Why did we come to earth? We came here to experience joy, right? “Adam [and Eve] fell that men [and women] might be; and men [and women] are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25.) If we came to earth to experience joy – joy we did not yet feel or understand as pre-mortal beings – then we actually came here to change. Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Each of us is unique. Each of us starts life as an infant, experiencing tremendous spiritual, physical, and emotional changes. Everyone changes. No one is exactly the same from one minute to the next. If we have access and the ability to listen to the Holy Ghost, we can use inevitable life changes to grow into what God hopes for us during this lifetime. We can experience true joy during mortality.
Many cultures celebrate major life changes. We rejoice at transitions – when a student graduates, a young woman or man goes on an LDS mission, a couple gets married, two parents have a baby, someone gets a job, etc. The heart of what we are really celebrating is not the “achievement” but the growth we have just experienced and the changes we are about to experience in new life phases. We know that through these changes, we learn valuable life lessons that can ultimately bring us joy.
I should seek to change often. But I don’t. I like to change for the better, but I haven’t sought growth opportunities lately. Mostly, I’ve been resting. I think some of the changes I’ve experienced over the past decade have just worn me out:) Yet I realize I need to dig back in and let the Lord know I’m ready to change again.
Recently, Thomas S. Monson said, “To be a Latter-day Saint is to be a pioneer . . . .” (LDS First Presidency Message, July 2016.) I believe a true pioneer embraces change. She seeks change, implements change, and transforms her community through change.
Two of my ancestors, William Blood and Mary Stretton, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England in the mid-1800s. They had three small children living at the time and a fourth child who had already died in infancy when they left England for the United States to join other church members in Nauvoo, Illinois. When they arrived in Nauvoo, they were expecting their fifth child. Soon after arriving, William died of cholera on May 4. Mary buried him on May 7 and gave birth to their fifth child, Emma, on May 8. Emma died about one month later. Mary then took her three remaining children across the plains to Salt Lake City. Talk about embracing change and embracing it often! Wow.
I am a Latter-day Saint. I want to follow the prophet’s counsel to be a pioneer. I can change, and I can do it often. In a meeting discussing the sometimes agonizing hardships of mortal life, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, said, “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.” (See “I Am a Child of God,” Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, April 2016 General Conference.) I want something better. That means I need to be willing to change – to let the master gardener prune me as needed to become all that I can be – by changing my very nature.
Change is challenging. It can hurt. It can be exhausting. It can bring us to our knees. But it is also rejuvenating, refreshing, life giving, and JOYFUL! I choose to change. Change paves the path to a joy-filled life.