Tuesday, April 10, 2012

LDS Writer Blogfest: How Grace Works

If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you know that once a year I participate in the LDS Writer Blogfest with my fellow LDS writer-bloggers. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we share a few thoughts about our faith and how it impacts our lives and our writing.

But I must admit, this year, I was feeling a little uninspired. Last year, I blogged about my favorite General Conference talk, but this year, none of the talks really stood out to me. Then I read this article from David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality.” He tackled a topic I felt I knew very little about--grace--and the light bulb turned on.

Since this blog is all about light-bulb moments, I thought I’d share what I learned.

Latter-day Saints, also called Mormons, are often disparaged in the wider Christian community for discounting the importance of grace. We place too much emphasis on works, critics say, and while it’s true that we think people need to receive certain ordinances, such as baptism, to make it back to heaven, we also firmly believe that “there shall be no other name 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). That said, I don’t think Latter-day Saints in general--and I in particular--truly appreciate just how vital grace is not only in putting off bad but in becoming good.

David A. Bednar put it this way: “It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us--that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us--not only to direct us but also to empower us.”

That’s what grace is: the Savior’s empowering force for good in our lives. And He wants to empower us every step of the way. I guess I always kind of thought of it in very set, concrete terms. If the gap between me and heaven was this big and I could make it this far on my own (by taking my neighbors this many casseroles, or whatever), then the grace of Jesus Christ was the bridge that got me the rest of the way. But according to David A. Bednar, grace is less of a bridge and more of a guardrail. It’s something to lean on when the going gets tough, something to push me forward when my fear or human frailty make me want to turn back. And it’s right there beside me at all times, in all places.

That was the light-bulb moment I had a few days ago. I only wish I’d figured this out a lot sooner.

If you’d like more information about the Church, feel free to check out lds.org, which is where I found the online version of the wonderful article I mentioned, or mormon.org, which has a lot of more general information. Also, don’t miss the other posts in the LDS Writer Blogfest:

Amanda Sowards
Angie Lofthouse
Ben Spendlove
Britanny Larsen
Cami Checketts
Charity Bradford
Danyelle Ferguson
Giselle Abreu
Julia Keanini
Julie Coulter Bellon
Kasey Tross
Kayeleen Hamblin
Kelly Bryson
Laura Johnston
Melanie Stanford
Rachelle Christensen
Rebecca Belliston
Sierra Gardner
Stephanie Worlton

Finally, if you have any questions that you think I might be able to answer, feel free to leave them in the comments below or e-mail them to me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. If I don’t know the answer--and there’s a pretty good chance that I won’t--I’ll do some research and try to figure it out.

Happy Tuesday!


Charity Bradford said...

I love the guardrail analogy. It does help to visualize things like that. Thanks for sharing your light-bulb moment.

Sierra Gardner said...

Elder Bednar is one of my favorite speakers. There is something about the way he teaches that just strikes a cord. I always feel like I walk away knowing something new and profound.

Cami Checketts said...

Thanks for this post. It is so easy to get caught up in all we need to do. I love your thoughts about grace.

Jodi R. said...

I love your analogy as well - very interesting post, Krista!

Lo said...

Great thoughts! There is so much of the "works" we can all do, but in retrospect, it's nothing. In the end we all need grace and to rely on Jesus Christ. It's great to meet you through this blogfest! New follower :)

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

Krista, I love that guardrail analogy. It makes so much sense. We tend to get caught up in faith vs. works, but grace is left out. Thanks for your insights!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, Charity!

Sierra, I love learning the gospel through Elder Bednar's eyes. He obviously thinks deeply about these principles and then communicates the insights he gains in such a clear and thoughtful way. So helpful.

Thanks for reading, Cami!

Thanks, Jodi! I'm glad you got something out of it.

Welcome, Lo! You know, Elder Bednar quoted President McKay at the beginning of that article by saying that the gospel is about making bad men good and good men better. That's what had never occurred to me before, that the grace of God is what gives us the strength to become better than we are, and yet it's so true.

Kayeleen, I think faith and grace are very interrelated. Faith is the trust and belief we put in Christ, and grace is the enabling power He puts back in us.

Unknown said...

As LDS women I think that we are taught to work hard, which is wonderful, but only when we can rely whole heartedly on our Savior will we be eternally saved :) Thanks for this reminder and new insight Krista!!

Greg H said...

Please, read this talk as well:


Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, Julia! Looking forward to checking out your contribution to the blogfest. (I'm getting around to everybody's posts a few at a time...)

Thanks for the link, Greg! I'll have to check it out.

Myrna Foster said...

I like your handrail analogy, but I second Greg Hamblin's recommendation. I read Wilcox's article in a BYU magazine a while back, and I still think it's the best article I've read on grace. Ever.

Thanks for getting me thinking. :o)

Kelly Bryson said...

I had to think about the guardrail for a while, but I think I'm getting what it means a little more. I think of grace as being the antidote to shame. It's the love of God that covers our sins. When you've sinned and that gulf between you and Heavenly Father is so wide, grace is that feeling that he still loves me, regardless of how I've messed up. I'll check out that article as well...Thanks Krista!

Dana said...

I once heard an excellent explanation of the
difference between
mercy and grace.

Let's say I committed
some heinous crime that was punishable by death. When
I face my sentence, the judge says, "You are sentenced
to 10 years in prison." That's MERCY.

Let's say the judge says,
"You are free. Your debt as been paid." That's GRACE. Jesus
paid my debt on the cross. I
only have to accept it.

Naturally, I am inspired by this amazing grace to live a good
life that is pleasing to Him.

His grace still amazes me!


Kasey @ The Beautiful Thrifty Life said...

Nice to see you in the blogfest, Krista! That was a great article in the Ensign, and I thought it was really interesting that there were several articles in the magazine this month that addressed the topic of grace. I also think that as Mormon mommies, it's one of the things we forget about too often- we always think we have to do it all and "be ye therefore perfect". We always seem to forget that God means that we can be perfect in Him. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Myrna, I must have missed that one. (Although, to be completely honest, I do occasionally just chuck BYU Magazine in the trash, since I know I won't have time to read it and don't want it cluttering things up...)

Kelly, I definitely think that's a part of grace, but Elder Bednar emphasized how grace is an enabling power, a power that helps us do the good and righteous deeds we're not strong/brave/good enough to do for ourselves. He used the story of Nephi breaking his bonds as an example of that. Nephi prayed for strength to burst the bands that bound him, and Elder Bednar asserted that it was the grace of Jesus Christ that literally gave him the strength to do more than he was physically capable of doing on his own. I'd never thought about grace like that, which is why the article was so eye-opening for me.

Dana, thanks for sharing! I think you hit the nail on the head there when you said that His grace is what inspires you to live a righteous life. When we truly have faith in Christ and trust in Him, that will change the way we live and the choices we make.

Kasey, thanks for stopping by! And yes, this month's Ensign did have a lot to say about the Atonement in general and grace in particular. Not too surprising, I guess, since it's April and all... :)

Angie said...

Beautiful! I am so thankful for grace every day!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Me, too, Angie!

Melanie Stanford said...

Sounds like a good article to read- David A. Bednar always has very insightful things to say. Great post.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

He does, Melanie. I always see things in a way I'd never seen them before after listening to one of his talks or reading one of his articles.

Melodie Wright said...

I'd never thought of grace as a guardrail before...to me, grace is the free gift of God. He loved us FIRST, despite our selfish ugliness. That grace attracts us to love Him back, and faith through works is how I show Him and others my own commitment to His plan. Not accepting His grace - if I keep thinking that I can somehow earn my way to heaven - is a clear sin of pride. For me (NOT a Mormon, btw) grace through Jesus means knowing that everything I do for Him is simply a gift to Him (instead of an obligation) because my place is heaven is secured already, thanks to His sacrificial grace.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Melodie, thanks for sharing. I think this may be an issue of semantics, since I agree with virtually everything you said. Jesus did love us first, even when we didn't deserve to be loved, and expressing our faith through Christ-like good works is how we show Him that we want to follow Him.

It's kind of like a parent's love for a child that way. We love our kids when they're wrinkled and ugly and all they do is demand our attention. After a while, they return our love for them by doing their best to live the kind of lives we've taught them to live.