What Does It Mean to Be Saved by Grace “After All We Can Do?”

After sharing a sermon by his brother Jacob about the Atonement, Nephi quoted extensively from the book of Isaiah. He explained that his reason for quoting these two other witnesses was to “[prove] unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). He then proceeded to share his own testimony “according to my plainness; in the which I know that no man can err” (2 Nephi 25:7).

What was his testimony? That the Jews would be scattered, that Babylon would be destroyed, and that the Messiah would come to save His people. At the heart of his testimony, he switches from the singular pronoun “I” to the plural “we,” and makes the following statement:

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).

What does it mean to be saved by grace “after all we can do?”

Nephi clearly believed in working hard. He says so at the beginning of that verse: “We labor diligently.” But he also knew that salvation comes by the grace of God. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. It is a gift freely given to those who are willing to receive it.

What can we do to receive it, then? Nephi lists two actions we can take:

  1. Believe in Christ.
  2. Be reconciled to God.

Since the second one is in the passive voice, it’s worth noting that Jacob gave the same admonition using an active verb: “reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh,” he said. Then, he added, “remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:24). In other words, do everything you can to receive the gift, but don’t assume when you receive it that you have somehow earned it.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf cautioned us against a misinterpretation of the word “after” in Nephi’s testimony:

“After” does not equal “because.”
We are not saved “because” of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?…
I am certain Nephi knew that the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin. This is why Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren “to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.”
After all, that is what we can do! And that is our task in mortality! (“The Gift of Grace,” General Conference, April 2015).

I’m grateful for Nephi’s reminder that we are saved by grace. Today, I will recommit to do all that I can do to receive the gifts which my Heavenly Father wants to give me because of His grace. I will remember that the greatest blessings in life cannot be earned; they must be given, and they must be received. I will work to receive the gift by believing in Jesus Christ and by submitting my will to the will of the Father—reconciling my will with His.

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