Grace

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Question: What is the definition of the word “Grace” as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Answer: We find the answer to this question in the Bible Dictionary under the word “Grace.”

A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

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. Hence the explanation, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible. This principle is expressed in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1–11). See also John 1:12–17; Eph. 2:8–9; Philip. 4:13; D&C 93:11–14

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President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency:

...We often speak of the Savior’s Atonement—and rightly so! In Jacob’s words, “Why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him?” But as “we talk of Christ, … rejoice in Christ, … preach of Christ, [and] prophesy of to estimate “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height … [of] the love of Christ.”

A powerful expression of that love is what the scriptures often call the grace of God—the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted beings of “truth and light, until [we are] glorified in truth and [know] all things.”

It is a most wondrous thing, this grace of God. Yet it is often misunderstood. Even so, we should know about God’s grace if we intend to inherit what has been prepared for us in His eternal kingdom. To that end I would like to speak of grace. In particular, first, how grace unlocks the gates of heaven and, second, how it opens the windows of heaven.

First: Grace Unlocks the Gates of Heaven

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Because we have all “sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and because “there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God,” every one of us is unworthy to return to God’s presence.

Even if we were to serve God with our whole souls, it is not enough, for we would still be “unprofitable servants.” We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own. But all is not lost. The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the plan of mercy appeases the demands of justice “and [brings] about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.” Our sins, though they may be as scarlet, can become white as snow. Because our beloved Savior “gave himself a ransom for all,” an entrance into His everlasting kingdom is provided unto us. The gate is unlocked!

But the grace of God does not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. If salvation means only erasing our mistakes and sins, then salvation—as wonderful as it is—does not fulfill the Father’s aspirations for us. His aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him.

With the gift of God’s grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backward; it leads upward. It leads to heights we can scarcely comprehend! It leads to exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father, where we, surrounded by our loved ones, receive “of his fulness, and of his glory.” All things are ours, and we are Christ’s. Indeed, all that the Father hath shall be given unto us.

To inherit this glory, we need more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate with a heart’s desire to be changed—a change so dramatic that the scriptures describe it as being “born again; yea, born of God, changed from [our worldly] and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.”

Second: Grace Opens the Windows of Heaven

Another element of God’s grace is the opening of the windows of heaven, through which God pours out blessings of power and strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise would be far beyond our reach. It is by God’s amazing grace that His children can overcome the undercurrents and quicksands of the deceiver, rise above sin, and “be perfect[ed] in Christ.”

Though we all have weaknesses, we can overcome them. Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong. Throughout our lives, God’s grace bestows temporal blessings and spiritual gifts that magnify our abilities and enrich our lives. His grace refines us. His grace helps us become our best selves...

Why Then Obey?

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If grace is a gift of God, why then is obedience to God’s commandments so important? Why bother with God’s commandments—or repentance, for that matter? Why not just admit we’re sinful and let God save us? Or, to put the question in Paul’s words, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Paul’s answer is simple and clear: “God forbid.”

Brothers and sisters, we obey the commandments of God—out of love for Him! Trying to understand God’s gift of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship, it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him, and it leads us back to His presence. “The Spirit of the Lord [our God]” brings about such “a mighty change in us, … that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

Therefore, our obedience to God’s commandments comes as a natural outgrowth of our endless love and gratitude for the goodness of God. This form of genuine love and gratitude will miraculously merge our works with God’s grace. Virtue will garnish our thoughts unceasingly, and our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, living the gospel faithfully is not a burden. It is a joyful rehearsal—a preparation for inheriting the grand glory of the eternities. We seek to obey our Heavenly Father because our spirits will become more attuned to spiritual things. Vistas are opened that we never knew existed. Enlightenment and understanding come to us when we do the will of the Father.

Grace is a gift of God, and our desire to be obedient to each of God’s commandments is the reaching out of our mortal hand to receive this sacred gift from our Heavenly Father.

All We Can Do

The prophet Nephi made an important contribution to our understanding of God’s grace when he declared, “We labor diligently … 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.” However, I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase “after all we can do.” We must understand that “after” does not equal “because.”

We are not saved “because” of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace? Many people feel discouraged because they constantly fall short. They know firsthand that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They raise their voices with Nephi in proclaiming, “My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.”

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I am certain Nephi knew that the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin. This is why Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren “to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.” After all, that is what we can do! And that is our task in mortality!

Grace Is Available to All

...Today and forevermore God’s grace is available to all whose hearts are broken and whose spirits are contrite. Jesus Christ has cleared the way for us to ascend to heights incomprehensible to mortal minds.

I pray that we will see with new eyes and a new heart the eternal significance of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. I pray that we will show our love for God and our gratitude for the gift of God’s infinite grace by keeping His commandments and joyfully “walk[ing] in [a] newness of life.” In the sacred name of our Master and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 123; Excerpts from General Conference, April 2015, “The Gift of Grace,” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.