A common theological debate in the Christian world is whether we are saved by grace or by works. Being saved by grace is when we are taken to heaven after this life through no work or merit of our own, simply due to the love and power of Jesus Christ.
Being saved by works is the belief that entrance into eternal paradise is available to all who keep the commandments, therefore earning the opportunity to the be saved.
So, do Latter-day Saints believe we are saved by grace or by works? The answer centers on our belief in Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind. As His last act in His mortal life, He suffered for the sins of all of us, and thus made a way for us to be saved. We refer to this act as the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
It is by His power that we are saved. We have no power on our own to affect any sort of salvation. In this sense we are certainly saved by grace rather than works. Nothing we could do could ever make us deserve or earn salvation.
However, we also believe that while Salvation is offered to everyone, we must put forward an offering of our own to qualify. The Savior asks for a willing heart and a contrite Spirit. (3 Nephi 9:20) He asks us to try to pattern our lives after His life, knowing we’ll do this imperfectly. If our hearts are sincere and genuine, we can be guided by Him to steadily become prepared for the Salvation He offers. In this sense, while these works cannot save us, there are some works or actions required on our part.
Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best:
“Regarding the debate about faith and works: It’s like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most important.”
To isolate just works or grace at the expense of the other is insufficient and incomplete. It is ultimately the power and grace of Jesus Christ that saves. We are powerless to help ourselves in such an incomprehensible task. However, the Savior wants to make us so much more than we are and that requires us to give our hearts to Him, to take consistent, sincere steps to follow Him, no matter how imperfect those steps may be.
It is through faith in His name, and willing, sincere actions that we will ultimately be saved by Him and receive all the blessings He has in store for us.
(For more information about our beliefs on salvation, Heaven, and where we go after this life, click here.)