Change. We always see others somehow figuring out how to do it. Some person out there figures out how to change and lose a ton of weight. Some other person out there learns how to conquer a health problem. Some married couple out there figures out how to change and save their marriage, making it strong than ever. Some people manage to change the entire course of their lives with complete career and education changes. Some people manage to change their finances, radically, and create wealth. Some people manage to find joy after struggling with years of mental illness. Some people learn how to let go of past offenses and renew their capacity for love. Some people manage to sincerely repent of sins and make drastic strides toward becoming a more Christ-centered person.

To change is to become different. It is the act of becoming different.

But, the power, the actual miraculous fundamental change that some people manage to take on…how does that happen? What is the secret? How do we invite such change to happen to us?

From Water to Wine

This week while studying the Come Follow Me for Individuals and Families my family and I discussed Jesus’s first miracle of turning water into wine for His mother. Our discussion was simply lovely. And, while there were many facet’s to this miracle of “change,” the formula is not complex.

  1. The miracle of change was preceded by a request from Mary, Jesus’s mother. She said quite clearly, “We are out of wine. Help.”
  2. Then, as my eldest sister pointed out in our discussion, the water was changed to wine only by the servants doing exactly what Christ said. It mattered little that His instructions in this instance were simple. What mattered most was that “whatever He saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5), and they did. Water was changed to the best wine ever drunk.

Christ demonstrates in this first miracle (and teaches all of us) that the power to change comes from and through Him. First, we must desire to change and ask for His help. Then, we must do exactly what He asks us to do in order for the miracle to come.

For Ourselves and For Others

Many years ago, while struggling to avoid divorce and save my first marriage, I read a book called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It’s an excellent book, but what stuck out to me was his repeated caveat that his advice and commentary were only effective on someone who was a good Christian man or woman who reasonably wanted to be good. Over and over he pointed out that extreme cases would not likely be effected by much of the suggestions in the book. Why? Because if a person is not willing to follow Christ and invite His power into their lives there is no power to change (at least not fundamentally). Cursory change, temporary change, most of us can accomplish that. Fundamental change? That requires godly power. It requires us to reasonably desire to be good.

Changing Ourselves

Though this section is about changing ourselves, it should be noted that if we desire to change others, such cannot be accomplished unless we are first willing to change ourselves. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll be nice when he/she learns to be nice. I wouldn’t have any trouble if he/she would simply…” (Matthew 5:46-47). If our desire to change is fueled only by our wish that others would change, then our change will never be permanent. Blame also only stunts personal growth and puts accountability on others instead of ourselves. If we think ourselves so powerless that our own personal change is dependent upon the actions of others, then the minute the other person jumps off the change bandwagon, we will too. And we will both remain—unchanged.

Our change is entirely independent of the change we desire in others. We have to decide who we want to be independent of others. That way, when we invite the power of Christ and He helps us to change in a deep, lasting, and fundamental way; what others do or don’t do won’t affect us so much. We can attain peace and joy independent of them.

When we desire to change ourselves in any way, all we need to do in order to gain the power we need is to invite Christ into our lives. We come to Him with our metaphorical empty pitcher of X-characteristic/need and ask Him to take what we have and help us change it into a full pitcher of X-characteristic/need. Then we pray, sincerely, and continually, “Whatever though sayest, I will do it.”

The scriptures are replete with God’s commandments to us. It may seem too simple. But, the quickest and easiest way to gain the power to change and become something different (in any way) is by acting to become something different. Choose any Christlike characteristic and practice becoming more Christlike. Practice temperance, patience, forgiveness, mercy, charity, long-suffering, selflessness, service, kindness, etc.

As we invite Christ’s power into our lives in any way He will reciprocate with gifts of power. As we become more forgiving and patient our minds will be open to revelation on how to achieve the change we desire in another area of our lives. It doesn’t matter whether it’s losing weight, saving your marriage, or pursuing a new career path. The more Christlike attributes we practice and assimilate into our fundamental nature, the more power, light, and truth we can receive. All three of these things give us not only the motivation, but that actual capacity to become better, different—to change.

Changing Others

We can’t. Period.

We should never attempt to manipulate, guilt, persecute, abuse, or coerce other people into changing. Change brought about by fear is damaging and unChristlike. It may create temporary change, but eventually the victim will rebel or retaliate. Such change is not lasting. And, those who attempt to bring about such change are sinning against others and against God. Thus, their power to change and become better decreases because of their unrighteous dominion (Doctrine & Covenants 121:37).

But, we can influence others powerfully. As we change ourselves (see above), the power of Christ that enters our lives and homes will naturally impact and influence others…if they have a reasonable desire to be good, they will over time (maybe a very, very long time, who knows) be influenced by our example.

How much power is there in love? If you know the answer to that, then you know the only answer to influencing others to change is Christlike love. Ask God, “How can I show love to <name> as You would?” Then, go and do it.

Now, remember, those who don’t reasonably desire to be good may not respond to all the loving and Christlike influence in the world. It is not okay or reasonable for us to submit to the unrighteous dominion of others. In such cases, the best way to show love and to influence another to change is by understanding and properly issuing spiritual ultimatums. God uses them. We can too, if we seek His guidance.

Conclusion

Change is always within our grasp. Whatever the change is that we desire, we can have it, if we are sincere. If we take our request to God and submit to the conditions He sets for us to succeed in that change we seek, He will guide us and teach us what to do. All we need to do then is to go and do it. The power to change will be there.

If Christ can change water to wine, He can change us if we seek it sincerely. We can begin to invite the power to change ourselves and others into our lives immediately as we keep the commandments God gives us, and seek to practice Christlike characteristics and become Christlike ourselves. Christ is the only one with power that can change us permanently, fundamentally, and eternally. No other supposed power, no other motivation will last sufficiently long to change us. Only Christ can change us.

Invite Him into your lives and change becomes possible.

BT List Accent

Doctrine: There is a difference between doing good and becoming good. We cannot truly become good, or as God is, until our motivation for doing so transcends expected, or even perceived rewards and blessings. Our sole motivation has to be personal peace. When we gain control of ourselves, instead of trying to control everything else, we are closer to “becoming” than we ever dreamed possible. This is spiritual independence.

  • How many of your words and actions, each day, are based upon your reaction to the words and actions of others?
  • How many of your words and actions, each day, are based upon aspects of life that are outside of your control?
  • What was the most recent thing you said, or did, in reaction to life, that you felt justified in doing, but which didn’t make you feel happy or peaceful afterward? It might even have made you feel worse-even though you were justified.
  • Finally, how much of what you do is because it’s a commandment with an expected or perceived blessing?

In the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, Christ gave sermons which we often call the beatitudes or the sermon on the mount. We often assume that the word “beatitudes” means BE ATTITUDES. But, the term beatitude is not English. It’s  a term adapted from the Latin: beatitudo, a noun meaning “state of blessedness.”

In other words, a beatitude is a “state or condition of being that results in blessedness.”

If you read the sermon on the mount, you’ll note that Christ doesn’t give instructions on how to “do” the beatitudes. He merely states in many different ways, “blessed are they who <blank> for they shall <blank>.” He seems to be implying that some blessings are not simply achieved by going through the motions or checking something off a list. Indeed, He makes it quite clear that some Christlike characteristics cannot be earned and that the blessed results are simply that: a natural result of becoming or embodying that attribute.

It is true that doing does lead to becoming IF our motivation becomes pure. So, let me restate that: the blessedness that accompanies each beatitude is a natural result of the person not simply doing certain actions, but becoming or embodying that Christlike attribute. It comes naturally to them. It IS who they are. They don’t have to sit down and think about BEING in these states. They simply are them and the natural blessedness results. For example, Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

So, what is the difference in doing righteous actions in expectation of receiving a blessing or actually becoming, or embodying a Christlike attribute and blessedness following as an natural result?

BECOMING = ACTIONS ARE INDEPENDENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS, INCITING SITUATIONS, OTHERS’ ACTIONS, AND INFLUENCES.

When we act based upon who we want to be and not based upon what we think such actions will bring us, our actions become independent. They become fully ours in a deep and inexplicable way. Such actions then become able to be assimilated into our very being because the full power of our choice is behind them. We become literally spiritually independent.

Note: I said the full power of our choice is behind them. No one is bribing or persuading us to do such choices. No one is promising to behave a certain way if we act a certain way. We are giving all that we are to a choice that is not motivated by anything other than personal peace and conviction. Our action is fully independent of anyone or anything (even God, in a sense).

DOING = ACTIONS ARE VARIABLE AND BASED ON A PERCEIVED REWARD, BLESSING, OR OUTCOME FOR OURSELVES, OR AN EXPECTED ACTION OR RESULT FROM OTHERS (OR GOD).

To act in the pursuit of a reward is not evil. It is a beginning grace. But, it is not sustainable. We must grow from grace to grace (D&C 93:11-20).

If we are going through the motions, and reacting to our environment based on perceived outcomes and expectations; then we will continue to alter our actions and words in an attempt to arrive at a certain, desired result. We will act to feel justified. We will act expecting others to change or alter their actions toward us. We will act expecting a certain blessing or spiritual result within a certain time frame or during particularly rough parts of our lives.

This type of action does not have sufficient power to help us become godly because the full power of our agency is not behind it. It is still dependent on some other factor. We have not committed to behaviors for the best reason, only for a good reason. And, ultimately, we are willing to alter our actions if a better reward is offered or if the expected or perceived blessing goes unmet (or delayed). Thus, we do not become, and we cannot be trusted to remain the same. We are changeable, and as such are not able to merit the natural results of blessedness that accompany becoming like Christ.

The problem with this kind of thought-process determining our actions is that it often leads to despair, spiritual temper tantrums, unrighteous dominion, and agnosticism.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in the recent General Women’s session of conference about the Authentic Disciple:

She lived joyfully not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.

He also said:

We are responsible for our own discipleship, and it has little—if anything—to do with the way others treat us. We obviously hope that they will be understanding and charitable in return, but our love for them is independent of their feelings toward us.

He goes on to say:

There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way.

A few years back I read a book called The Story of Utopias. And, I found it incredibly interesting. Not because of the many different kinds of utopias that people had envisioned over the years. But because they all had the exact same flaw. They all wanted to create a perfect society and then place people in it, assuming that the perfection of the society would then make the people perfect by default. They expected that people going through the motions of their perfectly planned society would indeed create a perfect society. But, as the author (Lewis Mumford) pointed out, human nature was never a factor in any of their experiments. The one problem none of them could solve was creating the kind of human that could live happily and contentedly in that perfect society on a consistent basis; that wouldn’t eventually rebel, leave, or coup.

It occurred to me when I finished the book that, in a sense, this is the flaw God has conquered with the plan of salvation. He doesn’t give us a kingdom of glory and hope that we’ll conform to it. He asks us to become the type of person who will be happy in His kingdom. We become, and the blessedness of celestial glory is a natural result.

And then, if we do not ultimately find peace and joy in becoming as He is (independent of all other perceived rewards and outcomes), He has provided other kingdoms in which many of us will feel comfortable—because such a kingdom will correspond to the type of person we have actually become. It will be the natural result.

I find it interesting that the scriptures say, “God IS love.” They don’t say, “God does love perfectly.” They say, “God IS the same yesterday, today, and forever.” They don’t say, “God goes through the same motions yesterday, today, and forever.” God doesn’t have to run through a checklist of righteous actions each day to make sure He remains God and remains perfect. He doesn’t have to remind Himself to BE a certain way because He has BECOME a certain way. It is NATURAL TO HIM. He is in a constant state of blessedness because of what He has become.

Concept Development and hidden features. Paper Boat which casts

My Experience With Learning How to Find the Power to Become

So, I’m the mother of a toddler, and, as each of you know, toddlers can try even the most saintly of individuals. A few months back, I increasingly found that I based my actions on the results I wanted from my daughter. I wanted her to do certain things and so I kept altering my methods in order to get her to act how I wanted. After months of struggles, I realized I wasn’t making any progress in becoming more loving, kind, patient, and a host of other Christlike attributes. I felt, in fact, that I was digressing at a rather alarming rate.

As time went on, other expectations in my life and blessings seemed to be either denied or delayed beyond what I felt both emotionally and mentally was possible for me to continue to endure. I was trying to be righteous because that was what I wanted to be, but also, still much of my motivation was fueled by the idea of future blessings and relief–none of which seemed remotely close to being fulfilled. Adding this all together, I passed several rather wretched days and nights. I’m sorry to confess that my actions during this time continued to reflect my desire and expectation to see certain results not only in my daughter, but from my poor husband, and especially from God. I was acting in ways that I thought would force God’s hand and make Him do what I was expecting. Becoming godly was not on the top of my mind. I was merely trying to exert control on my environment and “get what I wanted.”

On the third morning, I recognized, somewhat blearily, that my actions were not going to bring about any of what I desired—especially not peace. I remember pouring my daughter some cereal and making an effort to be patient and kind with her sweet little soul. It was in that moment that the thought occurred to me, “This is not the kind of person I want to be and it’s not working. It’s not forcing God’s hand. It’s not helping my toddler act how I want. It’s not helping my husband. It’s not helping me. And, even if none of them ever do what I want, and even if God never blesses me how I want or expect, I cannot be happy this way. This is not who I want to be. I want to be kind, patient, loving, etc. because that’s who I am, not based on what I think will happen, or what even could happen. I want who I am to be independent of my circumstances.

It wasn’t a literal pillar of light. But, it was a spiritual pillar of light that has changed my life. It has been so freeing! I thought I had to gain control by controlling the uncontrollable things in my life. It turns out, the way to gain control and peace was to gain control of myself. To decide who I wanted to be and to BE that, regardless of every other external factor. I don’t know if God would call my current state of being “blessed,” but I certainly feel empowered to become godly where before it seemed far more impossible.

By deciding who I want to be and mentally removing all other variables (aside from myself). Becoming is all of the sudden quite possible! I have always been spiritually independent. But, now that I know it, I can finally make use of it.

This, I believe, is what Christ meant when He taught the beatitudes. There are natural results that come from BEING godly. We simply have to decide who we want to be and practice being it. We have to own our issues and alter then independent of all other factors. Then will we find the power to actually become blessed and receive the natural result of that blessedness.

WE HAVE THE POWER TO BECOME. 

BT