What’s changing next?
That question, or variations of it, seems to come up a lot following a whirlwind year of changes in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From adjustments to the Sunday worship schedule and an emphasis on home-centered gospel learning, to changes in age requirements for youth to participate in temple and priesthood ordinances, to how missionaries can communicate with their families and the list goes on and on. It seems like there’s a change every other week.
It’s clear that God has a vision for His Church at this time. His prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, shared a glimpse when he said, “If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come.”
At the Rome Italy temple dedication, where Latter-day Saints witnessed even more historic firsts, President Nelson added, “This is a hinge point in the history of the Church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace. . . . The Church is going to have an unprecedented future, unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now.”
Unprecedented. Unparalleled. What does that mean for us as members of the Church today?
It’s easy to think of “the Church” as a big, global institution. But, really, “the Church” is you and me. It’s the people and their individual acts of love, service, and devotion to God that make all the difference. It’s individuals over institution. When we think of it that way, the responsibility is clear. Our future, as disciples of Jesus Christ, is unprecedented and unparalleled. This is a hinge point in the history of us as individuals to build up what’s ahead—the Savior’s Church for when He returns again.
A Personal Responsibility
I don’t think it was coincidence that President Nelson’s first talk in general conference as prophet was entitled “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives.” Only three months into his calling, he talked about how the Spirit had repeatedly impressed upon him “how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will.” Not just to him, God’s prophet, but to each of us as God’s children. President Nelson called receiving revelation a privilege and one of God’s greatest gifts to His children.
I couldn’t agree more. God doesn’t ask us to follow Him or his prophet blindly. He invites us to follow Him in faith, and a big part of that is asking questions so that we come to know truth for ourselves. With each change announced for the Church, we can personally pray to God to know what it means for ourselves, our families, and our congregations. Every change announced by Church leaders won’t be spelled out exactly, and I think that’s on purpose so that we can learn to “stretch beyond [our] current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation.”
God wants to speak to us. He is willing to reveal His mysteries to us. All we have to do is ask and learn how to listen for his answers. Change starts with desire, and that desire can only come individually—not because someone told us to do it. It’s our personal responsibility to seek truth and act by the Spirit when we receive answers.
A Change of Heart
We know change is going to happen in life. President Nelson said that more changes are coming to the Church. He said it’s going to be exciting. I’d add that it will probably be exhausting. Uncomfortable. And perhaps downright difficult. Change by its very definition means “to make or become different.” While it can be hard to stretch and even break in the process to become something different, as followers of Jesus Christ we believe this life is all about becoming more like God. It’s choosing to grow into our best selves through the Atonement of Jesus Christ as our “hearts are changed through faith on his name.”
Change grows from our hearts.
President Dallin H. Oaks said, “The changes we have experienced in our Church meetings and policies should help us, but by themselves they won’t get our members to where our Heavenly Father wants us to be. The changes that make a difference to our position on the covenant path are not changes in Church policies or practices, but the changes we make in our own desires and actions.”
What are our desires? What is our “why,” and where is our focus?
Elder David A. Bednar counseled that “only as we gather together in one all things in Christ, with firm focus upon Him, can gospel truths synergistically enable us to become what God desires us to become and endure valiantly to the end.”
A Change of Culture
Firm focus on Him. That is what is needed. That is what is required. To me that means digging into the scriptures and praying for understanding to teach His doctrine to my children and the youth in my ward. It means letting go of “Church culture” that clouds what’s really important. It means making Him the center of my faith and trusting in His power to transform me. It means changing the question from “What’s changing next?” to “Who’s changing next?” and praying that person is me.
Gandhi taught that we should be the change we wish to see in the world. We have the opportunity to be that change as we literally restore the Savior's ways in His Church in our day.
When Jesus Christ lived on the earth, he was all about change. He was changing culture. Many people didn’t like it. His gospel brought hope. But it also brought disruption. He offered a new vision. But for those strict to observe what they already knew and had received from God, Jesus’s vision was one they just could not see.
Do we sometimes suffer that same lack of vision today? I love how Elder Bednar put it:
“Sometimes as members of the Church we segment, separate, and apply the gospel in our lives by creating lengthy checklists of individual topics to study and tasks to accomplish. But such an approach potentially can constrain our understanding and vision. We must be careful because pharisaical focus upon checklists can divert us from drawing closer to the Lord.”
Anything that diverts us from drawing closer to the Lord, we should change. If we are going to be “the Church” that moves forward at an accelerated pace, we need to be ready for the race. We need to do our spiritual exercise to know how to be a part of “building up what’s ahead.”
While talking about restoring the correct name of the Church, President Nelson promised that as we do, “He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. . . . We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
Knowledge and power, the likes of which we have never seen. It’s almost incomprehensible. But a prophet says those magnificent blessings are ours as we restore Jesus Christ’s name in His Church, and I’d add as the central focus of our lives. We can be “the Church” with an unprecedented future. It all starts with the most important change of all—changing ourselves.