How Do I Teach Grace Without Offending

Over at MAdB there is a really interesting discussion that I haven’t seen before. A Mormon plans on teaching “salvation by grace” this week in Sunday School. He wants to know how to go about doing this without offending anyone. This has inspired a debate about whether or not we ARE saved by grace.

This debate is nothing new on that board, but usually it’s a handful of Evangelicals heatedly debating Mormons. This time it’s Mormons vs. Mormons, and there seems to be more grace-Mormons than works-Mormons. A friend of mine, Rhinomelon, is the only Evangelical you’ll find in the discussion.

One of the more interesting spins is interpreting “after all that we can do” as “in spite of all we can do”.

I’m quite encouraged by it and I think others will be too.


13 thoughts on “How Do I Teach Grace Without Offending

  1. This is basically what I’ve been saying here for awhile. Mormons are not in agreement over how the atonement functions in our lives at all. The newer generation is much more comfortable with grace, and more traditional Mormons are completely uncomfortable with it.

    Like I’ve said before, I think the turning point was Steven Robinson’s book “Believing Christ,” which has been very influential in Mormon circles. In fact, I believe the “in spite of all we can do” interpretation for the “we know that we are saved by grace after all we can do” scripture originated in that book.

  2. Here’s your documented evidence. What’s surprising to me is that the MAdB tends to be very conservative and traditional. I’ve never seen LDS arguing this viewpoint on that board.

  3. Can someone please clarify which “works” that we Mormons are trying to justify and defend?

    I just wish I had a clearer picture of the perceptions and accusations.

  4. I don’t think the “works” of Mormonism that are required for the Atonement are the generic good works, like, say … volunteering at the homeless shelter, not snorting cocaine, being nice to animals, etc.

    I think the “works meet for repentance” are actually referring to the Gospel ordinances of faith, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Then there is the constant renewal of these baptismal covenants through the Sacrament. I would imagine Mormons would add the temple ordinances as well.

    There is most certainly a popular Mormon notion that we’re “working our way toward salvation,” but I don’t count myself as being in that camp.

  5. As a Mormon this is my belief in Grace. It would be impossible for us to return to live with God without the Grace of Christ. Absolutely impossible. That does not mean that God does not expect us to do everything in our power to live according to God commands. Simply saying a prayer that you accept Christ is not enough we have to live it. So, let’s see (usually I make a visual in front of people, hard to do here), picture a line across the screen divided into 10 separate points, like an Y axis. Each point is marked 1,2,3, and so on, up to 10. 1 is our birth or where we start, 10 is the Kingdom of God or Heaven. Because of our imperfections, no matter what we do we can only get so far, lets say to point 6 for the best person ever (aside from the Savior of course) despite doing all in their power to live God’s will. The Grace of Christ then makes up the difference and perfects us. A common phrase in the church: “The Grace of Christ is sufficient after all we can do”.

    One more note, Christ’s Grace still affects everyone regardless of how they live their lives. His grace allows all people the “just and the unjust” to be resurrected.

  6. So you’re saying that Jesus’s atonement contributes a portion of the efforts needed for salvation and exaltation. He contributes the portion that we are inevitably unable to supply ourselves (since we’re sinners and everything).

    In my experience, that is probably the most common Mormon perspective. You’ve got some old guard Mormons who would emphasize works even more. And after reading books like Kimball’s “The Miracle of Forgiveness” and Richards’s “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,” which have been given near standard-works deference in the past, that’s not a surprising thing.

    On the other hand, you’ve got some Mormons on the cutting edge, largely influenced by Robinson’s “Believing Christ” who would tell you that what you’re saying is woefully inaccurate and not only completely downsizes the power and significance of Jesus and his atonement, but also sets us up for constant unnecessary feelings of depression and unworthiness, because it sets a bar that may indeed be lower than perfection, but it is still practically unreachable (nobody “does their best” all the time).

    As a Mormon (I was born into the Church and only have been in the process of leaving for the last year- after early morning seminary graduation, a faithful mission, institute classes, a temple marriage, children born into the covenant, magnified callings, etc.- just saying I’m no Johnny-Come-Lately), I fell into the latter camp, and I would have argued with you strenuously over your (in my opinion) warped understanding of the atonement.

    Now, it’s merely evidence to me that the idea that Mormon doctrine has never changed and that there’s somehow one True Truth that the Church teaches is really far from the mark. Mormons may act like they all believe the same thing, and that what they believe is the truth that is and has always been taught by God’s chosen prophets, but in truth, they’re all believing different things.

  7. Anyone know how it turned out in Sunday School?

    I’ve been trying to find my copy of Believing Christ, but can’t seem to find it. I wanted to comment, but wanted to make sure I had it right first.

    Dando said, “One of the more interesting spins is interpreting “after all that we can do” as “in spite of all we can do”. “

    It doesn’t work. By replacing “after” with “in spite of” we are taking the duration, the enduring to the end with faith in Christ, and replacing it instead with just effort, which is not what Nephi intended. A complete reading of 2 Nephi 31 (online at will clarify and verify what he meant and really is a good read.

    Even though I own the book “Believing Christ”, I never felt comfortable reading it. I started to, but felt like I really didn’t want anyone else to tell me how I should perceive Christ’s Atonement until I felt comfortable with my own level of knowledge from the scriptures. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again.

    Anyway, if indeed the tides are turning and the Grace of Christ becomes more emphasized, God speed. The sooner the better. I think for a member who truly understands the relationship between Grace and making and keeping covenants through ordinances, the ordinances in the Church will mean that much more. I simply do not see a way to separate the ordinances out of the gospel. They are in everything we do. There is real meaning in them that points us to Christ daily, weekly.

    Christ is the only way to return to the Father. Christ is the only one who can remit our sins. There is no way around it. But this gift, this Grace, is absolutely conditional. If it wasn’t then everyone will be saved whether they believed in Christ or not, as belief and faith in Christ is a pre-requisite. The ordinances help us to have faith in Christ daily/weekly to the end of our lives.

    The D&C says in section 84:

    20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
    21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh

    They are simply just too important to be devalued or removed.

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