As the ward primary chorister I teach the children to sing the article of faith songs; this month it's the third article of faith. While I primarily teach the gospel through music, there are many times when I feel the need to clarify what they're actually singing about so that they don't misunderstand. I fear that many within (as well as outside) the Mormon faith do this all too easily when they read the third article of faith. It states: "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel."
My concern lies in taking three words out of context--saved by obedience--and getting a distorted picture of how this whole salvation thing is supposed to work. Thankfully the language in the third article of faith (“all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel”) is clarified in the fourth article of faith: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, Repentance, third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” Then to those who obey these principles God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit ("fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”).
But since we don't sing the fourth article of faith until next month, I'll try to make sure those kids don't miss the most sublime and important point--the Atonement of Christ saves. The only crucial "laws and principles" for which our obedience is of upmost importance is having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repenting. Those two principles represent the real good news--Christ has us covered (see 2nd Nephi 2: 6-7, Alma 12: 33-34). I feel dismayed at how many people get stuck on a "do it yourself" salvation mentality--as if they can work out their own salvation if they're just obedient enough. (Let me know how that goes!)
When we sing "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me", I would hope that no Mormon would ever be confused about grace as though it were a foreign concept. Rather, I would hope we're all amazed and confused at how all emcompasing that amazing grace truly is, especially being applied to mortals like us who don't deserve it.
With that said, I'd like to share my current favorite analogy here--The Parable of the Pie. I was first introduced to the parable here, but its author (Pyschochemiker) recently wrote it out in greater detail here. I quote it below, with some minor edits:
THE PARABLE OF THE PIE:
If I bake a pie (imagine your favorite, mine’s definitely blackberry), and invite you over, even when you don’t deserve it, cut a piece out, hand you a fork, and put some ice cream on top. Now there’s a choice, you could sit there and talk about how nice it was for me to make the pie, and talk about how good of a baker I am, or how awesome I am to not require you to do anything to get the pie. But until you choose to actually eat any of the pie, you won’t really know how good it tastes. Would you have gained from the pie without having eaten it, no. Yet, would you really claim boasting rights, or consider it an achievement that you actually ate the pie. Of course not.
From the Mormon point of view, eating the pie is the equivalent of [having faith in Christ, repentance], submitting to baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost...[followed by] a life of discipleship. That is how you “come unto Christ.” That’s how you partake of His grace. But just like we didn’t earn the pie, we also don’t enjoy it unless we eat it.
[One might ask]: “Have I not then become, in a sense, a co-savior with Christ?”
And I would answer: “Not unless you also become a co-baker with me for eating my pie.”
The pie is the salvation that Christ has prepared for us, but we MUST choose to follow him, yet we don’t earn the salvation. He moved first, He provides, He saves, but we must react positively and obediently to His message. “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, if ye do not the things which I say unto you.”
Now it’s true Christ doesn’t cut the slice out for everyone, and doesn’t hand the fork to everyone, but He has made the pie for everyone, and invited everyone to come and have some. Those who know the sweetness of that pie, know that Christ is the Baker thereof, and we [wouldn't trade it for any other substitute]."