If you were to ask me if I believe in being saved by grace, or saved by works, I would have to answer both. As I contemplate this subject, it occurs to me that maybe I should explain my definition of some of these words. The words "works", and "grace", might have different meanings to other people.
The "works" mentioned aren't good deeds. I don't believe that you earn your way to heaven by doing good deeds. Oh, I helped an old lady across the street....one more notch on my heaven meter! :) No, when I use the term "works", I'm referring to repentance. Romans 3:23 tells us, " For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." As fallible human beings, we all sin. 1 John 3:4 teaches us: " Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." We have been given commandments, or laws in the Bible. The ten commandments were given us and when we break those commandments, we commit sin. In addition, when the Savior taught the beattitudes, he took these commandments to a higher level. He taught us a higher way to think about the commandments. Revelations refers to the judgement day when we will be judged by our works: Rev. 20:12 "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
Repentance alone cannot ever make us worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. We aren't even worthy to approach the judgement seat to ask for mercy. It took someone without sin to be the mediator for us. The "grace" that we speak of is the grace of Jesus Christ to volunteer to be that mediator for us. He suffered for the sins of the world so that if we repent, we can be forgiven. Galatians 2:16: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
A modern day Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson said,"The question is sometimes asked, 'Are Mormons Christians?' We declare the divinity of Jesus Christ. We look to Him as the only source of our salvation. We strive to live His teachings, and we look forward to the time that He shall come again on this earth to rule and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the words of a Book of Mormon prophet, we say to men today, 'There [is] no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent' (Mosiah 3:17)."
I once read a story about a little girl who asked her father if he would buy her a bicycle. He told her to save up her money, and then one day she would be able to buy one. She saved her money for a long time, then one day came to her father and said, "I have saved up my money, can we go buy a bicycle now?" Her father took her to the store and let her pick out a bike. Then he asked her to put her money on the counter. She took out several dollars worth of change. The father then made up the difference so that she could purchase the bike. This is what Jesus Christ's atonement does for us. We give all that we can give to try to repent, then his sacrifice makes up the difference that we could never do on our own. It wouldn't be fair to us as His children, for God the Father to deny us the opportunity to try to make up for wrongs that we do. We must be allowed to suffer consequences for our behavior, because this is how we progress and learn. If Jesus Christ's atonement did not require us to suffer consequences, that would not be fair to us a children who are trying to progress and learn.
In order for Christ's atoning sacrifice to take effect in our lives, we must have faith in Him, and look to Him as the only one who can pay that additional price for us. Romans 3: 23-31
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be ajust, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"
Some believe that faith in Christ's atonement is enough. They believe that if you only believe, you will be saved, no matter what you have done. James teaches differently: "James 2:17-26
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
We must have faith in Jesus Christ's atonement, but our faith cannot be perfect with out our works. It is easy to say we believe if we dont' have to live it. The true test of our belief comes in our obeying. When we disobey, we must repent. If we do not repent, we aren't worthy to enter the kingdom of God. We are all human, so we must continually repent of things we do that are wrong.
I almost laugh when I hear people say that our religion is not a Christian religion. We look to Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is only because of His grace in suffering for us, that we have any hope. I add my feelings to those of the Book of Mormon Prophet Nephi who said, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. .. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." 2 Nephi 25:23, 26