Pleasure reading in college is hard. I’m discovering this as I still struggle to finish Les Mis, the novel I started before Christmas, early in December. Between regularly reading my textbooks, struggling to get enough sleep, and being bogged down with various assignments, it hard to find time to just sit down and knock out a chunk of a book, especially with an ambitious one like that. But in a way, I’m kind of glad Les Mis is taking me so long, because it’s definitely becoming one of my favorite books, and I’m thankful for the time I get to spend in it. I think one thing that touches me so deeply is the resonant message about change and transformation. Jean Valjean goes from being a dangerous and spiritually lost ex-convict into a faithful, compassionate and selfless patriarch. For someone who has desperately wished to become better, and seen transformative change bring about growth in their life, this is a powerfully significant and meaningful.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change. I truly have a testimony of this fact. The scriptures are replete with examples of those who have, through the power of God, changed their lives. Their conversion allows them to become instruments in the hands of the Lord.
In my New Testament class this week, we read a scripture in 1 Timothy. It says:
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1:16)
We recall from Acts 8 and 9 that Paul (then Saul) “made havock of the church,” (8:3) persecuting sorely the members, even casting them into prison. But as he journey to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him, and after long and painful repentance, he goes on to become one of the best missionaries. In Timothy he tells us how he obtained mercy from Christ, and his change is a pattern that we can utilize to become better in our own lives.
Similarly, in my scripture study this week, I have been reading in The Book of Mormon about Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah. Their story is not far from Paul’s. Being the “very vilest of sinners,” (Mosiah 28:4) and in like manner persecuting the saints, becoming “a great hinderment to the prosperity of the Church of God,” (27:9). They, too, see an angel of the Lord, and after repenting, they become “instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth,” (27:36).
Truly just as Paul states in Timothy, we can learn from the pattern of these examples. Change is real. Change is possible through the enabling and strengthening grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. I have seen the reality of this in my own life. President James E. Faust, in a November 2007 Ensign article, “The Power to Change,” said:
“Each one of us has been given the power to change his or her life. As part of the Lord’s great plan of happiness, we have individual agency to make decisions. We can decide to do better and to be better…The power of the gospel can indeed change our lives and take us from sadness and despair to happiness and joy.
The Lord has promised us, “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). Let us remember that the power to change is very real, and it is a great spiritual gift from God.”
Of these things I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.