23 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.There are several ways to interpret this verse. Some interpret it to mean that grace makes up the difference between our best efforts and God's standards, but with the expectation that we do everything we can on our own. Some argue that it means that notwithstanding all we can do, it is only through grace that we are saved. A related interpretation is that grace is apart from all we can do. I'm not sure what is best. But I do think we might learn something by looking at another leader in the Gospel who, like Nephi, wrote and spoke to persuade others to be reconciles to God, and who vigorously warned against sin and urged people to be zealous in following Christ. I think we can learn a little by considering Paul's words in Ephesians 6, who exhorts his fellow Christians to encourage them to become strong and diligent in living the Gospel, obviously concerned with the risk that Christians might fall. After all, it's a spiritual war we are in with a real enemy and real casualties. Thus, we need armor:
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.Verse 13 is especially noteworthy. Christians are exhorted to protect themselves from the dangers of Satan with the multiple components of the armor of God (yes, there is real danger and not guaranteed salvation from a moment of belief). Though Satan's attacks are powerful, if Christians put on this armor, they will be able to avoid falling and, instead, to stand--having done all. Perhaps "and having done all, to stand" is meant to express much the same meaning as Nephi's "after all we can do." If so, I think we should be easy on Paul and not reject him as another non-Christian cultist with no hope of salvation for having errant theology. Paul's still a good fellow Christian in my book.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;