How do you study the scriptures? Not read – study. How do you break down meaning and gain inspiration and insight? Have you ever taken a verse or two, and analysed the words every possible way?
The next speaker at Sydney’s Time Out for Women conference was Brad Wilcox. Funny guy. Young guy too, for all he has done. His entire address was pulling one particular scripture apart to successfully draw out the most meaning and application to us.
Turn to 2 Nephi 25:23, and read it with me:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
According to Brad Wilcox, this may be the most quoted scripture in the Church and the most misunderstood. He took us through the phrase ‘after all we can do’, looking at each word so that we may understand it more fully. It was a good point – parts of the scriptures can sometimes be a source of discouragement if we do not understand them. And so he took us through the phrase (above in bold), emphasising each word in turn:
AFTER all we can do
Most read the word ‘after’ to mean ‘afterward’ or ‘subsequently’ – meaning it is time related. That is, once we ourselves have done all we can do to be saved, the Lord will step in and save us; the finishing touch to all we have accomplished. We try our best to do everything we can, and then He will come to our rescue. But does that sound right? Doesn’t that imply that we and our efforts are alone until we absolutely need Him to make up the difference? Wait a minute … neither Paul or Alma the Younger did much good to deserve their amazing turn-around experiences. And yet they received obvious blessings.
Brad thinks the word ‘after’ means ‘regardless’, ‘in spite of’. So the grace of God will save us in spite of what we try to do and cannot. Maybe even regardless of all we can do. Nephi was telling us more about the mission of the Messiah than anything, and that no matter how much we do, it simply wont be enough to guarantee our salvation without the intervention of Christ.
So, we are still saved by grace after all is said and done, but this grace is not something that suddenly switches on like an emergency generator after we have exhausted all of our efforts. It is our constant energy source, not the last-mile booster.
Brad reminded me of this: in the sacrament prayer we hear every Sunday, we renew a promise to remember Him always. How can we keep this promise when we try and do all that we can without Him, thinking He’ll make up the difference at the end? The gift of the Saviour’s grace surely isn’t given to us at the end, but for and during the journey as we are trying. Isn’t that more of a comfort?
The truth is, we probably need that grace, that extra boost and help, during our journey, not at the end. And we need to realise that this gift is available to all as we learn, make mistakes, and try. If perfection were the requirement, grace would be awarded to no one.
...more to come