President David O. McKay illustrated the inter-relationship of grace and works as follows:
One day, a group of small boys were swimming. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, they were learning to swim; for none could take more than a few strokes. Just below them a short distance down the stream was a treacherous hole much beyond their depth. Into this, either through bravado or accident, one daring youngster either plunged or fell. He became helpless to save himself; and for a moment his companions were powerless to aid him. Fortunately, one with presence of mind and quick action, jerked a long stock from a willow fence and held one end of it toward the drowning lad. The latter grasped it, held on tightly and was saved.
All the boys declared that the venturesome lad owed his life to the boy who furnished the means of rescue.
This is undoubtedly the fact; and yet in spite of the means furnished him, if the lad had not taken advantage of it, if he had not put forth all the personal effort at his command, he would have drowned, notwithstanding the heroic act of his comrade.
In this old world of ours, children of man are playing, swimming, struggling in the sea of life. There are those who claim that no one will sink and be lost if he will look to Jesus on the shore and say, “I believe.” There are others who declare that every one must by his own efforts swim to the shore or be lost forever. The real truth is that both of these extreme views are incorrect. Christ redeemed all men from death which was brought upon them through no act of theirs, but he will not save men from their personal transgressions who will put forth no effort themselves, any more than the young rescuer on the river bank could have saved the drowning lad if the latter had not seized the means provided him. Neither can man save himself without accepting the means provided by Christ for man’s salvation. — President David O. McKay, “The Gospel of Work,” The Instructor, Vol. XC [January, 1995], pp. 1-2
One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation. . . . One passage in the Book of Mormon, written perhaps . . . to stress and induce appreciation for the gracious gift of salvation offered on condition of obedience . . . is particularly enlightening: “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.” (2 Nephi 25:23; italics added.) (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 70-71) — Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 36
Mercy: Not getting what you deserve.
Grace: Getting what you don’t deserve. — Robert Millet, BYU Education Week 2005
Our critics’ belief, based on the Bible, holds that man is saved by grace alone. Theirs is by far the easier way.
Our position, also based on the Bible but strengthened by other scriptures, holds that we are saved by grace “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23), and we are responsible by conduct and by covenants to live the standards of the gospel.
We agree with the Apostle James that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” and we say to all those who make such an accusation, “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18). — President Boyd K. Packer, CES Fireside for Young Adults, 1 February 1998
. . . for our faith to make a difference, we must act. We must do all that is in our power to change passive belief into active faith, for truly, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead.” — Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, November 2002, p. 83
It is only through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ that people can overcome the consequences of bad choices. Thus Nephi teaches us that it is ultimately by the grace of Christ that we are saved even after all that we can do (see 2 Ne. 25:23). No matter how hard we work, no matter how much we obey, no matter how many good things we do in this life, it would not be enough were it not for Jesus Christ and His loving grace. On our own we cannot earn the kingdom of God – no matter what we do. Unfortunately, there are some within the Church who have become so preoccupied with performing good works that they forget that those works – as good as they may be – are hollow unless they are accompanied by a complete dependence on Christ. It is this dependence that causes us to want to sing what Alma eloquently referred to as “the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26). — Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Building Bridges of Understanding,”Ensign, June 1998, p. 65