Brad Wilcox mentions a story about a boy that goes to EFY, in his talk “His Grace is Sufficient”. The boy goes to EFY and calls home on the first day saying “Get me out of here".
“The older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”
Brad Wilcox, His Grace is Sufficient
Seeing how Brad Wilcox contrasts an unrepentant sinner saying “Get me out of here!” instead of “Let me stay” to Jesus Christ I feel is very accurate. People that are not repenting will be “dirty” and therefore they will not want to stand in the presence of the Lord for all the guilt that they would feel. And Christ will say lovingly and beg the unrepentant sinner to stay and use His Atonement, His Grace. To utilize His Atonement, Christ teaches us that we need to keep the commandments to show that we are trying. Therefore, it is by grace that man is saved, but it is by works honoring Him that Jesus Christ grants Grace to make up for our “pain, afflictions, and temptations” (Alma 7:11), or all our sufferings in mortality.
works and grace
What does “works” mean in the Gospel, and how does it apply to being saved? It probably means to be practicing the laws of God and Christ. It is doing what Christ would do; that is sharing and blessing the lives of others. Practicing the laws of the universe could include obedience to commandments and participating in ordinances. There are several references in the scriptures that teach about working to help others. For example, James 1:22 says “be ye doers of the word”.
However there is a point in one scripture that says that working is “unprofitable” to God.
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another - I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants
As stated by by King Benjamin, God will bless us more than what we can return for Him. So then why work towards anything at all if I would still be unsuccessful towards earning salvation? It isn’t earning salvation. It is about learning. Saying that salvation is earned implies that there is some limit or amount that needs to be done to qualify for Christ’s grace, and according to Mosiah there will never be an amount to achieve.
I believe is a common error, that I mentioned before, is the thought that “I earn heaven”. As so beautifully stated, “We are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven” (Wilcox). Thinking that somebody deserves heaven more than another is an error and it downgrades the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ. Nobody earns or deserves heaven more than another. That does not seem to be in accord with the mercy of God.
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 part where it says “lest any man should boast” helps to show that we are not saved by working because then someone could say that they deserve heaven more, which is not a godly attribute. Heaven needs to be learned, and boasting is not an attribute that Christ wants to see. Heavenly attributes are of kindness, love, charity, mercy, grace, and much more.
I feel as if Grace and Works are two different subjects that should not be related to each other. It could be understood that grace and works help the same goal, however they do not have the same goal in mind. Works allows a child of God to want to be in Christ’s presence and allows that child to be worthy of Christ’s presence. The Grace of Christ allows that child to enter into His presence without needing the child to accomplish the impossible infinity.
It’s like a student is attending a class. The student fails and repeats the class again and again. The student fails because the grade he keeps getting is 0% of infinity. The principal of the school sees the whole-hearted effort of the student, and the principal determines that the student has truly learned in the class. So, the principal allows the student to pass the class. Works is the student showing his effort in an impossible class to achieve. Grace is the principal allowing the student not to repeat that class and allowing the student to advance in his scholarly career.
One key to understand the doctrine of grace and works is understanding the parables that Christ gave in His mortal Ministry. He accurately describes His parables as being similar to “the Kingdom of Heaven”. If they are part of the Kingdom of Heaven, then they can probably be key to learning the differences between God’s grace and works. There are three parables that I will use to demonstrate the doctrines of work and grace. They are The Parable of the Good Samaritan, The Ten Virgins, and The Talents.
the good samaritan
The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells of a Jewish man that was walking down a treacherous path only later to be beaten and robbed. This Jewish man obviously had some personal possessions that he probably prized, or why else would he have gotten robbed? This Jewish man had everything stolen from him. Everything that he worked for and gained, gone with the nerving experience of being assaulted and left for dead.
Then a Samaritan comes by having compassion on the man that lost everything. The Samaritan decides to sacrifice what he has to save the life of the Jewish man. The Samaritan saved the Jewish man from death. The Jewish man did not know the Samaritan, therefore the Jewish man could not have worked for the Samaritan to save him. Nevertheless I wonder if the Samaritan recognized that the Jew had possessions that he had worked for.
If the Samaritan recognized what the Jew had, could the Samaritan be moved to compassion? Yes, the Samaritan could be compassionate towards the Jew. The parable of The Good Samaritan shows how grace and works are two different topics by revealing a Samaritan that had no correlation with the Jew until the Samaritan saw the Jew in the street. The Jew worked, and the Samaritan saved him.
the ten virgins
Now in the parable of the Ten Virgins there were five wise and five foolish. The five wise were prepared with extra oil and the five foolish were not prepared.
The five prepared and wise virgins had obviously worked to prepare for the coming of the bridegroom. The five wise virgins ended up entering into the marriage feast and into the presence of the bridegroom. What could the Master have thought when he saw the five wise virgins? They are prepared and worked to be there, therefore they are responsible.
The foolish did not prepare for the bridegroom. When the Master saw the foolish virgins he states that he did not know them and did not allow them to enter. What could the master of the feast be thinking when he saw the five foolish? They were late therefore not responsible enough, so then the foolish were probably not working enough to enter.
The Master still could have rejected the wise virgins at anytime just like the foolish ones. But the Master probably saw that they had worked to be there at the feast because they valued the marriage. All of the virgins could have had different backgrounds. Nevertheless, the master of the feast saw that they had worked to be there and in his grace he allowed them in.
Now in the parable of the talents, three servants were given an investment. Two of the three servants made a 100% increase on their investment whereas one did not. That one hid the talent that he was given. He did not do anything with that one talent. The other two did.
When the master saw what the profitable servants did, the master said to both of them “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”(Matthew 25:21). The two servants had worked to double their investment, and by the grace of their master they were given responsibility over many things.
The gift of the master was more than they had worked for. The master did not need to do that. The two servants did not work at all to deserve the humongous blessing. There could have been many things that he could do. But the master gave them more. He knew that they had become responsible and loyal to him.
The unprofitable servant proved to not be loyal the master. And because that servant was not loyal, he definitely was not going to receive the grace of the master. He was cast out and reprimanded for not having at least put one talent in a bank to gain interest.
Is is only by grace that man is saved. It is by works that Jesus Christ sees that we are trying to honor Him to our best ability. To honor Christ is our obedience to Him, His Priesthood, ordinances, and commandments. Through His Priesthood, ordinances, and commandments, heaven and its principles may be learned. And thanks to His Grace, he will enable His disciples even more through the ordinances of the Gospel. When He sees that we are trying and following Him, then he will be moved by compassion, charity, and grace to give us more than we can ever deserve.
Elder Cardon points out that “Christ forgives sins on earth". By forgiving sins on earth, Christ effectively enables men and women to become more than who they are. Elder Cardon further explains this in his talk…
In this forgiveness we see the enabling and the redeeming power of the Atonement harmoniously and graciously applied. If we exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the enabling power of His Atonement strengthens us in our moment of need and His redeeming power sanctifies us as we “[put] off the natural man.” This brings hope to all, especially to those who feel that recurring human weakness is beyond the Savior’s willingness to help and to save
Christ enables men and women to become better through the Atonement. The all-powerful God wants to aid us in every aspect of our small lives. That shows an amazing amount of love, especially for every single creation on this earth. God will enable His children so that we may learn and enter into heaven to be safe at His side.
Christ in his immeasurable love and charity is moved to grant Grace to those whom He sees that is trying. Elder Oaks states in a conference address, “And because of [us struggling], His Atonement empowers Him to succor us—to give us the strength to bear it all”. The most perfect person is moved to perfect compassion by imperfect people trying. His Grace is incomprehensible, and it is what we need most.
Cardon, Craig. “The Savior Wants to Forgive”. General Conference. April 2013.
Oaks, Dallin. “Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ”. General Conference. October 2015.
Wilcox, Brad. “His Grace is Sufficient”. BYU Devotional. 12 July 2011.
The LDS Standard Works
I originally wrote this at a religion class in BYU-Idaho. I liked writing this so much that I kept it. I recently discovered this sitting in my Google Drive, and I thought that I can publish. And there isn’t a better week to publish it than it being Easter week! I have also reviewed the essay, and made some additional edits from its original submission.