Becoming the Person You Were Born to Be

An Evening with President Russell M. Nelson

Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults • January 10, 2016 • Brigham Young University–Hawaii


My dear brothers and sisters, we are so delighted to be with you on this Sabbath day. We love you! And we believe in you! As I offer a few ideas, I pray that you will use your agency to invite the Holy Ghost to teach you.1

First off, Happy New Year! It’s a brand new year. Did you make some New Year’s resolutions? And have you already broken half of them? Would you like this to be the very best year of your life? The year when you follow through—better than you ever have before—on resolutions that mean the most to you? I’d like to talk with you about something that I believe can help. See if you can figure out what it is.

Think of the woman who, for 12 years, endured an incurable disease. She stretched out her hand to touch the Savior’s robe. This was her only chance to be healed.2

Think of the man at the pool of Bethesda who, for 38 years, suffered with an illness and had never been the first one into those healing waters.3

Think of the Savior’s disciples who, with life-threatening waves crashing around their small fishing boat, cried out to the Savior, “Carest thou not that we perish?”4

What did these people have in common?

They were desperate! Desperate for the Savior to heal them, help them, cleanse them, guide them, protect them, and save them! They were desperate for Jesus Christ to help them do things they could never do on their own. They were desperate to have the Savior’s strength and power in their lives. Do you know that feeling? Believe me, I do.

Perhaps you’ve been desperate to complete an assignment because the due date was quickly approaching—or had already passed. Perhaps you’ve been desperate to have someone really understand you, to truly love you. Perhaps you’re presently desperate to be accepted into a university or to find a job or a place to live, desperate to make new friends and to find your eternal companion.

Well, here’s the good news: Desperation can actually be a great motivator.

Clearly the Prophet Joseph Smith experienced intense desperation in Liberty Jail. He pled with the Lord, “O God, where art thou?”5 Because of such intense spiritual desperation, the Prophet received some of the most sublime revelations of this dispensation.

When we’re desperate to be guided by heaven, we work harder than ever to tune in to heaven. When we’re desperate to be physically healthy, we eat and exercise accordingly. No excuses! When we’re desperate to have more money, we eagerly follow the Lord’s law of finances—which is, of course, tithing!

Consider President George Q. Cannon’s approach to tithing when he was an impoverished young man. When his bishop commented on the large amount of tithing poor young George was paying, George said something like: “Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.” And the very next year George earned exactly the amount of money he had paid tithing on the year before!6

When we’re desperate to become the people we were born to be, our vision changes. We wake up from the spiritual amnesia the adversary so cleverly administers, and suddenly we see things about ourselves, others, and our lives we’ve never seen before. The world’s “fun” and “entertainment” start to look almost ridiculous, perhaps even spiritually dangerous. We begin to see the adversary’s tricks and traps for what they really are—temptations to make us forget our true identity and our destination.

We begin to spend our time differently. Time on Facebook doesn’t seem half as compelling as time in the temple. We experience for ourselves the profound truth taught by a wise temple president: “When we enter the temple, we leave the world of make-believe.”7 We become much more interested in eternal truths the Lord will teach us in His holy house than in the latest sensational comments on social media, which can be so glib and brain-numbing.

One bright BYU coed told me she discovered a reverse correlation between how confident and happy she felt and the amount of time she spent on social media. She reduced her time on Facebook and said: “I feel like I have a better imagination and a clearer mind to ponder topics and have deep conversations with others. Now I can feel a stronger presence of the Spirit in my life, which is just about the best thing I could ask for.”

When we’re desperate to be our true selves, we use technology righteously. If you don’t know how to do that, I urge you to go to and learn.

When we’re desperate to be the true disciples of Jesus Christ we were born to be, we suddenly find the courage and determination to remove anything and everything from our lives that is unholy and impure. Our willingness to follow the advice of our leaders changes. We seek counsel and are eager to follow it. Humility pushes pride and arrogance aside. The scriptures become our “go-to source” for answers and for the comfort we may realize we’ve often been seeking online.

Would you be willing to try an experiment for 30 days?

Daily kneel and thank your Heavenly Father for the scriptures. Tell Him the one question you most need to have answered that day. Plead to have the Holy Ghost with you as you read. Then open your scriptures anywhere, and read until you find the answer.8 Try it for 30 days and see what happens.

When we’re desperate to grow into the people God needs us to be, we may realize that an unnecessary burden is holding us back. That burden may be spiritual pain, which always accompanies bad choices and unrepented sin. The truth is that unrepented sin is like a magnet for more sin! So, if you need to repent, start now. When we, like King Lamoni’s father, want to give up all of our sins9 (even our favorite sins), then procrastination falls away, embarrassment flees, and we are willing, even eager, to go—actually, we feel like running—to our bishop for the help we need to truly repent.

Now, there are very few guarantees in this life, but here is one: There is a 100 percent guarantee that if we will truly repent, the Savior will cleanse us and heal us—thoroughly, totally, and completely!

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught: “The power of [the Savior’s] Atonement can erase the effects of sin in us. When we repent, His atoning grace justifies and cleanses us (see 3 Nephi 27:16–20). It is as if we had not succumbed, as if we had not yielded to temptation.”10

My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that this is true! And, whether it is major unrepented sin or troublesome weaknesses that keep tripping us up, we each need the Savior’s help to become the people we were born to be. It is simply impossible to do without His strength and His power.

Gratefully, the Savior has paid the price for every gift of the Spirit we will ever need to help us.11 It’s up to us to prayerfully discover which gifts we need. We may need the gift of self-discipline or of cheerfulness. Perhaps we need the gift of patience, or the gift to be healed, or the gift to forgive. Perhaps we need the gift to have our sexual feelings be in harmony with eternal laws. Perhaps we realize that we cannot live one more minute without the gift of unshakable faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. When we’re desperate for any gift of the Spirit, that is when we will finally pray with all the energy of heart for that gift.12 And the great news is that each spiritual gift we receive takes us one more step forward into our true selves.

My dear brothers and sisters, whom I love, the reality is that someday you and I will each have an individual, face-to-face interview with the Savior Himself. When this eventuality becomes real to us, we will be willing to do whatever it takes to be prepared!

So, now a question as I conclude: What if you learned that the Savior had already returned to this earth—that He, as part of His Second Coming, had already met with some of His true followers in several marvelous, large gatherings13—gatherings about which the world, including CNN and the blogosphere, knew nothing. If you found out that the Savior was already on the earth, what would you desperately want to do today, and what would you be willing and ready to do tomorrow?

I pray that this year you will have some moments of anguishing desperation that will propel you further along the path to becoming the man or woman you were born to be. Your true self is spectacular! Never settle for less. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. Elder Richard G. Scott taught: “The Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you” (21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit [2013], 95–96).

  2. See Matthew 9:20–22.

  3. See John 5:2–9.

  4. Mark 4:38.

  5. Doctrine and Covenants 121:1.

  6. See George Q. Cannon, “The Doctrine of Tithing,” Deseret Evening News, Aug. 19, 1899, 11.

  7. Douglas L. Callister, quoted in Sheri Dew and Virginia H. Pearce, The Beginning of Better Days: Divine Instruction to Women from the Prophet Joseph Smith (2012), 65.

  8. See Wendy Watson Nelson, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (2010), 139.

  9. See Alma 22:18.

  10. D. Todd Christofferson, “That They May Be One in Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 71.

  11. See 1 Corinthians 12–14; Moroni 10; Doctrine and Covenants 46. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the gifts listed in the preceding scriptures are only suggestions; they are only the beginning of the spiritual gifts available (see Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 314–15).

  12. See Alma 22:15–18.

  13. See Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (1982), 575.