Grace & Works

Jesus Christ showing us his grace in Gethsemane

When I spent 2 years as a Mormon missionary in the Southern United States I was frequently asked this question: Have you been saved?

For many Christians, that’s a simple yes or no question based on whether or not one believes in Christ and accepts him as his or her Savior. That’s important and key, but for Mormons, it’s more involved than that. True, Mormons believe salvation comes in and through Jesus Christ. However, Mormons believe that salvation cannot come by simply believing; rather, that belief in Christ must motivate a person to righteous living, repenting when mistakes are inevitably made, in order to be saved by the grace of Christ. The following paragraphs will help describe how grace and works help us answer that question — have you been saved?

What is Grace?

Grace is the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God, everyone who has lived will be resurrected—our spirits will be reunited with our bodies, never again to be separated. Through His grace, the Lord also enables those who live His gospel to repent and be forgiven.1

The Role of Works

Let me be clear: no amount of works will ever save a man or a woman. Only Jesus Christ can save. So if that’s the case, what role do works play in salvation? To answer this question, I want to quote from one of my favorite passages of scripture from the New Testament – James Chapter 2:

 14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

James asks an excellent question — in other words, will faith alone save a man? He answers that question with this hypothetical:

 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

In other words, suppose a poor and hungry individual comes to your door. You salute him and say, “eat up, get warm…” then close the door. Do your well wishes mean anything to this man? Of course not. You would need to back up those well wishes with action — give the man some money, or invite him in for dinner, or give him a blanket to be warm. James is trying to say that you very well may believe — which is good — but for that belief to have any saving value, you must act on it. He continues that point with the following passage:

 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

“See,” James says, “even the devils believe in God, and they tremble at his power.” We can all believe in Christ, but do we have the faith to act on what he taught? For example, he declared, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In other words, be baptized and become converted. In another instance he said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). And he taught so many other things (just read the Four Gospels!).

So in the Mormon faith Grace and Works share a complimentary role in salvation. “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” (2 Nephi 25:23, Book of Mormon).


Want to read a great sermon on this topic? Read Have You Been Saved? by Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

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