Grace is an essential gospel reality that is frequently misunderstood by members of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, C. Robert Line told listeners Tuesday at his Education Week presentation, ˆGrace — it’s amazing!”
Line, a BYU and Church Education System religious education instructor for the past 20 years and in the Church Education, said the Christian world holds several views on grace – all of which contain elements of truth, but are ultimately flawed.
One such viewpoint holds that some of God’s children are predestined for salvation. Other views claim that simply confessing Christ’s name leads to grace sufficient to salvation, and yet others teach that Christ’s Atonement was needed only to justify original sin and enable the resurrection.
“I’ve come to realize that there are elements of truth in these views,” Line said. “But there are aspects of grace that have not been fully examined.”
Even members of the restored Church, Line said, have difficulty defining and using grace in their own lives.
“I don’t know where that culture comes from,” he said. “But I do know grace is a principle in the gospel that we need to more fully examine in our own lives.”
Line presented the various definitions of grace in the scriptures, which include a divine gift or blessing, favor or kindness. He pointed out that worthiness in Greek means sufficient, and that it is a critical skill to differentiate between sufficiency and perfection. Line also taught that grace and mercy are frequently used as loose synonyms, but that in fact the two words are intimately related.
“(Grace and mercy) are actually different sides of the same doctrinal coin,” Line said. “Grace means to receive a blessing you don’t deserve, and mercy means avoiding a punishment you do deserve. … (The similarity is) we don’t deserve or earn grace or mercy.”
Line read 2 Nephi 25:23, which says, in part: “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Line taught that this scripture is frequently misinterpreted as placing a requirement of perfection for those who wish to receive the grace of Christ.
“We have a cultural problem with this scripture,” Line said, going onto say that “all we can do” is later defined in Alma 22 as exercising faith in Christ.
“Works are very important,” he said. “But they just don’t save. The word “merit” in the scriptures is only ever attributed to Christ.”
Line taught that good works were only possible through the Atonement of Christ, and are brought about by the “enabling power” used to define grace in the Bible Dictionary. Because of this, the doctrine of grace is not a license to sin but rather the very power to make the decision to be obedient.
“Good works are not the root of salvation – they are the fruit of salvation,” Line said.
Line added that “works” can be defined as Christlike attributes rather than a long checklist of tasks.
“When we come to accept this, it changes lives,” he said. “I’ve seen it.”