During these moments when I want to retreat to my bedroom and scream into my pillow (and sometimes I do), I pray for grace. The bible dictionary defines grace as “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ” (p. 697). I need divine help and strength every minute of every day. Through the gift of grace, I receive peace. I receive patience. I can accomplish all that is required of me. When grace is on my side, I am a WAY BETTER mom.
Brad Wilcox, a member of the Sunday School General Board and an associate professor of Teacher Education at Brigham Young University, has given what I believe is one of the best explanations of grace and works. (I am proud that I had him for a professor when I was at BYU! I came away knowing more about children’s literacy in one semester than I had in learned in one year!) In a speech titled His Grace is Sufficient, Brother Wilcox explained “Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His (BYU Devotional,
July 12, 2011).
Brother Wilcox compared this to a mother who pays for her son to take piano lessons. Because Mom has paid the teacher, she can ask her son to practice. Practicing does not repay Mom for paying the piano teacher; rather, it is how the son shows appreciation for the gift. It is how he takes advantage of the opportunity to play. Mom finds joy in his playing and progressing, so she continues to ask him to practice. In the same way, Jesus has paid the price of justice through the atonement. He has the right to say “Follow me” (Matthew ) and “Keep my commandments” (John ).
Sometimes the son may think his Mom’s requirement to practice is too overbearing. “Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!” In the same way, we may sometimes think Christ’s requirements are too much. “Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!” If this is our attitude, maybe it is because we do not see through Christ’s eyes yet and we have not comprehended what He is trying to make of us. His atonement is an investment He made in us. Brother Wilcox explained when people of other faiths ask if we have been saved by grace, we can reply “Yes! Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully – yes!” (Maybe we could throw in a Baptist-preacher type "Hallelujah!" and "Praise the Lord!") And then we can ask, “Have you been changed by grace?”
Not only does grace sustain us from day to day, it also saves us from hell. “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” (Bible dictionary, p. 697).
Grace means that all of God’s children will be resurrected, and almost all of God’s children will go to heaven when they die. Hell is reserved for very few individuals: only those who have received all light and truth, and yet deny it. In the belief that all receive salvation through the grace of Jesus, our doctrine as Latter-day Saints seems to align with evangelical churches. However, we differ in the belief that heaven holds differing degrees of glory, and that is where our works come in. Our works, which reflect our commitment to become like Jesus Christ, determine whether we ultimately make it to the Telestial (glory of the stars), Terrestrial (glory of the moon), or
“There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
Brother Wilcox explained it this way, “We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”
Our ultimate goal is to make it to the
The definition of grace continues, “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, p. 697). This is why “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne 25:23).
Here’s another Brad Wilcox goodie – this time learned from his book The Continuous Atonement. This scripture is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that we should try to accomplish all we can without Christ, and then when we decide we need help we should call upon Him. This is not how it is supposed to work! We never have to try alone. When the scripture says, “after all we can do”, the “we” should be interpreted as Jesus and us together – we are a team. I like to apply the scripture this way: “I know it is by grace that I am saved, after all Christ and I can do”. Me and grace, side by side, every day. Thank you, Jesus.