Of Grace and Will

One of the pernicious doctrines of men attributed falsely to God is the idea that God whimsically blesses and saves some of His children and curses and condemns others. This doctrine, never taught by any of the prophets and apostles of God, would have us believe that God unjustly tilts the scales in favor of some of His children over others. This god of whim is a creation of man’s imagination, much like the gods of Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. He is not found in the real heavens from which we each and all came for our brief time of mortal testing and to which we each and all can qualify to return, based upon our own thoughts, words, and deeds—the exercise of our will.

One version of this false and pernicious teaching is the idea that man is saved by grace and by grace alone—regardless of what he does. It is true that we rely upon the grace of Jesus Christ in order to return to the presence of God the Father, to live with Him again forever. It is also true that this grace is free: there is nothing that we can give that entitles us to the Savior’s grace. There is nothing that we can exchange in trade for His grace. In that very important and essential sense, the grace of Christ is free. We have no right to the grace of God.

Having said that, grace is within reach of any and all who qualify to receive God’s free gift of grace, and any and all of God’s children can qualify. To qualify for but not purchase grace means that it is granted to us above and beyond what we deserve. The ancient American prophet, Nephi, explained to his people, “that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) The “all that we can do” is how we qualify to receive the grace of God, but it still falls short of being equal to the blessings that God bestows.

Does that not still mean, then, that God gives His grace to whomever He prefers? The answer is yes and no. In order for the gift of God to be grace, not an entitlement, God is free to extend grace to any to whom He wishes. He has said that He wishes and wills to extend grace to all who through their own choices meet conditions that He has prescribed, conditions that any and all can meet if they so choose.

Another ancient American prophet, Jacob, explained it this way:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. (2 Nephi 10:24)

The qualification is to yield your will to God, to want what He wants. Then, after reconciling your will to God, He extends to you the free gift of His grace, an everlasting gift of blessings beyond what we could ever earn.

I liken it to college scholarships. I was awarded several of these, that very generously helped fund my college education. I did not earn any of them—they were all free gifts from the sponsors. I could not demand them. I gave nothing in return. I did, however, have to qualify for them by my scholastic effort. I had to meet the prescribed standards.

Similarly, through His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ won an infinite endowment, upon which He draws to bless any and all who reconcile themselves to His will. As we do so, He graciously brings us into His presence forever.

(First published August 17, 2008)

About Wayne Abernathy
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am the husband of one wife, the father of 5 children, and grandfather of 16 (and counting). In my career I have served on the staff of the U.S. Senate for some 20 years, including as staff director of the Senate Banking Committee. For just over 2 years I was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions. Just recently, I retired from the American Bankers Association, where for 15 years I was an Executive Vice President, for financial institutions policy and regulatory affairs. I am most comfortable at home, where I like to read and write, and at the Temple, where I rejoice in helping to unite families.

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