During the past 7 months, I have worked with a lot of people who desire to change something in their lives -- improve a marriage, stop drinking, stop smoking, be more happy, etc. It has been amazing to watch as some of these people have succeeded because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the application of Gospel principles. For others, I have been saddened as I've watched them have success for a little while, but then give in to their old habits. In my own life, I've noticed things about me that I desire to change as well. I too have moments of strength when I'm doing everything right to help me make this permanent change and implement a correct principle in my life; yet, I also have moments when I give in to my old weaknesses. So, what's the difference? How can we make a permanent change in our life? How can we come to the point where we can say, "because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually!" (Mosiah 5:2)
Developing Christ-like attributes and 'putting off the natural man' aren't easy things to accomplish. Even Nephi exclaimed, "And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?...Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul!" (2 Nephi 4:27-28) As Nephi declares, we too must have this determination to conquer the natural man and become more like our Savior. These Christ-like attributes are gifts from God, and we can only develop these qualities through the power of the Atonement. So, how to we apply the power of the Atonement into our lives? The Book of Mormon teaches us three basic principles: scripture study, prayer, and fasting. In Alma 17:2-3 we learn that the sons of Mosiah remained firm in the faith through diligent scripture study and much prayer and fasting. Also, in Helaman 3:28-29,35, we are taught again that it is the 'word of God', or scripture study, that will help us combat the temptations of the devil, to fight against our old desires and habits. Then, fasting and prayer will strengthen our faith and humility, ultimately purifying our hearts and helping us to put off the natural man and become Saints!
Change isn't easy, but through the power of the Atonement, and through the application of the principles of the Gospel, it is possible!! Our purpose in this life is to become like our Savior, "that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48) Let us each strive to apply the Atonement in our lives; diligently study the scriptures, fast and pray intently, and repent daily. I know that each of us can have this mighty change of heart! Each of us can receive the image of God in our countenances and truly become like our savior!
As I've probably mentioned before, there are a lot of wild dogs on the streets of Brazil. Sister East and I have made it a game to give each dog a nick name as we walk by. So far we've come up with names like, 'puddle-licker', 'fufu', 'dung beetle', etc. We just say whatever is the first word that comes to our mind! It's ridiculous, but it keeps us sane. Another game that we like to play is when we ask people who would they like to pray. Usually people don't like to pick and they say, 'tanto faz' (it doesn't matter), or, 'qualquer um' (whichever one). These two phrases are so common for people to say to us, that Sister East decided to be 'qualquer um' and I am 'tanto faz'. So, when we ask someone which of the two of us can pray and they say, 'oh, qualquer um', Sister East prays; and if they say, 'tanto faz', then I pray! hahaha! Oh the things we do to keep our lives from turning into humdrum, boring scum!