Mathematics Faculty Member
Bio not available.
Brothers and sisters, it is a great privilege to gather with you to worship our Father in the name of His Son. I extend a special greeting to Pathway and other students who are participating at a distance. Even though you are not physically present, we feel of your spirit and devotion. Members of this campus community pray for the success of all the students, both those in Rexburg and "all over the earth."1
I appreciate the personal preparations you have made for this devotional assembly. It is my prayer that the Lord will reward your exercise of faith with an increase of the Spirit. Because the most important messages of this devotional will not be given from the pulpit, I invite the ministry of the Holy Ghost to be our teacher.
The subject of this address is one that is sacred, yet sometimes misunderstood and misapplied. I speak of grace. With the light of the restored gospel, we have a different understanding of this term than many of our friends in other Christian faiths.2 The Bible Dictionary gives an excellent definition of grace:
The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.3
It is by grace that we will be resurrected. It is also by grace that we obtain forgiveness when we sincerely repent. The aspect of grace upon which I will focus is the Savior's enabling power. In a devotional talk given at BYU, Elder Bednar explained:
In my personal scripture study I often insert the term enabling power whenever I encounter the word grace. ...I believe we can learn much about this vital aspect of the Atonement if we will insert enabling and strengthening power each time we find the word grace in the scriptures.4
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can gain strength and ability, according to the Lord's will. This endowment of grace enables and empowers us to gain knowledge, do good works, and become something that is beyond our own capacity.
There is a law, irrevocably decreed5, which must be obeyed to assure that we will receive His grace.6 What is this law? To investigate this question, we will consider some scriptural examples where grace was given.
The Widow of Zarephath
Elijah the prophet was sent to the widow of Zarephath during a great famine. He found her nearly out of food, preparing one last meal before she and her son died of starvation. Elijah asked her to make a little cake for him first. He promised her that: "The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."7 Exercising her faith by sacrifice, she obeyed. In return, she was given grace. Miraculously, she never ran out of meal or oil. This reminds me of the Lord's gift of manna. This widow had sufficient for each new day.8 This miracle occurs in our time. For example, how many of us have witnessed the miraculous stretching of meager finances?
The Brother of Jared
In another example, the brother of Jared repeatedly constructed barges to carry his family, animals, and provisions towards the promised land. The Lord asked him to devise a way to light the barges.
Exercising his agency and guided by inspiration, the brother of Jared melted sixteen stones from a high mountain, which he hoped could shine in darkness. The Brother of Jared did everything he could to obey the Lord, but it was not enough. The stones did not yet shine. Acting in faith, the Brother of Jared asked the Lord to touch the stones and give them light.
He was permitted to see the finger of the Lord as his prayer was answered. Exercising more faith, the Brother of Jared was able to see the Lord's whole personage. By grace, the brother of Jared was brought back into the Lord's presence.9
The Brother of Jared was given difficult commandments, and only told how to complete part of them. He studied the problem out in his own mind and proposed a solution.10 The best efforts of the Brother of Jared were not enough. After giving the commandment, the Lord tenderly helped the Brother of Jared keep it. Notice how much the Lord does for his people!
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read about Oliver Granger-a rather ordinary and mostly blind latter-day saint.11 After the saints were driven from Kirtland, the Lord assigned this faithful brother the arduous task of selling properties belonging to the Church and its leaders. Imagine his difficulty! How do you sell real estate in a market saturated with abandoned homes, farms, and businesses?
In a tender statement about Oliver Granger, the Lord said:
Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord.12
The Lord knew he would face great difficulty-and some failures. Exerting his best efforts to obey, Brother Granger emulated the Savior who obeyed His Father's every word and will. In tenderness, the Lord accepted Oliver Granger's private sacrifice notwithstanding the modest outward results of his labors.13 Was the Lord's grace involved? Brother Granger was again entrusted with this assignment after the saints were driven from Independence, Far West, and, finally, Nauvoo.14
I hold Oliver Granger's name in sacred remembrance. It is a reminder that "[our] sacrifice shall be more sacred unto [the Lord] than [our] increase."15
In the book of Moses, we learn of a vision he had of the Savior.16 The Lord showed Moses some of his works and glory and then departed. With his physical body exhausted, Moses discovered that man's power is nothing in comparison to God's.17 After Moses regained his natural strength, Satan came to him.
When Moses refused to follow him, the adversary intensified his attack. "Moses began to fear exceedingly..." Notice what happens next. "...[A]s he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength."18 In contrast to the effects of fear, when Moses relied upon the word of God and prayer, he received strength, or grace, and was able to withstand the trial. This is a profound pattern for us. Christ has commanded us to "doubt not, fear not,"19 and "quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."20 By so doing, we invite the Lord's grace.
I would like to share a personal experience of the Lord's grace. Please note that I am not the hero in the story; every good thing that came to pass was a gift of the Savior.
After teaching here for two years, I received a distinct prompting-a personal commandment-to get a Ph.D. in Statistics. My wife encouraged me to obey, and the university granted a temporary leave of absence. About two years after the prompting, I began a Ph.D. program in Statistics at Purdue University.
It was terrifying to be in graduate school on a strict timeline. The burden was overwhelming. I could recite the famous words of Nephi, "that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."21 I knew this was true for other people, but I did not liken it unto myself.22 President Henry B. Eyring taught, "Faith is not simply to know God could do something. Faith is to know He will."23 I realized I needed more faith.
Recognizing that my fear was not from God, I sought His help in prayer. In this process, strength was granted. My faith grew, leading to a deepened realization that the Lord knew all things. He already possessed all the statistical, research and writing skills I needed to develop. He knew the questions and answers for exams yet to be written. He knew every detail of my future research. All things are before him continually.24 It was my responsibility and privilege to learn that our Savior is a personal teacher and tutor, who ministers one by one.25 After much prayer and fasting that first semester, I received the calm assurance that the Lord would help me complete the degree in the allotted time. Doubt was completely replaced by faith.26 The program was still difficult, but I approached it with peace and confidence.
We cherished the Sabbath day and enjoyed serving in our callings. Great care was required to balance family, church, and school responsibilities. After giving my best in earnest study and prayer, the Holy Ghost inspired solutions to homework and exam problems.27 A suitable research topic eventually became apparent.
The process was still difficult, but I knew it would all work out-I just did not know how. The burden was not removed, but it was made light.28 Our family memorized and recited a scripture that brought us comfort: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."29
The Savior, by His grace, magnified our offering. The assurance previously seen only with an eye of faith30 yielded evidence as I completed the degree in the time allowed.31
Speaking to the prophet Moroni, the Lord said:
[M]y grace is sufficient for the meek.... And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.32
By the Lord's grace, we can accomplish anything He asks us to do. Remember, the Lord enabled David to kill Goliath with just one stone. I solemnly witness that He helps all His people, just as he has helped me with my academic Goliath.
Enduring to the End
A caution is warranted here. The story of David reminds us that no matter how great the challenges are that we have overcome, we must continue to exercise faith in the Lord and endure to the end.33 We must not allow ourselves to be lured away by any distractions.
For example, we might get discouraged when our efforts seem to outweigh our blessings. We might be tempted to think that we are ignored by our God or, even worse, that God does not exist. It may seem, for a while, that those who break the commandments are better off than those who keep them. Heavenly Father told Malachi that this would happen: "And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered."34
We may fail to reach a personal goal despite living righteously, expending our best efforts, and extending help to others. The challenges we face foster growth, leading us to a "more excellent way."35 I hope we will never murmur when the Lord provides a course correction.For example, an obedient, hard-working pre-med student may still not qualify for admission to a top-ten medical school. Although it can be painful, the Lord might be directing this student to a path that will be better for them and their family.
We can avoid the pitfall of doubt by humbly asking what we are to learn from a challenge, seeking guidance, and pressing forward with faith. It is not possible for us to "comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."36 Representing Christ, Isaiah wrote, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."37
Our resources, including time, talents, willpower, love, and patience are insufficient to satisfy the demands placed on them. Alma the Younger teaches us that Christ, who has experienced all things, understands:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.38
Christ comprehends all things.39 There is no pain or joy we can feel that the Savior has not personally experienced. He knows how to succor us individually. The Latin root of the word "succor" means "to go beneath, or to run to help."40 How grateful I am for the One who has not only gone beneath all things to be able to run to our aid, but who has ascended above all things that He might lead us to a fullness of joy!41
Grace for Grace
As the Savior's cousin and childhood companion, John the Baptist was among those who knew the Savior best. Please note what John wrote about the Savior and grace:
And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first....And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.42
After quoting these verses, the Savior explained to Joseph Smith:
I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace. 43
What do we worship? We worship God the Eternal Father. How do we worship? We worship by emulating His son through sacrifice.44 If we do this diligently, we will receive of the Father's fullness.45
The Apostle Paul taught that gifts of the Spirit are given through grace.46 When we receive spiritual gifts, we must "minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."47 We are given gifts of the Spirit for the purpose of sharing them with others.48 We extend grace to others as we share the gifts we have received. Then, "[God] doth immediately bless [us]..."49 with more grace. This is one way we emulate the Savior and receive grace for giving grace.50
The commentary Revelations of the Restoration states:
Grace is divine help, or in other words, enabling power and strength that comes from God. The Savior increased in grace as he lived the commandments of God and blessed the lives of others. His growth was accelerated above that of his fellowmen because of the reciprocal nature of receiving strength of the Spirit when extending grace. That is, he called upon his Father for power and strength to bless others in their need. In answer to his prayers, he was empowered and grew beyond his previous abilities, thus, receiving grace for grace. Christ was foremost in reaching out in compassion to others. Therefore, he received greater grace from God in his efforts than any other person. He increased his capacity to give with each experience, continuing 'from grace to grace.' 51
We must follow this pattern, as we come unto Christ. Receiving is not a passive activity.52 As an example, we receive grace as we listen to, study, and apply General Conference talks. I invite you to ponder ways in which you can give grace that you might receive grace. Here are a few ideas:
- When we help someone learn a difficult concept, we share the grace we have received.
- We give grace by extending a warm greeting to others we encounter during our day. President and Sister Clark taught that "When we have a genuine smile, greet people with a kind word, and reflect our love of God and His children in our eyes and in our faces, we bring light and happiness to those we meet."53
- We give grace as we forgive those who have injured us. For painful offenses where trust has been broken, this may require assistance from an ecclesiastical leader or professional counselor.
- Some BYU-Idaho students are assigned to an academic track they consider less desirable. Recognizing that the track system allows many more students to come to campus, we give grace to them by cheerfully making the best of what we have received.
- The Relief Society sets a profound example, giving grace through consecrated compassionate service.
- Aaronic Priesthood holders extend grace by reverently preparing, blessing, or passing the holy emblems of our Lord's sacrifice.
- A worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder gives grace to others by administering to the sick and performing other priesthood duties.
- We give grace by honoring our parents and expressing gratitude to them.
- We extend grace by seeking out our ancestors and performing sacred ordinances for them in the temple. This is something they cannot do for themselves. President Hinckley said, "This work, unselfishly given in behalf of those on the other side, comes nearer to the unparalleled vicarious work of the Savior than any other of which I know."54
Returning to my initial question: what is the law upon which the spiritual gift of grace is predicated?55 There is no step-by-step recipe for obtaining grace. However, patterns are woven into every scriptural example of this principle. We must exercise faith, repent, extend grace to others, and endure to the end. In short, we must worship the Father and emulate His Son. Giving and receiving grace requires our full efforts, "...for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."56 This enabling and strengthening power is a vital part of our quest to become like the Lord. It is a profound gift from a loving Heavenly Father.
Brothers and sisters, I testify that our Savior lives. His grace is sufficient for the meek who humble themselves and extend grace to others. I witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. This sacred, additional witness of Jesus Christ teaches us how to give and receive grace. The Lord is willing to grant grace to us. I invite you to find ways to give grace in greater measure, that the Lord may give more grace to you. I promise you that He will.
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren [and sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.57
May we be blessed as we do this, in the sacred name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Jacob Spori, Founding of the Bannock Stake Academy, 12 Nov. 1888.
2 See, for example, Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?" Ensign, May 1998 or Marion G. Romney, "In Mine Own Way," Ensign, Nov. 1976.
3. "Grace," Bible Dictionary
4. David A. Bednar, "In the Strength of the Lord," Devotional, Brigham Young University, 23 Oct. 2001.
5. D&C 130:20-21
6. D&C 82:10
7. 1 Kings 17:14-16 (See verses 9-16)
8. Exodus 16:16-26
9. See Ether 1-3
10. D&C 9:8
11. Boyd K. Packer, "The Least of These," Ensign, Nov. 2004, 86.
12. D&C 117:12, emphasis added
13. See Mosiah 2:21
14. Boyd K. Packer, "The Least of These," Ensign, Nov. 2004, 86.
15. D&C 117:12
16. See James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 12th Ed., 470-471.
17. Moses 1:3-10
18. Moses 1:20
19. D&C 6:36
20. Lamentations 3:26
21. 1 Nephi 3:7
22. 1 Nephi 19:23
23. Elder Henry B. Eyring, "We Must Raise Our Sights," CES Conference on the Book of Mormon, Brigham Young University, 14 Aug. 2001.
24. D&C 38:2
25. 3 Nephi 11:15
26. Joseph Smith, comp., Lectures on Faith, 1985, 6:12.
27. See John 14:26
28. Mosiah 24:15
29. Proverbs 3:5-6
30. Ether 12:19
31. David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith," An Evening with Elder David A. Bednar, Address to CES Religious Educators, 3 Feb. 2006. (See also JST Hebrews 11:1)
32. Ether 12:26-27
33. D&C 20:30-34
34. 3 Nephi 24:15; See also 3 Nephi 24:13-15 and Malachi 3:13-15
35. Ether 12:11 (See also 1 Corinthians 12:31)
36. Mosiah 4:9
37. Isaiah 55:9
38. Alma 7:11-12
39. D&C 88:6
40. "Succor," Dictionary.reference.com
41. D&C 88:6
42. D&C 93:11-14, 16-17, emphasis added
43. D&C 93:19-20, emphasis added
44. Moses 5:5
45. See Romans 8:17
46. Romans 12:6
47. 1 Peter 4:10
48. D&C 46:8-9
49. Mosiah 2:24
50. D&C 93:12,20
51. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration, 2000, 672-673.
52. See D&C 88:33
53. Kim B. Clark and Sue Clark, "We Lived After the Manner of Happiness," Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, 17 Apr. 2012.
54. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Rejoice in This Great Era of Temple Building," Ensign, Nov 1985, 53.
55. D&C 82:10
56. 2 Nephi 25:23, emphasis added
57. D&C 123:17