As Mormons, we often quote that verse from 2 Nephi 25: "…it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do" (v. 23). I understand why we quote it, and what we mean by it. We do not believe that we are saved by grace alone, but also by works, as signs of our faith. So taught James that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
But in our zeal to do works, let us not lose sight of the gift of grace. Yes, we need ordinances (see D&C 84:19-22). Yes, we need to keep the commandments as we covenant to do (see D&C 20:77).
But let us also remember that "salvation is free" (2 Nephi 2:4) and that it comes "through the atoning blood of Christ" (Mosiah 3:18). In our desire to highlight our own responsibility for our own choices in this life, let us not forget that the opportunity to choose, the ability to repent, and the hope to return home to our Father in Heaven is all through the grace, the sacrifice and the enduring love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
My father sought this balance in his life. My observation was that he was slow to speak of things he did of himself, and I heard him express reluctance to demand blessings from the Lord. His view seemed to be that God was where God was, and it was my father's task to find Him and follow Him. It was one reason he converted to Mormonism when he did. The church he had been attending seemed to vote regularly on how to interpret the changing mores of the late 1960s, and my father was uncomfortable with the idea that we could somehow dictate God's will.
I'm grateful for a plan that allows me to change, and I acknowledge that this opportunity comes only through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, whose atoning sacrifice allows me to repent, to turn to Him, to improve myself.
King Benjamin taught that we are beggars, and that we must turn to Christ if we are to have hope of salvation (Mosiah 4:19-20). On my best days, I remember what King Benjamin taught.