sacred sabbaths: more on grace

Jun 24, 2012

Grace has been on my mind a lot lately. For about a year I have been pondering, studying, discussing, and writing about grace. It all started last July when I watched a BYU devotional address by Brad Wilcox entitled His Grace Is Sufficient.

It changed my life. It put into concrete terms the ideas I had swirling around in my soul. It helped me see the flaws of so many of our (LDS) teaching methods and stories. It helped me understand why I and so many others have felt, at times, hopeless and the inability to ever be enough.

It helped me fully own that I will never be enough…and taught me why it is okay (even wonderful!) that I am not.

If you haven’t watched it, go do it. Then come back for the rest of my grace thoughts.

I have shared Brad’s thoughts with many of my friends and had lengthy discussions on the nature of grace, grace vs. works, how we progress in this life and in the next, what is the essence of being, how cleansing really happens, what is the process of giving our heart to our Savior, how does Christ make a new being out of our current selves, and much more.

Good discussions, all of them. So much food for thought.

Like most Latter-day Saints that have been over the age of twelve in the past twenty years, I have read Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson multiple times. I have loaned it out to others and raved enthusiastically about its contents. In the past year of pondering the concept of grace I have rejected Robinson’s most famous parable, The Parable of the Bicycle, because I believe it is not only an inaccurate allegory of how the atonement works, but is also hugely damaging to people’s beliefs about themselves and their relationship with their Savior. I do not mean to disparage the book or Brother Robinson’s concepts, for I have had wonderful, soul-sustaining experiences with his words. I DO mean to say that I believe the Parable of the Bicycle is built on a false premise and has taught a message of conditional redemption that is lacking in both truth and life-changing substance.

I believe that grace is the only power by which we are saved, that Christ’s atoning sacrifice does not kick in “after all we can do,” but is the power that allows us to progress in any miniscule manner whatsoever. I don’t believe we need to contribute .61 to the cause like the little girl in the parable and then, because that .61 represents all we can do, all our hard work, ALL of our efforts, then, and only then, does the grace of God come into play. I believe God’s grace is there all along and yet, so often, we do not accept it into our lives when we believe it will have power for us after all we can do…because nothing will ever be ALL we can do. I can convince myself that I can do better, do different, do more, and that if I just figure out how to do so, then God could/would help me.

Lately, I have been reading this article series that revisits the concepts in Believing Christ. I have thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual and spiritual journey the series has taken me on and I invite you to read and then come back here to discuss your ideas and understandings of grace. I know I don’t have it all wrapped up in a perfectly deciferable package and I would like to solidify my thoughts on grace by discussing them with you. Are you up for it? If so, go read or watch or study or pray or whatever suits your fancy for learning God’s truths and then share your thoughts with me.

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  1. I love LOVED Wilcox’s devotional. His speaking style isn’t really something I dig, so I read the written transcript instead. Over and over and over. Powerful. Like you, it just made perfect sense. I spent too many years saying “the Mormons don’t really get grace!” But Wilcox hit the nail on the head, and I’m praying that more Mormons will now more fully understand this powerful, amazing concept. I wish it was a general conference talk so more people would see it and know about it.

    I think a great article to read with it, as another look at grace, is the April 2012 Ensign piece by Bednar, which was taken from a 2001 devotional he gave at BYU. (link to original devotional)

    • tracy


      Ah, yes, his speaking style takes some getting used to, doesn’t it? I keep finding myself making my arms do what his do with the two different “paths” to heaven. It is hilarious!

      Thank you for the piece by Bednar. I am behind on my Ensign reading and will make sure to dig that one out tomorrow!

  2. I was reading the articles you linked to about Believing Christ and the following quote jumped off the screen. Surrendering to and accepting Jesus is a scary thing for our egos. I’ve had these same thoughts over and over:

    “Christ doesn’t stand calmly outside a door without a handle, knocking patiently to see if we’ll open up. He pounds on the door with one fist and tries desperately to open the handle with the other while we cower in a corner of the room inside with all the furniture pushed up against the door. We couldn’t be more afraid of Jesus, more worried that He’s going to take away all our private desires, frustrate all our beloved fantasies, cancel all our hopes and dreams and wishes. We don’t want His love and grace because they’re too demanding. We want something else: to be left alone.”

    There is something about our natural-man-ness that makes us afraid of partnering with Christ, accepting his grace, becoming at-one with him, and letting him show us our true potential. We fear that in that surrender we will be lost. We fear that if the dreams and desires and imaginings that seem to define who we are are gone we can’t exist, but he tells us that in losing ourselves we are found.

    I’ve got lots more pondering to do on this…

    • tracy

      Quite a thought, isn’t it? It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity “we think we just need an upgraded bathroom when Christ is tearing out walls, building verandas, etc..building a whole new mansion” idea that we have no conception of what God wants to build with us, but that we want to hold on to what we know and not be too overhauled into a new being.