After All We Can Do?
By Carol Harper
One morning I walked into the kitchen and noticed a line of tiny black specks crawling along the edge of the counter towards a loosely capped jar of honey. Drat, I thought…ants. They had busily congregated around the jar lid, and then, in an almost parallel line, were making their way back to wherever it was they came from.
“Ant traps” went on the grocery list, and I sprayed the parade with Windex (a pest control guy gave me this tip). Then I placed the jar in the kitchen sink, ants and all, turned on the water, and watched them swirl down the drain. They were working so hard, I thought, as I realized that I had just played “God” to an entire micro-colony of living organisms. How could I? They’re just ants, doing what they were supposed to do. And I thought of what specks we are as human beings, crawling all over this earth, working so hard, consuming our own honey lids—unaware of the time of our own inevitable deaths. Yet I had not one bit of saving grace for the ants that attacked my honey jar.
In my former life, I didn’t know what grace was, as it is not the focus of your average Mormon. I was taught the Book of Mormon quote in 2nd Nephi 25:23: "…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (underline added). This doctrine summarizes grace as thus: Do everything you can first, then God will make up the difference. Problem is, this diminishes everything Jesus did when He uttered the words upon the cross: “It is finished.” It invalidates the miracle of the Word made flesh, nullifies the purpose of Jesus’ life, and renders His sacrifice completely useless.
How much is enough, “after all we can do”? Did the Jews do “all they could do” under their Law; was it enough? Did Jesus require the blind, lame, lepers and the sick to do “all they could do” before He miraculously healed them? Did the eunuch go on his way rejoicing because he had a whole lot of work ahead of him? (Acts 8: 26-40) Did Peter, Paul and the apostles preach the slavery of religious law? Did the father of the returning prodigal son say: “Now, prove that you’re not going to be an idiot again. Get to work, boy. Prove to me you’re worthy to live under my roof. Then maybe, after all you can do, I’ll forgive you and throw you a party.” I suppose the other son working in the field would have loved that scenario!
Did Jesus “do all He could do”? If the Book of Mormon claims that grace only kicks in “after all you can do”, and the world is still under the burden of religious rule, then I guess it really wasn’t “finished” after all. Jesus must have failed. So, where’s the good news in that? Sounds to me like the love of the Mormon god is pretty conditional: “Sorry, false alarm, everyone. You’re not saved by grace after all; you’re still under the condemnation of the law. What, you think just anyone can approach the throne of God? (Romans 8:15) Think again! Temple veil torn in two? (Matt. 27:51) Not a chance! Who do you think you are? Get back to work! Prove to me you’re worthy. Then maybe, after all you can do, I’ll forgive you for your sins and give you eternal life.”
Almost by default, Mormonism’s pseudo-grace puts self and religious fear first, rather than God (Exodus 20: 1-3). And who determines when you’re done doing “all you can do”? The Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith? Church leaders? A chart and graph showing all your good deeds? If you’re working so hard to save yourself—then, besides a little spare change, what use is a Savior, and therefore, God? It sounds like Mormonism is a religion atheists could really get into.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2: 8-9 (underline added)
It’s not “after all you can do”…it’s after nothing you can do! The entire message of the Bible is about Jesus Christ and His grace. Paul said these words long before the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, or the LDS church ever existed. Old Testament prophets preached it before He came; all the apostles, disciples and believers have preached it ever since. So why does religion put such a damper on this good news?
It’s too simple. God’s gift of grace through His One and Only Son is too easy. What, so grace gets you off the hook to do whatever you want?
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
James 2: 18-20 (underline added)
James didn’t say “I will show you my worthiness by what I do,” he said, “I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” A Christian’s faith and belief is in God. The miracle of Jesus Christ is that, instead ofreligious fear, or the human self put first, the focus is finally put back where it should have been all along: on God.
Remember the story of Moses and the brazen serpent (Numbers 21)? All the people had to do was look at it, and they were saved. Yet still, there were those who refused to look and perished. What part of “look” did they not understand? See, too simple. Today, the brazen serpent symbol is used by the American Medical Association. I think about all the medicines, such as penicillin—an antibiotic derived from something as simple as mold—that have saved millions of lives. Yet still, there are those who refuse to be treated and perish. See, too simple. Refusal to believe in something doesn’t take away the truth of its existence or purpose.
About being born again, Jesus told a confused Nicodemus:
“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe;
how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
John 3: 11-15 (underline added)
Faith and belief is all it takes for Jesus to heal and save us. He didn’t ask the lame to first walk as far as he could, didn’t ask the blind man to first take an eye test, didn’t ask the leper how many skin treatments he tried first, or tell the Roman centurion to first do a ritual or chant for his dying servant. All Jesus asks is for us to believe in Him. His grace is sufficient; He did not fail. The Bible tells the entire story of that victory. Who dares take that victory away from the Son of God?
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?
and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Matthew 7: 22-23 (underline added)
Wonder why you don’t see a cross on a Mormon church? The cross and its meaning is not the focus of those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1: 18-19). Some people are afraid of it. Others scoff at it. Still others prefer not to focus on the blood of the Lamb, but would rather pick apart God’s amazing grace so it suits their own doctrines and purposes until there is no meaning, there is no miracle, no grace, no cure…just the focus upon “all you can do”.
Here we are, less than specks in an infinite universe, busily crawling around, vulnerable to destruction at a moment’s notice—yet perhaps the worst kind of destruction is the kind we do to each other, to ourselves, to our souls. But why is God so mindful of this solar system, this galaxy, this planet?
Apparently, we are worth saving.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11: 28-30
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