There has been talk in my Sunday school about grace vs works lately, and it seems that no two Mormons can agree on the matter. If you ask the question, "Are we saved by grace or by works?" you might hear either one, but the most popular answer seems to be "both".
How wrong that is. How very, very wrong. How someone could spend X number of years in the Church and think that works has anything to do with being saved is beyond me. According to our scriptures, both the Bible and other uniquely LDS scripture, we are saved totally and 100% by grace. Not only are we not saved by works, but we aren't even partially saved by works. It isn't a question of doing the best you can and God making up the difference. This mode of thinking is reinforced by such stories as The Parable of the Bicycle. I hate that stupid parable.
I don't really want to get into why we are saved by grace and not by works, because it isn't really even an up-for-debate topic. Church doctrine is clear on this, even if many a Sunday school teacher is not. I do want to address the fact that a great deal of Mormons seem to think that we are saved, at least in part, by works. I had a thought after reading an exit letter from an ex-mormon stating her reasons for leaving the Church. I won't get into names and details, but I don't need to because it's a common theme among exit letters. The author often begins by explaining how they were the model Mormon for years and years, how they tried to be perfect in every way, maybe even held positions of authority, served missions, made a million casseroles for their sick neighbours, or whatever. Then they describe how they weren't happy, even though they were trying so hard to be perfect. In the particular letter I'm thinking of, the person left the LDS church for another Christian church, where the emphasis was not on responsibility or actions in the least bit, but simply a matter of declaring belief in Jesus Christ and leaving it at that.
All I can say is that it's no wonder people get burnt out if they think they're saved by works. What a chore, trying to do Christ's job! Trying to be perfect? I may as well try to reach my tongue out and lick the moon. I'm not saying works don't have their place, nor am I saying that we need to all start slacking off so that we can be happy, but perhaps our desire for perfection in the here-and-now is shooting us in the foot. In my opinion, it leads a lot of people giving up on trying to actually be perfect and settling for the appearance of perfection, or just giving up all together. Our works should be inspired by our love of humanity, not our fear of hellfire. We should be so filled with gratitude for the grace of being saved that we want to pour out our hearts and our lives to others.
Not to mention, it's a little ungrateful trying to take (albeit partial) credit for what Christ has done for us. Let's focus on our works as a means of saying thank-you, instead.