Grace: Leads to Godliness
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When the word "grace" is mentioned in a religious context one usually thinks of the saving grace that is made available to us through the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God.
However, this is not the meaning of the word I wish to explore, nor do I wish to examine the concept of grace as being full of good manners and proper etiquette. The grace under consideration here is a virtue.
Peter counseled the Saints in his day to "grow in grace" (2 Peter 3:18). In this dispensation the Lord reminded us that the Savior "received not the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace until he received the fulness" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:13). The Prophet Joseph taught that each of us who hope to become like our Heavenly Father and His Son must do so "by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 346-7).
The dictionary defines this type of grace with some most helpful descriptive phrases. Grace is a "sense of what is right and proper" (Webster's New World Dictionary (1966) p. 324). It is a disposition to act with "kindness, courtesy or clemency (mercy)" (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary — grace).
The virtue of grace involves developing and acquiring the attributes of godliness. These qualities include such attributes as being patient, forgiving, thoughtful, kind, pleasant, loving and peaceful. People who develop the virtue of grace will become selfless in their nature. They will concern themselves with others, particularly those who are discouraged or are feeling neglected. Like the Savior, those who radiate grace will draw others to them because of their pleasant nonabrasive nature.
The Savior came to possess grace in its fulness. He clearly came to understand the proper way to respond in every circumstance in life. He was not burdened with the constant need of seeking forgiveness of others because of inappropriate or untimely behavior. He did not try to place Himself above others, rather He concerned Himself with the needs of others. Jesus did not win favor with men because He condoned their inappropriate behavior nor did He lose favor because He abruptly condemned them in their sinful state. As with the woman taken in adultery, the Savior's objective was with grace to encourage and motivate her to desire to make necessary changes and "go and sin no more" (John 8:11).
A person filled with grace inspires others to emulate him or her because of their capacity to love. Of the Savior John wrote, "we love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
Jesus was so gracious to others in part because He knew who He was and He understood His divine destiny. He knew the Father's love for Him was not fickle or transitory. He drew strength from graciously lifting and lightening others' burdens and by loving them enough to inspire them to live righteous lives. It was not the Savior's dashing fashionable appearance that drew people to Him. Indeed, Isaiah foretold "when we see him there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2). Rather, it was His inner goodness and grace which caused others to be drawn to Him. He was optimistic and cheerful and in spite of His own impending death and troubled times that lay ahead, His encouragement to all who follow Him was to "be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Because of Jesus Christ we can more fully develop the virtues associated with grace. We have every reason to take His counsel and "come follow me" (Luke 18:22).
Clyde Williams of the Mount Jordan 7th Ward, Sandy Utah Mount Jordan Stake, is a Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU and a member of the Correlation Materials Review Committee for the Church.