Friday, June 08, 2007

Grace and Works

I didn't start up this blog with the intent to use it as a forum to preach doctrine, but rather to share my thoughts and also writing tips. Well, today I've been thinking about doctrine, so you get a two-fer, I guess.

I read a lot of Christian fiction. It has an uplifting message and I know I can trust it to be clean. There are a few minor doctrinal differences between the subjects in the book and what I personally believe, but they are so minor, it's really not an issue.

One thing that does concern me, though, is that when I go online to learn more about Christian fiction or authors, etc, I inevitably stumble across websites that explain, from a Christian point of view, what Mormons believe. This concerns me because in many instances, the information being given is incorrect.

Take, for instance, grace vs. works. There are some Christians who feel that Mormons believe that our works will save us. I'd like to take a moment to address this, not because I'm trying to start an argument or to preach, but because I'd like to clear up some of the misunderstandings, and to gain better grounds of communication with my Christian friends.

Mormons do not believe that our works alone save us. We very much believe that it is through Christ that we are saved. When we talk about doing good works, it's not because we are picturing a huge tallyboard in the sky, with points for every good thing we do, and when we hit a million points, we go to Heaven. That's just not how it is.

We believe in performing good works because:

1. We want to be like Christ, and Christ did good works.

2. When we do good works, we feel closer to Christ.

3. We believe that those who believe in Christ are His hands on the earth, and that by doing good works, we can help Him reach out to those who need Him.

4. Doing good works makes us happy.

Now, as far as the good works getting us into Heaven, I do pose a few questions. We've been taught that no unclean thing can enter the Kingdom of God. Wouldn't we all agree that doing good works helps to keep us clean, and so therefore, doing good works would help us feel more at home in the Kingdom of God, where everything is so clean, we would feel ashamed if we were dirty?

Additionally, there is the scripture that says it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do. Doesn't "all we can do" mean that we should be striving to do our best, and then grace will take the the rest of the way?

So to summarize, Mormons do believe that it is through the Atonement of Christ that all mankind is saved. We also believe that it is through obedience, because as we are obedient, we show Him how grateful we are for that Atonement. He couldn't have an ungrateful person live with Him forever. But we do not believe that we get brownie points for our actions and that we can "buy" our way into Heaven with enough casseroles.


Anonymous said...

It is not difficult to understand why Mormons believe Grace is earned rather than received when you read the third Article of faith, the bible dictionary regarding grace and the verse you cited in 2nd Nephi 25:23. Fundamentally, I believe we teach this doctrine incorrectly in the church. For one, the principles of grace, faith, works, unconditional love and blessings seem to be hopelessly muddled together and no one wants to untangle them. Secondly, we (Mormons) seem so caught up in contrasting ourselves with other religions that we forget that we do not define ourselves by what we do not believe in but rather by what we do believe in. With that said let me take a swing for the fence (I just got done watching the world series) regarding grace.

We are saved and exalted through Grace! There, that’s all that needs to be said about Grace. But, of course I’ll say more. Grace is a gift, it can only be received not earned or bartered for. We do not work to secure grace; rather we work to show our acceptance of it. When we say, it is after all we can do. What is being explained is that after all you have done you will discover that it was God’s grace that saved you, not your works. We need to learn to be better receivers of God’s grace and not always trying to earn it. Isn’t it amazing that one of the first principles we are exposed to when we become members of this church is the principle of receiving, “And I say unto you, receive the Holy Ghost”. Of course as my good friend once pointed out, “How can you expect Mormons to be able to receive such great gifts from God like grace and the Holy Ghost when they can’t even receive a compliment from one another”.

So what is Grace? Simply stated it is God’s love to us. At the end of the day, even though we possess priesthood, perform ordinances and do great works, God’s Grace is ultimately responsible for all that we are and all that we accomplish. It was through His grace and love that the opportunity for good works and faith is made possible. Even if we do everything just right in this life (an impossibility) we are still beholding to God because He is the one that made that moment possible. Our responsibility is to recognize His grace and show our acceptance of it through our faith, love and good works. This also shows our gratitude as you stated. When we try to work to earn God's grace/love we only demonstrate our self centered, ego-centric arrogance. To try to explain Grace in terms of Grace/Plus or Grace/and or Grace/but only deflects our opportunity to receive and show God our gratitude for the marvelous gifts He has given us. Maybe one day Mormons will be able to say to their non-member friends and themselves, “I am saved and exalted through God's grace” and really know what that means, in the mean time we will continue to hear many grace/plus doctrines from the pulpit that only try to contrast us with other religions and not necessarily help to define us as believers and receivers of God’s love. We need not be afraid of receiving God’s gift and proclaiming as such.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Thank you for this -- nicely put.

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