Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"God does not require that I succeed, only that I do what I can."

While I previously expressed some discomfort with a popular use of Stephen Robinson's bicycle analogy, the book with that story, Believing Christ, provides masterful insights into the Atonement. For example, on the issue of being "saved by grace, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23), Robinson explains that he understands "after" to not be intended in the chronological sense there, but as preposition of separation. In other words, Nephi's statement can be understood as something like, "Regardless of all we can do, it is still by grace that we are saved." (See pages 91-92.)

He goes on to discuss how we participate in the process of grace, and what it takes to have done what we need to do to accept and participate in the grace of Christ. He turns us (pp. 95-96) to the story of an unlikely convert, a woman who had been in a motorcycle gang for years and was hanging out at bars when she met the missionaries as they came in briefly to find a pay phone. Her life had been terribly difficult, starting with the tragedy of abuse as a child followed by running away from home. But she accepted the Gospel and was baptized. She still had plenty of problems and would still swear in Church, still had trouble with the Word of Wisdom, and even hit another woman during some kind of argument in Relief Society. But over the years, she made many changes and eventually went to the Temple. Robinson asks when did she become an earnest candidate for salvation? It wasn't when all obvious rough spots were worked out - it was when she turned to the Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism. With all her baggage still being pulled along behind her, that rough woman was every bit as much on the path to eternal life as any of us. She started in a different place than many LDS people do, but God doesn't judge us by where we start, but on the direction we choose to follow. And she had chosen Him.

Robinson ends that chapter with a reference to Mother Theresa. He notes that critics had asked how she could possibly make a difference given the huge problems she was facing. There would always be more poor and sick people than could possibly be helped by her efforts - she couldn't even make a dent. "God does not require that I succeed, only that I do what I can." I love that insight. Mother Theresa still inspires me with her goodness and her focus on what really matters: our fellow human beings. She made a dent in the lives of many of us.

So many of our best efforts will seem to be in vain - but we must do what we can. Not because that saves us, but perhaps it might help save someone else. We are all saved only by the grace of the Savior, but we do have work to do to follow Him, to accept Him and His covenant of grace, and to help others accept Him as well. Our time here is so short - let's not waste it. Let's do what we can and always remember the example of Him whom we seek to follow, Jesus Christ - as hopelessly imperfect and unworthy as we are.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a convert I have struggled to do the Lords works and keep the commandments that BIC members are able to do so easly. During these times of failings I felt bad but was still having spiritual experences that reasured me that not giving up was more important than achiving success. My time in the church has been filled with stuggles and great spirtual blessings. To all you members I thank you and say never give up on us that are falling short but trying to make difference aginst all odds.

Anonymous said...

I have read this book and a wonderful book it is, far to many LDS are caught in the works thing and always qoute " it is by the grace of Go we are saved " after all that we do" that should be changed inspite of what we do, we are only saved by grace, but we must wrok to feel the Spirit and to draw close to God. if we got what we deserved when we die we would be in trouble, its GRACE GRACE AND MORE GRACE INSPITE OF WHAT WE DO........

Anonymous said...

I like one of Mother T's other quotes: "They say my work is just a drop in the ocean. I say the ocean is made of drops." Google it.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Can I say again I love that you do this. You rule.

re: Regardless of all that we do...

I guess that is fine, but if we look at other scriptures, is this correct?

Like 2 Ne 10:24 "...after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved."

Should this say regardless of whether we are reconciled to the Lord?

D&C 20:31-33
"And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true; And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength. But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God"

Is this Grace we can fall from different than the grace we are saved by?

There is another D&C scripture I am thinking of that says something to the effect that when we do all we can, the ord will take care of the rest, but I can not recall where it came from.

Matt W.

Nathaniel said...

Greetings Jeff,

First of all, I'd like take this time to introduce myself: my name is Nathaniel, I am currently reading for a Masters in mental health (blah, blah blah) and most importantly: I am an evagelical christian. I have been following your posts only for a few days to try and find out more things about the LDS church.

Out of all your posts so far: I guess this is the post that has struck a chord with me. I come with all humility just to ascertain a few things: please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems the gist of this post is along the lines of God's ultimate act - His grace. Yancey's book is a fantastic book if you haven't already read it. My question is: what is the church's stance on God's grace? I've always been under the (mis)conception perhaps, that the LDS teach that salvation (or rather exaltation) is attained by grace and works. Please could you be so kind to explain if this is true?

Nathaniel

exphariseeihope@yahoo.com.au said...

I just discovered this site and have to say that it is a great comfort to me. Having recently reactivated to the LDS Church after a 25 year journey in the wilderness... I struggle at times with my testimony, usually because of anti mormon rubbish. It's funny how anti mormon rubbish rears its head even within the LDS Church itself.
In answer to Nathaniel's inquiry... accepting Christ in our lives doesn't make us robots... we still have our freedom of choice... to do good or to do evil. David was a chosen prophet of God but chose to commit murder... so to some extent we are indeed saved or lost by our works.

nathanielmacrae said...

Thank you for your reply exphariseeihope, I appreciate your acknowledgment.

Hmm...I think I may have been misunderstood; maybe I need to rephrase my question:

I have always been under the presupposition (or misconception) that within LDS, to attain exaltation, one must yes, receive God's grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but then to be able to attain the celestial kingdom, i.e. to be in the presence of the Heavenly Father, one must do certain things such as be ordained within the different priesthoods receive an invite of recommedation to the temple etc... As opposed to say, Biblical christianity which of course, does not see the Book of Mormon as scripture, stating that it is through Jesus alone that we are able to be in God's presence and bask in His glory for eternity. Grace is both the most absurd yet the most beatiful thing on earth.

For the person who has accepted God's grace: good works and thankfulness are the result of realising and appropriating grace into their lives. For the evangelical christian, the buck stops with Jesus.

I guess my question is: does the LDS individual have to attain more than simply acknowledging Jesus as their only hope, and to repent of their sinful ways to attain salvation?

Another thing: I couldn't help but notice your your comment about 'anti-mormon rubbish'. If you don't mind, would you be able to present some of the material that caused you to struggle? And I agree, there are some very malicious anti-mormon material out there; ones that stir hate alone...

Thank you for taking the time to read this reply...

Nathaniel

Micky said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky