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Embracing Change

Audio of "Embracing Change"
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I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today and hope that something you hear or feel today will inspire and motivate you in some way. In preparing for this devotional, I thought back to when I was a new freshman at Ricks College over 25 years ago. I pondered about what advice I’d give myself if I could go back to that time. To help myself remember those days I looked up my photo in the old Ricks College yearbook. The first thing I thought was, “Wow, look at all that hair!”

In comparison, here is a photo of me taken just a few weeks ago. Poof, the hair is gone! Okay, I’ll admit, looking at the high hair line on that first picture, it’s not really much of a surprise it’s all gone now. I had a close friend in college jokingly tell me I needed to hurry and get married before I lost my hair. Luckily, I married my eternal companion before that happened. Sorry dear, you’re stuck with a bald husband now. That’s okay, she knew it was going to happen because that friend who had teased me about losing my hair was a beautiful girl who turned into my wife.

Change is constant

I showed the two photos of myself to demonstrate a point: that change is a part of life. We can’t escape it. Like the saying goes, “The only constant in life is change.” But not all change is bad. We can experience joy by embracing, rather than resisting, the changes that steer us toward our divine destiny.

Right now, you’re in your “decade of decision.” [1] This could also be called the “decade of change.” This is a time full of many changes as you leave home and find your path in life. There are changes you know are coming: moving to a new town, new apartments, and new roommates. Changes you hope come: new friends, new knowledge and skills, and maybe even a change in your marital status. There are probably some changes you don’t see coming like health challenges, financial hardships, or just the realization that adulting is hard.

Change is Part of Why We Are Here

Luckily, graduation day will come, and when it does what a relief that will be. No more homework. No more Rexburg winters. No more ramen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can find a nice place to settle down and all the crazy changes in life will stop. But they won’t. They may slow down, but changes in your life and your personal progression won’t stop after graduation. New, uncharted roads are destined to be on the path of your life’s journey. But that’s okay, because you’re here in this life to change. To be different than you were before.

In a devotional at Ensign College earlier this year, Elder David A. Bednar talked about these changes:

The essence of our mortal experience is to not remain the same . . . The restoration of the Gospel teaches us our eternal purpose and destiny and you don’t achieve that destiny by just hunkering down and staying the same. The natural man and the natural woman hate change. The man and woman of Christ learn to love change and the lessons that are learned in the process . . . one of the fundamental aspects of overcoming the natural man and the natural woman is not resisting change but embracing change and learning from it. [2]

Being resistant to change can prevent you from developing spiritually. It can also lead to increased stress and anxiety because change is often accompanied by uncertainty and the unknown. However, by cultivating a growth mindset and exercising faith, you can learn to more readily accept change and navigate through periods of transition with greater ease. By embracing change, you can position yourself to take advantage of opportunities to draw closer to the Lord and to thrive in an ever-increasingly wicked world.

Types of Change

Change can come in four different ways. There are big changes, such as starting a new job, unforeseen accidents, or even the death of a loved one. Opposite of that are changes on a smaller scale, like adjustments to daily routines. There are also other types of changes, including those that are out of your control and, on the other end, the changes you can control yourself. These are externally and internally driven changes.

Changes in your life are often various combinations of these four types. But for today, let’s focus on two of those combinations. The first is the big things that you don’t have control over. The second is the small things that you do have control over.

You can embrace rather than resist these types of change by following the counsel found in Mosiah 3:19 to put off the natural man and become a Saint through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Let’s look at these types of changes and contrast how the natural man or woman might react compared to a Saint of God.

Big Changes That We Don’t Control

First are the big changes that are brought about by forces outside your control. These external changes can be difficult to navigate, as they often require you to adapt to new situations quickly and without warning. However, they can also be opportunities for growth and resilience, as they force you to develop deep faith and reliance on the Lord.

Let’s consider the familiar story of Nephi and his brothers Laman and Lemuel. They were abruptly led into the wilderness by their father Lehi, leaving behind the comforts of home, initially not knowing where they would end up or what would happen. Laman and Lemuel handled this change in a very different way than Nephi did. We can see their reaction from these verses in 1 Nephi 16:

And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.

And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.

Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness; and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger. [3]

Laman and Lemuel blamed Lehi and Nephi for their circumstances. Laman and Lemuel didn’t really understand why they had left home and wanted things to go back to the way they were before. Laman was so angry about it that he tried to convince Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael that they need to hurt members of their own family.

Laman and Lemuel’s attitudes show us an example of how the natural man might blame others, be shortsighted, and become angry at others when big changes they did not anticipate happen.

Let’s read more in first Nephi to see how Nephi reacted to this same situation:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, . . . having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. . . .

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. [4]

Nephi was meek, humble, softhearted, and prayed for understanding. He is a great example of how Saints of God seek and accept the Lord’s guidance, maintain an eternal perspective, and exercise faith when big changes come.

A personal example to me of handling big, unexpected changes in life is my dad. Growing up, he worked hard on the family farm. On hot summer days he loved to water-ski with his brothers in the irrigation canals. Rather than being pulled by a boat, they would strap the rope to a tractor and drive it along the bank of the canal. In high school, he was a star athlete in football and track. Between his junior and senior year, at the age of 17, he got a summer job helping run telephone lines across the desert of southern Idaho. His responsibility was to check the depth of the lines as the machines buried cables in the ground. But at some point they ran out of cable, so the company sent him to another site for a few days to drill holes in lava rock. These holes were being created for telephone poles that would carry the lines across the lava fields. The first day on his new job, my dad quickly drilled one hole by wrapping his legs tightly around a jack hammer and then chiseling away at the rock. After completing one hole, he had started on another when suddenly there was a large explosion. The company had been blasting the rock with dynamite the day before and some of the explosives had not detonated. My dad had drilled directly into these charges and they exploded, throwing him high into the air. In an instant, his life was forever changed. The explosion resulted in the loss of both of his legs below his knees.

In order to walk again after his recovery, he had to be fitted with prosthetic legs, which he’s worn his whole life. But my dad has never viewed his prosthetic legs as limitations and has found ways to still do extraordinary things. He was active in sports like racquetball and basketball, and even continued his love of water-skiing. Despite needing a wetsuit to keep himself attached to his prosthetic legs, he was still a pretty good skier, most of the time. (And he always made sure to plug his nose on the way down.)

His accident brought on many other health challenges and countless surgeries throughout his life, but one thing I’ve never seen my dad do is complain about it. He’s been a tremendous example to me of how to face challenges and unexpected changes with action instead of self-pity and to make the most of any situation.

Small Changes We Do Control

Let’s now look at the other type of change combination. Opposite to the big changes you can’t do much to prevent are the small changes that you can control. These self-initiated changes are often driven by a desire for personal growth or can even be promptings from the Holy Ghost. Although small, these types of changes can have a large impact. The small and simple changes you make over time can help you get to where the Lord wants you to be.

Nephi understood this principle after his experience with the Liahona:

And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. [5]

How does the natural man or woman view these kinds of small, self-driven changes? Sometimes you may think that the little things are not going to make a difference or that some long-term goals aren’t achievable. Laman and Lemuel had this attitude when Nephi started to build a ship so they could cross the great waters to the promised land:

And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.

And thus my brethren did complain against me, and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord. [6]

Doctrine and Covenants 58:26 also describes how the natural man approaches small changes: “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.”

When opportunities to make changes by small means present themselves, the natural man is lazy, slothful, and waits around for someone to tell them what to do. Because of this lack of action and faith, no positive change ever happens.

How about the Saint? How can they build great things from small changes? Let’s watch some council from President Russell M. Nelson about creating spiritual momentum:

Overcoming the world is not an event that happens in a day or two. It happens over a lifetime as we repeatedly embrace the doctrine of Christ. We cultivate faith in Jesus Christ by repenting daily and keeping covenants that endow us with power. We stay on the covenant path and are blessed with spiritual strength, personal revelation, increasing faith, and the ministering of angels. Living the doctrine of Christ can produce the most powerful virtuous cycle, creating spiritual momentum in our lives. [7]

The small things you do to improve like repenting daily, partaking of the sacrament each week, and seeking personal revelation each day may not seem like they do much each time, but when repeated over and over their cumulative effects can be powerful and give you spiritual momentum in your life.

Embracing Change

You and I cannot afford to resist when opportunities for change come our way. Take for example your time here at BYU-Idaho. Are you letting the experience you have here change you? Or are you resisting that change by making excuses or by believing you can’t achieve your potential? How about the gospel? Are you letting it change you into a disciple of Christ or is your natural man or woman getting in the way? What about the covenants you’ve made with your Heavenly Father? Are you letting them change you and deepen your conversion? Learning to accept and act according to God’s desire for you can increase your faith in the Savior and bring joy into your life.

Joy Comes from Change

I can personally testify of the joy that comes as we overcome the natural man and embrace change. Some years ago, I became frustrated of where I was both in my career and in my spiritual life. I felt a great need to improve my situation and also a desire to be a better tool in the Lord’s hands. After much pondering and prayer, I decided I needed to make a big change and go back to school to pursue a master’s degree. I hoped this would improve my career options and get me out of my spiritual funk. And at the beginning it did just that. I was developing good habits, my career was thriving, and I was happy. But slowly my natural man took over and my good habits faded away. Pride crept in and I got caught up in looking for opportunities that would make me look good rather than opportunities for me to serve others like I originally intended. I interviewed for various jobs, but it seemed like every door was the wrong one. Luckily, I had the faith to follow promptings from the Holy Ghost and apply to, and eventually accept, a job I hadn’t considered. I had to soften my heart and let the Lord take me where I needed to go. Only in hindsight did I realize it turned out to be exactly what I needed. I was able find peace in accepting things I could not control and acting on faith to change what I could. I’ve come to recognize that I feel the most joy in my life when I am embracing both the big and small changes Heavenly Father wants me to. Change has helped me refocus to what truly matters.

Former BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring’s words exemplify my experience: “The changes occurring in your life can be a source of personal growth and increased perspective, bringing into greater focus those eternal truths that never change.” [8]

What Will Never Change

Despite all the changes that come into your life, you can find assurance in the eternal truths of the gospel, which never change. Truths like no matter what or how you change, God’s love for you won’t change. That His plan is for you. As part of that plan, He sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior, and that through His Atonement you can gain exaltation.

My invitation to you is to seek strength through Jesus Christ to overcome the natural man or woman and let changes in your life take you where the Lord wants you to go and who He wants you to become. Soon you’ll have time away from school and return home for the holidays. During that break, I invite you to find time to quietly ponder the ways that you can be better in letting God change you.

I leave this invitation and testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] See Robert D. Hales, “To the Aaronic Priesthood: Preparing for the Decade of Decision,” Ensign, May 2007; see also Alvin F. Meredith III, “Receiving Revelation for Life Decisions,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, Feb. 7, 2023.

[2] David A. Bednar, “Living in Revelation,” Ensign College Devotional, Jan. 31, 2023.

[3] 1 Nephi 16:36–38.

[4] 1 Nephi 2:16, 19.

[5] 1 Nephi 16:29.

[6] 1 Nephi 17:17–18.

[7] Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, Nov. 2022.

[8] Henry J. Eyring, “Embracing Change,” BYU-Idaho Commencement Address, July 23, 2019.