CONSTANCY
IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

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Talk given in the Shawano, Wisconsin branch
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
on June 17, 1994 by Jeff Lindsay

Note: This text was written for Latter-day Saints ("Mormons"). It makes frequent reference to LDS scriptures (in addition to the Bible, this includes the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants), which many non-LDS may not have. However, the concepts may be of interest to Christians of any denomination. Several of the quotes from LDS scriptures could be replaced with related passages from the Bible.


We live in a world of constant change. Changes are often packaged as improvements, with the word "new" used as a positive label, often in contrast to the truth. In this country we have encountered terms such as the New Deal, the New Morality, the New Covenant, and the New World Order, each describing some major change. Some politicians, once elected, claim that their mandate is change, almost as if change by itself were always desirable. According to prophecies for these latter days, we know that many more changes will take place around us, though many of these will not be pleasant.

In fact, unless change is organized and directed, it tends to be negative, leading to degradation and disorder. This observation is related to a fundamental principle of science known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Thermodynamics refers to the interaction of mass and energy and is an important field for scientists and engineers. The numerous concepts and equations of thermodynamics are ultimately based on a few grand laws of nature.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy (along with mass) is conserved. You can change its form, but energy cannot be created out of nothing nor can it disappear. Some of the radiation energy of sunlight captured long ago by plants is now available to us as chemical energy in the form of gasoline. When we burn it in our cars, some of that energy is converted to mechanical energy as the car moves, and some is converted to thermal energy (heat) or other forms of chemical energy. If we carefully account for all the energy forms, we see that none is created or destroyed, it all goes somewhere. This is the First Law of Thermodynamics, and all other principles and equations used in science and engineering must comply with it. This principle, which seems fairly obvious to us today, was rejected by the scientific community when first introduced in the mid 1800s. It took a lot of evidence to finally convince the learned authorities, but now we accept this principle as truth, until someone can refute it or come up with a counterexample.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics puts limits on what can be done as energy is applied or as it is transformed from one form to another. In layman's terms, the Second Law states that things tend to get worse - to go from order to disorder - if left alone. The only way for something to become more ordered is if external energy is applied properly. For example, a car will tend to fall apart unless you maintain it - and car maintenance becomes the external work that must be applied to reverse the natural decay that would otherwise occur. A human body will quit working unless you constantly supply external energy in the form of food. Put a two-year old in a room, come back in a few hours, and you will see a substantial increase in disorder (technically speaking, the entropy of the room will have increased). To prevent or reverse such disorder, external energy is required, usually in the form of a frustrated mother.

The Second Law is really the governing principle of mortality. We can't expect natural changes to be ones that we like. Things tend to decay and degenerate if left to themselves. Here in mortality, we can expect to become ill, to age, to suffer changes in the form of afflictions and tribulations, and to eventually die. Change is guaranteed in mortality, and not all of the changes are pleasant.

Many Saints make the mistake of thinking that the righteous will always be blessed in temporal matters - that they will be or at least ought to be blessed so as to be financially independent, healthy, delivered from all tragedy, and spared from IRS audits.

We know that the Lord blesses and prospers groups that are righteous, but we know that there are many ways in which the righteous are blessed - ways which typically do not show up in your checking account. Indeed, much of the scriptures deals with the trials and afflictions that are given to the righteous. We learn that we will certainly be blessed if we keep our covenants, but we may not escape bitter trials in this mortal existence. Viewed from a temporal perspective, the scriptures provide many striking contrasts that some might even call inconsistencies. These are contrasts between the blessings that the Lord gives the righteous and the afflictions that He gives the righteous.

In the Old Testament, we read of the rich blessings the Lord gave to Joseph, who rose to the second highest position in Egypt and was given wealth and power beyond his wildest dreams. He was temporally blessed, but we also read of Joseph cast out by his brothers, sold into slavery, and unjustly thrown into prison. Also in the Old Testament, we read of the divine protection given to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they were cast into the fire for their commitment to God. Although the fire was so hot that several of the guards who tossed them in themselves died from the heat, the three righteous men were spared. Indeed, the evil king who sought their lives saw a fourth Being with them in the fire, one like the Son of Man. They were unharmed, not even singed in the least. What an incredible blessing! Yet in the Book of Mormon we read of righteous Abinadi burned at the stake, and of dozens of believing women and children cast into a flaming pit by the wicked inhabitants of the city of Ammonihah. These women and children were not spared.

We read of glorious victories against enemies, such as that of GIdeon and only three hundred men against a huge army. Yet in this dispensation, hundreds of Saints were massacred by mobs, and the prophet Joseph himself was killed. We read of the golden age of prosperity and righteousness that followed the visit of Christ to the Americas, yet in our day thousands of Latter-day Saints struggle in the search for employment.

The ultimate example of all is the Savior himself, the only perfectly righteous man ever, who suffered more intensely than any other human being ever suffered.

What are the promises made to us in mortality? Will we be spared cancer, unemployment, theft, or IRS audits? Perhaps - but remember, this is the world, a place of wickedness, a time of probation, a crucible for separating the gold from the sand. This is a battlefield with real casualties - agony and death, both spiritual and physical. The promise to us is that we can have peace in this life - even in the midst of war and other unpleasant changes, the peace that the Gospel brings, not the peace that the world gives - and most importantly, that we can have eternal life, eternal joy in the next life (D&C 59:23).

We can expect trials as a prelude to the glory and blessings that God yearns to gives us. In D&C 58:3-4, we read:

3. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. 4. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.

We must remember that no matter what we are asked to go through, it does not mean that God has ceased loving us, that he has changed in any way in his love for us. Paul makes this point in Romans 8: 35-39:

35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36. As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God does not change in his love for us. His constancy - part of His eternal nature - is a key characteristic, as we read in Mormon 9: 9-13:

9. For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
10. And now if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not God of miracles.
11. But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.
12. Behold he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.
13. And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death.

The above passage is worthy of study from a thermodynamic perspective. It links God's constancy to His conquest of our physical and spiritual death (death being the ultimate result of entropy).

The main point for now, though, is that when afflictions come, the question is not whether God has changed, but whether we will change. Can we remain constant in our commitment to the Gospel? This is the real challenge: how to remain constant in the midst of change.

Satan tries to exploit the Second Law of Thermodynamics to let change around us bring change in us- degenerative, negative, "natural" change, change such as a weakening of testimony, a loss of faith, and yielding to sin. There are many ways in which he exploits external change for his negative purposes. For example, changes in the Church itself such as changes in ward boundaries, changes in leadership, changes in policies, changes in meeting times - can all be used to tempt us to change in our commitment to the Gospel. Do we criticize our leaders for a change we do not like? Do we quit coming when it is less convenient?

External change in the form of persecution or peer pressure can be a powerful tool to induce some to give up the Gospel to remove pressure from the world or to get the praise of the world. Tragedy and suffering can be exploited to make us doubt God and his love or to question his existence. This happened to Ted Turner, a famous media magnate in Atlanta, where we were living a couple months ago. Ted Turner's sister had been a devout Christian, but she died of cancer at an early age. His death was very troubling to Mr. Turner, and he decided that a loving God could not possibly have allowed her death, so God must not exist. (This argument can be restated: God does not do things the way I think they should be done, therefore He must not exist.) Suffering is a two-edged sword in the changes it promotes, as we read in Alma 62: 41:

But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.

Suffering humbles some, bringing them closer to God, while others are hardened by it. Satan's goal is to harden as many as possible.

Perhaps Satan's most clever and powerful tool for negative change is money. He teaches us that we can have anything in this world for money - all we have to do is make a slight change in our hearts by making money our god rather than our Heavenly Father. This tool is so powerful that it - or the love of it - is called the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Shakespeare showed money as a powerful agent for negative change in the play Timon of Athens. Timon was a wealthy and generous Greek who freely gave of his substance to those around him. Soon he had given it all away, whereupon his former friends and relatives ignored him and refused to even recognize him. As an outcast, he left the city to survive by digging up roots in the countryside. One day, while digging, he came upon a treasure with much gold. When he saw the wealth he had found, he wanted to get rid of it, for he knew how dangerous it could be. Timon says that this money will "make black white, foul fair, wring right, base noble, coward valiant....This yellow slave will knit and break religion, bless the accursed, place thieves and give them title, knee, and approbation with Senators on the bench."

Turning black to white, good to evil is exactly what money does. One example is the tobacco industry, which helps kill over 400,000 thousand Americans every year for the sake of money. This industry goes to enormous lengths to deny the evil it causes and to shroud itself with respectability. The same with the alcohol industry. The abortion industry is a related example. The slaughter of the unborn brings tremendous profits to the doctors, clinics, and organizations that support it. These profits buy great influence and cause great corruption of values, turning good and evil upside down. Abortion is now hailed as a right, as a victory for the progress of women, when in truth it is a despicable holocaust that slays 1.5 million innocent beings in our nation every year.

In the midst of Satan's onslaught, in the midst of constant change that threatens to change our hearts, how do we remain constant and stay on course? The Second Law of Thermodynamics provides some insight, an analogy at least. The Second Law states that things degenerate or become less ordered on their own unless an external source of energy is applied to reverse the natural disorder. For example, to keep a house clean, you must clean it. To keep a car running, you must add gas and do maintenance work. With respect to our testimonies and our eternal souls, the external energy needed comes from God. A major channel for this energy is the priesthood, directed through leaders whom God calls and directs. This is how God overcomes negative change in the Church and keeps this organization on course.

During World War II, communication was cut off between Church headquarters and several countries such as Germany. After the war, Church leaders found that the local branches in Germany and other places had undergone significant transformations. Robes were worn, candles were lit, and other practices from non-LDS churches were adopted. Without constant direction through apostles and prophets, apostasy can occur with great speed. The word of the Lord, through his chosen leaders, resists all external change. Indeed, as we read in D&C 1: 38, though the heavens and the earth may pass away - a most dramatic change - his word will not pass away, "but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

In addition to following the word of God, both through living prophets and as found in the scriptures - which we should study daily to stay on course - we also tap into God's energy through prayer and through the guidance of the Holy Ghost as we live worthy for that companionship.

I must also mention one specific commandment, that of tithing, for it is a powerful defense against Satan's most clever tool for change, money. Through paying tithing, we learn to set our priorities properly,making God first rather than the things of the world. We learn to focus on that which is eternal and unchanging rather than on treasures which may perish or change daily (stocks, for example).

The divine energy we need to resist the decay that occurs in the world ultimately is derived from that most marvelous eternal powerhouse, the Atonement of Christ. The Atonement of Christ is God's answer to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Through the miracle of His atonement, Christ offers us the power to reverse death, to remove sin and all manner of degeneration, to heal spiritual wounds and change our hearts for good, to make all that is bad and painful become good, to cause us to become new creatures, born again, immortal, eternal. His way of life, which he has made available to all who will repent and follow Him - is eternal life, endless life, unchanging, perfect life - in marvelous violation of mortality's Second Law. He offers more than just the energy or the external help we need to avoid degeneration - he offers us limitless energy for positive change, energy that can exalt us and help us become like him. This is what Alma the Younger spoke of after he experienced the miraculous power of the Atonement in his life (Mosiah 27: 24-26):

24. For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
25. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
26. And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

It is what King Benjamin spoke of in Mosiah 5: 7-9:

7. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
8. And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
9. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.

It is what Paul spoke of in Philippians 3:20-21

20. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21. Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

It is the powerful yet calming power that hundreds of Lamanites experienced in the prison where Nephi and Lehi were imprisoned around 30 B.C., as we read in Helaman 5: 42-48.

It is impossible to think of the Atonement of Christ without thinking of his pure love, his unchanging charity, and a major part of following Christ and receiving the blessings of the Atonement is seeking to obtain this Christlike quality of charity. Indeed, charity - the pure love of Christ - is a great key to obtaining constancy amidst change. In Moroni 7:45-48, that beautiful discourse by Mormon on charity, we read that everything around us will ultimately fail, just as the Second Law predicts - but charity never fails but endures forever. We are exhorted to pray to the Father with all the energy of our heart that we might receive this divine energy - charity -from God, which will make us true sons of Jesus Christ, that when He appears, we will be like Him - free from the changes of mortality, purified, eternal. "Wherefore cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all ... and it endureth forever."

We are sons and daughters of God in this painful crucible of mortality, an existence of guaranteed changes, many of them difficulty, an existence dominated by the constraints of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. May we resist the external forces and temptations that might lead us to change for the worse, and may we remain constant in our testimonies as we follow the prophets and seek the energizing companionship of the Spirit through obedience, scripture study and prayer. May we turn our hearts to Christ, seeking the endless power of his love, of his Atonement, which frees us from sins and gives us power to be born again, to rise again, and to live with him in the unimaginable joy of eternal life. May we seek after charity with all our hearts, that we may remain constant in the midst of change, cleaving to charity as the foundation for all we do. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Additional citations:

Helaman 5: 42-48:

42. And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.
43. And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.
44. And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
45. And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.
46. And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying:
47. Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.
48. And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them.
49. And there were about three hundred souls who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt.


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