Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Question Of Grace And The Mechanics Of Salvation

I've been working on a scripture reading challenge to read all the standard works in one year, and let me say, it has been amazing! The enlightenment that comes is so astounding, things you didn't even know you were confused about or even wondered about, suddenly seem so clear. I truly have a deeper and stronger testimony in the power of the scriptures in my life.
Anyway, I just finished writing this short article (mainly for my own benefit) about the mechanics of grace and salvation. This article is the result of a truly wonderful epiphany I recently had while studying the scriptures. Really, it was like - LIGHT BULB!!! LIGHT BULB!!! I was sitting in McDonalds reading while the kids were playing, and I had to quickly dig through my purse and tear up an old grocery list, just so I could have some paper to write down a few notes on everything that was flooding into my mind. (Didn't want to totally copy J.K. and use napkins, LOL!) 

Later I took my time to really compose my thoughts, and this article is the result. I'm so happy and amazed with what I've figured out, I want to share it with everyone! :) 


The Question Of Grace And The Mechanics Of Salvation

Are we saved by grace or works? It can be a confusing question for Mormons, and most will say we're saved by both. The fact of the matter is we are saved through the redemptive power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. We are saved by his grace offered to us through his great and eternal sacrifice. The real question is - how do we receive that grace?

2 Nephi 25:23
"For we labor diligently to write, 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."

The phrase "after all we can do" is, unfortunately, the main cause of confusion for many Mormons regarding the question of grace and salvation. The prophet Nephi states very clearly that we are saved by the grace of God, but it comes after our works. How is that? Do we earn grace by how great our works are, or how many good works we do? The answer is no.

Ephesians 2:8
"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."

This verse clarifies the actual mechanics of salvation through grace. We are saved by grace through faith, not through our works. We must have faith in Jesus Christ to receive salvation through his grace. So how do you account for the necessary works mentioned in 2 Nephi 25? Do you receive grace solely by a faithful belief in Christ?

Hebrews 11:6
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

This verse brings together the importance of both our faith and our works. We cannot receive grace unless we have faith in God, but our faith has to compel us to diligently seek God (works) in addition to believe in Him. The reward (grace) comes from diligently seeking (works), and the diligently seeking (works) comes from our faith. So how are we actually being saved by grace, through our faith or our works? The answer is...both!

Luke 17:7-10
" But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

The parable of the unprofitable servant teaches that our works alone profit God nothing and do not give us any advantage in God's eyes. It is solely our duty to serve God. Works alone do not bring salvation.

James 2:17
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

Faith alone does not bring salvation either.  It is good for nothing unless we do something with it. 

So let's recap - we receive salvation through the grace of God, because of the redeeming atonement of Jesus Christ. But this grace cannot be received through faith alone, and it cannot be received through works alone. It must be received through a combination of our faith and works together. As Hebrews 11:6 states, we must be believing and diligently seeking. But then the parable of the unprofitable servant shows that no matter how great, wonderful, and plenteous our works are, it doesn't really matter either. Just the fact that our faith produces good works is the essential point.

The next question is, Why does our faith need to produce works?

Abraham 3:25
"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; and they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever."

The purpose of our earthly life is to prove ourselves faithful, by giving actual physical evidence, or proof, of our faith. God does not send us to earth to see if we will believe his commandments, but if we will do them. If God didn't want physical proof of our faith in Him, he wouldn't give us physical bodies. We could express our faith in him through our spirits alone, which I'm sure we did abundantly in our pre-earth life. Also, remember Hebrews 11:6 – it won't matter if we keep the commandments in this life, or show forth good works, if we don't do it in faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please him."

So, the question we were trying to answer at the beginning is - How do we receive grace? And the answer is through faith and works. Neither faith alone nor works alone save us. They must occur together in order for us to qualify for spiritual redemption. We are here on earth to prove to God that we will follow him in faith, and we prove our faith to him by bringing forth good works. The greatness or quantity of the good works is completely immaterial. The only good works that really matter is that we keep the commandments given us by God. Keeping the commandments is the physical proof of faith necessary to receive the grace of God, which is given to us through the redeeming atonement of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The importance of group scripture study

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about scripture study. About how important it is in our lives. The scriptures can be a spiritual lifeline to our glorious Creator, keeping us close to His will for us, and helping us feel His love for us on a daily basis. The scriptures can bring answers to life's toughest questions, give us peace and comfort in our hearts, and bring the spirit of the Lord into our homes and families. 

In the LDS church there is a lot of emphasis placed on individual and family scripture study, but nothing is said about group scripture study. They do encourage youth and young adults to attend seminary and institute classes, but there aren't any instructions or guidelines for the rest of us who want to pursue group scripture study. Most other Christian churches and many of their members hold bible study groups, and there are even websites dedicated to group bible study. I know some members of my ward who have joined bible study groups hosted by non-LDS neighbors or coworkers, and they truly enjoy the discussions and insights.

I feel that studying the scriptures with others can be so helpful - we can share our own insights and testimonies and experiences, bolstering each other in our faith and devotion to Jesus Christ. Sunday School can help fill this need, but so many times the teacher has to breeze through material and pass up class members' comments just so they can get through the entire lesson in their manual. Most of the class members haven't read the material in advance, so the few people who have prepared for class are the only ones sharing insightful comments. And if you've attended Sunday School for several years, you find yourself discussing the same lessons over and over.

I find myself wanting to talk about the scriptures with others who share a belief in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. I want to encourage my fellow sisters in Christ to study daily and share what they have read and felt with others. I feel there can be so much gained from group study like this.

Has anyone else out there felt this desire too? What have you done to pursue these desires?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

For Your Good

"Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another."
— Doctrine & Covenants 90:24

We've all had one of those days, when nothing seems to go right. You feel like you're running with your head cut off, rushing from one emergency to another, trying to put out all the little fires around you that just keep popping up. When will it all stop?

These are the moments when we ask ourselves - Does God still know I'm here? Where are the blessings He promised? Is what I'm doing even making a difference?

Well, I'm here to tell you that you DO make a difference. You are a child of God, his literal spiritual offspring, and he has not left us alone. He is watching over us day and night, making all things work together for our good. 

What good? you may ask. What good can come of what I am going through?

When Joseph Smith was trapped in Liberty Jail, in the most depraved conditions, he ask God these same questions. And this was the answer he received:

"...If the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"
– Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-8

Don't give up. Hold onto hope. To Faith. To determination. It is always darkest before the dawn. But we have received a promise from our loving Heavenly Father that if we are diligent and faithful to our covenants, he will be faithful to us. 

It will all work out.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Order or Chaos?

"Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you."
— Doctrine & Covenants 90:18

This verse is one of my husband's main themes in life. He loves to have a clean house. He says when the house is clean, then he can truly relax. And isn't that true for everyone? When things are clean, organized, and put in their place, the house feels so much more comfortable to be in. Truly, when the house is in order, the spirit of the Lord can come and dwell with us.

Our Heavenly Father is a God of Order, not a God of Chaos. He cannot dwell in uncleanness. That can be taken literally, as well as spiritually. Where there is dirt and clutter, it is hard to be comfortable, let alone feel the spirit of the Lord.

Does the God of Order dwell in your home? Or the God of Chaos? Life can be very challenging, especially when you have little ones at home. I myself am far from perfect. But it is important to instill in our families the importance of having a clean home, so we can feel the peace that comes with cleanliness. And where there is peace there is God.

I challenge you to look at your home this week with new eyes – are things in order, or is your home ruled by chaos? Choose one thing to set in order, and set a goal to be consistent with it throughout the week. Tell your family about your goal. Get them involved. Through God's help and grace your home can become a haven of peace and order.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sing For Joy!

"For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ."
— Doctrine & Covenants 90:11

Church sisters in Africa

I am so happy that I live in a day to see this revelation be fulfilled. Today, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is alive in well in almost the entire world. According to a post on LDS Church Growth, in 2011 there were only 41 countries and territories in the ENTIRE world that did not have a church presence there. The Holy Bible has been translated into nearly 200 languages. As of 2009, the Book of Mormon has been translated into 89 languages, and selections of it translated into another 26 languages. During General Conference, the meetings are available in nearly 100 languages and dialects.

What an amazing time this is, when the gospel of Jesus Christ floods the earth! In the words of Thomas S. Monson – "How grateful we are that the heavens are indeed open, that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, and that the Church is founded on the rock of revelation. We are a blessed people, with apostles and prophets upon the earth today." 

It makes me want to sing for joy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Light of Christ

"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father."
— Doctrine & Covenants 84:45-47

I have been thinking lately about light - specifically the light of the sun. Have you ever thought about how utterly dependent life on this planet is on the sun? Without the sun's light, plants couldn't grow through photosynthesis. Animals wouldn't have food to eat, and humans wouldn't have food through plants or animals. Without the sun's light and heat, all life would quickly perish in bitter cold and darkness. Without the sun, the water cycle couldn't exist, because evaporation and condensation wouldn't be possible. And these are just a few basic processes I can name. Think of all that's possible because of sunlight!

Can we compare this dependency to the light of Christ? The scriptures teach that "the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world." What kind of light is this? How are we dependent upon it?

Doctrine & Covenants 93:36 says "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." If we replace the word light in the verse above with the word intelligence, it would read, "the Spirit giveth intelligence to every man that cometh into the world."

How dependent is man on his intelligence? Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it? It's like asking how dependent are we on oxygen. Man is nothing without his intelligence. We would literally be back in our caves, with no fire, no wheels, no clothes, no language, no nothing. And if all intelligence comes from God, it is logical to say man is nothing without God!

"The Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit."

If God has given us intelligence, then why do we need enlightenment through his Spirit? I like to compare man's intelligence to a flashlight shining in the dark. Everyone has a different flashlight - some shine brightly and some are dim. Some can show a large area around you, and some just show a small spot on the ground. But you cannot illuminate the entire world around you with just your flashlight. You need the sun to do that. 

So it is with the light of Christ. His glory is like the sun shining down on our lives, illuminating important and fundamental truths that we would be lost without. Just like the sun warms the earth and makes things grow, Christ's Spirit warms and fills our soul, teaching us and helping us grow more like him. Our own little "flashlights" of intelligence can't do that.

We may feel fairly confident in our own intelligence, but we have to recognize that it came from God. Not only that, he offers us so much more light and truth in our lives, but only if we hearken to the voice of his Spirit. If we willingly turn away from the light of Christ, he will not force us back towards him. It is completely up to us who or what we choose to follow in this life.

I encourage you to choose today to follow the light of Christ in your life. He sees your life in ways you cannot imagine, and when you come to him he will illuminate your life in glorious ways.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It Maketh My Bones To Quake

Hello again, everyone in the blogosphere! I have been taking an extended blogging vacation, and I now feel ready to come back. I am amazed and humbled at the number of people who have still been following this blog even while I've been away. Truly, the Lord's hand is in this work. 

I have prayed that this blog will be an instrument in His hands as I share the gospel with the world. I hope that as each of you read my entries, your hearts will be pricked with the spirit of the Lord, and you will be spurred on in finding the truth of the gospel in your lives.

And now for today's scripture:

"Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest."
— Doctrine & Covenants 85:6

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. His mission is to testify of truth. He witnesses of the truth of the restored gospel and of the divinity of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. He will witness to our hearts and minds that these things are true. This is called personal revelation.

But what does this personal revelation feel like? How do you know when you have received it? 

In 1 Kings chapter 19, the prophet Elijah went up to the mountains to converse with the Lord. What did this conversation sound like?

"And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."
— 1 Kings 19:11-12

In my personal experience, the Holy Ghost speaks to me in my mind, giving me thoughts and ideas that I know are not my own. As I study out these thoughts and find they are full of goodness and truth, I get a warm feeling throughout my body. I have learned to NEVER ignore these thoughts and promptings, because they are from God. If I ask God for answers, but then choose to ignore them, why should God continue to speak to me?

Listen for this still, small voice in your life. It will come to you when you are seeking His light in your life. It will come to you as you seek answer to prayer, or when you study your scriptures. Sometimes it will come out of the blue, but it is usually a quiet thought that comes to your mind. Always give heed to it and it will never lead you astray!