To help clear things up now rather than later on in the article, I am defining living in a state of grace as a life that is constantly free of unrepentant sin. We all have sin, but we have the ability to be forgiven of those sins. A life full of the grace of God is a life that has experienced continual repentance so that forgiveness is also continual.

Interview with the Savior

Now that I have given away the ending, let’s go back to the beginning of our topic. The purpose of Elder Klebingat’s talk is to help us believe that there is a way for each of us to live a life that is constantly in a state of approval by the Savior; that we can, indeed, live in a state of confidence before God. As he put it in his talk:

What thoughts come to mind if you had a personal interview with your Savior one minute from now? Would sins, regrets, and shortcomings dominate your self-image, or would you simply experience joyful anticipation? Would you meet or avoid His gaze? Would you linger by the door or confidently walk up to Him?

My question, the one that repeated itself over and over again in my head while he was speaking, was, “Is it really possible to live in a state of constant forgiveness, so that I have nothing for which I need be ashamed?” Apparently the answer is yes.

This opens all kinds of mental possibilities. This means I can live in such a way that I need not be embarrassed to approach the Lord about anything in my life, because everything in my life has already been brought to Him and we have already settled the score. This means I can act from hour to hour each day, confident in my position before my maker, that I am approved of and loved by Him. I can do my church work with love for others and confidence in myself because I know that the Lord accepts my efforts and is with me constantly, helping me, guiding me, teaching me, correcting me, and loving me through it all. What a marvelous feeling that would be!

Six steps: 1-4

Elder Klebingat gives six steps to help us see where we need to change things in our lives and fix what is broken. The more of these we fix, the more we will experience the joys, and confidence we desire to have before God.

  1. Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being. We all make excuses for why we don’t obey all the commandments. If you don’t make excuses then you are already completely repentant and can move on to the next step. If not, then stop and consider why you choose to disobey one commandment or another. What do you really believe you are getting from committing that particular sin? When we are ready to reconcile our lives with God’s commandments, we have to realize that all our sins and indiscretions have to go away. We have to be willing to let it all go so there is no guilt in our minds or hearts when we get on our knees in prayer.
  2. Take responsibility for your own physical well-being. Just look at my picture and you will see that I have blissfully ignored this counsel for many years. Lack of understanding has not been a problem, lack of discipline and care for myself have been the problem. Eating well may not always be possible, but eating as wisely as we can under our physical circumstances can always be done. Exercising helps us keep our bodies healthy and strong.

I think the most important lesson I learned from this section of his talk is that the Spirit has to work with both the spirit and the body simultaneously. Having a strong spirit in an unhealthy and ill-kempt body dulls the ability of the Spirit to talk to us. Because of this impaired line of communication, we also don’t feel the joy and comfort to the degree we could if our bodies were well taken care of. If we want the best out of our spiritual life, we must tame our physical body to be the servant of our spirit.

  1. Embrace voluntary, wholehearted obedience as part of your life. This harks back to my first statement about needing to obey all commandments, not just the ones that are easy. This effort to feel the full embrace of the Savior’s love and acceptance requires that we fully embrace what he has given us, the commandments. We must prize them, cherish them, and live by each of them to the best of our current ability.

Remember that casualness in spiritual matters never was happiness. Make the Church and the restored gospel your whole life, not just a part of your outward or social life. … Spiritual confidence increases when you are truly striving for the right reasons, to live a consecrated life in spite of your imperfections!

Note that he does not say we have to have already conquered all our weaknesses. He says that as long as we are trying, and keeping the commandments for the right reasons, our spiritual confidence will grow. That is enough for me.

  1. Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly. Ask anyone who has repented of something if they are now perfect. I guarantee their answer will be no. To be forgiven does not mean to have become perfect, it only means that we have been forgiven of what we did wrong. Perfection is the goal, and will not come until much later in the next life. For now, we need to take everything we mess up to the Lord and plead for forgiveness.

Six steps: 5-6

Forgiveness is where the grace comes in. It is His grace that allows us to be forgiven for our sins. This is why we are so willing to do anything in our power to be worthy of that grace, that forgiveness. We are asking God for help with something we cannot do for ourselves. We live the commandments, we put forth the effort to be Christlike in our behavior and we seek to learn to love as God loves, because we know that it is by His grace alone that we can be forgiven of our own imperfections. And God does not forgive those who only give lip service. He forgives those who strive to be obedient to his commandments.

The better we are at learning to repent and bring our lives into line with the commandments, and forsaking our evil tendencies, the more of His grace will attend us, and the happier we will be, and the more confidence we will develop before the Lord. Confidence is the result of bringing our lives in line with God’s will. We can get it no other way.

  1. Become really, really good at forgiving. It makes sense to me that if I want to be forgiven, I must first learn to let the trespasses of those around me go. If I can’t forgive my brother, then why should I expect the Lord to forgive me? If I am unwilling to let the Lord be my brother’s judge, and pray God will be merciful to my brother, despite his imperfections, then how can I expect the Lord to be merciful to me, despite my imperfections? What goes around, comes around. Being able and willing to forgive others is a requirement of personal forgiveness. Personal forgiveness will not come any other way.
  2. Accept trials, setbacks, and “surprises” as part of your mortal experience. This is the item where we are told that life is about more than just me. (I know, hard to imagine, isn’t it?) Because the Lord does not interfere with anyone’s agency, almost anything is possible in mortality. The point is this – it is not what happens in mortality, but how we deal with it that counts. If we are forgiving others for their wrongdoings, taking our sins to the Lord and seeking to live in step with all the commandments, if we are trying to learn to love others as the Lord loves each of us, then the Lord can take any tragedy of life and turn it into a character-building lesson that will make us stronger and more resilient, more forgiving, and more loving, more humble, and more full of joy. (Congratulate yourself, you just read a 76 word sentence!)

Living in a state of grace – of forgiveness of our sins – sounds like a great way to live. But it takes effort – conscious, thought out, awareness on our part to achieve. It has to be something we seek for, not just hope happens someday. But using these six steps will set us on the right course, and will help us find the joy that only those who have tasted of forgiveness (grace) will ever know.

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LDSBlogs – Living in a State of Grace