Grace is a beautiful name for girls. I first became aware of the name in my childhood or youth when I learned about Grace Kelly. Now I have a granddaughter with Grace as her middle name. Grace is an attribute that we recognize in others, such as “She was a gracious hostess” or “He is graceful when he dances.”
Grace is also a gospel principle that many people have difficulty understanding. I thought that I understood it fairly well until I attended Time Out for Women (TOFW) last weekend and learned about grace from Brad Wilcox. Many of his remarks can be found in his book titled Changed through His Grace and in this article titled “What We’ve Misunderstood about Grace.” In this post I will share the notes that I took at TOFW.
Wilcox began his talk by sharing a quote given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at General Conference: “Come as you are but don’t expect to stay that way.” He then proceeded to describe “grace” as “good will or favor given with compassion.” He said that grace is how God engages with us as we strive to become like him. He quoted President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as saying in 2015, “Grace is divine assistance,” meaning that grace can be seen in our lives as it changes us. He quoted Sheri Dew as saying, “Grace is not the Atonement. Grace is the power that the Atonement makes available to us.”
We read in Doctrine and Covenants 88:33: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” God does not continue to offer gifts if we are not willing to receive them. Maybe parents can learn something from His example.
Wilcox shared part of the first verse of the hymn “I Stand All Amazed” with us: “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me.” He then explained that there is a difference between “offer” and “proffer.” While dictionaries say that the two words mean basically the same, Wilcox said “offer” means to make something available while “proffer” means to put something in one’s hands. In other words, I can offer food by making it available, but I would proffer it by actually serving it to an individual. Jesus makes his love available to us, but He puts grace in our hands.
Wilcox said that “grace” is like scholarships in that it is given to help us improve but it does not actually do the work for us. The Lord gives us a little bit of knowledge. If we accept the principle and make it part of our lives, He gives us a little bit more. We read the following in
2 Nephi 28:30:
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
This principle is clearly shown in the Parable of the Talents. The master plans to go on a trip. He gives one servant five talents, one servant two talents, and one servant one talent before he left. When the master returned he learned that the five talents had become ten and the two talents had become four, and he praised the two servants. He also learned that the one talent had been buried and had not increased. The master took the one talent and gave it to the servant who had ten. (See Matthew 25.) This principle is also taught in the Doctrine and Covenants where we read: “For unto him that receiveth it shall be given more abundantly, even power” (Doctrine and Covenants 71:6).
Wilcox compared “talents” with “books” and “kingdom of God” with “library” by sharing how he deals with his grandchildren. He gives each grandchild a book when they are born because he knows books will help develop language. He continues to give books to them as they learn to read. When they report to him that they read a book, he gives them more books. This is the way God bestows His gifts. When we show him that we appreciate what He has already given to us, He gives us more. As we receive ordinances and make covenants with God, we are prepared to receive and make more. Wilcox said that the endowment is a story of how we receive and engage in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Have you been changed by the story?
Wilcox said that Jesus Christ accepted the Kirtland Temple – flaws and all – and does the same with us. We must remember that change takes time and that change without challenge is not change at all. Wilcox shared an experience from high school when he learned that it did not matter whether he was in the front of the bus or the back of the bus because the bus would take him safely home no matter where he sat. He then emphasized that the important thing for us is to stay in the “bus,” meaning our covenant relationship with God. If we stay in our covenant relationship (the bus), Jesus (the bus) will get us safely home. When we need assistance, we should not look down or to the side, but we should look up for divine assistance. We should look up for grace. Grace is the source of righteousness and worthiness and the power that helps us change.