Grace is vitally important in traditional, Biblical Christianity. But because grace is not properly understood or emphasized in Mormonism, the idea of grace can be hard to grasp for transitioning Mormons.
Grace from a Mormon perspective
As a Latter-day Saint, you may have never been taught about grace. Even if grace was mentioned, you probably did not understand it the way the Bible teaches it. So what is grace anyway? In Mormonism, it is believed that grace is only enough after you have done all you can do. You may have been told that grace was an enabling power or strength that God would give you so you could do what you needed to do.
Grace from a Christian perspective
In traditional, biblical Christianity, grace is enough in it of itself. Jesus died on the cross to pay for all of our sins. His sacrifice is all that we need to be reconciled to God and to get to heaven. There is nothing we alone can do to make us closer to God. In Mormonism, it is easy to think of salvation like a scale. On one side you had your good deeds and on the other side your bad deeds. You just hoped that your good deeds would outweigh the bad. However, as a Christian the scale would be much different. On one side would be your life and all you have done and on the other side would be Jesus and all that He has done. Jesus and His sacrifice would outweigh anything you could ever do. Our good works cannot add anything to what Jesus did, but our sins cannot diminish anything he did either. That fact is very freeing.
Take a moment and imagine a friend decided to make you a gift. They handcrafted an ornate clock and then gave it to you. Now let us say you decide to make it “better.” You pull out some magic markers and draw a smiley face. Just as the smiley face could not add anything to the beauty of the clock, neither can our works measure up to what Christ has already done for us. His grace is enough.
A Christian has great assurance because of grace
Once you understand this concept of grace, it will bring you so much assurance and peace. Grace lets you belong to Christ and follow Him. It is not other peoples’ opinion or judgement of you that makes you right with Christ. In general, “religious” people spend a lot of time wondering what other people think of them and trying to measure up to others’ expectations. It is freeing to know that Jesus has done it all and you do not have to worry about everyone else’s opinion of you.
Grace can also be emotionally assuring about our position with God. Grace shows us that God loves us unconditionally. We are all sinners and make mistakes, but we are still right with God as we trust in Jesus, because Jesus has paid it all. We do not need to worry. However, this does not mean we should go and do whatever we want to do. Instead, we should honor and love our Savior by obeying him. Just as you would not leave a beautiful gift out in the rain, we should not ruin Christ’s gift to us by disobeying, but treasure it by respecting him.
As you wrestle with this new idea of grace, just remember that grace is enough. Jesus has done it all, and you can stand before him in the assurance of that reality.