What is the grace of God? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) teaches that “Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and
love of Jesus Christ” (see Bible Dictionary). Who wouldn’t want this great gift from God? And yet, there are billions of people who deny the gift that Christ has already paid for.
Barriers that Blockade Us from God’s Grace
Randall J. Brown, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ, shares in his book, Experiencing Christ: Your Personal Journey to the Savior, and published in 2009 by Cedar Fort, Inc.(pp. 15-17), his insights on some of the barriers that blockade us from receiving the grace of God:
Our barriers to the Savior’s grace are the enemies of our souls; they keep us entrenched in battle, as enemies of God. These barriers to grace are exposed to our view when we experience fear, guilt, and resentment. These emotional states are the inverse of faith, hope, and charity and can become like spiritual cancers within our hearts. Life in Christ cannot be fully experienced under the restraining power of these deadly emotions. While we carry them, we are living in the carnal mind.
Fear exists in the absence of faith in Christ. It keeps us from placing our trust in the Lord’s counsel, direction, and power to provide for our temporal and spiritual needs. It deters us from surrendering to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master.
Guilt keeps us from believing the Savior’s promise that if we turn to Him, His atoning blood will cover our sins. It traps us in the carnally- minded state of believing that we are more powerful in ruining things than Christ is in redeeming, and it robs us of hope in Christ and buries us in a life of shame.
Resentment keeps us from giving and receiving the pure love of Christ. It prohibits us from receiving the crowning spiritual gift of mortality—charity.
The presence of these malignant emotions demonstrates that we are still fighting against the yoke of our Savior Jesus Christ, that we have not fully accepted Him as our Savior, and that we do not yet possess sufficient faith to cast our burdens upon Him. Without faith, hope, and charity, we are susceptible to philosophies of men that teach us of pride, self-sufficiency, and perfectionism.
Even as members of the Savior’s restored Church, we can be lured into [Satan’s trap] through prideful, carnal-minded philosophies that entice us into believing that either we are beyond the reach of our Savior’s Atonement or that we can somehow merit salvation through our own righteous performance.
Neal A. Maxwell said, “Pride at its core involves a measure of self-worship, however mild. After all, we are to ‘have no other God’ before the real God, including self-pleasing and self-worship” (Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 64–65). The existence of these barriers will produce in our hearts the desire to seek pleasure, escape, power, wealth, achievement, recognition, worldly comforts, popularity, fame, and other temporal aspirations. These enemies of our souls cannot satisfy our deepest longings because they lead us away from the source of living waters and into bondage.
We will all experience spiritual bondage to some degree. The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ is the only weapon ever devised with power sufficient to break our yokes of spiritual bondage. The only path to spiritual freedom lies in taking His yoke upon us. No human power is, or ever will be, sufficient.
As a young boy, I watched the movie Ben Hur with my family. The scene depicting Roman soldiers transporting Ben Hur and other prisoners through the desert has had a great impact on me. The prisoners were chained to each other, and as they walked, they endured beatings, fatigue, and thirst. One by one they fell. When Ben Hur finally collapsed, the Savior appeared before him, offering him lifesaving water. Ben Hur found himself in a form of bondage from which he was powerless to deliver himself. He had to rely completely on the mercy and grace of his Savior.
The scriptures provide many symbolic accounts of prophets whose spiritual journeys took them into the bondage of a prison or a wilderness experience in which they relied wholly on the Lord for deliverance or survival. Daniel, Jonah, and Joseph each experienced such forms of bondage. Their only hope for deliverance was in relying wholly on the Lord’s mercy and grace. Lehi [a prophet in the Book of Mormon] and Moses were called to lead people through a wilderness experience. These types and symbols from the scriptures teach us in whom we can trust as our only source of deliverance.
The design of the adversary is to ensnare us in bondage, strip us of agency, and bind us in iron yokes of bondage. Nephi [Lehi’s son] said, “[He] bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:5). The scriptures describe this state as “the chains of hell” or “the bonds of iniquity” (Alma 5:7; Mosiah 23:13).
We see in our society today an epidemic of people in bondage to mental, emotional, and spiritual disorders. We are plagued as never before by depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many other mental and emotional illnesses. Addictions to drugs and pornography, and behavioral compulsions are widespread. Many people are trapped in financial bondage, living beyond their means and becoming imprisoned to debt.
We become ensnared in these things, believing that they will provide a temporary deliverance from the pain of our spiritual wounds and emptiness. However, in our attempts to escape using our own strength, we can become caught in a downward spiral that possesses the power to drag us down to the “gulf of misery and endless woe” (Helaman 5:12).
Many people today are trapped, wallowing in the mire of self-destructive and addictive disorders. Many have felt so trapped that they have experienced a complete loss of hope. Because God has given us agency, He allows us to experience spiritual bondage. We are free to experience these spiritual prisons for the same reason we are free to experience any of our mortal afflictions—so that we will know that we have nowhere else to turn, so we will know of our absolute need to turn to our Savior. He allows our afflictions to buffet us that we may know from our own experience that there is no other way. The Lord allows it that He might show forth His almighty power of deliverance.
A Personal Witness and Testimony
I have a burning witness that Jesus suffered for us; that He is able to be there with us with perfect empathy in order to lift us higher, make us stronger, and become like Him. We do not have to be perfect, we just have to allow Him to help us on the pathway to perfection. And it is completely normal to have moments of depression. These are the moments that we can go to Him and rely on Him. I love the blessing found in a verse of scripture he Book of Mormon: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart …, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:19–20).
Jesus Christ lives and loves us, and is there to succor us every moment of every day as we go about the daily sojourn of life. I invite you to learn more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ by reading the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and by meeting with Mormon missionaries. As you do so, I promise you will have a strengthened relationship with Jesus Christ—and an even greater happiness will enter your soul.
Ashley Bell is a 22-year old wife, mother, BYU graduate, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ashley loves to run, cook, garden, read, and most of all spend time with family and friends.