Grace: A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ. – Bible Dictionary
Standing as the third great pillar of eternity, the foundation of Christianity, and the crux of salvation and exaltation, the role of Christ’s atonement cannot be overstated.
The three pillars of eternity, the three events, preeminent and transcendent above all others, are the creation, the fall, and the atonement. These three are the foundations upon which all things rest. Without any one of them all things would lose their purpose and meaning, and the plans and designs of Deity would come to naught.
Obtaining an understanding of Christ’s power, the power which flows through His infinite atonement, and, more importantly, possessing a working knowledge of its application is the pivot upon which eternal progression turns.
It would be preposterous to claim a full understanding with the finite mind of something so all-encompassing and infinite as the atonement and yet the Lord does invite,
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matt 11:28-29
By drawing near to the Savior and inviting him in as our teacher, we begin to catch a glimpse of the power and the magnitude of the,
“…grace that so fully he proffers [us]….” – I Stand All Amazed, Hymn #193
Drawing nearer to the Savior brings us ever closer to the eternal understanding of God’s love as comprehended by Enoch.
“And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook…
And the Lord said unto Enoch…that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins…” – Moses 7: 28,41
Indeed, as expressed by Elder Ballard,
There is no greater expression of love than the heroic Atonement performed by the Son of God.- Elder Ballard, General Conference 2004
The Two Aspects of the Atonement
While the Atonement functions as a complete whole, foreordained and designed to enable and empower the mortal journey towards purity and perfection, it can be helpful to speak of the Atonement as possessing two halves, two equally important parts that fuel different aspects of our Savior’s charge,
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matt 5:48 (Of note is the original Greek word for perfection which denotes, “complete, full, or fully developed.” )
Those two aspects will be referred to as:
Aspect #1. The Redeeming Grace
Aspect #2. The Enabling Grace
Indeed, both of these aspects are very appropriately called ‘grace’ as they freely and undeservedly flow from the,
“…divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ. – Bible Dictionary
Grace is not earned or deserved but rather is a free gift to all who truly seek it.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…” – Ephesians 2:8
-Speaking of ‘Redeeming Grace’, we refer to Christ’s suffering which paid the debt owed to justice by every mortal because of sin and broken eternal laws.
“And thus…the Son [hath] power to make intercession for the children of men…standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.” Mosiah 15:8-9
-Speaking of ‘Enabling Grace’ we refer to Christ experiencing and overcoming every human weakness, frailty, pain, and heartache thus enabling him to,
“…know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” -Alma 7:12
“…strengthen [us] that [we may] bear up [our] burdens with ease…” Mosiah 24:15
“…rise…with healing in his wings…” 2 Nephi 25:13
“Surely [Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:4
Also of enormous significance is the free gift of resurrection offered because of the Savior’s atonement but this gift will not be the focus of this article as each person receives this gift freely and without stipulations.
Redeeming grace is needed because eternal justice requires a full payment for every transgression and for every broken law.
As a perfectly just God, our Heavenly Father
“…cannot deny justice when it has its claim.” -Mosiah 15:27
Every person who has ever lived, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has broken eternal law and owes a debt to justice.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
Each person has made mistakes that are beyond mortal capabilities to ever make right.
“…transgressors do not “pay” fully for their sins through the process of repentance. Even though repentance requires restitution to the extent of one’s ability, most forms of restitution are beyond any person’s ability to achieve.” – Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Every mortal stands in the place described by Alma.
And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. -Alma 42:14
The most that any mortal deserves is to,
“…become like unto [the devil], and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself.” 2 Nephi 9:9
Or as Alma expressed it,
“And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.” -Alma 42:11
When Jesus Christ stood in our place and accepted the consequences of all our sins and mistakes, he paid in full the price to justice that would have damned every member of the human family. Mankind was lost and Christ paid the price to redeem us.
As the sinless and perfect son of God, Christ was debtless and so was uniquely qualified to stand in our place.
“For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice…therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.” -Alma 34:10-12
With no reason to offer himself in our place other than love–love for us and for his father–we should feel to echo the words of Jacob
“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. O how great the plan of our God!” -2 Nephi 9:10,14
Grace is NOT what pays the balance on each soul’s mortgage to justice. Rather, Christ’s atonement pays the entire sum–the whole 10,000 talents.
“A servant was in debt to his king for the amount of 10,000 talents…As a personal debt, that is an astronomical number—totally beyond our comprehension. (Nobody can shop that much!) Well, for the purposes of this parable, it is supposed to be incomprehensible; it is supposed to be beyond our ability to grasp, to say nothing of beyond our ability to repay. That is because this isn’t a story about two servants arguing in the New Testament. It is a story about us, the fallen human family—mortal debtors, transgressors, and prisoners all. Every one of us is a debtor, and the verdict was imprisonment for every one of us. And there we would all have remained were it not for the grace of a King who sets us free because He loves us and is “moved with compassion toward us.” – ‘Be Ye Therefore Perfect’ Elder Holland
Repentance is not about pitching in our measly handful of pocket change and crumpled dollar bills; rather, repentance involves the change of heart and action that demonstrates to Christ that we truly desire His atoning blood to have an effect in our lives because regardless of how much or how well we serve him,
“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess…
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning…
I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
.…[ye are] indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” – Mosiah 2:20-21, 24
We are asked to keep the commandments and follow in the Savior’s footsteps because, as the eternal laws of agency dictate, Christ cannot and will not bless us against our will. His grace can only be given to those who truly desire it.
As the proverb says,
Actions speak louder than words. – Proverb
or in the words of the Savior himself,
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” -John 14:15
The Savior’s gospel and His commandments open us to the grace he wishes to proffer; his commandments are laid out as an open invitation throughout scripture.
“Therefore (not) leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and
1. of faith toward God
2. of the doctrine of baptisms
3. and of laying on of hands
4. and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” -Hebrews 6:1-2
“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.” -2 Nephi 31:5,12
“And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock…” -3 Nephi 18:12-13
The hope of our Savior is that we will be humble enough to walk the path that leads to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come
In regards to this path of:
-Receiving the Holy Gost
-Enduring to the End
our Savior has said,
“Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God.” – D&C 22:4
Those who follow the path of the gospel will receive a remission of their sins and be able to stand blameless before God at the last day.
While redeeming grace allows the Savior to stand between mankind and justice, enabling grace empowers the Savior to stand between mankind and mankind’s own weaknesses, flaws, and sinful heart.
Enabling Grace is all about becoming.
It’s about developing a nature that is more than good–more than kind–and truly more than mortal. Enabling grace is what lifts man from a mortal best, inheriting the Terrestrial Kingdom (the good and honest men of the world), to a divine nature and future as,
“heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” – Romans 8:17
There is not an aspect of the mortal life that the enabling grace of Christ cannot touch, just as there is not an aspect of your mortal journey that Christ did not experience.
“I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair…I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way.” – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in ‘Broken Things to Mend’
While the minutes Christ knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane could be measured in mortal time, what he experienced bridged millennia. Drawing upon the strength of character forged through the eons of premortal life, Christ experienced your life and mine; he faced every obstacle to which we fall, won every battle to which we succumb, defeated every temptation before which we stumble, and walked onward and upward through the thorns and brambles that deter you and I every day.
In a sense that Hollywood will never capture, Christ entered alone the battlefield of life, challenged each of our personal opponents, and single-handedly defeated the endless legions that rushed against him. There are not words for such glory, such power, such valor, and such love.
That one man alone, with no constraint other than love, could or would voluntarily face such incomprehensible and vast eternal foes, struggles, and pain is truly,
“…wonderful, wonderful to me!” -I Stand All Amazed Hymn 193
Because Christ has walked a perfect (in every sense of the word) lifetime in our shoes, he can offer the help and strength enabling us to come daily closer to doing the same.
Whether providing solace during a time of grief, healing a scarred past, carrying through trials, changing struggles into strengths, or offering a new heart with new hope,
“Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.” -Come All Ye Disconsolate Hymn 115
While many mortal struggles call out for the peace and healing available through Christ, such ministrations are often interwoven with deep changes in character and vision that change the mortal man into
“a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord…” Mosiah 3:19
Indeed Christ wishes for us to turn to him,
“That we may love our Heavenly Father and His Son more, and suffer less…” -Elder Robert D. Hales in ‘Come Follow Me’ Through Christian Love and Service
but the ultimate goal of the Father and Son is to,
“..bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” -Moses 1:39
Thus the ultimate design of our Savior is for us to,
“…humble [ourselves] before [him], and have faith in [him], then will [he] make weak things become strong unto [us].” -Ether 12:27
This process of becoming new creatures through the power of Christ leads to,
“…just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.” -D&C 76:69
While all of God’s children may enjoy some of the blessings of Christ’s atonement, the full change possible through Christ is only available through making and keeping sacred covenants.
The covenants of Abraham demonstrate well the way the Lord wishes us to commit, follow-through, and then finally receive of His fullness. The covenant pattern is the Lord’s pattern for empowering mortal men and women on their path to godhood.
Whether we speak of ancient Israel or the early Christians, covenants and their interconnected ordinances open to mortals the power of Christ.
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” -Eph 2:12-15
The chapter continues as Paul ties together the grace of Christ, the power of covenants, and finally explains that all this is possible through the body of Christ (the church),
“with apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”
In Galatians, Paul makes it even more clear that baptism by authority is an adopting ordinance which opens the covenants and blessings of Abraham.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” -Gal 3:27, 29
The theme of powerful covenants binding us to the blessings of God is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon.
“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” -Mosiah 24:13-14
The highest blessings of eternity are available only through covenant.
Perhaps we sometimes fail to realize that the key difference between those in the Terestrial Kingdom (the good and honorable men of the world) and those who will obtain Celestial glory is the enabling power of Christ.
“…just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.” -D&C 76:69
Along the path to perfection, Christ may offer the key to unlocking the shackles of addiction; he may supply the strength to forgive and grant the gift of charity; his strong hands may lift to leadership or guide along forgotten alleys to the lost and lonely; in short, all that imperfect mortals lack along the road to exaltation and godhood, Christ stands willing and able to offer.
The question only remains, what is expected of us in order to embrace such an awe-inspiring and undeserved future?
Thankfully, the atonement is very practical.
“No matter what your current status, the very moment you voluntarily choose honest, joyful, daily repentance by striving to simply do and be your very best, the Savior’s Atonement envelops and follows you, as it were, wherever you go. Living in this manner, you can truly “always retain a remission of your sins” (Mosiah 4:12) every hour of every day, every second of every minute, and thus be fully clean and acceptable before God all the time.” – Elder Jorg Klebingat in Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence’
Christ asks that we desire his gift, ask for it, keep sacred covenants, and do all we in our power to love and serve him, always keeping in mind that,
“inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” -Matt 25:40
President Uchtdorf underlined the key components of prayer and honest effort when he said,
“Do we understand our indebtedness to Heavenly Father and plead with all our souls for the grace of God?
When we kneel to pray, is it to replay the greatest hits of our own righteousness, or is it to confess our faults, plead for God’s mercy, and shed tears of gratitude for the amazing plan of redemption?
Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God…
The prophet Nephi made an important contribution to our understanding of God’s grace when he declared, “We labor diligently … 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 Gift of Grace’
A true love of God and of all men will lead to the daily efforts and desires that open our hearts to the Savior’s empowering and changing touch.
The Savior’s enabling grace is what lifts saints above their own capabilities, instills in them the character of Christ, and will one day lead to
“a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:13
The combined dictionaries of the world lack the language to express the overwhelming and completely merciful grace of Christ that is offered so freely so you and me. He rose above sin, death, and truly even mortality itself in order to open every locked door that stands between the children of God and exaltation. His footsteps mark every trail, no matter how forgotten; as our loving guide, he can show the way; as our friend, he can lift us when we fall and set us on our feet again.
His gifts are available to,
“those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do.” -D&C 46:9
Honest effort, sincere prayer, and sacred covenants open our hearts to the grace of Christ which can both redeem and enable, justify and perfect, and ultimately leads to a character like that of the Master, a character prepared to sit down with on right hand of the Son.
May our hearts be ever filled with gratitude for the grace he proffers and how appropriate that proffering implies approaching each person individually and one-by-one.
prof•fer (ˈprɒf ər) v.t.
1. to put before a person for acceptance; offer.
“God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine son.” – The Living Christ