No wonder Jesus testified, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).


The congruence of teachings from two diverse cultural and geographical traditions, the worlds of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, substantiates the unequivocal importance of Christ’s grace. The Savior’s chosen Apostles and Book of Mormon prophets share the same witness. We owe all our hopes for the future and successes of the past to the “merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). Redemption is available to every one of us, not because of our merits but “because of the righteousness of the Redeemer” (2 Nephi 2:3; see also Romans 4:22–25). Never before in the history of the world has that message been more important than it is for us today.

Why are we then “confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me”? Because Christ’s grace is not fair. Not in this fallen world that defines fairness through an eye-for-an-eye mentality. Grace is a gift—an infinite gift—and we are the recipients, not the givers. Grace is receiving what we do not earn and getting what we frankly do not deserve. In a legalistic world filled with warnings about being taken advantage of, we struggle to accept that Christ gives us infinitely more than we can ever repay. After worldly bombardments of “If you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” and “You get what you pay for,” we try to get our heads and hearts around the Savior’s gift of enabling power. So in our modern world, this gift seems just too good to be true. In contrast to earning what we receive and giving rather than receiving, we encounter the doctrine of grace—and we become confused.

Grace requires us to look beyond the treasures of a fallen world. It demands our attention to One whose power, knowledge, and love supersede the greatest accomplishments that all the Korihors and Nehors can muster. Grace leads us to finally accept our status as unprofitable servants and admit that we can never pay back the One who rescues us. It ennobles the blessing of receiving. We call Him the Savior because He saves us. In truth, His gospel is good news.

To argue whether accepting grace reflects personal weakness or strength misses the point. Accepting His grace is simply the only way to progress. In all that we can do, His gift intercedes to support and enable. How can we receive His gift? What is all we can do? We can put our trust in the Lord and His unique and essential gift of the Atonement. We cannot try to cover our sins, but we can turn them over to the Savior, accepting His generous offer of repentance and forgiveness. We can acknowledge His strength and wisdom in all of our successes. “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” (Moroni 10:32; emphasis added). We will then add our voices to Paul’s proclamation, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).


[1] Charles H. Gabriel, “I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 193; emphasis added.

[2] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), 335–37.

[3] Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–74), 9:372–402.

[4] Bible Dictionary, “Grace,” 697.

[5] Thomas A. Wayment, ed., The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament: A Side-by-Side Comparison with the King James Version (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 256; emphasis added.

[6] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 160.

[7] Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, “A Warning Voice,” Improvement Era, September 1913, 1148.

[8] Bruce C. Hafen, “The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign, May 2004, 97; emphasis in original.

[9] David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2005, 100.

[10] William Clayton, “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, no. 30.