Reg Christensen lives in the Midwest with his wife, Carol. They have seven children and seventeen grandchildren. Reg has fulfilled a variety of callings in the Church and he and Carol have been blessed with many service opportunities as Pathway missionaries and service volunteers at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, to mention a few. While living in Jerusalem, they served in the Bethlehem branch, Carol as the Relief Society president and Reg as the branch president. His happy times come from being with family and friends, reading, writing, woodworking, leathercrafting, exploring nature, and blessing lives with his handyman skills. He has published several books including, Unlocking Isaiah: Lessons and Insights that Draw Us to the Savior.

Enter Reg…

During our mortality we will each have our share of difficult things to accomplish. As an example of the Lord’s grace, I once contracted to install carpeting in an old historic church building. It was beyond my capacity as a sole installer of our part- time flooring business, but I accepted it anyway at the urging of my brother. He was serving as bishop of his ward and the old stone church was their meeting place.

They received delivery of the carpeting and made the necessary preparations for the installation crew but were then disappointed at the news that the installers were delayed in another state and would not be able to come. That is when my brother called me and persuaded me to do the work.

The Lord’s Helping Hand

Sometimes we see the helping hand of the Lord more clearly in hindsight than in present view. Sometimes in looking back at life events, we may be awed that we survived. Such was the case with this job.

We had a fall vacation for several days from my profession, so I loaded my tools and traveled to the community of the old church and began assessing and preparing to accomplish the task. After working intently for several days, the major areas were finished, and a plan was in place to complete the balance of the work over the coming several weekends. I recruited an occasional helper but was mostly on my own.

At the conclusion I was proud of my effort and relieved that it was finished. I probably boasted a bit to my family and some friends about my accomplishment. I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction to have amassed the tools and needed skills to do what had to be done and to have met a seeming insurmountable challenge with success.

It brought me joy to use my earnings to provide a new computer system for our growing family in that day when such things were just coming into vogue.

With the passage of the decades and with some further maturing, it was clear to me that the grace of Heavenly Parents and of our Savior enabled me to do what had to be done.

Enabling Support

We accomplish nothing physically or spiritually without their enabling support. At every angle and level we may consider, success comes from Them.

They created me and gave me the physical body and strength to work. They inspired all skills, knowledge, and sense of reason. They provided the raw materials for the product and the tools. They give us food to eat, water to drink, and air to breathe. We would be nothing and could do nothing without Them.

Although sometimes a bit slow to remember, I do try to acknowledge “his hand in all things.” And of course, I also recognize that for progress to occur, we need to be willing to exert effort—to pick up the tools and materials provided and go to work. God cannot work through us if we will not work, which is the law of the harvest. We cannot hope for a bountiful harvest if we fail to plant.

Works and Grace

For most of my adult lifetime, I have been cognizant of the banter between salvation by faith or by works. Are we saved exclusively through the Lord’s grace, or do our works evenly balance the scale? This statement from C.S. Lewis helps clarify the matter for me:

“Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade of a pair of scissors is most necessary.”

You see, we are now trying to understand, and to separate into water-tight compartments, what exactly God does and what man does when God and man are working together.

The Lord’s grace and our works are essential to our salvation, but we sometimes get confused about the context and function of each. I might have been tempted to arrogantly consider that I had developed the skills and the strength to do the carpet job, keeping God out of it. However, let Him, for example, just withhold my oxygen for a few moments and see how well I do. I believe that we are absolutely, unequivocally guided and enabled by the Lord’s grace.

Do We Trust the Lord’s Power

Are we saved by grace or by works? This is the wrong question.

The right question is, do I trust the Lord and His power to guide, heal, and collaborate with me in my progression, and, as a result, does my life (my works) reflect my desire to love and serve Him?

Hypothetically, we might receive every ordinance, keep every commandment, and develop every talent, but without the Atonement, our spiritual progress would be stopped. There is no salvation except by and through the grace of God. As Nephi taught,

“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.” 2 Nephi 25:23

Grace Enables All of Our Work

Grace is not some delayed super-power that kicks in after we do what we can—grace enables all of our work and effort even from the outset, which work we could not do without Their divine assistance.

The sweet definition of grace in the Bible dictionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states,

“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. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”

Elder Dieter Uchtdorf explained,

“A powerful expression of that love is what the scriptures often call the grace of God—the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted beings of “truth and light, until [we are] glorified in truth and [know] all things (See D&C 93:28).”

On another occasion, he taught,

“I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.”

So Why Work?

So how do our works relate to the grace that saves us? If we are not saved by our works, why work? We work to practice living the type of life that the Lord is preparing us for by His grace.

Our work refines in us the desired outcome bequeathed to us through the Lord’s grace. Our good works are the natural outcome of our acceptance of the grace of God.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught,

 “Man unquestionably has impressive powers and can bring to pass great things by tireless efforts and indomitable will. But after all our obedience and good works, we cannot be saved from the effect of our sins without the grace extended by the atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Bruce C. Hafen said it this way:

“The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must “repay” him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character.”

We Are Learning Not Earning

An inspired gospel teacher, Brad Wilcox, taught,

“I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.” I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”

John the Revelator reminds us that salvation is free for all through the Atonement of Christ,

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelations 22:17

The Purpose of Mortality

Our “work,” through our adherence to the laws of Christ and our Heavenly Parents and acceptance of Their saving ordinances, is an expression of our gratitude for Their divine grace.

Yes, they could have magically installed the carpeting in the old church. They could also shield us from all temptation and sorrow, but They have already attained Their exaltation and desire that we, through our work and service, learn of, prepare for, and become accustomed to living as They live.

That is the purpose of our mortality—to practice living as God lives. Such living requires our work, but it is happy living, for “men are, that they might have joy.”

Under the great eternal plan of happiness of our Heavenly Parents, there is no intention nor provision for our complete perfection during the time of our mortal probation—but we keep that as our goal.

We just need to accept the grace gratefully and humbly offered to us and work consistently to be the best we can be, given our human frailty. We do want to make as much progress as we can.

C.S Lewis taught,

“On the one hand, we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as “decent” people. If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.”

President Brigham Young declared,

“It requires all the Atonement of Christ, the mercy of the Father, the pity of angels and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with us always, and then to do the very best we possibly can, to get rid of this sin within us, so that we may escape from this world into the celestial kingdom.”

The Power of a Changing Heart

The more we manifest our gratitude for the Lord’s grace through our change of heart toward the principles of progression, the happier and more contented we become.

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