In the October 1986 General Conference, Elder Boyd K Packer said:
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.
Several years ago I was a young mother of three who had fallen prey to the common societal ailment of entitlement. I had spent my youth looking forward to with a sense of longing, the time in which I would be a mother, and now with three young children of my own, I was disenchanted with the realities of my chosen career. Time passed and I became more and more bitter about the time in which I had to spend caring for others and searched high and low for opportunities to escape my responsibilities. Every new hobby or project brought with it even more bitterness and that sense that something great was missing from my life grew. I was profoundly unhappy.
I can’t remember the exact moment in which things began to change, but at some point I began to awaken to the knowledge that my unhappiness was of my own doing. I didn’t enjoy my role as a wife and mother because I didn’t nourish it.
Alma 32:27 says:
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
I certainly didn’t enjoy my life’s mission, but I wanted to enjoy it. And as promised by Alma, and experienced by myself, I can testify that a desire to change is a powerful catalyst to that change of heart that the Lord asks of us. Through the course of the following years I “aroused [my] faculties, even to an experiment upon [his] words” and systematically made prayerful changes in my habits and daily life that eventually propelled my love of my family and life forward to an extent that I didn’t even know was possible. As promised by Elder Packer, I studied true doctrine and it changed my behavior and desires far more than any of the self-help or parenting books I had collected.
John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” After spending years chasing after what the world said happiness and fulfillment would be, I found true peace and happiness in the service of one institution that is spit upon by the world and is Ordained of God—my family. Peace and happiness (which every society and individual is searching for) was found in obedience to God’s commandments.
In Alma 32, Alma goes on to compare the word of God to a seed. He instructs us to “give place”, or make room for his word in our heart, and not to cast it out by our unbelief and not to resist the Spirit of the Lord.
Resisting the Spirit of the Lord can take several forms. For me, laziness is much more likely to drive away the Spirit than sin or open rebellion. Change, no matter how small, is hard and for many of us Satan’s temptations come, not in the form of debauchery, but in whispers to our mind that we can’t change, that the cost is not worth the outcome, or that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our simple worldly pleasures, for Godly things.
To a woman who is striving to keep the counsel to “arise early that your body and mind might be invigorated”, the whisper of “just five more minutes, you deserve it” when her alarm chimes is, in that moment, probably the most destructive thing she can think. To a father who has worked a long day at the office, “I’m just too tired to play with my kids” will surely begin to erode the relationships he holds dear. And to a youth that desires to gain a personal testimony, the thought that they are too young and naive to understand God’s words can stop them before they even start.
When Alma says “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6), he is not only speaking of the good. Satan will use small and simple temptations to wrap us up with his flaxen cords (2 Nephi 26:22). Alma uses words and phrases like slothful, hardened, lost, unholy, “they will not understand”, and “contend no more against the Holy Ghost”. These are hard words for the prideful heart and more often than not, my impulse is to rise to the defense of my slothful, hardened, lost, and unholy behavior. It can all sound very intimidating, but the good news is that because of the Atonement, Jesus Christ can help us break free.
Neal A Maxwell said:
So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity!…
Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!
As beings lost in this mortal existence, we are all destined to surrender to one being or another. We will surrender either to God or to mammon; to our Divine Nature, or our carnal desires; to the Savior of the World, or the devil and his minions. Instead of passively allowing Satan to hold our hearts, we can experiment upon the words of Christ and cast Satan out in order to make room for Christ and His word. And by allowing His word into our hearts, we will feel it enlarge in our souls, enlighten our understanding, and in direct relation to our sincerity, His Gospel and his commandments will quickly begin to be delicious to us (Alma 32:28).
I can testify that change, while hard, is worth the price we will pay. That whatever trials and troubles we are having, either by our own making or not, Jesus Christ can and will help us through. He overcame all so that He could help us overcome ourselves. I have tasted of His love and the joy that comes with repentance. And I have felt Alma’s words when he says “there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains,… on the other hand there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy” (Alma 36:21). The Savior of the World is there for each of us, waiting for us to allow Him to encircle us in the arms of safety (Alma 34:16).