2nd Nephi 25:23 is generally misunderstood by evangelicals, and unfortunately, too often by Latter-day Saints. It says: "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".
Robert Millet explains that “this does not mean that we must do everything we can do BEFORE Christ can assist us. This is not about chronology. Further, who do you know who has or will ever do ALL they can do? Grace is not just that final boost into heaven that God provides at the end of a well-lived life, although we obviously will need all the help we can get. Rather, the Almighty assists us all along the way, every second of every minute of every hour of every day, all through our lives. It does not mean that we will carry the bulk of the load to salvation and Jesus will fill in the gaps; he is not the God of the gaps. Our contribution to glory hereafter, when compared to his, is infinitesimal and minuscule. If I might be permitted a paraphrase of what the passage stated, “We are saved by grace, above and beyond all we can do, notwithstanding all we can do, in spite of all we can do” ("Claiming Christ", p. 188).
Misinterpreting this means that people could be guilty of practically attempting to save themselves—“a works-righteousness that discounts, understates, underappreciates, and even sets at naught the mighty work performed by our Savior and Redeemer” (Millet, p. 189). Yet by having full faith in Christ, even "faith unto repentance", we are encircled "in the arms of safety" (Alma 34:16).
Personally, when I compare this verse with all the other teachings of Nephi and the rest of the Book of Mormon, it is clear that "even after all we can do, it is still by grace that we are saved." We cannot save ourselves. There is a reason why the Savior is called the Savior. In other words, "after all is said and done, or after all we can do (which comparatively isn't much)--we are saved by the grace of Christ." And that's why we rejoice!
This is much more in line with LDS teaching on this aspect of grace, as well as with all the other scriptures in the Book of Mormon which eloquently state the doctrine of salvation by grace; and that we need grace here and now, not only after or at the end of our lives. After all, Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer, not just a “wise consultant” or “celestial cheerleader”.
It is so critical to understand this, and to not misunderstand this. Stephen E. Robinson has even stated that in that passage, “all we can do” is have faith in Christ. This is made clear in the following verses, particularly 25:26, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” Moreover, the Book of Mormon elsewhere states that “all we can do” is to repent and turn to Christ. (Alma 24:10-11).
As fellow blogger, Papa D, has written: "Of course, we are to try to do all that we can do, but exactly what we can do pales in comparison to what He has done - saved us by His grace regardless of what we can do. It takes the pressure off of us and puts the focus where it should be - on His incomprehensible grace that so fully he proffers us."
Finally, another possible interpretation is that the "we" in "all we can do" might actually be referring to just Nephi and his fellow prophets, not an "impossible standard that is required” of humankind before God grants forgiveness and salvation, but of the "efforts he and his brethren have put forth to write and persuade".
Katie writes: "To rephrase it, might he be saying, “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 after all we can do [to write and persuade], it is [ultimately] by the grace [of Christ] that we are saved.”
"Framed this way, Nephi is NOT making a sweeping statement about the necessity of each man and woman to turn to Christ only AFTER you’ve done the best you can; but instead is acknowledging that the work he does is insufficient, for it is by GRACE that he is saved, even after all he does."
The Trials of Cora Birdsall, part 13
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