[from] His Grace is Sufficient [by Brad Wilcox]
'A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”
She said, “I just don’t get grace.”
I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”
Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”
Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”
She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.
I said, “Wrong.”
She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”
I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”
She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”
“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”
By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements.
“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”
“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”
Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for practice. Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing, perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane. In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me”, “Keep my commandments”. If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”
I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it. We are practicing for it.”
They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”
I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”
Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.”
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly. The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed. Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God, but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to.
I know a young man who just got out of prison—again. When he was a teenager dealing with every bad habit a teenage boy can have, I said to his father, “We need to get him to EFY.”
His dad said, “I can’t afford that.”
I said, “I can’t afford it either, but you put some in, and I’ll put some in, and then we’ll go to my mom, because she is a real softy.”
We finally got the kid to EFY, but how long do you think he lasted? Not even a day.
By the end of the first day he called his mother and said, “Get me out of here!”
Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.
The older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there.
Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace. There are young women who know they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them, and they love Him. Then they graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace.
There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly they mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again.” And then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace.
I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace.
I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than each other. These couples don’t understand grace.
Christ is not waiting at the finish line; He is with us every step of the way.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during and after the time when we expend our own efforts”
So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel.
The first company of Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Their journey was difficult and challenging; still, they sang:
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them.
The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, an d grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks. Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power.'
It is far overdue that we stop making excuses for ourselves. We cannot keep pushing aside inconvenient aspects of commandments, tailoring the words of Christ and his prophets to fit our own agenda, whether in big ways or small, and expect salvation anyway. God did not give to Moses the Ten Suggestions, He gave Commandments. In like manner, if we profess to love and obey our prophet, we must follow all of their words. Matthew 7:21- Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Too often we might tweak the Word of Wisdom to fit our own tastes and work it into
our chosen lifestyle; we quietly brush under the rug the divinely imposed commandment to consecrate each Sunday as a holy day to God, justifying that if we are spending time with families, the nature of the activity does not matter. Youth, especially, have blurred the line between dating and courting until the line has all but vanished, and the youth think that it’s permissible so long as they don’t break the law of chastity. Very often, brothers and sisters, we cannot see all the reasons for certain requirements and commandments, even when we think we do, so we only blind and numb ourselves spiritually when we look for loopholes.
Titus 1:16 - They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient……
*W.o.W, Sabbath Day observance, studying scriptures, Family Home Evening*
“The Lord has made us attractive one to another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes as a powder keg unless it is kept under control. It is beautiful when handled in the right way. It is deadly if it gets out of hand. It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating. This rule is not designed to hurt you in any way. It is designed to help you, and it will do so if you will observe it.”
–Gordon B. Hinckley
Let’s see if you can correctly answer the following question: At what age are Latter-day Saint youth allowed to date? Of course, you probably immediately said, “16,” showing you’ve paid attention to For the Strength of Youth, as well as your parents and Church leaders.
OK, then, how about this one: At what age are you allowed to have a boyfriend or girlfriend? You may be thinking, “Um, 16. Didn’t I just answer that?” Well, if that was your answer, then, even though you aced the first question, you missed the second one. Just because you can date when you turn 16 doesn’t mean you should immediately start looking for a steady boyfriend or girlfriend.
As President Boyd K. Packer, has said to youth, “Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning of courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens”
You should avoid becoming exclusive as teenagers, because an exclusive relationship requires a high level of commitment from both partners, and you’re not in a position to make that kind of commitment as teens—neither emotionally, physically, nor in terms of your future plans.
For decades, prophets have preached that youth who are in no position to marry should not pair off exclusively. For instance, President Hinckley (1910–2008) said,
“When you are young, do not get involved in steady dating. When you reach an age where you think of marriage, then is the time to become so involved. But you boys who are in high school don’t need this, and neither do the girls”
1 John 2:4 - He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar,and the truth is not in him.
Brothers and sisters, I know that each of us is capable of living more highly than we are now. As we become more like the Father, we will come to experience a life which is more rich with joy and fulfillment. To each of us, so much is given, and of course, a great deal is required—but we can do it! To conclude I paraphrase parts of Hebrews Chapter 13, for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.