"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
April 25, 2014
Saved by His Grace by Andrew E. Lindsay
by Guest Authors

Editor’s note: There is a myth that movie reviewers are only interested in movies. This is false. At least some of the time, the Nauvoo Times movie reviewer thinks of other things. Here is proof that he is capable of dwelling on more important subjects.

There is a long-running television show called “MythBusters” that takes popularly held beliefs and urban legends to task to see if they are, in fact, true or just things we have heard so long and so often that we simply accept them as truth.

Sometimes the popular beliefs are held onto with great passion by the public, despite a lack of any real evidence of their veracity. “MythBusters” attempts to shine the light of truth on these misconceptions so that fact may be separated from fiction, notwithstanding the tenacity with which many hold to these commonly accepted falsehoods.

Today I would like to suggest some myths associated with the Atonement of Jesus Christ and look at them in the light of revealed scripture and modern revelation.

Myth number one: Keeping all of the commandments is required to be exalted in the Kingdom of God.

This is categorically false. God knew from the beginning that we were inherently incapable of keeping all of His commandments, even while insisting that any violation of the Law would disqualify us to be in His presence.

Some confusion may arise upon consideration of the Lord’s own statement in the Doctrine and Covenants that, “[He] cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

There is no exception, no special consideration, no wiggle room at all. “The least degree of allowance” means that anything but total obedience is inadequate for exaltation.

The problem is, then, that we are all immediately and forever disqualified on the grounds that we have all sinned and will forever fall short of the mark. But God does not present problems that have no solutions, and our potential salvation was as integral to God’s plan as was our certain, self-inflicted fall.

God knew we would misuse our gift of agency from the beginning to violate his commandments and in so doing, separate ourselves from Him and our heavenly home.

Thus, the provision of a Savior was not because there was some possibility that we might break God’s commandments. He gave us a Savior precisely because He knew that we would spend the entirety of our mortal probation willfully rebelling against one commandment or another, and the apparent egregiousness of the sin was irrelevant.

All sin, every sin, bars us from returning on our own. But we were never intended to return without divine intervention.

Myth number two: When we partake of the sacrament, we covenant that we will, in fact, keep His commandments.

Also false. We promise that we are “willing to ... always remember Him and keep His commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77), not that we will actually do it one hundred percent of the time.

If we were actually capable of keeping that promise with total obedience, we would logically, then, have no need to take the sacrament.

The prophet Alma, speaking to his followers at the waters of Mormon, asked them about a number of conditions necessary to qualify for baptism and entry into the fold of God.

These included being “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and ... willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.” (Mosiah 18:8-9)

He concluded that if this was, in fact, the desire of their hearts, then they should go ahead and enter into this covenant with the Lord.

Note that Alma did not suggest that they would always, without fail, do those things. He did not require perfect obedience to any of those principles, only a willingness. “And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.” (Mosiah 18:11)

Thankfully, the Lord is far more interested in our desires than our results. In fact, He makes it very clear what is required to receive a full measure of His grace and the peace that comes only through Him: a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Contrition and broken-heartedness are byproducts of remorse and are consistent with a sense of guilt and a desire for atonement. When one is penitent, there is an honest expression of sorrow but not necessarily an ability to rectify on one’s own that which was regrettably done.

As He explained to the prophet Samuel, He is little concerned with outward appearances or what other people may think they see or understand. “...the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) So, while we will be held accountable for our words and our deeds, He will, with perfect wisdom and mercy, ultimately give even greater weight to our thoughts and desires and the intents of our heart.

The Savior knows firsthand from observing those who knew and loved Him best that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) And so, accordingly, He promises that His gifts “are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do.” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:9)

Myth number three: We must become perfect in order to qualify for Redemption.

Incorrect. While it is true that we must ultimately become perfected, it is simply not possible for us to achieve perfection in mortality. For starters, perfection applies to body and spirit alike, and our bodies are, by design, corruptible and subject to disease and death. Similarly, our spirits are not capable of perfection while we remain in this fallen state.

Indeed, much of mortality is a battle between body and spirit, a fight that will not be won until both are forever and perfectly united after the resurrection.

The great prophet-king Benjamin taught “that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another — I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah 2:21)

Unprofitable servants — a term also used by the Savior himself — suggests that the return on investment is permanently in the red, that the price paid for us is not equal to the value we bring to the table. And yet, because of the covenant we have entered into with the Savior, we are not expected to be profitable.

There is no prerequisite of perfection, only a willingness to bring everything we have to the altar and give it to Him, both of us knowing that it doesn’t begin to cover even a fraction of the debt we owe Him.

Even confronted with daily reminders of our own weaknesses and imperfections, we are also reminded constantly by the sweet companionship of His Spirit, the other Comforter, that our meager and wholly inadequate attempts at perfection are, for now, accepted of Him.

It does not mean that we are done, or that He is done with us, but only that our present effort is acknowledged with the gift of spiritual manna that will sustain us for the day.

Perfection, then, is an eternal goal, not a destination that looms on the immediate horizon. But as we struggle, with Him, to achieve perfection in the eternities, we are purified in the present and refined from our natural, fallen state to a celestial creature in the making.

Myth number four: Our claim on the Atonement is contingent upon our personal goodness.

Absolutely not true. Nothing we have ever done or will ever do makes us worthy to receive the ultimate gift that Christ has given. In fact, He volunteered to be the Universal Sacrificial Lamb knowing up front that we would reject Him, deny Him, forget Him, and disobey Him our entire lives.

The atonement was central to God’s plan from the beginning. It is the perfect manifestation of the grace and love and mercy of our perfect Father and His perfect Son.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Notice that God did not wait until the world asked for a Savior, nor did He say, “First we’ll see if they’re worthy of a Savior, and then we’ll come up with a plan.”

It was always there, always available, even before we understood we needed it. And it was there not because we were worthy of it, but precisely because we weren’t.

We cannot save ourselves; the proof is self-evident. Even the thought that we might somehow be responsible to do so is so hopelessly overwhelming that the weight of that idea would crush the strongest of souls. Indeed, Satan desires that we assume this burden of individual responsibility because he knows that it can ultimately only lead to despair.

We desperately need the Savior, and just as significantly, we need to know that.

Christ is not a tool we use to help us build our mansion on high. He has already built it and longs to give us the deed. Nor is He a safety net to catch us if we can’t quite reach the heavenly heights we aspire to. We can never, ever return to God’s presence unless Christ, who was lifted up for us, in turn, lifts us up with Him.

Myth number five: We want God to be fair, and we want justice.

That is a lie. Fairness and justice alike would require payment for every misdeed, punishment for every sin, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and none of us actually want that. What we hope for, what we long for, is mercy.

But precisely because it is not, by its very nature, fair, mercy can be a difficult concept for some to embrace. After all, it isn’t fair that someone who does something wrong doesn’t have to pay for it. It also isn’t fair that someone who did nothing wrong should have to pay for someone else’s sins. And yet, this is at the very heart of the gospel.

Because of His mercy, Christ satisfied the immovable demands of justice and paid for everything in advance, leaving us free to accept or reject the gift. Either way, the gift is there. We may be reluctant to believe that so great a price could be paid by anyone, but hesitation only halts the blessings He stands ready and willing to pour out on each of us individually and all of us collectively who embrace His mercy without truly meriting it.

Myth number six: God’s grace is sufficient for everyone else but me; I have made such a mess of my life that He can’t fix it.

Of course that is wrong. There is no one who is outside the reach of God’s grace.

It often comes down to a simple distinction: Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Of course, He is the Savior of the world. But do you also believe Jesus Christ? Do you believe what He says? Or do you suppose that what He says is true for some people but not for others?

Clearly, His promise is straightforward and without ambiguity, “...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Do not succumb to that Satanic suggestion that you are too weak, incapable of being more than you ever were. The Lord Himself repudiates this falsehood: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

Myth number seven: God’s grace only kicks in after I’ve done everything that I can do on my own.

This is, quite simply, false doctrine. God’s grace has been extended and universally available since the beginning, without cost or condition.

The prophet Nephi mentioned the need for grace on many occasions. “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.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

A casual reading of this scripture might suggest that “after all we can do” is a chronological condition. It is not. The grace of Jesus Christ has always been available to us and, indeed, is something we avail ourselves of regularly. And yet, because we are still here, still struggling through the mires of mortality, we have clearly not yet done all we can do.

We are here in mortality because of the grace of God. We have the testimony of prophets and apostles by the grace of God. We live and breathe by the grace of God. We are here today by the grace of God. And ultimately, when Christ is finished teaching us and shaping us and refining us is some distant time where time no longer has meaning, it will be the grace of God that finally and forever reconciles us to Him.

Myth number eight: Since we are saved by grace, then I guess I don’t really have to try.

Wrong. While it is true that His grace is sufficient, it does not absolve us from keeping our part of the covenant, lopsided though that arrangement may be. Just because He is doing 80 percent (or 75 percent or 99 percent), we still do whatever we can do, knowing in advance that it is never enough, that we cannot clear the books, we cannot pay Him back, we cannot close the gap.

When a child is very young, they may obey their parents in part because they fear a harsh word or a swat on the bottom as the parents strive to keep the child from hurting themselves. Stay out of the street, don’t touch the stove, and so forth.

As the child grows, they may increase their obedience because they hope for a reward of some sort, ice cream or an allowance. With time and maturity, the child learns to love and obey their parents because the parents first loved them. The child begins to recognize the sacrifices made on their behalf, and the impetus for their behavior moves beyond fear of punishment and hope of reward. It is simply replaced with love and gratitude.

So it is with us. As we grow and mature in our understanding of the gospel and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our love and gratitude for Him grow. We no longer fear his wrath or even hope for some great blessing. We simply want to do what is right because it is right, because we love Him.

We are grateful of His everlasting sacrifice, and marvel that He would extend His great love unto the likes of us. And so we are changed in Him, and begin to be perfected in Him.

Myth number nine: If we have faith in Jesus Christ, God will never give us more than we can handle.

Not true. While the scriptures assure us that we will never be tempted beyond our capacity to resist, there is no assurance that the burdens of life will not exceed our natural capacities. In fact, quite the opposite is true; God will certainly allow us to to be stretched beyond anything we ever imagined we could bear.

As we have learned, His grace and mercy are integral parts of the Atonement, but unless we hunger and thirst after righteousness, He cannot fill us. He will not force feed us His grace.

As long as we continue to harbor the heretical belief that we can somehow do this thing on our own, He cannot truly help us. And so, with perfect compassion, he allows the trials of life to unfold around us. He allows the winds to blow and buffet us.

He will take us to what we believe is the very end of our rope and let us dangle in the darkness. Not to torture or torment us, but to teach us that He is there with us, in the darkness, holding us up.

This is, then, the good news of the gospel of Christ. We are not, we never have been, and we never will be alone. If we were left alone, it would prove impossible, in every sense, to accomplish what we were sent here to do. But He was sent here first, to prepare a way — the only way — so that we might all have the hope of eternal life beyond this veil of tears, and the sweet assurance that He alone is the Author and Finisher of our Salvation.

He makes Salvation possible because of His mercy, but not because we deserve it. It is by His grace we are saved, after all we can do and in spite of all we do. Grace isn’t grace if we earn it. It is a gift, the perfect gift, that only He could give, and one for which a world weighed down with sorrow and sin gives thanks this Easter morning.

We need Him, every hour.


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