I decided it might be a good idea to post what my take on grace and works is so people can more fully understand where I am coming from. The works of God are very important, but even more important in my opinion is the proper understanding of how we can gain access to the power to do those works. A lot of this comes from writing that was done elsewhere, so I apologize for those who have already read s lot of this. Most of the time when I have heard people talk about grace it has been explained something like this;
“We must strive to be as righteous as possible, being obedient to the commandments the best we can, and since we cannot do it perfectly, Jesus fills in the gap.” Usually people like to use hand motions and say. “We are here, and Christ is here, and the distance between these points is filled in by the atonement.” Does this sound familiar? Also I don’t know how many times I have heard people declare that OBEDIENCE brings the Spirit. (which is true in one sense that is rarely clarified) Also I have heard the teaching that righteousness brings the Spirit. There seems to me to be a lot of people who worry that if they do not do their home teaching, attend the temple, do daily scripture study as an individual and family, do couples scripture study, have family home evening each week, magnify their calling, and be willing to do anything the “leaders” ask, that they will not be worthy to have the Spirit. What a damnable line of thought! I would like to start with a prayer that I read the other day…
Dan 9:4-7-11 – And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.
O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him……
Dan 9:14-19 – Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice. And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
What a beautiful prayer with the attitude that each of us should have each time we pray. Also a scripture from old father Lehi;
2 Ne 2:2-3 – Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
Lehi did not tell Jacob that he would be redeemed because of Jacob’s righteousness, but rather because of the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. So how is it that we receive grace initially, which would also be the equivalent of being born again or receiving a remission of sins? Well Nephi says we are “saved by grace, after all that we can do”. Does that mean we just work as hard as we can to be perfect and keep all the commandments, then we will receive grace? NO! He made it pretty clear that we need to rely “wholly upon the merits of Christ”. Think of Alma the Younger, or King Lamoni, or Saul. What did they do but turn to Jesus Christ and cry out for His redeeming power? They couldn’t do anything else! That was the only work they could do for the grace and power of God. And it worked, and it WILL WORK FOR YOU!
In the book of Helaman, Nephi speaks about how the people in the time of Moses were afflicted by the fiery serpents and when they were bit there was nothing they could do except to turn and look to the serpent and they would be saved. He taught that the same scenario is true for us. “All that we can do”, is turn and look! If we do this we will live. Sounds easy right? The easiness of the way is oddly confusing to people.
Some reasons that people have a problem with this are: 1) They just don’t believe it. 2) They themselves want credit for earning it. 3) They have not been brought to a point in their life where they realize they themselves have been “bit by the serpent” of sin, or that they are in the same hell that Alma the younger was in and just have never realized it.
I know number two of this list doesn’t seem reasonable, but how often do we hear or read people say things like, “If you want the baptism of fire, you have to do all of the things that Jesus commanded, and be righteous enough to receive it”. This is a dangerous idea because many people who have received visions or revelations can become prideful with this line of thought and think they received those experiences because they just behaved better than others, or they are more favored or righteous than others who haven’t had the same experiences. I will give it as my opinion that God has withheld revelations and visions from some of the best people FOR A TIME to try them, and some of the weakest of us are given great revelations quickly and easily to try us to see whether we will lift ourselves up and think we got them because we deserved them.
The truth is that none of us deserve revelation. None of us will ever be righteous enough to deserve a visitation from Christ. In fact, the realization of this fact (meekness) is the only thing that will bring us further light and knowledge on a continual basis.
Mos 4:11-12 – And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
What glorious promises if we can just remember our nothingness and humble ourselves in the depths of humility daily. ALWAYS retain a remission of our sins, ALWAYS rejoice? Yes please.
After we first receive grace and a remission of sins, the Lord places a bit of His righteousness in us, and then what is our responsibility? Do we then just work hard to keep the commandments and endure to the end through behaving like Jesus the best way we know how? NO. We must repeat the process over and over again, continually “supplicating God for grace”. Grace for grace until the day comes that we are “filled with grace”.
Every time the Holy Ghost comes upon us we are being added upon and sanctified. We are being filled by the heavenly oil one drop at a time. This grace allows us to be obedient to God. Grace makes us obedient! Obedience does not bring us grace, unless it is obedience to the commandments to love God, and have faith in Jesus Christ.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE RIGHTEOUS OR BE OBEDIENT TO GOD WITHOUT CHRIST GIVING US THE POWER TO DO SO!!!!!!
An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, and no man can please God without faith. This is why works can never be good works or the works of God unless God does those works through us. It is His righteousness and His works that bring about any good in any of us.
So what is grace? Grace is a literal power that can reside in us. In the scriptures we are taught that the grace is the power to heal, the power to be brought to the throne of God, the power to be perfected in Christ. Jesus Christ was and is full of grace.
If you have a question about how one receives grace it is really quite simple, it is through faith in Jesus Christ. Here are some scriptures to ponder on.
Rom 14:23 – And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Think about what that really means, this goes right along with Paul suggesting we can give all of our goods to feed the poor, give our bodies to be burned and it can be meaningless without Charity.
Heb 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
People must grasp that we can do nothing of ourselves. Faith brings grace, which empowers us to do the works of God. I know people love to quote James. “Faith without works is dead.” James knew that faith ALWAYS brings works. People cannot claim to have faith if the God is not working through them, it is not possible. The statement that “works without faith are dead”, is just as true as the reverse.
Alma 34:16-17 – And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. YesTherefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
Repentance and faith go hand in hand. We see very clearly in scriptures that repentance is not a checklist of a list of things we do to change behavior and make restitution. It is changing our minds and turning to Christ. Then we do the works that God leads us to do afterward.
And what are the works of God? (at least some of them)
D&C 84:65-73 – And these signs shall follow them that believe— 66 In my name they shall do many wonderful works;67 In my name they shall cast out devils 68 In my name they shall heal the sick;69 In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;70 And the tongue of the dumb shall speak;71 And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;72 And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.73 But a commandment I give unto them, that they shall not boast themselves of these things, neither speak them before the world; for these things are given unto you for your profit and for salvation.
We cannot boast of these things because it is never by our power or righteousness that they are done!
Okay, so hopefully people can understand that I believe in works as much as the next guy, I just know that works do not bring the Spirit, but rather the Spirit brings works. It seems very plain in the scriptures. To those who love to quote the scriptures that “and by your works ye shall be judged, whether they be good, or whether they be evil…”
Think about how beautiful the power of the atonement is! I have read a lot of NDE experiences where people have life reviews and they are pained by having to relive and understand their sins. One thing the Holy Ghost told me long ago while reading one of these books is that if we accept the atonement of Christ, our life review will only be filled with good works! All else will be erased by the mercy of God. Beautiful! Even one evil work is enough to damn us to hell for eternity! One sin is all it takes. No amount of good works can ever make up for it.
Usually in my writing I imagine I am speaking to those who have already obtained a hope in Christ, and are seeking to come to know Him better. I believe everything we can learn about Christ helps us to receive greater faith in Him. As we come to learn of His attributes and teachings by revelation, are faith and love increase.
Those who continue in faith and grace can eventually receive the Spirit of the Lord. Look at these examples of those who have been blessed with this.
Dan 10:8-19 – Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb. And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me.
Notice the power of the Spirit of the Lord that these angelic beings have. When they said to be strengthened, Daniel was. Even the power of their touch wrought a change upon Daniel. Can mortals be given such power? The spirit of the Lord is simply too powerful for our flesh unless we are changed.
Rev 1:7 – And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
These are a couple of examples. The Book of Mormon is full of examples of those who were wrought upon by the Spirit of the Lord and their bodies could not even handle such power. This power is going to return to the earth! Nephi said when the Spirit of God was upon him that he knew he could command water that it should be earth and it would be done, if it was God’s will. Of course we know intellectually that if God commanded to do anything we could do it, but Nephi knew because he was filled with the very power to do it!
This is the power that was given to Nephi and Lehi that no prison could hold them. They were in harmony with God and would desire nothing that God wouldn’t grant, because their desires matched the desires of God. It is my testimony that this power can be given to each of us, despite our weakness and fallen state. Our flesh must be sanctified though, and it is only through continually supplicating God for grace that anyone will ever obtain it. Is it enough to obtain the promise of redemption, or should we rather continue on until we hear the audible voice of God speak not only to our spirit, but also our body as He did to the brother of Jared, when He said that he was redeemed at that moment?
May God bless us all with grace, even though there is not a soul among us who deserves it. – Nate (Minorityofone)