Latter-day Saint Life

Brad Wilcox: 6 Ways Our Savior's Grace Saves Us


The following is an excerpt from Brad Wilcox's book, Changed Through His Grace:

What sets Latter-day Saints apart from other Christians is not a reluctance to acknowledge our full and complete dependence on Christ’s grace but rather the possession of a full and complete understanding of salvation. Even scholars outside the Church have recognized that Latter-day Saints teach the most fully developed understanding of salvation, afterlife, and heaven of any Christian church (See Colleen McDannel and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History).

The word that was translated as salvation in many verses of the Bible could also have been rendered as victory. Latter-day Saints know we need victory on many battlefronts. The Book of Mormon tells of wicked Zeezrom, who ridiculed Alma and Amulek and attempted to publicly humiliate them. Later, that same Zeezrom—now repentant and sick with a burning fever—sent for Alma and Amulek to heal him (see Alma 15:5). Alma took Zeezrom’s hand and asked, “Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?” (Alma 15:6), or we could say, “Do you believe in Christ’s power to offer victory?” Was Zeezrom thinking of being saved physically—victory over illness? Was Alma, who had been reclaimed from a life of sin, thinking of spiritual salvation or victory over sin? Either way, it is clear that “the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people” (Alma 24:27).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught, “As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Have You Been Saved?” Ensign, May 1998, 55). Through the Savior’s grace, He offers victory over death, sin, our worst selves, ignorance, and hell. Ultimately, He offers the greatest victory of all in the form of exaltation.

The Savior Saves Us from Death

Teaching of the Resurrection, Paul wrote, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, . . . at the last trump: . . . we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). Resurrection, victory over death, is a gift of grace. We can’t do it for ourselves. The Fall of Adam and Eve brought death to mankind, and Christ came to do what no mortal could ever do—break the bands of death. However, although many Christians see the Fall as disastrous, the plan of salvation allows us to see it as desirable. . . .

Scriptures teach that our resurrected bodies will be incorruptible (see 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Nephi 9:13). That means we will not age or fall apart, but it also means Satan will not be able to corrupt us. No wonder Joseph Smith taught that happiness and joy are dependent on having a body (see D&C 93:33, 34) and that “no person can have . . . salvation except through a tabernacle” (Joseph Smith, in The Joseph Smith Papers, History 1838–1856). The Resurrection is one of many ways we are saved by grace.

Learn more with Brad Wilcox's new book, Changed Through His Grace!

In this book, Brother Wilcox uses real-life stories and personal experiences to demonstrate how we can choose to receive Christ's grace more fully. This book is filled with hope. God's help is not a prize for the righteous. It is the source of righteousness. His grace is not a reward for the worth. It is the source of worthiness. It is not waiting for us once we change. It is the power we need throughout the entire perfecting process.

The Savior Rescues Us from Sin

Christ saved us from death, but He also offered victory over sin. His perfect life was a flawless model, but all along He knew we could not follow Him flawlessly. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Christ came to take “away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and offer “forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). But “Christ died not to save indiscriminately but to offer repentance” taught Elder D. Todd Christofferson (D. Todd Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves,” Ensign, November 2014, 18). Because Jesus paid our debt to justice by shouldering the penalty for our sins, we can repent (see Helaman 14:18).

Picture the hopelessness of our situation if there were no second chances, no new beginnings, no clean slates, and no do overs. Imagine never being able to rid ourselves of shame and feel peace—never being able to live with God. Without Christ and the “beauties of [His] grace” (Hymns, no. 178), we would live in a world in which unavoidable sins could bring only regret and never reflection—a world where we would be forever tempted and never taught.

In most of the New Testament, the word repentance was translated from a Greek word meaning “to turn,” as in to change course. The gift of forgiveness is correctly labeled as conditional because it is dependent upon our course changes. . . . The opportunity to repent and be forgiven is one of many ways we are saved by grace.

The Savior Saves Us from Our Worst Selves

Along with saving us from death and sin, Jesus offers us victory over our worst selves. Not only can our sins be forgiven, but we can be born again (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ can become the father of our spiritual rebirths (see Mosiah 5:7). “Have ye spiritually been born of God?” asked Alma. “Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14). The opportunity to answer yes to these questions is a gift of grace—­something we cannot do on our own. . . .

During World War II, Elder David B. Haight was flying in a plane over the Pacific when suddenly the engine began spewing flames and smoke. In the terror of that moment, Elder Haight poured out his heart to God. He promised that if he got out of the war alive he would rededicate his life to service in the Church. Elder Haight said, “I pondered that night that I hadn’t given it my all. I didn’t have my priorities in proper order. That night my whole life passed in review before me. I reappraised my life and recommitted myself to the Lord (Lucile C. Tate, David B. Haight: The Life Story of a Disciple).

That sincere prayer was a turning point. However, Elder Haight was not born again the instant he made his commitment but throughout all the subsequent years that he kept it. This event was only part of strengthening a covenant relationship with the Lord that continued throughout Elder Haight’s lifetime. . . . I figured that since God could still use Elder Haight despite his less-than-perfect past, maybe He could also use me. Just as God sanctified Elder Haight, maybe He was willing to polish and refine me as well. My encounter with that Apostle so impressed me that years later I named my youngest son David after him. The chance to be born again and become our best selves is one of many ways we are saved by grace.

The Savior Rescues Us from Ignorance 

In Doctrine and Covenants 131:6 we read, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” Impossible means ­impossible—something we can’t do by ourselves. Along with saving us from death, sin, and our worst selves, Christ’s grace also gives us victory over ignorance (see 2 Nephi 4:23). He does not leave us in darkness. He said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

When young Joseph Smith felt confused, there came into his life a pillar of light. When we are unsure, we can also seek a pillar of light—a clear picture of God, our relationship to Him, and the knowledge that what we are doing is in accordance with His will and plan for us. This knowledge can save us as it saved Joseph. . . .

Cult leaders like to keep their followers in ignorance. They encourage people to simply believe them and follow blindly. By contrast, Joseph Smith said, “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint . . . as fast as he is able to bear them” (Joseph Smith, in The Joseph Smith Papers, History).  Joseph did not want others to just believe his testimony; he encouraged them to find out the truth for themselves. He did not want others to just feel God’s grace secondhand; he wanted them to receive it firsthand.

The Savior Saves Us from Hell

Christ offers us victory over death, sin, our worst selves, and ignorance, but also over hell. Many Christians face a dilemma. They believe God gives common grace (what we would call the light of Christ) to all people, but saving grace only to Christians. So, if everyone has to accept Jesus to be saved, what happens to those who never hear about the Savior? Years ago people taught that these souls went straight to hell, but what does that say about God’s mercy? Today people teach that they will go to heaven regardless of their actions or choices. What does that say about God’s justice? Only in the restored gospel do we find the answer that satisfies both mercy and justice: between death and the Resurrection all spirits will have the chance to learn of Christ and accept saving ordinances performed on their behalf. The Bible Dictionary states, “Knowledge of divine and spiritual things is absolutely essential for one’s salvation; hence the gospel is to be taught to every soul” (“Knowledge,” 721).

For Latter-day Saints, hell is not a pit of fire where the wicked are tormented forever. Rather, the word hell is used to describe a part of the Spirit world—a place of rehabilitation rather than punishment. It is a temporary state in which individuals can choose to be taught, repent, come to Christ, and progress. Ultimately, hell can also describe outer darkness, a permanent place reserved for the devil and his followers, including those who, even after receiving a body, being taught, and having every imaginable opportunity to change, deny the truth staring them in the face and choose to defect to perdition. Those who choose to join Satan in outer darkness will feel ­anguish—not just because they have chosen to reject repentance and suffer for their own sins but because their progress will be forever blocked and they will have no one to blame but themselves (see Helaman 14:29–31). . . .

The Savior Makes Exaltation Possible

Salvation also means obtaining eternal life or being exalted. Many Christians see immortality and eternal life as the same thing, but Latter-day Saints understand they are different. The Lord said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Immortality describes living forever, and eternal life describes the life lived by our Heavenly Parents. Elder Bruce C. Hafen wrote that eternal life refers not to length of life but to quality of life, which “involves the long-term, difficult, gradual development of the capacity to live like Christ” (Bruce C. Hafen, “The Value of the Veil,” Ensign, June 1977).

Elder Oaks has written, “This salvation requires more than repentance and baptism by appropriate priesthood authority. It also requires the making of sacred covenants, including eternal marriage, in the temples of God, and faithfulness to those covenants by enduring to the end.”2 Because of these expectations, some people assume that we are saved by grace but exalted by our own works. This is not the case. Exaltation is a gift of grace. It is grace at its finest. Grace can not only get us to heaven, but it can give us the desire to stay. This type of salvation offers victory over our first estate (premortality) and our second estate (mortal life) and constitutes the opportunity to be changed and become like God. This transformation is not possible on our own. This salvation, and the sense of mission it provides, reveals the true greatness of Christ’s Atonement as it opens both the gates and windows of heaven.

Lead image public domain

Learn more with Brad Wilcox's new book, Changed Through His Grace!

In this book, Brother Wilcox uses real-life stories and personal experiences to demonstrate how we can choose to receive Christ's grace more fully. This book is filled with hope. God's help is not a prize for the righteous. It is the source of righteousness. His grace is not a reward for the worth. It is the source of worthiness. It is not waiting for us once we change. It is the power we need throughout the entire perfecting process.


Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content