I have referenced LDS lawyer-theologian Blake Ostler here before. He understands and explains the gospel better than any modern writer I know.
I was re-reading Blake's seminal 3 volume work, Exploring Mormon Thought, last night. He writes solely on what he believes Joseph Smith was trying to restore to the world.
Volume 2 has the best explanation of Grace and Works I have ever encountered.
We are saved by the Grace of GOD.
We are rewarded by our Works.
Simple as that.
Protestants are half right that we are saved by grace. Even Hitler after spending an immensely long time in Hell could eventually escape further servitude to Satan. He could do this by bowing the knee and confessing that JESUS is the CHRIST. His time in Hell will be long and horrific but it can end after he suffers for his attempts to wipe out the Jewish race.
Protestants are wrong that Hitler could somehow avoid Hell by making this confession prior to justly suffering. I know this is an extreme example. Any sinner who confesses CHRIST does not get to avoid what is coming to them if they are spending their days here hurting people.
Mormons who want to focus on works are also half right. After being saved we are rewarded based on our efforts after that point.
Mormons are wrong because they think Grace is not part of the equation. Without Grace the journey back to GOD cannot begin.
Blake Ostler's earns his living as an attorney. His writing is done is his limited free time. His ideas, based directly from the scriptures are filled with light. Blake will be rewarded for having his efforts to make the gospel of JESUS CHRIST comprehensible to all. I like Blake's chances of joining GOD, because Blake is trying to help others understand what is actually required to do so.
Now for a couple of caveats.
1. Being saved only guarantees you a spot in the Telestial Kingdom. It literally beats the hell out of spending forever in Hell, but we should be aiming higher. JESUS warned us how painful it is to suffer for sin in D&C 19:
Verse 15 ... how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not."
2. Doing good works in the service of humankind will earn a reward in a higher kingdom. Even if you end up in the Terrestial (middle) kingdom, you avoid Hell altogether.
CHRIST had Joseph Smith change John 5:28-29. Those verses refer to the 2 possible resurrections of evil and life. The text should read the "resurrection of the just" (Celestial and Terrestrial) and the "resurrection of the unjust" (Telestial and Outer Darkness).
I add only the following italicized words to the conversation knowing that I fall somewhere between Hitler and Eric Liddell. Most days I serve myself, but some few days I try and serve others.
If we are trying to do the minimum required to merit the Celestial Kingdom, we will most likely fail. The rich young ruler was such a person in the New Testament. He kept the ten commandments at a basic level, but he was not willing to serve his fellow Jews by giving away his riches. I do not judge him, because I am not worthy on any great reward either.
We need to just focus on doing as much good as we can today, and let the future take care of itself.
I would hate to be someone who was banking solely on Grace and ended up in Hell for a time anyway.
I would equally regret trusting so much in my own "supposed" good works... only to end up in Hell. Why? Because I never gave the proper worship and reverence to CHRIST for making it even possible.
What is the moral of the story?
Get saved by JESUS,
and then start emulating CHRIST,
and do not stop.