Latter-day Saint Life

What Does "All We Can Do" Actually Mean? A Look at 2 Nephi 25:23


There is a phrase in 2 Nephi 25:23 that Latter-day Saints are likely very familiar with, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.” But what does that mean? What is all we can do? Is Nephi telling us we need to do more than we are doing or is he simply saying to do your best? And what is grace, this thing that is supposed to save us, anyway?

On this week’s podcast, Emily Belle Freeman shares what she has learned about why “after all we can do” should actually be invigorating and empowering, rather than overwhelming.

Read Emily’s thoughts in the podcast excerpt below or listen to the whole episode here. You can also read a full transcript of the conversation here.

Morgan Jones: You talk in the book about what that phrase, "after all we can do," really means, or what it's come to mean to you. What does that phrase mean to you?

Emily Belle Freeman: Okay, so every study of Grace has to begin with that scripture, right? In 2 Nephi 25:23, "By grace we are saved after all we can do."

Morgan Jones: I think it's interesting. So you talked about how in our church, we don't talk about [grace] as much. In other churches, they talk about grace, we've seen that with our Christian friends. We see how much they talk about grace. And I wonder if maybe the reason we don't talk about it as much is because we feel intimidated by that scripture in 2 Nephi.

Emily Belle Freeman: Yes, I think that could be so true. And we've heard a lot of people teach about that verse and try and help us reconcile that in our mind. And it's one that I have thought about a lot, but particularly after that conversation with [my daughter and her friend] because I was like, "What was Nephi trying to tell us?" And the thought of that made me think, "Yeah, what was Nephi trying to tell us?" And instead of going to general conference talks, or other people who have talked about it, or little articles written on that one verse, I thought, "I'm going to go into all of chapter 25 and I'm going to see what was Nephi trying to tell us." And something really significant happened in that moment, because as I started reading, I realized there is one phrase that is repeated in chapter 25 so many times, that it is not there by coincidence. And it is the phrase, "believe in Christ," and it happens over and over again. "This is what you've got to do. You've got to believe in Christ, you've got to teach your children to believe in Christ. If you can just believe in Christ," he keeps telling you over and over again. And when I got through reading it, I was like, Nephi is telling us, "all we can do is believe in Christ." If we look at that chapter, we realize that's the message: All we can do is believe in Christ. And I can believe in Christ. I can do that.

 You may also like: Brad Wilcox: Grace—Common Ground or Battleground?

Morgan Jones: Yeah, that's doable. I love that. I love that paradigm shift . . . . Because I do think it's intimidating if we look at that verse by itself. It's like, "Okay, how much is all I can do?"

Emily Belle Freeman: Yes. And it makes us start evaluating every single day by thinking, "Okay, have I done my all I can do?" Instead of thinking, "What have I done with Christ?" Since that time, I've actually changed how I talk to myself at the end of a day, because instead of thinking, "How did I do?" I commonly will ask the question, "How did we do today?" Because I find myself not going through the day by myself anymore. I find that in the morning, I wake up and I anticipate Jesus Christ will be part of that day. I expect His grace to be part of what I am doing everywhere, everywhere, in my home, in my work, in my relationships. I expect that He's going to show up. And at the end of the day, I look back and I think, "We did some really good things today . . . we are doing good things." Because it's not me, I'm not doing those good things, I'm not capable of those good things. I'm not smart enough, I don't have enough energy for those things. But in Christ, I am made capable. And there's something so empowering at the end of the day of realizing we did this. We did it. Not I did it, but we did it.

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