“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Many of us seem to break out into hives when this scripture is mentioned. A while back I read a comment about this scripture (by a member of the church) that suggested the “after all we can do” should be left off the next time someone uses it in a talk. What does “all we can do” mean, and why does it bother us?
Obviously, it does not literally mean, ALL we can do. That would doom us all. How many of us have not done all we can do? I have already slacked off enough to be sent straight to the Telestial Kingdom on this logic. I have not done ALL I could do, and don’t plan on doing it all in the future. It’s just not possible. How many months have you missed Home/Visiting teaching? Well, I guess you didn’t do ALL you could do then. Sorry about that.
If “all we can do” does not really mean “all we can do,” what does it mean? Some have suggested that it means we do all we can to repent. But can we really do this either? I do not think it is possible. Not to steady the ark, but perhaps the scripture should say, “We can do “all we can do” WITH grace, and be saved.” I recently watched Schindler’s List, and a scene towards the end exemplifies what “all we can do” may mean. Schindler, who by no means was a perfect man (member of the Nazi party, had a few mistresses, etc.) realizes that he could have saved more Jews if he had of sold his car or his gold pin. He realizes, with some despair, that he HAD NOT done all he could do. This entire clip is about 10 minutes, but skip ahead to the 6:50 mark for the relevant scene (stop it around 8:50).
I believe a man like this is saved, not because of his works (which were amazing), but because he was converted. To me, that is all we can do: be converted, i.e. have a change of heart. Is that not the ultimate purpose of Christian religion, regardless of dogma? So why an emphasis on works in LDS theology? What are they for? I believe they are meant specifically to aid us in our conversion, in our change of heart:
“Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses their works; but the law of Moses their works did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.” ~Alma 25:16
In the movie, Oskar Schindler’s works brought him to a place in his life where a change of heart was possible. Salvation does not come by the law (works) but by faith in Christ. The purpose of the commandments is to strengthen our faith in Christ. All we can do is to have a change of heart.