Latter-day Saint Life

Can I change immediately? What the scriptures say vs. what Satan wants you to believe

Young woman relaxing with hands in the air by the pier and enjoying the beautiful sunset and warmth of sunlight
What if change can be immediate? In fact, what if long-lasting change isn’t possible without immediate change?
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Funny, the things you think about to escape high school math. Or history. Or economics. I don’t remember which class I was in, or even which year it was. Freshman year of 1985? Senior year of 1989? I remember, however, one day rubbing my middle finger back and forth on the light-wood polished desk. As I rubbed a thought came to mind: How long would it take to rub a hole in this desk, just by using my finger? Weeks? Years? Decades?

As a teen, I seemed to understand that some efforts, though not instantly apparent, can make a difference when applied consistently. I also understood that change can take years, decades, or even eternities.

It was intriguing, but also admittedly depressing.

This was during a time in my life when I struggled with liking parts of myself. I knew I wanted to change, but doubted I could. And, even if I could, it seemed as if it would take forever. And when you’re a teen, forever feels impossible.

As I grew older and my understanding of myself, life, and the gospel grew, I came to understand more clearly the nature of eternal change and progression. We are here to become like our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

President Jeffrey R. Holland said:

“I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a long journey—and an exhilarating one! Such a divine goal, lofty though it is, is at the heart of what makes the restored gospel so attractive and inspiring. Deep in our souls is an echo—a memory—that tells us this is why we came to earth. We accepted our Father in Heaven’s plan first and foremost because we wanted to become like Him. We knew that it was a staggering goal that would never be easy to achieve. But we simply couldn’t be satisfied with anything less. Our souls were created to grow, and we were stirred then and now to make the journey.”

We long for growth, for change! It’s in our divine DNA. And thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it is possible.

The process of change and perfection can be a slow one. One movement at a time. One rub at a time. Part of the wonder of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is its extensive and eternal shelf-life. It has no expiration date. It has no limit. It is patient and powerful, stretching into the next life as we continue our ongoing journey of change, progression, and perfection.

But, what if there are elements of change that don’t take eternities, decades, or even years?

What if change can be immediate? In fact, what if long-lasting change isn’t possible without immediate change?

Perhaps we as a people have underestimated change—how quick, how intimate, and how accessible it is to each and every one of us because of the Savior. Scriptures and prophets preach this truth. It’s up to us to understand and experience it.

Change Can be Quick

Nearly 2100 years ago, Amulek taught this the powerful truth of the immediacy of change when he said, “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31, italics added).

I love that word—immediately. It’s exciting. It’s hopeful. It’s real.

I also love the way Amulek plainly taught how this immediacy of change is accessed: through repentance and a softened heart.

As a teen I saw repentance as four steps that would bring forgiveness: acknowledge my sin, feel bad for it, make amends, and not do it again. They were good steps backed by solid principles, but during those years, my view of repentance didn’t reach beyond them. Until I was seventeen years old, and a friend of mine lost his life to suicide.

His death ignited a storm of questions. Why did God let this happen to him? Where was my friend now? Was there still a chance for him? Was there hope for him? For me?

I poured my thoughts into my journal, where I came to realize that I didn’t know as much about the plan of happiness and the gospel as I thought I had. I didn’t know Heavenly Father or my Savior as well as I thought I did. And, though I had been taught by good parents and teachers, I realized I hadn’t taken the time to really learn. For the first time in my life, I realized the truths I’d been casually holding onto since I could walk were the same truths that would save my friend. The same truths that would save me.

In that moment I wanted to understand these truths better. I wanted to know God and Jesus Christ better. I wanted to learn, to feel, to change. And so, I turned towards Them.

This is repentance.

Was I completely changed at that moment? No. But, my trajectory was. My heart was. And in a way, I was.

A year before President Holland remarked on the eternal nature of our journey, he spoke about repentance and immediate change:

“You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say ‘I’ll change’—and mean it. Of course, there will be problems to work out and restitution to make. You may well spend—indeed, you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the Sons of Mosiah.”

Long-lasting and eternal change is our goal. But we can’t reach it without immediate change in the moment. A realization, a change of desire, a choice. A movement towards deity. The decision to let our broken hearts be receptacles for hope and faith rather than hate and fear. The desire to be closer to our Father in Heaven and our Brother followed by even the smallest of movements—a glance upward, a silent prayer, can call down the powers of Heaven that can change us.

▶ You may also like: ‘How do I know I’m forgiven?’ Elder Andersen’s beautiful answer to a teen—and all of us

Change Can be Close

Immediacy means now, in the present. But the word can also mean the feeling of being involved directly or intimately. It means feeling close. This definition adds a layer of beauty and intimacy to the immediacy of change.

Repentance and change are not hands-off events. They are not sole endeavors. We cannot truly repent while pushing Jesus away. And He cannot forgive without pulling us in.

When we repent, we connect with Jesus Christ in a very real way. Just as a lightbulb can’t be changed without being touched by our hands, our hearts can’t be changed without being touched by His love and power. We come to Him with our hope, faith, humility, and love and He changes us with His love. Repentance isn’t self-flogging, or proof we are broken or need to be fixed. It is the way to come to Christ because that is where we want to be. It’s where, I believe, He wants us to be. With Him—connected.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke to our connection when he said, “Our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. … As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.”

Change is for You

God is in the business of change—long-game and immediate. As we come to Him, even if all we can offer in this moment is hope that He is real, He can work in and through us for our benefit. Our sorrow can be softened. Our hearts can be strengthened. Our faith can be brightened. We don’t have to wait for decades, years, or even days to connect with Him and feel His love. We don’t have to wait until the next life to become more like Him.

Change can be immediate. It is here. He is here.

You are here.

Think about what this means. We are all in different places in our lives. Maybe you’re in a place of obedient discipleship and have only minor adjustments to make. Or maybe you’re in a place so dark you can’t see your way out. Maybe you’ve realized some misplaced priorities or identities. Maybe you feel trapped by habitual sin. Or maybe you’ve simply realized there are things you’ve neglected to do that could bring you closer to Him.

It doesn’t matter where you are, you can change your hope, your focus, your desire, and your actions and He can change you. When you repent—turn to Jesus—He will be reaching for you. What matters is that you choose to face Him because He’s already facing you.

And that won’t change.

▶ You may also like: Your job isn’t to be perfect. It’s to stay close to the One who can perfect you

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