Experiencing Our Debt
The realization of our powerlessness without the Lord Jesus Christ’s divine help allows us to rely on His grace as our true source of strength. The words of the hymn “Come, Thou Fount of every Blessing” emphasize how easy it is for human souls to stray and how indebted we are to our Savior’s grace to bind our wandering souls to Him.
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the god I love;
Here’s my heart, o take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called the “Mormon Church” by friends of other faiths), we believe that we are all debtors to our Savior’s infinite grace—a debt we can never repay. We are all lost sheep in need of our shepherd’s constant guidance. Even as members of Jesus Christ’s restored Church we are lost sheep, prone to wander because we often overemphasize our finite part in the gospel covenant. In doing so, we are in danger of overlooking the fact that we are wholly reliant on our Savior’s grace.
Many of us misinterpret Nephi’s statement (Nephi is a prophet in the Book of Mormon), “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Some have interpreted this verse to say that we must do everything we possibly can to perfect ourselves; then, once we have exhausted every ounce of self-sufficiency, self-discipline, and self-righteousness, the Lord will complete whatever perfecting is left over.
When we do this, we are in danger of taking an almost anti-Christ position by placing our reliance on the god of self. We seem to be saying that most of the merit for our salvation goes to ourselves. It also seems to be saying that we should try everything in our power to not need the Savior’s help; however, if we should fall a little short, we will gladly allow Him to make up the difference. This reveals a very shallow understanding of the Lord’s infinite contribution to our covenant relationship. Only by being in a covenant relationship with Christ, an infinite being, can our spiritual account reflect the infinite merits sufficient to save and exalt us. Our finite part will never begin to be sufficient.
A formula that might assist us in understanding the drastic difference between our insufficient (finite) part in the covenant and the Savior’s sufficient (infinite) part, is this: I – F = I. In other words, the difference between that which is infinite and that, which is finite, is always an infinite difference. The difference between what we do and what the Savior does for us will always be infinite. Even if we took F and raised it to the one-hundredth power, the difference would be the same—infinite.
No matter how big F becomes, the difference between something infinite and something finite will always be an infinite difference. No matter how much effort we put into our part of the covenant, we will still be completely reliant on the Savior’s infinite power to save us. As fallen mortals, we are always “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21).
We should give Jesus Christ all the glory for His infinite contribution to our salvation. We should rejoice in knowing that He carried out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice for us. We should praise and worship Him for his amazing grace. It is an infinite gift that we could never provide for ourselves.
What do we think we can accomplish by ourselves, anyway? Although our willing participation is essential, nothing we do will ever be sufficient. All we can do is come to Jesus Christ, partake of His saving grace, and be reconciled to our Father through His atoning blood. We are, of course, completely reliant on His grace as He enables us even in taking those steps. We are dependent on His grace to enable us in exercising faith. We are dependent on His grace to enable us in our strivings to obey His commandments. We are debtors to His grace every step of the way.
Jacob (a Book of Mormon prophet), who had seen the Savior in his youth, taught of our reliance on the Savior’s grace: “Reconcile yourselves to the will of god, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto god, that it is only in and through the grace of god that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:24).
Moroni (another prophet who testified of Christ in the Book of Mormon) testified that salvation is available when we come to Jesus Christ and let the enabling power of His grace work in us to complete and perfect us. He said, “yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love god with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of god ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of god” (Moroni 10:32).
Sydney Reynolds, speaking at a Brigham Young University (BYU) Women’s Conference, said, “The kind of perfection Moroni was talking about when he invites us to come unto Christ has nothing to do with flawless accomplishment. It does not even have anything to do with exceptional competence or skill in a given area, but it has everything to do with having faith in the Lord, repenting of sin, and keeping the Lord’s commandments.”6 As Neal A Maxwell said, “The Church is ‘for perfecting the Saints’ (Ephesians 4:12); it is not a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected.”7
Notice that Moroni did not say, “Perfect yourself first, and then you can come unto Christ.” We have absolutely no power as fallen men to make or keep ourselves worthy without the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. We are told to first come to Christ, and He will begin the process of perfecting and completing us in Him. Then is His grace sufficient to enable us to deny ourselves of ungodliness. His grace, then, continues to work in us by sanctifying us and making us holy without spot. This is done only in and through His grace and His atoning blood.
Moroni continues: “And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of god, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is is the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:33).
R. Brown, Experiencing Christ, (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2009), 41-44.
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.