Posted by: nmontague | October 13, 2010

Changing nature

I wasn’t planning to weigh in on this, but for some reason it’s still an issue and I just feel like I should say something.  On October 3, Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the General Conference of the Church. His talk called Cleansing the Inner Vessel which is about the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ has been stirring up some controversy among the gay and lesbian community. It also seems to have caused some problems with members of the Church. Why? Because apparently it was hateful.

I’ve been to a number of blogs who were talking about it. None linked to the transcript of the talk nor to the videos which were readily available shortly after the Conference ended. The ones that actually did try to quote the talk, without providing context cited these line:

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.

Paul promised that “God … will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church. As Alma cautioned, we must “watch and pray continually.”

And this:

You may laugh at this story, but if we are not alert, there are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. For instance, what good would a vote against the law of gravity do?  

There are both moral and physical laws “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world” that cannot be changed. History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day

This is hateful towards gays and lesbians? By telling people, all people that they can overcome the temptations and addictions they face? That a vote can’t eliminate the natural consequences of our actions? I encourage everyone to read the actual transcript, watch the video, listen to what he actually is teaching here. He is teaching that our actions have natural consequences and that no matter what temptation or addictions we might have, the Atonement of Jesus Christ has the power to help us overcome. He doesn’t even mention homosexuality!

It doesn’t matter who we are. We are humans. We have natural tendencies that influence us to break the commandments of God. We are violent. We are dishonest. We are lazy. We have lusts and passions. We are human and we have been in a Fallen state since the Fall of Adam.

That’s why Jesus Christ died for our sins. So through Him we could overcome the natural man.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

God is perfect. He is good. We are not and our very nature is corruptible. This is a human condition. Our bodies are decaying as we speak. We do things that are imperfect everyday to some degree. Some of them are so second nature we don’t even recognize them and may not for many many years. But we sin. We die. God doesn’t. Our natural states are contrary to His Spiritual state.

That’s why we need Christ. It’s why it doesn’t matter whether we act because of nature or learning. Because the Atonement of Jesus Christ has, from the beginning, been designed to change human nature. This process happens as quickly as we surrender ourselves to it’s power. The Lord gives us a new heart and we are born again of the Spirit. And it’s necessary for every human to experience this change of heart or we will remain in our fallen and corrupt state and eventually be miserable. If we our hearts aren’t changed, we will end up destroying ourselves.

One of my favorite talks is Born of God by Ezra Taft Benson. In it he said:

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

“Human nature can be changed, here and now,” said President McKay, and then he quoted the following:

“You can change human nature. No man who has felt in him the Spirit of Christ even for half a minute can deny this truth. …

“You do change human nature, your own human nature, if you surrender it to Christ. Human nature has been changed in the past. Human nature must be changed on an enormous scale in the future, unless the world is to be drowned in its own blood. And only Christ can change it.

“Twelve men did quite a lot to change the world nineteen hundred years ago. Twelve simple men.” (Beverly Nichols, in David O. McKay, Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971, p. 23.)

“Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world”

This isn’t a message of hate. It’s a message of hope. Hope that no matter who you are, God loves you. That no matter what trials you face, what sins you’ve committed, that your nature can be changed through Christ’s sacrifice. You can have a second chance. and even a third chance and a fourth chance, etc. This has been the message of Christianity from the beginning. We don’t have to be the people nature tells us to be.

I can understand why those not of our faith may not understand it. It may be a very difficult concept to learn that all people need to change their nature or that it can be changed. In fact, there may be many people of our faith that don’t understand it. But no one who has felt the Spirit of God with any degree of power can deny that this is possible. When the Spirit overwhelms you with love and power you can feel the hope radiating from Him. You recognize how powerful God truly is. You cannot deny it. And the joy is just so humbling.

This isn’t about hating you or anyone. Quite the opposite. The message is given with love. Hate cannot uplift. It cannot build. It can only corrupt and embitter. We may have different struggles, but we all have struggles and natural tendencies that keep us back from the happiness we could have.  The only difference between people is that some have had experiences with the power of the Atonement and others haven’t yet. And the only way to learn about God’s power is to seek Him out for yourself. You can’t rely on books. You can’t rely on the testimony of others. You have to have your own personal experiences. You have to experiment on the word.

Do you want to know though? Some don’t. I understand that. but I can tell you from my own experiences that when you sincerely seek God, you will never cease to be shocked at the love He has for you or the way He can change your life for the better. You can’t just feign an attempt at prayer and then be surprised when you don’t learn anything. God will not be mocked. He knows when you’re being sincere or when you are faking it.

Doesn’t matter what I say though, you need to search on your own and make your own choice in life.  We  may disagree. You may never believe in Christ or the fact that human nature can be changed. All I ask is that we continue having honest dialogue. I don’t hate you if you make a different choice. Neither does President Packer. Quite the opposite. We want you to be happy.

As for those who say they believe yet think the Atonement is hate, please think about what you are saying. If you really believe that the idea that human nature can change is hate, then how can you honestly believe in Christ?

Regardless, I invite everyone to read what President Packer said. Decide for yourself whether you really believe he hates you or anyone else. He doesn’t. But I understand that you might not know that. Which is why you should read or listen to what he said.

I am sorry we disagree. Or that I needed to even talk about this. It means that there are still alot of people who don’t understand it. Everyone needs to know and to make their own choice. I hope that despite any of our differences, we might still be friends.



  1. Neil – I am Cathy Hamilton’s sister. I got to your facebook profile from a Glenn Beck page and somehow got to your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Very inspiring. I have heard so many wonderful things about you for so many years. I hope life is treating you well.

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