In 1998, Sister Wendy Watson — now, Sister Wendy Nelson — spoke to Brigham Young University students about the blessings and challenges of change. During her address, Sister Watson, a marriage and family therapy professor at BYU, approached the topic by drawing on her own personal experiences.
From the unexpected death of her newborn brother to not having the right opportunity to marry, Sister Watson demonstrated that sometimes, change can be unwanted. But on the other hand, it can also be needed, she said. Sharing how best to approach change, Sister Watson then turned to some of her own studies.
“Through clinical research I have found that change is most likely to occur when we are invited to a reflection,” she said. “The next time you want an incredible experience with reflection — to see just what it feels like to be invited and enticed to change, to have your stance of ‘I’m just fine’ or ‘I can’t change’ persistently chiseled away at — read Alma chapter 5 — maybe several times. Notice how your thoughts about yourself and your possibilities for change are altered through Alma’s relentless questioning. … I love his use of questions that invite reflection.”
Sister Watson continued by encouraging the audience to both find people in their lives who will help them draw closer to the Lord, and to be those voices for others in turn.
Even more importantly, Sister Watson also asked listeners to try and hear the voice of the Savior while they are experiencing change. She then referenced the biological term “structural coupling,” which she defined as a process in which two living things become more like each over time.
“Structural coupling involves two entities having interactions with each other over a period of time. Each interaction between the two triggers changes,” she said. “Through this history of interactions, the two distinct entities become less different from each other — they become more alike and there is an increasingly better ‘fit’ over time. Like feet and shoes, like two stones rubbed together, they change in concert with each other.”
Applying this to spiritual growth, Sister Watson stated that the more time an individual spends drawing close to the Savior, the more they will eventually become like him.
“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,” she said. “Although our Lord Jesus Christ never changes, he is the quintessential change agent — the only true change agent. Don’t you love that seeming irony: the only true change agent never changes! There is only one true and living change agent — and he changes not. And he loves you. And he loves your desire and your efforts to change.”
Read the full message here.