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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Routine vs. Change

I've mentioned this analogy in a previous entry, but it's effective enough that I'll use it to introduce my message here.  In the movie Rattatouille, Remy's dad shows him the shop window with all of the rat traps and poisons and he tells Remy that that's nature.  That's just way it is and it won't change.  Remy replies with "change IS nature, dad".

Now I understand that there are good and bad changes people make all the time.  Not all change is good.  Some things need to stay relatively consistent, like our level of frequency in scripture study.  Elder Pearson said recently in General Conference, "Search the Book of Mormon and the words of the living prophets every day, every day, every day! It’s the key to spiritual survival and avoiding deception. Without it, we are spiritually lost."  It's similar with prayer. Everyone should be making prayer a part of life many times every day.  It's easy for me to go on with things that should stay consistent as well as things that should always be changing, but my point isn't to just make a list.  My goal here is to emphasize why we should never be afraid of change.  Bear in mind that nothing I say here negates the need for good habits to remain, intensify and become more a part of who we are over time, but even in those habits, there is a critical necessity to have our attitudes, commitments and faith in habits the Lord would have us develop continually improve and multiply and that means change!

I'll start out with Alma 41:10-11 in the Book of Mormon.  It illustrates very well why change is so important. "Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.  And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness."  The nature of happiness.  Think about that for a moment.  It's not natural for us as children of God to be entertaining behaviors, beliefs and thoughts that counter His truth and plan of happiness for us.  At least it shouldn't feel natural.  It shouldn't be an instinct to treat people harshly.  Rudeness and selfishness should not feel normal.  Attitudes that diminish the someone's personal, divine nature or shows a lack of concern for their feelings and well being should not be our impulse.  This does relate to change and I'll get to that in a bit.

Alma also mentions that "Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."  If we have not made the transitions in our very nature to become godly by the time our personal interview with the Savior arrives, there will be no "Oh, ok, I'm ready to be better now."  We have to already by to that point by that time!  He wouldn't have asked us to do so if it weren't possible.

Another awesome scripture that helps to emphasize this concept is 2 Nephi 2:11, "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."

What this tells me is that stagnancy is worse than misery.  I was talking to my wife when her health was bad a few days ago about this concept in relation to our feelings. (For those who know my wife well who are thinking "when is your wife ever in good health?", yes, yes I know, but bear with me.)  We were talking about the fact that she would rather be sad and miserable than feel nothing at all, that it reminds her of how amazing it feels to have relief and happiness.  She was doing amazing that day, responding with gratitude to her trials and thanking Heavenly Father for the reminder of the good things she has and would continue to have in life.

Now on to the point I am trying to make with these concepts.  Because it is not natural to be stagnant, because it should not be an automatic, knee-jerk reaction to indulge in ungodly attitudes, beliefs, words and behaviors, it thus becomes of pivotal, eternal importance for us to welcome change!  Does it seem easier to just let many of our daily routines stay the way they are?  Of course!  Is change, especially the big changes, scary?  Yes!  That natural man in us makes sure that we perceive change as a burden.  But where would we be if Christ had chosen to condone the age old habits, routines and teachings of the law of Moses and passively allow them to remain a part of Jewish life?  Where would He be if He had simply allowed Himself to fit into the mold of the Isrealite nation and conform to their customs and rituals during His ministry?  Where will we end up if we don't consistently change our lives to match His more and more and confront the hard changes we should be making every day with confidence in Him instead of fear?  Not with our families in the highest degree of Celestial Glory, that's for sure.

I've been to places where the really difficult, scary, but positive changes in perspective, believe and action are celebrated and consistently ingrained into people's lives.  I've also spent time in areas where everyone is so stuck in their ways of life that if someone comes into town who gives off a vibe that doesn't fit their view of the way life should be, they form, many times obliviously, opinions about them that are more close-minded and ignorant than you can imagine; and much of the time they don't even realize they're doing it!

As I pointed out in the beginning, routine is not wrong when it's based on Godly principles and there most certainly are a plethora of bad changes people can and do make all the time.  But please do not allow yourself to fall for the lie that it's just too hard to make the big changes.  Do not allow yourself to be fooled by the attitude that the pain of rejecting the natural man and changing into the god or goddess inherent within you, along side our Savior, will be greater than the positive results along the way and at the end!

Just as a side note, I've noticed that it is within many of the small towns I've lived where making changes that allow Christ to overcome my carnal natures are particularly difficult.  Not necessarily all small towns, or even a majority of them, but enough to mention it here.

I want to point out something taught to me by one of my seminary teachers growing up. If the proverbial sails on our boats are too straight, our progress will be either non-existent or so slow that we will have insufficient growth in our knowledge and faith in our Redeemer and Father in Heaven, eventually being brought to acknowledge that we failed to fill our true potential (which happens to be one of the few and most pronounced fears I have).  Granted, if our sails are turned too far in any direction we will be blown over by the winds of adversity, but if we are not making every effort to see that our sails are turned at the optimum angle to blow us more effectively through the difficulties intended to make us like the Christ, we have much work to do!

I love, so much, these lyrics to "Jesu, the Very Thought is Sweet" sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

"Jesu, Thou sweetness, pure and blest,
Life's Fountain, Light of souls distressed,
Surpassing all that heart requires,
Exceeding all that soul desires!"

The transformation we need to make to become what God wants us to be, to have that unlimited joy with our families forever, was never supposed to be something common, mundane or blandly ritualistic.  It's supposed to be something that requires our whole heart and soul, something that brings us to appreciate, at least in the limited way we can, the import of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; to make, every day, the significant shifts in our very eternal makeup that turn us into type of person the Lord is.  If you are not ready when the approaching great and terrible day of the Lord arrives, it won't be because you make too big of a change to be like Him.  If you are ready when that day comes, it will truly be a great day for you and it will be because you never let the ever falling standards of the world prevent you from bringing your nature more into absolute agreement with His.

I know these changes are possible.  I have experienced a number of them myself and I have many left to go.  Every time a major change occurs in me for the better, each time I become more obedient, each improvement in my ability to discern and follow the Holy Ghost helps calm my fears about those major transformations.  Approaching them isn't always fun, but I can honestly say I don't consider them with apprehension and fear anymore.  I ask God for them now because of the increased capacity I have to feel joy and love from Him afterward (and even during them).

Please keep and build upon the godly habits you already have, but form new ones as well, in word, thought, belief and desire.  Do it all the time.  Make a consistent ;) habit of making a big change, internally or externally (or both).  Fill the jar of your life with the rocks of commitment to Jesus Christ and our Father.  I guarantee that if you do so, everything that you need will fall into it's proper place and those that you don't will seamlessly slip out of your life and you will even be able to see it as a welcome relief!

Don't fear godly change.  Confront it, welcome it and embrace it alongside our Savior and you'll never regret it.