Grace or Works?

There’s this idea that we can only qualify for blessings if we work hard enough first, that righteous actions preceded blessings.

“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated (D&C 130:21).”

“For we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23).”

“Faith, if it hath not work, is dead (Jame 2:17).”

A seemingly conflicting view to this way of thinking is that God will bless the remorseful heart regardless of his actions. It’s never too late.

Here’s what these polar opposite ideas looks like side by side. Two individuals have been asked speak in Sacrament meeting and have two weeks to prepare. Person A starts preparing that day and they spend some time nearly every day reading and thinking and writing their talk. Person B doesn’t put forth any time, not because of their circumstances, but simply out of neglect and lack of interest. Would it not be logical then to expect that person A will qualify for the companionship of the Spirit and grace while person B will be left to their own?

Person B feels panic on Saturday night as the reality of their actions began to set in. Realizing that they didn’t take the time to prepare for their talk and that now they only have a few hours to do so, they start to pray and ask for forgiveness, and then feel comforted when the read the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-15.

In this parable, “a householder went out early in the morning to hire labourers. After employing the first group at 6:00 in the morning, he returned at 9:00 a.m., at 12:00 noon, and at 3:00 in the afternoon, hiring more workers as the urgency of the harvest increased. The scripture says he came back a final time, “about the eleventh hour” (approximately 5:00 p.m.), and hired a concluding number. Then just an hour later, all the workers gathered to receive their day’s wage. Surprisingly, all received the same wage in spite of the different hours of labor. Immediately, those hired first were angry, saying, ‘These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.'”

Jeffery R. Holland, The Laborers in the Vineyard April 2012

Person B concludes that their penitent heart is all that is required for them to qualify for God’s grace.

Person A feels confused and perhaps a bit frustrated that person B is equally blessed as Person A. Person A has been working hard for two weeks to prepare while person B has been careless until the night before. Person A argues that he has been treated unfairly and that this is unjust.

Person A argues that the Lord will leave us to our own strength when we are neglectful. There are times in the scriptures that God does not reach forth His hand due to the neglectfulness of His children. At these times it seems that He often allows them to suffer the consequences of their choices.

“Because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength Helaman 4:13).”

“And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries (Mosiah 21:15).”

“They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble (Doctrine and Covenants 101:7).”

Person B argues back using the parable of the Prodigal Son to illustrate his view saying that while Person B is like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) who was wasted his time and did not consider changing until “there arose a mighty famine in the land; and he began to be in want.” But that he was truly sorry and remorseful for his neglectful behavior and took responsibility for his choices. And in the darkest hour of his sorrow he said to himself, ” I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. ”

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Person B says that Person A is like the father’s elder son who was in the field working when his brother returned. : and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out.

I knew two different parents whose teenagers started failing many of their classes once they started Jr. High. One of the teenager’s parents helped him to learn how to manage his time better and to do a better job at keeping track of his work and making sure he actually turned in his assignments. They let him fail a couple of classes, but continued to work with him so that he could be more successful in school.

The other teenager’s parents helped him to pass his classes and catch up on all his missing work by doing a large of amount of the work for him, feeling justified that it was better for him to pass than to fail.

So is grace helping no matter what? Getting us out of a bind that we got ourselves into just so long as we are sincerely remorse and penitent?

October 21, 2019

Time writing this article so far: 2 hours

Total time writing on this blog: 142 hours and 15 minutes