'A mighty change'

And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

Alma 5:13Seasons change. Fashions change, then change back. New technology makes our machines obsolete, then itself falls victim to new ideas. Alliances are made, then broken.

Heraclitus observed more than 500 years before Christ that in this life, there is nothing permanent except change, an observation that our modern life seems to have taken as its creed. We're told today that someone embarking on a career can expect the nature of his or her work to change three or four times before retirement.

All this change creates its own tensions that move across the boundaries of physical, age, gender and generations. At a time when we sometimes have trouble communicating within our families, sociologists talk of a "global village" in which widely separated cultures can still share the same experience, sometimes simultaneously. Small wonder we feel overwhelmed at times.

Amidst all this turmoil, of course, one constant doesn't change: the essential truth of God's existence and of our lifetime journey to define our relationship with Him. That relationship is anchored by the principles and ordinances of the gospel.

In fact, the more that exterior events change, the more people seek that anchor in their inner lives, and that seeking often brings them to the permanent message of the gospel. The irony is that few changes will rival that which occurs unseen within the hearts of those who embrace the gospel. The heart of the Lord's message is that we can change, indeed, that we must, and that this is the way to find stability in our personal lives.

We use a lot of different words to describe change, which itself indicates how pivotal change is to us. Each word also reflects how the influence of the Spirit sometimes works on the human heart.

"Change" itself, for example, indicates that we have become distinctly different, sometimes in a radical way. There is nothing subtle about it.

"Transform" also means to make a complete change, usually in outer form or function. When we say that the gospel transforms us, we're saying that we are no longer what we once were, that we no longer do the things that we used to do, nor do we think the way we used to think.

"Convert" carries the meaning of adapting to a new use. We don't abandon the truths we knew before, but we put them to a different and better use.

"Alter" indicates that an adjustment has been made. Not as radical as complete change, it is nevertheless important that we alter our attitudes and behavior to comply with gospel truths as we learn more and more about them.

"Vary" embraces changing circumstances and is a root word for variety. In a gospel setting, we may vary our approach to studying or performing in order to understand things from a different perspective.

"Modify" comes from a word that meant to limit, and we see it in a word like "moderation." Sometimes we find that the gospel doesn't require us to transform ourselves as much as to modify ourselves.

"Transmute" is a change that implies an increase in value. To transmute our attitudes would mean that the difference between our old values and new values is so remarkable that no one would recognize the old.

When it comes to the kind of "mighty change of heart" that Alma spoke of, this only happens from within. The kind of transformation that changed Saul, the persecutor of Christians, to Paul, the Apostle and key figure of the early church, was dramatic, but few of us will experience a transformation so complete. Instead, we must be resigned to the slow adaptation that comes from trying to live the gospel commandments daily.

In fact, President Ezra Taft Benson gave this advice: "We must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, page 72.)

The happy news about this type of change is that it can be shared with others. In another setting, President Benson said, "I think that if you are going to be successful, you must develop in your heart a love for people with whom you work. They need the gospel as they need no other thing. . . . The gospel will absolutely revolutionize their lives, change their outlook. People are hungry for something that will give them an anchor, that will satisfy the questions of their souls, that will bring peace to their hearts and a feeling of security, inner satisfaction " (God, Family, Country, page 62.)

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