Grace, or Enabling Power of the Atonement

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Grace as the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is one of the emphases taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 2001, David A. Bednar, then president of Brigham Young University-Idaho, drew attention to the wording under the term “grace” in the Bible Dictionary:

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.[1]

In his address, Bednar shared a portion of a message given by President David O. McKay:

The framework for my message today is a statement by President David O. McKay. He summarized the overarching purpose of the gospel of the Savior in these terms: “The purpose of the gospel is . . . to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature” (from the film Every Member a Missionary, as acknowledged by Franklin D. Richards, CR, October 1965, 136–37; see also Brigham Young, JD 8:130 [22 July 1860]).[2]

He added,

If I were to emphasize one overarching point this morning, it would be this: I suspect that you and I are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming power of the Atonement than we are with the enabling power of the Atonement. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us. That is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us. I think most of us know that when we do things wrong, when we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to be made clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us “get it” concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.[3]

Bednar called the redeeming and enabling powers of the Atonement connected and complementary and “essential elements of the journey of life.”[4]

Carolyn J. Rasmus gave an address at the Brigham Young University Women’s Conference in 2006 titled “The Enabling Power of the Atonement.” She said, “The belief that through our own “sheer grit, willpower, and discipline” we can manage just about anything seems to be widespread these days. This simply is not true. Heavenly Father and the Savior can inspire, comfort, and strengthen us in our time of need, if we remember to cast our burdens at Their feet.”[5]

Bednar further explained,

The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.
In my personal scripture study I often insert the term enabling power whenever I encounter the word grace. Consider, for example, this verse with which we are all familiar: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
Let’s review this verse one more time: “For we know that it is by grace [the enabling and strengthening power of the Atonement of Christ] that we are saved, after all we can do.”
I believe we can learn much about this vital aspect of the Atonement if we will insert enabling and strengthening power each time we find the word grace in the scriptures.

Bednar pointed out that the Book of Mormon and other examples from life teach us that rather than pray that our circumstances be changed, we can pray that we will be strengthened to deal with our circumstances.

The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own. Sometimes I wonder if in our latter-day world of ease—in our world of microwave ovens and cell phones and air-conditioned cars and comfortable homes—I wonder if we ever learn to acknowledge our daily dependence upon the enabling power of the Atonement.[6]

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