Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This is my farewell talk I gave as I’m getting ready to serve in the Sweden Stockholm mission. 
(September 14, 2014)


I want to talk about change, but there is so much in life that we don’t want to change. We don’t want to change our goodness, personalities, talents, or our love for God.

But change is at the core of the gospel. We are here to learn and progress and ultimately return to live with God. In King Benjamin’s address, he teaches:

Mosiah 3:19, and I want you to think, what if the verse ended here?

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever.

That would be a devastating scripture to me. I long to live with God again and have Him be close to me. But what does it say afterwards?

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.
  1. Yields to enticings of the Holy Spirit
  2.   Putteth off the natural man
  3.   Becometh a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ

King Benjamin taught so many wonderful things in his address, including the coming of Jesus Christ, service, and repentance. (Mosiah 2-4)

Afterwards, he wanted to know how his message was received, if it had changed the hearts of the people.
Mosiah 5: 1-2

And now, it came to pass that when King Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

The Spirit of the Lord is what wrought the mighty change in the hearts of the people. And this is the best example of putting off the natural man I can think of. No more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

Another example of change I love is Alma. Noah was just appointed king, and he was not a righteous king. (Mosiah 11:1-4) He appointed all new priests and we’ll read what they were like. Mosiah 11: 5-6

For he put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new ones in their stead, such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts.
Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.

Abinadi was a prophet of God and was commanded to preach God’s commandments and make known the wickedness that they were leading the people in. (Mosiah 11: 20-21) He taught of the 10 commandments, Christ, the atonement, and more. (Mosiah 11-16) King Noah’s reaction was to kill him (Mosiah 17:1), but Alma’s reaction was much different.
Mosiah 17:2

But there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken, for he knew concerning the iniquity which Abinadi had testified against them; therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace.

And I took the footnote to Alma 5:11-12, where Alma’s son (Alma the younger) explains his father’s conversion.

11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
How does conference or listening to a prophet make you feel? Do you desire to change and become better? I always do. Imagine a prophet speaking directly to you. The spirit would speak change to your heart.

Now I want to share a few modern day stories. The first was given in a fireside called the Missionary Next Door. She is talking more about helping others experience the change you have, and continue to experience.
This story is about two LDS high school sisters who went to high school in Wisconsin. I’m going to tell it from the Diana, the younger sister’s perspective.

One night we decided we were going to go out and go dancing. So we pulled my sister out of the books and got her all dressed up, did her hair, did her make up. As we were there dancing, she kind of started to hook up with this guy. This was fun for her, but the funny thing was, I knew who this guy was, but she didn’t know who he was, and he didn’t know who she was. He was from another high school, most people knew who he was because he had been kicked out of almost every high school in the Greater Madison area. This guy was an all-state athlete, he was a great soccer player, but he was also a total hardcore party guy, and here is my sweet sister who is national honor society totally brainy and innocent, and here they are dancing, totally digging each other. I’m sitting in the corner laughing watching this opposites attract thing going on. Afterwards, I just thought it was too funny, and I didn’t tell her who he was, and we were getting in the car and she said “I hope he calls me.” And I was like “How would he call you?!” She said “I gave him my number!” I said “WHAT!!?! He’s a total stranger, you gave a total stranger your number??!” “I don’t know he asked, so I gave it to him!” “It’s ok he’s not going to call, how many people call the phone numbers they get out dancing?? It’ll be fine…” It was Saturday night, the next day was Sunday, and after church the phone rings, and it’s him” “I go RUNNING down the stairs and grab my mom and dad and say “Ok, I did a bad thing, I shouldn’t have let it go on, but I let it go on. This guy is really wild.” “Now Diana, everyone’s a child of God, the gospel is for everyone.” I go back up and listen to the phone call, I can tell what’s going on: he’s asking if she’s doing anything that night and she says “I can’t, Sunday night is family night- but we do have a fireside at my church tonight.” And I’m thinking, that’ll take care of that, she’s inviting him to church! And I hear her say “Ok great, it’s at 7:00, be here at 6:30.” I’m thinking no way this guy is going to church with us. He pulls up in a Camaro, he’s smoking a cigarette, puts it out. I’m thinking no way this is happening. We pile up and go to the stake center, and we get in there, we sit down, and we’re watching the video (the Prodigal son), it’s a great video, so I was just getting enveloped in the show, and about halfway through all the sudden I remembered that this guy’s with us, and I wanted to look over and see what his reaction was, because I’m sure I’m going to look over and see him just dead asleep. And I looked over, and I triple took him, tears were streaming down his face. I remember looking back down at the floor thinking, “No way is this guy feeling the spirit” and I looked at his eyes and they were just fixed, and I could just tell his heart was bustin’. I remember we got home and he sat down with my sister and folks and they talked about the gospel for couple hours. This is the kind of guy that never meets a girl’s parents. He started taking the discussions, and he got baptized. To show you how serious the change of this guy was, when he got baptized, he decided to go on a mission, and he served a full time mission in Spain and was an amazing missionary. When he got his mission call he made the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal headlined, “Mormon Church Changes Life” He served a great mission, returned home and married in the temple.

Now I want to talk about the latter part of Mosiah 3:19, becoming a saint through the atonement of Christ- but it’s all interconnected.

I want to now share a little bit about my dad’s conversion story, I asked him a lot of questions yesterday.

My parents were newly married, and my mom had just had Zach and started making the church a priority and hoped my dad –a nonmember-would want to too, and he didn’t. She was thinking, “I want the priesthood in my home, I need an eternal family.” She prayed for him faithfully for a year before she noticed any softening of his heart.

So I asked, “What made the change?”

I love what he said to me. He said, “I wasn’t happy with who I was. I wanted to make changes, I had a family and wanted to be a good example and be there for my kids.” He said, “I kept setting goals that kept falling through. I felt completely hopeless and I knew I couldn’t make the changes myself.”
How many of you feel like that? I feel like that all the time. “I can’t do this alone.”
He said he got on his knees, and said a prayer the best he could, and things started falling into place.
Experiences later, he took the discussions and felt the truth of the words, repented, and was baptized. He told me he felt like his past was buried and he was forgiven.

One of my favorite parts of the story is that my dad was baptized June 22, 1993, and I was born June 22, 1994, the day we could enter the temple and be sealed together as a family. (It takes a year after baptism to be able to enter the temple.)

We talked more and my dad said “You might not know, Alyssa, because you’ve been raised in the church, but the natural man wants to cheat, lie, steal, and get revenge. The spirit really taught me right from wrong.”
My dad used the power of the atonement to change and become who he wanted to become. His unreachable goals became reachable and he is the best dad I could ever ask for.

This experience felt a lot like Alma, explaining his conversion to his son Helaman. (Alma 36) He, like my dad, said, “Look, I’ve made mistakes, I repented, and I never looked back.”

 For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.
 And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us.
 And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.
 10 And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs.
 12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
 13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
 17 Behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
 18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
 19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
 20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
 21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

This changed Alma from “seeking to destroy the church of God” to “preaching the word of God in much tribulation” and “exhorting them with long-suffering and much travail to keep the commandments of God.” (Mosiah 27: 32, 33)

One of my favorite quotes is from the talk “Change: It’s always a possibility”

“A caterpillar asks, “How does one become a butterfly?”
The answer: “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

So, what are you willing to give up being so that you can fly? Your spirit wants to fly! Your spirit remembers your premortal assignments and aspirations. What are you willing to give up believing so that you can be all you really are—all that you committed you would be?

Perhaps the words of Lorenzo Snow will help. He said:
Jesus was a god before he came into the world and yet his knowledge was taken from him. He did not know his former greatness, neither do we know what greatness we had attained to before we came here, but he had to pass through an ordeal, as we have to, without knowing or realizing at the time the greatness and importance of his mission and works. [Lorenzo Snow, in First Presidency, President’s Office Journals, 1899–1901, 8 October 1900, pp. 181–82, Archives Division, Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City; cited in Truman G. Madsen, The Highest in Us (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978), p. 9]”

I want to close with the idea of structural coupling, that the more time you spend with someone, the more alike them you become, using similar jokes, phrases, and ideas. We normally think of this idea with friends and family. But what if we were structurally coupled with Christ?

“The Savior entreats us to come unto him. He wants us to come close to him. He wants us to have increasingly repeated interactions with him and to really get to know him.
According to the sociological principle, our increased interactions with the Lord will lead to increased feelings for him—which will lead us to want more interactions with him. And, according to the biological principle of structural coupling, our increased interactions with the Savior will lead to our increasingly becoming like him.
And because he never changes, the changes that would occur through our interaction with the Savior would all be in us.

As we increase our interactions with the Savior—as we really come unto him—we can become like him.”
We can spend time with Christ by reading of him, praying to Him, living worthy of His spirit. I testify that the as you seek the spirit, you will know what you can change, and have strength through Christ to change. The Book of Mormon, partaking of the sacrament, prayer, and keeping all the commandments all change lives because, in doing these things, we are drawing the spirit near, and also drawing Christ near. If Christ can cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dead to rise, he can cause us to speak kind words, love one another, and “putteth off the natural man”.

Jeffrey R. Holland asked at a stake conference, “If the Book of Mormon isn’t true, then how does it change so many lives?” I’d like to pose the same question about this church, and about coming unto Christ. How then, are so many lives changed?

The spirit testifies of truth, and for that reason, I know that this church is true, and that Christ lives, and He atoned for us individually so that we could turn to Him and he could heal us.

 I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.