During his visit, Elder Callister told a story from the time he served as a mission president in Canada. He had a troubled elder that he met with regularly. At long last the missionary made the observation, “President, you don’t want me to change my behavior, you want me to change my nature.”
We each might be astonished to discover the same thing. As we meet regularly with our Father in Heaven in prayer, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, we might be surprised to learn that he doesn’t want us to just change our behavior, He wants us to change our natures! “For,” he teaches us in Mosiah 3:19, “the natural man is an enemy to God…”.Each of us, left to our natural state, left to our natures, take a course that is contrary to God’s will for us.
In the same verse Mosiah guides us to put off the natural man and teaches how to proceed. We must yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit and become saints through the atonement of Jesus Christ. That is the amazing adventure we undertook starting at our mission conference in November of 2012. We resolved together to sweep our lives clean and to become partakers of the divine nature of God. All of which is made possible to us through the atonement of our Lord. Each of us has been walking our own path to putting off the natural man. Each has learned unique lessons. Each has grown in very real ways.
One of the discoveries for me personally, was that, I don’t create the change in my own heart. This was an astonishing realization to me. For the better part of my life, I have pursued the continual change of heart and its retention spoken of by Alma in chapter 5 of the book that bears his name. In all those years, I have overlooked the source of that change. Rather, I have been determined to make the change in my own heart. I have worked tirelessly, stubbornly to bring about that change. Though my intentions were pure, my motives honorable, my method was vain—relying on the arm of flesh instead of placing my trust, wholly and completely in Him alone that can bring about such a change in the human heart.
Alma’s own use of passive language should have been enough for me to understand the message, “…there was a mighty change wrought…” not, “…he wrought a mighty change…”Alma 5:12. The clarity was lost on my self-determined mind. If Alma’s intent was lost on me, King Benjamin’s should not have been. In Mosiah 5 King Benjamin asked the people if they believed the words he taught. They responded with one voice “…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…”Mosiah 5:2. Though a simple truth, for me it was simply astonishing. I realized that. I needed to let go of my self-willed nature in order to let the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent begin to work a change in me that I could not work for myself! And with that all important adjustment, I have found new paths to spiritual growth. It is exhilarating! Sacrament meetings have become more meaningful than ever in my life. As I renew sacred covenants there, I discover the truth taught by King Benjamin just a few verses down in Mosiah 5:7; “because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons,and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on HIS name; therefore, ye are born of HIM and have become HIS sons and HIS daughters.”
What joy these verses bring to me. It leads me to proclaim with the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness!” Doctrine and Covenants 128:19. Joseph continues for a few verses and then in verse 22, these words, “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad…” I wish I could quote it all because these verses always raise my spirits. They lift me unto spiritual rejoicing so great that my heart can hardly contain it.
So I put it to you missionaries, shall WE not go on in so great a cause by allowing God and His Christ to change our very natures as we humbly submit? Shall WE not go on in the cause of serving our own brothers and sisters to that same glorious end? Shall WE not commit and become consecrated missionaries? And to these questions I answer, as did the Prophet. Courage, Japan Nagoya Missionaries; and on, on to the victory!
May we continually pursue the cause of God and His Christ by laying claim on the atonement to change our natures through daily repentance and cultivating Christlike attributes is my prayer in His sacred name! Amen.