“We All Need Help Changing,” Ensign, October 2020
Change is something I think every person wants at some point. Maybe it flows from difficult situations, like realizing our attitude has pushed loved ones away, or when we hit “rock bottom” somehow. Or maybe it springs from goodness, like when someone’s example inspires us, or when we reach a high point and want to continue. But how can the desire to change—or even the desire to desire (see Alma 32:27)—finally become a reality instead of just a good thought?
Sister Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society General President, once said, “It is not possible to make real change all by ourselves.”1 Everyone in this world is capable of change, but we all need something, sometimes multiple things, to help us reach the point of true transformation, which is only possible through Jesus Christ.
I developed more spiritual and emotional strength on my mission than during any other time in my life. I was finally becoming the person I had always dreamed of being. But I yearned for more. I wanted to become a better person, a more effective missionary, and a more faithful daughter of God. And here’s how God helped me.
I still remember the day my mission president, a very inspired man, introduced the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program to me and all the other missionaries. I thought my heart might burst from the hope I felt. My prayers had been answered—God was showing me a way to change! While this program was developed to help people who struggle with addiction, my mission president believed it could help each of us work on overcoming our weaknesses and becoming better servants of God. He believed that with the Lord’s help we could change not only our actions but also our very nature.
If you’ve never explored the program before, let me describe it for you. You start by working on the first “step” and then continue until you get through all 12. Each step helps you learn to trust God and overcome your weaknesses. You learn principles that bring you back to the root of unhealthy behaviors and help you move forward from there.
When we started the program, we were each asked to choose a weakness that we wanted to change. I knew instantly what I wanted to work on—my feelings of low self-worth. I had always struggled with this, and I knew it held me back in more than one area of my life. As I wrote about these thoughts, I felt the Spirit in the room, and I knew I was ready to face the 12 steps head-on. I felt courage in my heart and hope that I could succeed.
While all the steps in the program made a difference in my journey to overcome self-doubt, it was step 3, “Trust in God,” that helped me the most. I repeated that phrase to myself over and over again. I wanted to feel that I was fully trusting Heavenly Father with all my heart.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once made a powerful statement about the decision to trust God: “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. … The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him.”2
Sometimes I would be reading the Addiction Recovery Program book and wondering if I was wasting my time. But Elder Maxwell’s quote gave me a new perspective. To overcome my weakness, I had to be vulnerable. I had to open up about some of the deepest, darkest secrets of my soul. I had always thought that if I pushed some thoughts and feelings far enough away from me, they would disappear. But I eventually learned that facing them was the key to healing.
I would also read, almost every day, this quote from President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015), President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life … came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to Him—without compulsion or pressure, without any duress, as a single individual alone, by myself, no counterfeiting, nothing expected other than the privilege. In a sense, speaking figuratively, to take one’s agency, that precious gift which the scriptures make plain is essential to life itself, and say, ‘I will do as thou directs,’ is afterward to learn that in so doing you possess it all the more.”3
I wanted so badly to come to the point he described. I wanted to put my life completely in God’s hands. So I kept moving through the steps, and eventually I was finally able to do so.
My mission president made us all a promise about the Addiction Recovery Program. He said, “If you do all of the steps in the book, your life will change.” And my life did change! Even though I was focusing on only one specific weakness as I went through the steps, the experience affected my life in more ways than I thought possible.
I learned that I’m not perfect and that we all have weaknesses.
I learned that sometimes change takes rededicating yourself to the Lord every day.
I learned that the one thing I can do to “become better” is to try and follow the Lord’s will the best I can.
And, most important, I learned that it can be hard to trust God’s will sometimes, but if you believe the Lord can help you, He will. And you will find more joy, freedom, and capabilities than you ever imagined.
Whatever you want to change in your life—whatever your weaknesses and addictions are—Jesus Christ can help you. But it’s up to you to trust Him. It takes accepting that He can help you do what you cannot do alone. It takes surrendering your faith to Him and His Atonement. And it takes more humility than you have ever felt in your life and full trust in Him even when you can’t see what’s ahead. But in the end, if you do these things, you will achieve the change that you desire.