I am grateful for the blessing of being taught each week by the weekly letter that is written to the missionaries by President Judd. Time does not allow me to make a note of each letter, but I know I am strengthen through the reading of them. The letters not only pertain to missionary work but to our personal lives as well. After all, it really is all connected anyway, if we are true disciples of Jesus Christ.
I have read and heard many talks on grace, but I appreciated the following insight from last weeks missionary letter. "By His grace" is a phrase that is often spoken by many of the people here in Ghana, and actually throughout the world. Those who say these words are sincere in acknowledging their need for God and the gratitude they have for the blessings they have received. There are others where that statement represents their belief in a magical god who grants salvation and gives blessings to those who simply believe in Jesus. The belief that success in this life, and redemption in the world to come, doesn't require us to do our part has been called by some as 'cheap grace.'
I don't know if I have heard that definition before but it makes sense. President Boyd K. Packer
taught the following, "the Atonement of
Jesus Christ is the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much
about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the
branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been
cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption
in them." (Ensign, May 1977, p. 54)
President Judd continues with the opposing belief that some people think the blessings we are seeking come only through our own hard work, which is know as 'legalism' or 'humanism'. These are terms I have never heard before either. I remember a song that was written by a music duo called Afterglow entitled, "I am the captain of my soul". Another phrase, 'whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve'. These may contain some truth but deny the need we have for a power beyond our own. For the most part, Latter-day Saints aren't guilty of believing in 'cheap grace', but are more likely to believe in the opposite counterfeit--the idea that if we work hard enough and smart enough, we can earn our way to heaven. This denies the necessity of the grace of Christ and the power of God. Those of us who understand and live the gospel in this way often do so for the reward we are hoping to receive and not out of love for the Lord, our fellow servants, or the people we are teaching or leading.
It was brought to my attention, through further reading, that the anti-Christ Nehor taught the false doctrine of 'cheap grace' which is found in Alma 1:4. The false doctrine of 'humanism' was taught by Korihor in Alma 32:37-43. Even though I have read those words many times, I had not put them in the context of the relationship of grace and works. I also have been confused by the scripture in 2 Nephi 25:23 which states that "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do". I read further that the Book of Mormon identifies just what is meant by the phrase "all we can do" in the statement from the Lamanite King, Anti-Nephi-Lehi found in Alma 24:11. From that scripture we learn that at least a part of the "all we can do" is to repent. It is through repentance that we make ourselves open to the grace of Christ. I was grateful to be taught more fully.
I want to share one more message from another of President Judd's letters that brought clarity to me. The Greek work for sin is hamartia, which means "missing of the mark". He taught that both the lazy or over zealous can miss the mark. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "The mark is Christ". To sin is to purposely fall short of the example and the teachings of the Savior and His servants. We can sin by purposely falling short of the Mark or going beyond.
I probably have heard or read similar messages before, but it was very helpful to remember once again. When I have a somewhat discouraging day, as I did in Primary today, I remember these truths and check myself for the tendency to be over zealous and that the work I am doing is because I love the Lord and I need His grace to be with me when I return next week. Besides, when I asked the children today to give me names of people they love, my sweet Emmanuel said, "Sister Avery". No matter how discouraged I was, those words have the power to erase every ounce of discouragement, and they did.
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)