Heavenly Father wants all of His children to return to Him. The help or strength He gives us through the love of Jesus Christ is called grace. The things we must do are called works.
To gain eternal life, we need both grace and works. A Christian author, C. S. Lewis, compared grace and works to the blades of a pair of scissors. Both are necessary. To ask “Are you saved by grace or works?” is like asking “Do you cut with this blade or that one?”
We receive God’s grace because of the Atonement. We can’t raise ourselves from the dead, so the Resurrection is an example of His grace. We can’t purify ourselves from sin, so the Lord’s forgiveness is another example of grace. But before He will forgive us, we must repent—that’s our part, our works.
Besides repentance, our works also include receiving ordinances, keeping covenants, and serving others. While these works are necessary for salvation, they aren’t sufficient. They are not enough because we can’t live perfect lives, but we can do our best to live righteously. By doing so, we invite the Lord’s grace into our lives and qualify for the gift of salvation.
If your friends ask, “Does your church believe you are saved by grace or works?” you could say, “We believe that we are saved by grace after all we can do (see 2 Ne. 25:23). We don’t earn salvation. Heavenly Father and the Savior will bless us with eternal life, through Their grace, if we do our part. They have asked us to have faith in Jesus Christ, repent throughout our lives, be baptized and receive other ordinances, and faithfully endure to the end. If we do that, we are promised eternal life through the grace of God.”
“After all our obedience and good works, we cannot be saved from the effect of our sins without the grace extended by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
—Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “What Think Ye of Christ?” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 67.
To learn more about grace and works, read these scriptures: