127: Grace

September 23, 2012
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Grace is one of the central concepts in all of Christianity, yet also one of its most contested. What is it? How does it work? Do we as human beings have to do something first for it to perform its healing work? Can we even turn from sin without Grace first being extended to us? What, exactly happened in the Garden of Eden (literally or metaphorically) that caused separation from God (a Fall), and what are its effects on (or the state of) our souls that requires the transformative action of Grace?

Certainly, the concept of Grace is no less debated in Mormonism–or at least, as is suggested in this podcast, it is beginning to now enjoy more focused attention. Is Grace a substance/thing that fills in the “gap” between a standard of perfection that God sets forth and everything we can do on our own in showing our desires and faith? Is it the suffering in the Garden and on the Cross that satisfies the demands of an eternal law of Justice? Is it more like an event–our “getting it” regarding God’s love and our worth that leads us to transformation and a new life in Christ, one in which we yield ever and ever more fully to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, becoming godlike in our compassion for all?

And what about all the Grace vs. Works passages we find in both in the Bible and Mormon scriptures? Is Paul’s meditations in Romans about his own sinful nature and the need for Grace the key text for viewing Grace and our own human abilities to respond to God? What are alternative readings of those passages or others within wider Christianity? And, for Mormons, how might one read what seems to be the key passage in the Book of Mormon that declares we are saved by grace “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23) in different ways? Is it really a temporal “after” (feeding into the God filling the “gaps” model)? Is this really what Nephi is saying? And does this interpretation even jive with other Book of Mormon passages on Grace?

All these ideas and many more are discussed in this terrific discussion among Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists John Morehead, Katie Langston, and Joe Spencer. We hope you’ll listen and then join in the discussion below!

________

Links:

An Other Testament: On Typology, by Joseph Spencer

Badiou, Marion and St. Paul: Immanent Grace, by Adam Miller (Continuum, 2008)

“His Grace is Sufficient,” by Brad Wilcox, Speech give as a BYU Devotional, 12 July 2011

The Continuous Atonement, by Brad Wilcox (Deseret Book, 2009)

Mormon Neo-Orthodoxy: A Crisis Theology (Signature Books, 1987)

Bonds that Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, C. Terry Warner (Shadow Mountain, 2001)

The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes, James L. Ferrell (Deseret Book, 2004)

Grace Works, by Robert L. Millet (Deseret Book, 2003)

Mormon Matters Episode 54, “The Atonement in Mormon Thought and Experience”

Mormon Matters Episodes 123–124, “Emergence Christianity and Mormonism”

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25 Responses to 127: Grace

  1. September 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this program.

  2. September 24, 2012 at 8:49 am

    ‘Teach me all that “I must do” to live with him someday’…

  3. Bill Reel
    September 25, 2012 at 9:52 am

    1.) – Most Latter Day Saints use either 2nd Nephi 25:23 or the Bible Dictionary to share their understanding that grace comes in after and only after we do all we can do and expend our own best efforts. Nobody ever does their best for a whole day nevermind a lifetime. We fall short. Because many think they have to do their best they become depressed, discouraged, and give up. This understanding of 2nd Nephi 25:23 is incorrect. the after has many meanings. It can also be translated as notwithstanding or nevertheless. In other words “inspite of all I do, it is Grace by which I am saved”. The bible Dictionary simply furthers the wrong interpretation. The LDS bible dictionary is not doctrine and is not binding as it says so itself in it’s introduction.

    2.) Ether 12:27 – God gave us our weakness or made us a natural Man that makes mistakes and is fallen and has flaws. Why did he do that? So we would be humble. Why? So we would turn to his Son. Why? Because his Son makes Weakness Strengths – 2nd Cor 12:9-10. Stop beating yourself up, Paul didn’t.

    3.) Many in the church want to have value placed on works. They will say things that tend to say “My good works have merit in my salvation”
    but these scriptures and quotes say otherwise
    Helaman 14:13, Alma 24:10, Moroni 6:4, D&C 3:20, 2nd Nephi 31:19 there are many more… a whole slew of them
    Now this doesn’t mean “one only need believe, and then thou art saved” like some evangelicals proclaim.
    Rather we must get in our heads Keeping commandments, accepting ordinances, doing good works are all required and necessary. But they are in place to push us to grow, progress, and through Christ’s grace receive the mighty change from Alma 5

    4.) We place value on outside behavior but god looketh on the heart as the bible says and also Helaman 3:35 says it is our yielding our heart to God that brings sanctification… aka: the mighty change.

    5.) To live with God again we must be justified. To do so can be done three ways.
    A.) To keep the law perfectly – Only Jesus did, so sorry your out of luck here
    B.) To live the gospel always pressing forward with steadfastness and repenting when you don’t: repentance means change
    C.) D&C 19:15-18 to suffer for your own sins

    6.)This will justify you (make you clean from your sins) but in order to live with God you must be sanctified as well (spiritually changed to be Christlike)<— this doesn't happen instantaneouly for most, it is a journey… one day at a time.
    D&C 88:21 only the sanctified will be Celestial. Sanctification comes from yoking with Christ and using his Grace or enabling power to change (Ether 12:27). This change will happen in the eternities for many who would have done so here if the opportunity presented itself. Perfection is an eternal Goal, will not be achieved in this life.

    7.)So how do we access this. Grace comes in as soon as we exercise faith and grace added to Grace as we live more and more of the gospel in our heart. Moroni 10:32 – 33 – you must see this scripture as a process and you must not think that you have to reach a certain level of righteousness at any one point in this life. Notice how we become perfected in Christ then later we become perfect in Christ.

    8.) To be perfected in Christ is to yoke with him in the baptismal covenant and live that covenant. When we do so we have a relationship with Christ. We borrow his perfection as we keep this covenant. His grace is at work in our life perfecting us.

    9.) What is the covenant – Mosiah 18 – be "willing" to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those in need of comfort, stand as a witness of him, remember him always (sacrament), and repent when you mess up. Look at the bread prayer and Water Prayer of the sacrament – Only the bread asks us to keep the commandments but it also says "willing". The Water prayer says neither. If you had to "keep the commandments" to have his spirit – you would break the covenant within minutes of making it and he would be bound to remove the spirit from you all the time. But if your promise is to be willing to keep the commandments then you can do it. It measures your desires, and attitude, and motives. You still must repent when behavior is sin but that too demonstrates your heart and willingness to be humble and to follow him.

    • david
      September 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      All good stuff bill… and yet soooo many people feel they are not ‘good enough’, Not worthy enough, not a ‘good mormon’. This is a fact. and it’s a very sad fact. and a consequence of the very real church culture.

      the beauty of grace… is that none of us are good enough. REPEAT: unmerited favor. (bible dictionary)

      Grace is too stunning of a concept. It’s too amazing. It’s not fair. It’s breathtaking in it’s claims. It’s so simple we just miss it and believe that it’s too good to be true.
      The sacrament alone assures you entrance to the celestial kingdom.

      In the world, it’s easy for our minds to judge… Red State/Blue State, Rich/Poor. Success/Failure. Unworthy/Worthy. Sinner/Saint.

      A Saint is a sinner who is ‘willing’. To hell with anyone who encourages a sinner who is willing to change… to reject the right hand of mercy.

  4. Bill Reel
    September 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

    some other great resources
    Gerald Lund -http://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/04/salvation-by-grace-or-by-works where he explains the church seeing salvation as spoken of by paul is the exhaltation every LDS seeks

    Also Elder Bruce McConkie – http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=597 where the quote that sticks out to me is ” Salvation is not in works—not even in those revealed of God—but in Christ and his atonement.”

    I think the flaw is in LDS thinking is 2nd Nephi 25:23 which is likely misunderstood by readers and teachers and the LDS Bible Dictionary which plays on the misunderstood meaning of the above scripture and says man must expend his own best efforts.

    While Grace/sanctification seems to be the least spoken of doctrine in our Wards, I wish it was our most discussed.

    My other Post here is only my LDS view of Grace

  5. BAB
    September 26, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I am 53 years old. I was born in the church and have been active up until the last year. However, during this last year my life has begun to change dramatically. I am attending a Christian church that actually teaches grace. As I am beginning to understand this principal of grace my life has begun to change. The LDS teachings that we make it to heaven through our worthiness pales in comparison with the understanding that God loves us and that Christ gave his life for us, for all of us, including sinners.

    My life in the LDS church has been characterized with tremendous feelings of inadequacy and depression. I never felt good enough. I could always do better, I could always do more. The emphasis is always on how worthy you are. If you want to go to the temple you must be worthy, If you want the companionship of the Holy Ghost you must be worthy. Funny thing is that I am a human being and I need the guidance of the Holy Ghost all of the time, especially when I am struggling with certain weaknesses.

    As I read the New Testament I find another group of individuals that emphasized this self righteous belief that they were just so great because of their own worthiness. This group was the Jewish religious leadership. The same group that was bent on destroying Christ.

    I am beginning to find an inner peace and confidence characterized by Christ’s love for me as I learn about God’s grace. Not the grace that comes “After all that you can do”, and that comes by one’s own performance, but the grace that comes when I am struggling with my weaknesses and God says to me; “I love you. I will help you. I know that you have weaknesses and together with my divine help, I will help you to experience that change of heart so that you no longer desire to do these things.”

    I believe that GRACE is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind and it has nothing to do with “AFTER ALL THAT YOU CAN DO”! It is a divine gift that we did not earn. It is a gift not a REWARD!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      September 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

      BAB, So pleased you are finding peace and grace! That’s, of course, is what is most important. I do have a feeling from both yours and Bill’s comments that you may not have actually listened to the podcast, and neither of you seem to note that our discussion lands pretty much where you both do regarding grace while remaining comfortably within what is already there (and even quite central!) in Mormon scriptures and teachings. We spend a lot of time in the final section showing “after all we can do” is quite horribly mis-read/understood.

      • BAB
        September 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

        Dan, I listened to the podcast before my comment. I am in agreement that Grace is not currently addressed in its full luster by the Mormon powers that be. I really enjoy the fact that this topic is being addressed with respect to Mormonism.

  6. Ryan Comins
    September 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Thanks so much for this! Brilliant podcast, brilliant panel and brilliant discussion!
    I think Grace v Works is a false dichotomy. When it comes to salvation, there are actually two dichotomies for two different questions. The first is the question of what the requirements for salvation are, and I think the real dichotomy there is between faith and works. What is required for salvation? Faith alone, with works as merely fruits of faith, or are works required too? Then, the second question is how able we are to achive that salvation by oursleves, and in that case I think the real dichotomy is between grace and self-sufficiency.
    So, I think that it is perfectly possible to believe (as I personally do and as I believe most of LDS scripture teaches) that we are saved by grace alone, through a combination of faith and works. Works are absoulutely a requirement for salvation – but we cannot perform those required works without the ennabling power of the grace of God.

    • Katie L.
      September 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Ryan, I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast! I agree that grace vs. works is a false dichotomy. But I think it goes deeper: salvation from sin (a.k.a. “fire insurance”) is a false primary purpose for the gospel.

      When salvation is next-life focused and “getting-in” oriented, we run into this sort of head-spinning problem. “Am I saved by grace? Am I saved by works? What do I have to do/say/believe in order to ‘be okay’?” We go around and around in circles.

      We can actually stop the cycle by questioning the baseline assumptions. What if salvation isn’t about “getting in” after all? What if it’s not about meeting technical requirements to ensure we don’t end up in a lake of fire and brimstone, or separated from family for eternity, or whatever horrible next-life punishment our particular faith tradition threatens.

      What if, instead, it’s about a transformed heart and life in the here and now? And what if maybe, just maybe, the way you experience the next life is primarily an extension of the way you experience this one?

      I think that changes everything.

      • Ryan Comins
        September 27, 2012 at 11:03 am

        Katie, I totally agree that salvation (for me, anyway) is more about “a transformed heart and life in the here and now” rather than seeking entry into heaven in the hereafter. But I still think that there are requirements to achieve that state of inner transformation – not in the sense of having to make God happy so that He’ll press a button and suddenly bless us with inner transformation, but rather in the sense of there being eternal laws of consequences that just naturally flow from our actions and decisions. I think that both faith and good works naturally lead to a more fulfilling life – which is what I see as salvation – but I also believe that we can neither have faith nor perform good works without the ennabling power of the grace of God, which we can gain access to through prayer and other spiritual practices.

  7. Katie L
    September 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Re: the “after all you can do” verse in 2 Ne…one thing I didn’t think to add to the discussion at the time, but that I wish I had…

    Even if Nephi meant exactly what he said — that we are saved by grace only after expending our last bit of energy trying to live all the commandments perfectly — we can’t throw out the possibility that the dude was just plain wrong.

    A strict worthiness paradigm would make us resistant this concept, but a grace-based paradigm leaves room for people, including prophets, to make mistakes.

    So even if “after all we can do” to reframe and apologize for this verse, it turns out that Nephi actually did mean it the way Mormons have traditionally interpreted it, I feel comfortable saying, “Sorry, Nephi (and Mormons), that ain’t right. Thank goodness for the grace of Christ that lets us get our theology wrong sometimes and still be loved and accepted by God.” :)

  8. Carey
    September 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    What a great podcast – very insightful and inspiring!!

    Questions:

    1. Based on the paradigm discussed what does it mean to be saved by grace but judged by works?

    2. I feel drawn to the idea of viewing grace as what is given – both good and bad but wrestle with the idea of accepting hardships or defects without wanting to change them. What are some good ways to discern between embracing the challenges of life to make things better for ourselves and others versus being called Satan like Peter was when he disagreed with Jesus’ willingness to accept the difficult path before him?

  9. nehor90210
    September 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    My personal experience concerning grace and worthiness is one that I don’t feel was represented in this discussion, so I wanted to chime in. As a teenager, I had already fully realized my inability to do everything right, and so I never really fell into problems with perfectionism. If I missed my home teaching sometimes, or wasn’t nice to my sisters, for example, I didn’t sweat it at all, and I trusted I was forgiven of my imperfectness. But basically that grace paradigm only seemed to work for me when it came to the “sins of omission” (which I was surprised to learn later was not a scriptural phrase, for all it got thrown about in Priesthood lessons), where I had simply failed to do something good. When it came to the “sins of commission”, that was another story.

    Not that I had done anything that I’d now consider very serious, just sneakily watched the occasional softcore adult movie on Cinemax, or masturbated, or something, but grace couldn’t seem to help me with that. I would feel terrible I’d done it, I would confess to bishops, I would plead for forgiveness in prayers, and yet I’d never feel God’s forgiveness, or love, or reassurance, or anything. So I assumed, I’m not feeling forgiven because I’m not repenting properly, or enough, etc.

    I was thrilled when I finally read “Believing Christ”, and I loved Robinson’s take on grace. It helped me with my guilt a bit, at least until the next time I masturbated, when I still didn’t feel any forgiveness, or any spiritual guidance. Then I loved it when someone shared with me that insight (mentioned by Joe in the podcast, I think) about anti-Nephi-Lehi saying “It was all we could do to repent”. It became my understanding that my repentance should be sufficient on my part to “deserve” grace. So really, I had just pushed everything back one step. I acknowledged that we are saved by grace, and can’t earn our salvation, but my experience trying to feel some grace in my life had led me to thinking I needed to earn the grace itself, not through works, but through repentance.

    I would like to give you the faith inspiring ending, but I fear this is more likely to turn into a bit of an angry rant, so you may stop reading if you want. I tried to put things in God’s hands
    instead of mine, but I continued to commit my little private sins. I admitted my sinfulness, humbled myself, asked for a change of heart. Didn’t work. And
    here’s where the trouble came in, I think, because of the way the CHURCH
    treats the sins of commission. With something like “I missed my home
    teaching” we just get a little bit of a guilt trip from the Elders
    Quorum president, and an “aw, shucks, do better next time” pep talk, but then the subject is dropped, and we can go on about our lives, trying to do good, and failing, but doing some good along the way. If I don’t get a confirming feeling that God’s accepted my repentance for a lousy home teaching record, I don’t worry, because obviously he’ll forgive me if I repent.

    But admit masturbation to a bishop, and you’re being scheduled
    for biweekly office visits with him until you stop doing it (or at least until you
    begin lying about having stopped.) With some sins, the church does
    not seem interested in the fact that we are imperfect, and need the
    grace of God. The lesson I learned from the LDS church was that I was not going to be
    forgiven by God until I stopped returning to my sins, like a dog returns to it’s vomit. I could not feel worthy before God, not because he had no grace for me, but because by not being able to 100% stop committing certain sins, my repentance was apparently not adequate.

    I’m approaching things these days from a much more agnostic viewpoint, and I now feel that some people just naturally feel the sort of spiritual feelings they attribute to the Holy Spirit or Jesus or God communicating to them, and some people just naturally don’t have those feelings. Too bad for those that don’t have those feelings, if they’re in a church where if they don’t have the Spirit with them, it’s because they’re not right with God somehow.

  10. September 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Truly great podcast. Even though it was 90 minutes, I felt like there was more to discover. BTW, the link to Brad Wilcox’s BYU speech is broken. I’d love to get that if you can fix it. Thanks!

  11. September 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    As someone born and raised in a devout Mormon home, I experienced first hand the idea that salvation is something earned based on worthiness. More specifically, I was taught that a person’s worthiness in this life directly determines which of the three kingdoms of glory we end up in and for Mormons whether or not we would attain exaltation in the highest kingdom. Mormonism is a heirarchical religion based on authority and because this is what has been taught from the top, it makes perfect sense why I grew up with this understanding.

    I was surprised that the 3rd article of faith was not mentioned on the podcast:

    “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

    This is consistent with what I was taught growing up in Mormonism, that salvation is something earned based on worthiness (which is made possible by the atonement), but that is very different from salvation being offered as a free gift of grace. I find it hard to see how these can be reconciled. Either it is a free gift with no strings or it requires obedience to laws and ordinances.

    My experience of Mormonism (and that of numerous others I have spoken to over the years) is that people either feel beaten down because of unworthiness or puffed up because they do feel worthy. Again, this is very different from the idea of grace which says that no one is worthy and yet all are offered the free gift of salvation based on the worthiness of Christ.

    To the Mormon panelists:

    You seem to embrace a more generous notion of grace and I am glad you have experienced the life that it brings. However, this is not what’s being taught from the top in Mormonism and until that happens, I believe the majority of people in the church will continue to experience the oppressive effects of graceless religion which offers the opposite of good news and redemption.

    For more on this subject, I highly recommend the following book by Tim Keller:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Prodigal-God-Recovering-Christian/dp/0525950796

    Here is a quote from it that may pique your interest:

    “There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord,” says Keller. “One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good.”

    • Joshb
      October 2, 2012 at 5:17 am

      Totally agree with Wes here. Not trying to be confrontational, just sharing another LDS perspective. I feel the panelist missed a discussion about relationship of obedience to grace in response to John’s question about the motivation for activity and participation (“beehive” question) in the church, that i felt was almost misleading.

      The church teaches the resurrection is free gift from God through the grace of Christ. Salvation is also but requires obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel to receive it. Exaltation is of course only made possible through Christ BUT is completely conditionally upon obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Now how does grace play into that? Well grace helps us out from both ends of the stick. Grace helps us be obedient, but does not circumvent the need for individual works/effort and an individual change of heart. Grace also picks up the slack, when the very best human effort (think President Hinckley, “but be sure it is your very best”) is simply not good enough.

      Some statements from “Preach My Gospel”.

      “Exaltation: Eternal life in God’s presence; to become like our Father in Heaven
      and live in His presence. The greatest of all the gifts of God. Exaltation comes
      through the Atonement of Christ and through obedience to all the laws and
      ordinances of the gospel.” pg. 58

      “Salvation: To be saved from physical and spiritual death. All people will be saved
      from physical death by the grace of God, through the death and Resurrection of
      Jesus Christ. Each individual can also be saved from spiritual death as well as by
      the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is manifested in a life of
      obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ. pg. 58

      “Obedience to Jesus Christ is a lifelong commitment. Through
      exercising faith, repenting,being baptized and committing to serve
      Christ, and then receiving the Holy Ghost, we can experience healing,
      forgiveness of sins, and complete conversion to the Savior and His
      gospel.” p. 6.

      LDS bible dictionary “This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on
      eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best
      efforts.”

      Is not this the motivation for activity in the church?

  12. Bill Reel
    September 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I did listen to the episode by the way and I agree, you touched on much of what I shared. In fact my experience also started with Stephen Robinson’s “Believing Christ” but I was truly awakened by Brad Wilcox’s “Grace is Suffcient”. I was simply adding my detailed view in an effort to

    1.) add to the consensus that LDS do strongly believe in Grace or at least should based on LDS scripture.

    2.) show what I think is a detailed map that doesn’t have deep flas to it that seem proposed with LDS grace. I think as long as we see works as necessary, required, and essential but not as having merit. When one understands that difference it makes the dispute less heated. Especially when one sees we are “Learning” heaven and not “Earning” heaven

    3.) Help LDS who have a slighted view to understand in a point by point basis how works do not have merit.

    Alma 22:1414 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself
    Moroni 6:4 relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith
    2nd Nephi 31:19relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

    Also, for the record, you have an awesome podcast that I look forward to each week.
    Thanks

  13. Mike Barker
    September 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Joe, Dan, Katie, and John,

    Thank you , thank you, thank you!! For about a year now I have been trying to figure out how to re-interpret 2 Nephi 25:23 and am so happy that others have been wresting with that passage of scripture as well. The way that it is now popularly interpreted is problematic for me in two ways.

    1) It is not how I have experienced grace in my life.
    2) Thinking that we can do certain works that somehow manipulate God into giving us grace sounds more magical than religious.
    3)I believe that working for grace can often lead to depression. “If I just work hard enough, God’s grace will take away my depression.”

    mike

    • September 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      OK. I guess I cannot count; that was three problems I see with our popular interpretation of 2 Nephi 25;23 as being problematic. One last thing – I admit I have been experiencing a bit of Stendahlian “holy envy” when it comes to the Evangelical interpretation of Grace.

  14. Frank Richards
    September 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I never thought
    that I would stumble into a discussion like this from within the
    Church. What a delight! Grace & Works truly is a
    mystery. In some circles those
    who seek to know about such things are said to be
    “Mystics.” I prefer
    “scientists” –
    it goes better with my temperament. Science is hot on the
    trail, and may have given us a clue. They are already telling us
    that:

    Free-will (as we think of it) is
    nonexistent.

    I won’t try to
    convince you of this – though it is well supported in psychology,
    neuroscience and physics. Moreover, it can readily be seen by anyone,
    through self-observation. Try paying attention to your thoughts;
    listen to your speech; watch yourself move about. I like this quote
    from Daniel Dennett:

    Are decisions voluntary? Or are they things that happen to us? … We
    have to wait and see how we are going to decide something, and when
    we do decide, our decisions bubble up to consciousness from we know
    not where. We do not witness it being made; we witness its arrival.
    This can lead to the strange idea that Central Headquarters is not
    where we, as conscious introspectors, are; it is somewhere deeper
    within us, and inaccessible to us. – Freedom Evolves, 2003, P.227

    It is not hard to
    see that we cannot control our thoughts – whether to think,
    or what to think. Let’s just say, that IF this is True, THEN
    we cannot claim authorship to what is done, AND Works, as
    it is being discussed here, would be out of the equation – it
    would be all Grace. Or, maybe, just maybe, the Grace & Works
    dichotomy is referring to something else, altogether. I think so.
    Anyway, it would seem that Grace is inextricably connected with the
    Mormon concept of “Agency.” Is it the same as free-will, or is
    it something else? That’s the bee in my bonnet these days.

    Perhaps, some idea
    of the bonnet I’m wearing would be appropriate, how I happened onto
    Mormon Matters, and why I’m so interested in Grace & Works:

    I had the flannel
    board discussions nearly 50 years ago, and was baptized into the
    Church – at age 23. I left nine years later, because I didn’t know
    the Church was true, and I couldn’t continue lying about it. This
    erupted in divorce, loss of family, and, eventually, loss of any
    belief in God. I survived, but barely – and not from anything I could
    take credit for … I would call it Grace now.

    It is a long
    story, but in 1980, Grace visited me again – this time with the
    Realization of Nonduality (more often called Enlightenment or
    Spiritual Awakening). It just came right out of the blue. Nondual
    means not-two. Enlightenment is the realization that All is One –
    not two. Tremendous implications spill out of that realization, it is
    still going on – and it is all GOOD NEWS. This includes the
    discovery that I do nothing, and can do nothing. As it turns out,
    there are no choices to be made in any present moment. Free-will is
    an illusion – it only appears that we make decisions until we look
    to see – then, we realize we don’t. This discovery of personal
    powerlessness is closely associated with the Realization of
    Nonduality. In this sense, I’ve been living in Grace for over 30
    years.

    So, here I am, 71
    and retired since 2003. About six months ago, a highly unlikely set
    of circumstances brought me to re-consider the Church from an
    entirely different point of view than before. I guess you’d call me
    an “investigator.” I find myself watching General Conferences and
    searching the internet looking for signs that Enlightenment might be
    found in the Church. This discussion fills me with hope. -*1

    I felt inspired to
    bring this topic up here for three reasons:

    It seems to
    me, that “Agency”(as known in the Church) must needs be other
    than synonymous with free-will, and this confusion could be blocking
    our understanding of Grace. I’m wondering if Grace and Enlightenment
    might be the same.
    It won’t be
    long before science will expose the the free-will issue, and it will
    become common knowledge. It is likely to raise more havoc in the
    Church than Dawin’s Evolution ever did. As I perceive it, getting
    clear about Agency is central to Grace, and an understanding of the
    Gospel.
    Herein is the
    potential for an independent testimony of God, of Jesus Christ as
    Savior, and the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
    Day Saints. A testimony not based in what’s happened in the past, or
    what might happen in the future, but what is being experienced right
    here and now. A testimony based in faith AND facts – so when I
    stand and say, “I know….” I don’t mean, “I hope for…”

    One more thing:
    what tipped me off to relevance of these things to the Church was
    IINephi 2. I was reading it as an assignment from the Missionary
    Elders. As of this writing, I have not been baptized simply because
    God hasn’t willed it – maybe tomorrow.

    I can’t imagine
    what all this might mean to those familiar with the scriptures and
    teachings of the Church … but I know it is hot, and it is thrilling
    to see that you are onto it.

    So Katie, it was this comment that got me going on this:

    “What if, instead, it’s about a
    transformed heart and life in the here and now? And what if maybe,
    just maybe, the way you experience the next life is primarily an
    extension of the way you experience this one?

    I think that
    changes everything.”

    I think you may be
    closer than you think ………… ;-)

  15. Eric
    September 30, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    That was an excellent podcast, and I appreciate the efforts that went into it. Although grace has long been a part of LDS theology/soteriology, I’m glad to see that many in the church are getting away from the defeatist idea that grace doesn’t kick in until we somehow make ourselves worthy to receive it.

    I also was glad you called attention to Brad Wilcox’s excellent talk. I became familiar with it recently after my son on a mission told us that it was required viewing for all missionaries in his district, and that parents were asked to view or read it as well. Given the opportunity, I would sustain a decision to add it to the canon.

    As to 2 Nephi 25:23, I agree with Joe Spencer that we have to look at the context. The point Nephi is making is not when we’re saved but by whom, and he even says in the following verses that while we follow the law of Moses (the reference is pre-Incarnation, but the principle still applies), we don’t so for the purpose of salvation. In other words, Nephi contradicts the works-before-grace understanding of this verse, suggesting that’s not what he means. So my paraphrase of the verse is something like this: For we know that after all we can do, it isn’t our actions that save us, but the grace that is given to us through Christ.