Grace: Unmerited favor; divine assistance; it is by Grace that we are saved after all we can do.
Mercy: tenderness; kindness.
Works: exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil. A productive or operative activity.
Faith: “… is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, which are true.”
Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Real hope can only exist in and through Christ. Hope in anyone else will bring disappointment and despair.
Redemption: is used in speaking of the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ and our deliverance from sin. He redeemed us with His blood.
Salvation: “Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until He had put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy was death.” TPJS p. 297. See endnotes.
Born Again: Born again, or to experience the new birth, is a phrase, particularly in evangelicalism, that refers to “spiritual rebirth”, or a regeneration of the human spirit from the Holy Spirit, contrasted with physical birth.
This is the ultimate meaning, which will take multiple cycles of creation to reach. I will not pursue this topic now. There are multiple levels of discussion on this topic and the word itself and it is not the purpose of this paper. The discussion here, as found in the scriptures, is related to being ‘born again’ and what that entails. Are we saved by grace or works or both? In some churches the focus is on works and a long slow process of sanctification, while in others it is the one-time declaration that Christ is their Savior. Keep in mind the definition of grace above. The conclusion will result from the study of the scriptures below. The other theme that I will not be discussing is that one can fall from grace and also reclaim it. The key in this is to endure to the end, and that involves a constant return to humility, repentance and prayer, and facing Him who is mighty to save. Ponder, don’t just read.
Agency, Mercy , Repentance and Redemption and the role of works
These are all linked. You are in a state of probation here; your salvation is at stake here. You have a choice to make and in reality there are only two.
2 Nephi 2: 14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon… 16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other… 21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents. 25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. 26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. (This freedom is to choose to act or to be acted upon. As you will see you have two choices). 27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. 28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; 29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom. (Men’s works are related to their desires to listen to one of two spirits; the LORD God or Satan.) “If we don’t change direction we will arrive at where we are going.” Richard L. Evans. “It is our desires that ultimately determines the choices we make, and consequently our actions and works.” “You must choose your world; this one or the next; you cannot choose both.” You cannot serve two masters.(Matthew 6: 24)
If there was no Atonement, all men would be lost. This chapter also explains that Adam and Eve would have remained in their state forever and would have had no children.
Mosiah 2: 36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved— 37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. 38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever. 39 And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment. 40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression. 41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
Mosiah 3: 16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins… 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. Alma 22: 14 And since man had fallen, he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance,…”
Alma 40: 26 But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.
Alma 41: 2 I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every apart of the body should be restored to itself. 3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. 4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh. 6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness. 7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil. 8 Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved. 10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. 11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state (Natural Man), are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness. 12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? 13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful. 14 Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. 15 For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.
Alma 42: 1 And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery. 2 Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee. For behold, after the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken—yea, he drew out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life—3 Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit—4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God. 5 For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated. 6 But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man. 7 And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will. 8 Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness. 9 Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death. 10 Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state. 11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. 12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience; 13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. 14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. 15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also. 16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. 17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? 18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. 19 Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? 20 And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. 21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? 22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the claw, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. 23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice. 24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved. 25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. 26 And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery. 27 Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. 28 If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God. 29 And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.
30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.31 And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bbring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.
I wish to include James discussion on works for your convenience, but note that the works are really the result of faith in Him who changes our hearts.
James 2: 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. 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? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
The change of our hearts that brings about our seeking to do good works is noted in Ezekiel:
Ezek. 8: 30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. 31 ¶ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
Ezek. 36: 24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. We can ask for this change of heart- see Alma 22: 15.
Now, in taking a little different look at all of this, one can ask if, after a person has used his agency to choose the path of righteousness, can it take time and even many years before they realize their redemption? The answer is of course; yes; but it is still the result of His Grace; and when it happens it will be an event. Just ask Nephi (3 Nephi), the son of Nephi (Helaman 3 & 5), who was the son of Helaman.
Alma 9: 27-29
And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance through faith on his name. Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works according to that which they have been: if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil, they shall reap the damnation of their souls according to the power of the Devil; now behold this is the voice of the angel crying unto the people. Alma 11: 41 … all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works. …44 whether they be good or whether they be evil.
Grace is essential for agency to bring forth good works that can lead one to salvation.
A friend has asked that I add some extra thoughts on work. On one end of this spectrum is that it can take work to even turn and look towards the Lord and there are the works of those who are seeking to have you turn your hearts to Him and this is often at a great sacrifice. Then it becomes our opportunity to choose to do some good work. The invitation is:
Alma 13: 13 “And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.” That ‘rest’ is best exemplified in having one’s calling and election made sure. The journey begins with baptism, which is intended to bring about our change of heart.
Conclusion: I have been studying this over the last week as a topic. Let’s look at our agency, redemption and the Natural Man. The natural man is an enemy to God and can do no good works (just look up the references). When Adam was cast out there was no salvation for him without the Atonement. There was no work that he could do to bring salvation. If a man can do good works it is only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Man’s agency is really, really simple. I will not list the scriptures now but it is a choice between righteousness, which is only possible through Him, or it is choosing the Devil. And as revealed in 2 Nephi 2 the results of that choice is either to be able to act or be acted upon, and of course to be acted upon is the result of choosing poorly and violating the law and justice of God. The scripture says we are saved by Grace after all we can do, so it is evident that works cannot do it alone and never can. Works come because of the Atonement and the right choice in following Him. They come from being born again. Being ‘born again’ appears to be an event and is not dependent on works at all. Examples of this include: Alma the younger and the sons of Helaman (very wicked in Mosiah 27); the 300 Lamanites that were in the jail with Nephi and Lehi; King Lamoni and his wife and servant (Alma 19)s; Lamoni’s father being also wicked (Alma 22: 14-18)) etc., where there are no works, as they were wicked. The works come because of the change of heart that takes place through the Holy Spirit as we are driven to humility, repentance, faith and hope in Him. By facing Him and seeking His Spirit our attempts at good works result in blessings and thus we are still indebted to Him. We can only be justified and sanctified through His Gospel and that is truly “Good News”. There is no other way for man to be redeemed. The Savior pointed out that the 300 Lamanites were redeemed as the Holy Ghost had been received amidst the baptism of fire that they were enveloped with. Their lives were changed and they went about preaching the word and converting many. May we become as Abraham and worthy to be called a ‘friend of God’.
Certainly redemption can happen to a group of people choosing a more righteous path. This can be seen in Nephi’s psalm/prayer; King Benjamin’s people; and the over two thousand in 3 Nephi who witnessed the Savior. This is again noted to be an event. But it was not their works alone that redeemed them, for without Him it was not available. The works of the Gospel come after the change of our hearts and are manifested in our desire to walk in His way, on His path and includes our best, but inadequate attempts at obeying His commandments and keeping our covenants. The commandment to “I would that ye should be perfect, even as I or your Father in Heaven is perfect”, is impossible for us to keep and is a work that we cannot do alone.
Judging between good and evil: Moroni 7: 13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. 14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. 15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. 16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. 18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. 19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the alight of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ. 20 And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing? 21 And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing. 22 For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing. 23 And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come. 24 And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them. (Natural -Man). 25 Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ. 26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.
Cycles of creation can be entertained in Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse and these statements by Joseph Smith.
“When you climb a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel- you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation even beyond the grave.” (King Follett discourse). Other nuggets can be found in the TPJS p. 364; 237; 150;
Climb carefully. Awake, Arise and Ascend.
Jack Hinkle May 31, 2020
Thanks to RFM for stimulating my search into these subjects.