We have adopted a notion of grace and of salvation by grace that diverts us from the real meaning of it. We have borrowed our notion from apostate churches which had to explain its meaning without ever living rightly enough to experience its reality.
Being saved by grace is not a legal contract wherein we will receive blessings above and beyond what we merit by our righteousness. Rather, real saving grace transforms man’s works here and now. It is experienced. It connects us with the powers of heaven here, and transforms our works here, so that when we are judged by our works hereafter, our works will be found to be good.
Grace is nothing more nor less than God’s merciful gifts to his children.
Moroni 7 and 10 contain a lot of discussion about God’s saving gifts, his graces, which allow a man to be saved. One of these is the gift of charity. Real charity bears no relation to simply being excessively polite to everyone and never speaking an unkind word. There are many nonmembers of the church that live that way, but real charity is a gift of the spirit and is only endowed on man through the Holy Ghost. It may often lead a man to be kind, but it may also lead a man to reprove betimes with sharpness.
But in this piece, I want to focus mostly on what we learn about being saved by the grace of God. I start with two quotes from Joseph Smith
What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world. But, saidMr. Sollars, “May I not repent and be baptized, and not pay any attention to dreams, visions, and other gifts of the Spirit?” I replied: “Suppose I am traveling and am hungry, and meet with a man and tell him I am hungry, and he tells me to go yonder, there is a house of entertainment, go and knock, and you must conform to all the rules of the house, or you cannot satisfy your hunger; knock, call for food, sit down and eat;–and I go and knock, and ask for food, and sit down to the table, but do not eat, shall I satisfy my hunger? No. I must eat. The gifts are the food; and the graces of the Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit. (TPJS page 270)
as well as
These, then, are all gifts; they come from God; they are of God; they are all the gifts of the Holy Ghost; they are what Christ ascended into heaven to impart (TPJS page 245)
From these we learn that if we don’t want to pay attention to dreams, visions, and other gifts, we are missing something essential. Joseph Smith calls these gifts “the graces of the Spirit”. We also learn that the gifts of the spirit are not gifts of the light of Christ, but are gifts of the Holy Ghost. Thus they are only enjoyed by members of the true church of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith also teaches that these gifts are what Christ ascended into heaven to impart. That is quite profound. We read in Moroni 7
Moroni 7:27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?
Joseph Smith’s message is not only that miracles have not ceased because Christ ascended. It is that the gifts of the spirit, including the working of miracles, are exactly what Christ ascended into heaven to impart. These are what he grants through the rights of mercy he claimed of his Father.
In Moroni 10, we read a discussion of spiritual gifts similar to that found other places in the scriptures. But we have traditions about these gifts that Moroni tries to correct. He teaches us:
Moroni 10:17 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
This differs quite a bit from some of our traditions about gifts of the spirit, or rather, gifts of the Holy Ghost. We think of everyone as getting a spiritual gift or two for life. We think that if someone has the gift of teaching by the spirit, and maybe of healing, then those are their lifetime endowment of spiritual gifts. End of story.
But Moroni say these gifts come to a man severally. That means they are given out more than one at a time. The message is that they are given out somewhat generously, not just sparingly one at a time. This fits with Joseph Smith’s statement about needing to sit down and eat once the food is placed in front of us. It is not just a single course meal.
Moroni also disagrees that they are lifetime endowments. He says they come unto every man severally, according as he will. God gives us some gifts at one time, and some gifts at another time. The scriptures tell us to seek various spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
How can we seek them if they are not given out? But Moroni tells they are. In fact, they are given out more than one at a time to a man, given out severally, according as he wills.
That makes far more sense than our traditions, as we read later in the same chapter
Moroni 10:23 And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.
The message here is that there are no bounds on what spiritual gifts God will grant us. Yes, we initially start more proficient, more frequently endowed, with one gift over another. But the point is for all to become as Christ we must learn to do all anything that is expedient in him through faith.
The point of it all is for us to actually lay hold of every spiritual gift god has to offer. It is for all of us to learn to enjoy all of the gifts.
Moroni 10:30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.
The evil gift referred to is anything inspired by false spirits, and the unclean thing referred to is sin.
These gifts of the spirit have power to transform our works, and thus have power to save us. When we say we are saved by grace, we overlook them as irrelevant. But these are saving graces. They are what Christ ascended to heaven to impart to men because they transform the works of men. Thus through them he saves us from our sins, because he will not save us in our sins.
Moroni’s discussion of spiritual gifts is concluded with these verses.
Moroni 10:32 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.
33 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 in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
From these we learn that his grace is sufficient IF. It is sufficient IF we will deny ourselves of all ungodliness and IF will will love God with all our might, mind, and strength.
And that has nothing at all to do with a legal arrangement whereby we get salvation without denying ourselves of all ungodliness, which is what we mostly think grace is all about.
Instead it is saying that if we will deny ourselves of all ungodliness and love God as we ought then we will soon find ourselves feasting on his graces. Among those graces, in fact, from what Joseph Smith said, those graces Christ ascended into heaven to claim for man will be the gifts of the spirit. We will find ourselves falling down and feasting at the base of the tree of life and will be filled spiritually. We will find our works transformed as we partake of the gifts of the spirit. We will find our works transformed by these graces, and thus we will be saved by grace.
The grace of God has nothing to do with gaining blessings for us without denying ourselves of all ungodliness, as Moroni plainly states.
The grace of God is the marvelous gifts he will pour out if we will love God as we ought and will deny ourselves of all ungodliness. And the reason we “can in nowise deny the power of God” if we are perfect in Christ is that we will be feasting on the gifts of the spirit. We will be enjoying manifestations of the power of God in the form of spiritual gifts. They will be imparted to us severally, not just here a little and there a little, according as he will.
And this is the road that leads to becoming sanctified in the blood of the lamb, that we can become holy, without spot.