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What the Book of Mormon Says about Grace

This article has been adapted from the personal reflections of Jarek, a member of The  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  His reflections deal with God’s grace, but also with our need for humility.  God’s grace does not only redeem us, but helps us with every breath that we take.  We must live in the constant realization that every aspect of our mortal lives depends upon the grace of God for support.  This humility — the knowledge that without the Lord we are nothing, but that with His love and redeeming power, we are beings of great potential — enables us to draw fully upon the blessings He offers us.

King Benjamin Mormon

Throughout the Book of Mormon, prophets call the people to repentance. The number one sin they confront is pride; numerous discourses teach the people to be humble. One of the greatest of these sermons occurs when King Benjamin addresses his people near the end of his life (about 124 B.C.). At one point, he even tells them they are less than the “dust of the earth.” While this language may seem harsh and contradictory to the doctrine on the worth of a soul, he is in fact neither insulting us nor downplaying our value in God’s eyes.

Rather, he is explaining three important truths that we must understand in order to be humble: (1) we are indebted to God for our blessings; (2) we are imperfect; and (3) we are not saved by our own merits but by undeserved grace. The first principle of humility explained by King Benjamin is that we must recognize our blessings. He states in Mosiah 2:21-25 that, “if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants… And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth…”

Not only do we owe God everything, up to our very lives, but we are unable to pay back our debt. Even when we do as He commands, He only blesses us more. This show of perfect love, once recognized, can only be met with gratitude. We will express the lines of the hymn “I Stand All Amazed” with heartfelt humility; “Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?” If we always keep the reality of God’s love towards us in our hearts and remember that all our successes come from His bounty, we will never be caught up in pride and believe that we are better than our fellow men.

The second principle King Benjamin teaches is a fundamental doctrine, essential to the plan of salvation. Namely, we have need to repent. When he states that the dust “belongeth to him who created you” he is illustrating that, while even the dust is obedient to God, we are not always obedient (Mosiah. 2:25). This principle is more clearly explained by Mormon in Helaman 12:7-8: “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.”

Because we are disobedient, we are fallen. Alma the younger taught his son, “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” (Alma 42:14). As such, our disobedience establishes the need for redemption. Alma says again, “Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as 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” (Alma 42:9).

King Benjamin himself emphasized this point, reminding us that we are cut off forever unless we yield to the “enticings of the Holy Spirit” and become “saint[s] through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19).

Once we realize that we truly want to be saved, we cannot help but be humble; we depend completely upon the mercy of another to be rescued. The scriptures teach this countless times. Alma taught, “And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself” (Alma 22:14). The prophet Abinadi said, “Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state” (Mosiah 16:4).

The atonement of Christ is central to our existence. In one of the most powerful scriptures available to us, King Benjamin testifies of this truth. “There shall be no other way given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah. 3:17). We are powerless to save ourselves. Without Christ, we would be unable to return and be saved but would have to answer the call of justice. We would be consigned to hell; “But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord” (Helaman 14:17). When Ammon testifies of his weakness, he says, “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my own strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God” (Alma 26:12).

Once we recognize this truth, we become humble, and we can accept the atonement in our lives. Doing so inspires only increased humility as we realize that furthermore, the atonement is a gift. Because of God’s great love for us, He sent His Son to provide a way for us to return. This gift of redemption, the grace of God, is available to us every day, everywhere, every time. In Ether 12:27, Christ Himself told Moroni, “my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me…”

The characters of the Book of Mormon often express their awe at receiving God’s grace in their lives. The missionary Ammon exclaims “Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?” (Alma 26:17). Alma recounts to his son Helaman, “there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy” (Alma 36:20). After their repentance, King Benjamin tells his people, “he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy” (Mosiah. 4:20). This unspeakable joy came from experiencing the love of God in the form of His grace. Nephi taught, “it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 26:23). Our redemption does not come by our own merits. We do not earn it, we can only receive it. Sister Camille Olson encapsulated this message in her devotional, testifying, “Grace is a gift we don’t earn and which frankly, we don’t deserve.”

We are not less than the dust because we are worthless in God’s eyes, but precisely because he loves us. He loves us so much that he provided us with everything we have, and above all with redemption, a gift which indebts us to Him for eternity. Once we take these truths into our hearts, humility will come naturally and we will join with Ammon in saying, “Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16).

More from King Benjamin on Works and Grace

King Benjamin’s discourse is a treasure trove of scripture regarding works and grace.  A few more verses are included here:

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.  And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.

…Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen (Mosiah 5:7-9; 15).

One Last Word

A definitive scripture on grace from the Book of Mormon is as follows, 2 Nephi 10:24:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, 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.

*You can find the scriptures cited in the Book of Mormon online.

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