We know that man is saved by grace after all he can do (2 Nephi 25:23), but what constitutes all we can do? Upon what conditions is man saved? Do we earn salvation, or do we receive it as a gift? Is it because of many good works? Or is it because of absolute and complete submission to God and His love? Is a broken heart what comes when we have no desire to chart our own course anymore? Is a contrite spirit what happens when we have no desire for sin and its wages, when we have tried that approach and found it no longer holds any allure for us? Is Christian success found more in giving up than in achievement?
Consider Lehi’s instruction to his son Jacob (in 2 Nephi chapter 2):
3 …I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer;
[He didn’t say he knew Jacob was redeemed because of Jacob’s righteousness; he said he knew Jacob would be redeemed because of Jesus’ righteousness. Why did he say it that way?]
4 … salvation is free.
[Do you need to earn something that is free? Can you?]
5 …by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
[If it is by our own righteousness that we “earn” a place in the celestial kingdom, then our obedience to the law is what makes us holy and we perfect ourselves. But as “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” the law can only condemn us and we are completely helpless in and of ourselves and can never “earn salvation.” That is why obedience to the law justifies “no flesh”, but rather cuts men off.]
6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
[This is the condition; this is what He requires of us. Our heart (or individual will to do it ourselves) is broken and we regret our self-focused exploits from the past. We are truly sorry for our sinful (self-full) past and want the new life Christ can give us.]
8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
[How great the importance to understand and teach that it is not by our merits, but His.]