Maybe its in part due to the wrapping up of the 2012 election–with both candidates desperately trying to grab the mantle of the candidate of change–but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change. I don’t mean the cliched or hackneyed change that politicians promise every four years; I am talking about the incredible miracle that through Jesus Christ we can all truly transform ourselves and change in deeply rooted ways. It truly is an incredible gift
A little more than four years ago, I was an atheist cynical about God and religion. Politically, I was a very big time liberal with very liberal views on economic, social and foreign policy issues. I wrote opinion pieces bashing those on the ‘religious right’ and participated in my university’s Humanist Club. Back in 2008, I campaigned heavily for the Obama campaign and was a member of the conscientious objector roll at my university. Today, I am a returned missionary who spent to years preaching the restored gospel. I have become a slightly right of center conservative who plans to vote for Mitt Romney in the upcoming election ( if my registration actually went through but that’s another question). Especially on the social issues (especially gay marriage but other issues as well), my views have flipped 180 degrees in that very short time period.
The point of this post isn’t really to focus on those particular issues. Indeed, I am actually sick of politics in general and after the election plan to tune out for a while. Indeed, these changes mentioned are only the more superficial or visible on the surface. Many of the most meaningful changes are those that have taken place on a deeper level. As I served a mission, I felt myself becoming a more compassionate, patient and loving person on the whole. I have continued to be amazed at the changes that have taken place in my life over the past years.
I certainly am far far away from perfect. There is so much that I do wrong and so many moments when I am less loving or patient than I need be, but there is a cardinal difference between life now and life before the gospel. Having the gift of the Holy Ghost means that slowly over time I can become more and more like Christ. Even though day by day it is very hard to see progress, gradually and overtime I feel my self changing and becoming more and more celestial in nature. Its truly an exhilarating process.
I love Elder Bednar’s promise that he made in a talk entitled “Clean hands and a pure heart”
We will not attain a state of perfection in this life, but we can and should press forward with faith in Christ along the strait and narrow path and make steady progress toward our eternal destiny. The Lord’s pattern for spiritual development is “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements are the steps the Lord would have us take. Preparing to walk guiltless before God is one of the primary purposes of mortality and the pursuit of a lifetime; it does not result from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity.
I witness that the Savior will strengthen and assist us to make sustained, paced progress. The example in the Book of Mormon of “many, exceedingly great many” (Alma 13:12) in the ancient Church who were pure and spotless before God is a source of encouragement and comfort to me. I suspect those members of the ancient Church were ordinary men and women just like you and me. These individuals could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence, and they “were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (v. 12). And these principles and this process of spiritual progress apply to each of us equally and always.
One of the most incredible blessings that comes to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the ability to repent and to change. Often when we hear the word repent or think about ‘preaching repentance’ we think about a message of condemnation or criticism, but really repentance is not at all about condemnation and all about hope. Thanks to Jesus Christ we really can change and little by little be transformed. Without him, we are stuck. Without Him, we can not get past our own weaknesses, doubts, and failings. Without him, we can never overcome the natural man and his selfishness, pride, and pettiness.
I love what Elder Christofferson recently taught about this subject
When prophets come crying repentance, it “throws cold water on the party.” But in reality the prophetic call should be received with joy. Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life. Pretending there is no sin does not lessen its burden and pain. Suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better. Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life. And, of course, only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.
Repentance exists as an option only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is His infinite sacrifice that “bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:15). Repentance is the necessary condition, and the grace of Christ is the power by which “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice”
I am so thankful for the atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of repentance. I realize my own failings, and yet I realize that because of my faith in Christ I am made perfect in him and through time can become perfected.
D&C 20:30-31 And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true; And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.
It is such an empowering doctrine and really at the core of our faith. We can change thanks to Jesus Christ. We truly can change our fate and transform ourselves. With the Gospel of Christ, change is not just a catchphrase or slogan, but a divine promise that is offered to each of us freely!