After All You Can Do

2 Nephi 25:23 – 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.

I’m a failure at doing all I can do. I like watching TV more than I like reading my scriptures. Sometimes (meaning almost always) I sleep in on Saturday instead of serving the poor and needy. I’d rather get coffee (and yes, I would drink that coffee) with a friend than go visiting teaching with a cute handout and a spiritual message. For the longest time I wore this scripture like a hair shirt. I was never good enough, perfect enough, trying enough. Not only did I always fall short, I didn’t even desire to do all the things I wanted to do. But like a dutiful daughter of God, I soldiered on with my metaphorical hair shirt firmly against my skin.

But is this what God wants for us?

2 Nephi 2:25 – Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Mosiah 4:27 – And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

What I failed to realize is that none of us can do all we can do. That doesn’t make sense…let me explain. Technically I could spend all my time in good works. I could take a vow of poverty and donate all my money and positions to the poor. But in order to fulfill the role I feel called to, and in order to fulfill the measure of my own specific creation, I can’t do those things.

And that, to me, is the crux of the issue. Nephi was not telling us to run ourselves ragged, or that we had to be perfect at everything all the time in order to do all that we technically can do. I was focusing on the wrong part of the scripture. The key is “we know that it is by grace that we are saved”. Otherwise, what is the point of the atonement? It, and by extension Jesus, are there so we can make mistakes.

Since coming to feminism, I’ve come to read another level of meaning in the 2 Nephi passage. I am supposed to do all I can do in the ways that I am able and called. For me, this means being a psychologist. It means graduate school. It means marrying a man who is not LDS outside the temple. It means writing for this blog. (At least for now; things can always change, and that’s ok, too.) Before feminism, I believed I could only be called to one path…marriage in the temple to an RM and stay at home motherhood. It is true that that was the path for a lot of women I know, and that is wonderful. But for years, my hair shirt told me to feel bad for not feeling good about that path. All the while, God was trying to show me something bigger. It wasn’t until I learned about feminism that I was open enough to see. Feminism taught me about possibility. Feminism allowed me to see where my worth really comes from. Feminism cleared the path from God to me. It also allowed me to have compassion for others; if my choices are valid, maybe there’s are too. I don’t know what goes on between them and their Father.

I’m talking about the struggle with the hair shirt in the past tense, but only for the sake of grammatical correctness; it’s not all in the past. The struggle is real and ongoing, as I’m sure it is for may of you. The truth of the matter is we are all people. We are all trying to do the best we can. Let’s not make it harder on ourselves.

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6 Responses

  1. Emily U says:

    Yeah, I think a lot of useless guilt has been created over that 2 Nephi scripture. I appreciate your thoughts on it. They remind me of something Father James Martin said in an interview with Krista Tippett. About how following our desires isn’t just OK, it may be exactly how God works in the world. I’ll paste from the transcript:

    “I’m a Jesuit and our founder, St. Ignatius, in his classic text, The Spiritual Exercises, talked about praying for what you desire and also praying to understand your desires. What are your deepest desires that moves you? Because I believe that your deepest desires, the things that you’re drawn to, the person you’re called to be, are really God’s desires for you. I mean, how else would God call us to something?

    You’d think of a married couple. That’s the easiest example. They’re drawn to each other. And that you would ask them, “Do you feel drawn to each other? Do you feel God drew you to one another?” They’d say, “Sure.” Well, how does that happen? Desire. Physical, emotional, spiritual. It’s the same in different jobs. It’s the same in religious vocations. But it’s also the same in the person you desire to be.

    I think we all have an image of the person we want to become — more loving, more open, more free. That’s a call. That is God calling you to become that person. And it starts with desire, which I think is so beautiful. It’s helping people understand that and recognizing it, that in a way that — to tell them it’s not selfish. A desire ultimately is not selfish.”

  2. Loved this post! It reminded me of the classic, “Patty Perfect.” In real life, we need to allow time for being human.

  3. Aubrey says:

    I put my hair shirt in the laundry and it has shrunk considerably! ?❤

  4. Becky says:

    I think if you read it in context what this scripture is really saying is that even after all that we can do, it’s still grace that saves us. Even if we spent every minute of our lives doing good, we still couldn’t save ourselves, only Christ can do that.

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