Mormon Beliefs: Grace

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Doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that without Grace, no person can be saved. The Bible Dictionary, which is appended to Church publications of the Holy Bible, describes grace as a “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” It says further:

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.

Bible Dictionary: Grace

Grace and Works

It should be emphasized that Latter-day Saints do not believe that a person's works alone can save him or that he can somehow earn salvation through his own merits. Church doctrine does differ from many Christian denominations by teaching that grace alone is insufficient for salvation, but that works also can never save a person. What is required for salvation is that each person enter a covenant with Jesus Christ to repent from all his sins and shortcomings, be obedient to His will, take His name upon himself, and trust in Him alone. The symbol of entering this covenant is baptism. If a person strives to be faithful and continues to repent humbly of all his sins, then the grace of Jesus Christ, offered to us through His matchless atonement, will suffice to save him in God's Kingdom. The Book of Mormon teaches:

[I]f 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).
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 (2 Nephi 10:24).

No person, save Jesus Christ only, who has ever lived has been sinless, and hence all require God's grace to become perfect as Jesus commanded (see Matt. 5:48). Hence members of the Church believe that we must "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philip. 2:12). Belief alone is insufficient, for as James said, "the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19).

Said Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet: “And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance.” (Alma 22:14)

Latter-day Saints believe that God’s gift of His Only Begotten Son as ransom for us {see John 3:16–17), is how we are saved by grace. If God had not intervened, we would all be lost, because there could be no repentance. However, this does not mean that we are required to do nothing but believe in Christ. Grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, ‘it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do (see 2 Nephi 25:23).

Elder Gerald N. Lund, who served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, said,

We are saved by grace—saved by Christ’s love from physical and spiritual death; saved by Christ’s love from Adam’s fall and our own; saved from sin and transgression by the grace or gifts of God. The atoning power of God unto salvation is a freely available gift from him—but our works of righteousness are essential to bring the gift into power in our lives. Sin brings alienation from God. The more we sin, the greater the alienation and the more difficult it becomes to effectively tap the power of God, which alone is sufficient to save us from our sins (Gerald N. Lund, “Salvation: By Grace or by Works?” Ensign, April 1981, 17, emphasis added).

Little children and others whose mental capacity is not sufficient for them to know right from wrong, or to be otherwise accountable for their actions, are saved fully by the grace of Jesus. Hence, members of the Church do not baptize children until they reach the age of accountability which is about eight years of age.

Conference on Grace

In 2017, Brigham Young University held a two-day conference on grace. The conference was co-sponsored by the Wheatley Institution, Religious Education, and the Religious Studies Center. The conference, “My Grace is Sufficient: Latter-day Reflections,” featured eleven speakers who covered the doctrine of grace over a range of time periods and religious perspectives. The conference sessions focused on devotional approaches to grace (with Camille Fronk Olson and Brad Wilcox), contemporary Latter-day Saint views of grace (with Terryl Givens and Adam Miller), 19th-century Latter-day Saint views of grace (with Samuel M. Brown and Kate Holbrook), and pastoral uses of grace (with Robert L. Millet and Daniel K Judd). Two other sessions featured the authors of two popular Latter-day Saint books, Stephen E. Robinson, author of Believing Christ, and, a keynote speaker, Elder Bruce C. Hafen, author of The Broken Heart. The final keynote address was given by Sheri L. Dew, on “The Amazing Gift of Grace.”  

From the various sessions it became clear that many of the speakers felt that a cultural shift had taken place in the emphasis on the doctrine of grace, both as it appears in all canonical scripture and, increasingly, in sermons. And from that recognition, other speakers identified the Latter-day Saint perspective of grace as the all-pervasive and personable constant in the process of salvation, the enabling ‘we’ of our becoming. Others drew attention to the fact that, for many, the term “grace” is a primary and narrowly acceptable term, when in reality grace encompasses a rather wide net of phrases more commonly used by Latter-day Saints, such as “the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Throughout the conference, the emphasis was not on whether grace would save us—it does—but on whether we would enact and engage in the transformation that the presence of grace allowed. Our lived agency is the variable in the salvific equation of that capacitating transformation. There is no tension or paradox in grace and works; a swimmer’s strokes would be useless without water, just as lungs are without air, or a piano absent a player. Some stated that the highest manifestation of grace that we could identify was the love of a parent for a child. The “Kin-dom,” rather than “Kingdom” of God is the purpose and power of grace. Such an understanding of grace sees it as the building block of Zion in our relationships, homes, neighborhoods, and nations, and of celestial society.[1]

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