When I was sixteen, a friend and I stood out front of Temple Square discussing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity with an anti-mormon. I felt a firm grip on my shoulder, and after being escorted away by my father was told, “Don’t let me ever see you doing that again.”
“But Dad,” I replied, “I was winning.” He took a moment to educate me on the immaturity of that statement and educate me on the workings of the Spirit. In deed, I hadn’t felt its influence in by conversation, instead I felt contention and pride. I hadn’t won anything.
I had the opportunity to attend this latest session of conference with my family and particularly with my recently ordained 12-year-old son. I was curious about the proposed protest by supposed later-day saint women of the priesthood session, though I saw no such distraction.
My son was surprised at the few protesters we saw yelling at the crowd of conference-goers. They held signs stating various claims. One or two were obvious jabs at doctrine of our faith, another argued perceived misinterpretations of doctrine, but a couple others grabbed my attention and provoked questions from my son.
One read, “Jesus is the way,” siting John 14:6. I was curious of the argument proposed by the man yelling at the crowds of folk in Sunday dress. In addition to believing that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man cometh unto the Father, but by Him, we also believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Another woman screamed, “It’s by grace ye are saved!” I smiled and nodded at her in agreement. “It’s by grace, not all you can do,” she continued. Her sign sited 2nd Nephi from the Book of Mormon. My son asked if what she was saying was true.
“She’s partly right,” I said, “and I’m sure she means well.” We further discussed the doctrine of Grace, at least as much as his mind would absorb.
In 2nd Nephi 25:23, Nephi explains why he continues to write his prophetic lessons on metal plates of gold, indicating that it is to persuade his posterity and all those that come across what is now known as The Book of Mormon, to believe in Christ “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
I think I might be able to understand the woman’s point. In much of my life I felt that I needed to earn my way into heaven through righteousness. That the way to salvation was in and through my good works.
I have struggled with that last caveat, “after all we can do.”
The “all” I could do part played with my Perfect Addiction. In order to qualify for Grace, I had to do “all” I could. Christ commanded us to, “Be ye therefore perfect.” He similarly taught, “Therefore I would that you should be perfect, even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”
In Moroni 10:32, I am invited to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.”
First Nephi 3:7 states that God doesn’t give any commandment without preparing a way for them to accomplish that which he has commanded.
Here’s what I used to believe:
- I am commanded to be perfect
- The way has been prepared for me to be perfect
- Being perfect falls under the gamut of “all” I can do
- When I’m perfect, I’ll qualify for grace
As I’ve experienced a change of heart and a more profound relationship with the Spirit and my Savior, I’ve witnessed the miracle that is Grace, as imperfect as I am.
In this past Women’s conference, Sister Linda K. Burton stated “Let’s not start beating ourselves up,” she said in reference to Christ’s invitation to the rich man to leave all he had and follow Him in order to be perfect. “The word perfect in this account was translated from a Greek word that means ‘complete.’ As we try our best to move forward along the covenant path, we become more complete and perfect in this life.”
President David L. Beck stated, “Perfect, as used in the scriptures, means “complete, whole, and fully developed…True followers of Christ may become perfect through his grace and atonement.”
And Elder Russell M. Nelson in a conference address of October 1995 stated,
“We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips! We also need to remember that the Lord gives no commandments that are impossible to obey. But sometimes we fail to comprehend them fully.
“Our understanding of perfection might be aided if we classify it into two categories. The first could pertain uniquely to this life—mortal perfection. The second category could pertain uniquely to the next life—immortal or eternal perfection.
“Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.”
The Church’s website states more about Grace:
“Because of personal choices, everyone also experiences the effects of sin (see 1 John 1:8-10; Mosiah 16:4). These effects are called spiritual death. No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace. Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives (see Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:17-22; 2 Nephi 25:23; 31:20).”
I will not be saved through my good works. It is only by Grace that I can be saved, as the scripture states. I can no more earn my way into heaven, than my dirty clothes can wash themselves.
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Here is what I now know to be true:
- I am commanded to be perfect
- The way has been prepared for me to become perfected
- In order to qualify for grace, I need to have faith, repent, and make and keep sacred covenants with God. That is “all I can do.”
- Through the process of showing faith, repenting, making and keeping sacred covenants, I qualify for divine grace and the healing power of the Atonement.
- Through the Atonement of Christ, I can be saved. I can be made whole and complete. I can become perfected in Him.
We can all be perfected in Him. His grace is sufficient for all. Ether 12:27