Today, I’m studying the talk Constancy Amid Change, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1993 General Conference.
President Nelson introduces this talk by recounting a conversation he had with two youth – “Ruth” and “John.” This stood out to me because in October of 1993, I was a youth. I don’t remember this talk much, but I’m sure that I heard it and maybe even took notes on it. I was in seminary at the time, and by then living in Pennsylvania. Maybe this talk made me perk up because he talked about his conversation with “Ruth” and “John.” Maybe I felt like “Ruth,” who lamented, “Our world is constantly changing, isn’t it?”
At this point, it no longer matters what I thought and felt then. I’m grateful to have read this talk now, though.
As the title and “Ruth’s” question suggests – this talk is President Nelson’s comforting words to those who are concerned about the inconsistency of our changing world. We can find constants and truth – especially with our foundation in the gospel.
The first constants that President Nelson addresses are personages. There are a few personages who are eternal – some trustworthy, others not so much.
Our Godhead is made up of three personages – Heavenly Father, his son – Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
President Nelson taught:
“Our Heavenly Father has a glorified body of flesh and bone, inseparably connected with His spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson
Jesus Christ also has a glorified body of flesh and bone. He is the son of God and is the author of our salvation.
Finally, the Holy Ghost is a personage – but without flesh and bone. He influences us and can be our constant companion.
These personages – united in purpose love us. President Nelson taught:
“Brothers and sisters, these Heavenly Beings love you. Their love is as constant as is the greatest love of earthly parents.” – Russell M. Nelson
I love this. I know that the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost is constant. I know that it doesn’t matter what we do, how we live our lives, the mistakes we make, and the wrongs we commit – He still loves us. Nothing can stop our Father from loving us. I know this and I’ve experienced His eternal love.
It is because He loves us that He sent His Son – so that we return to live with Him again and be happy. It is because He loves us that He has granted us the Gift of the Holy Ghost – which enables us to have a constant companionship with the Godhead! It is because He loves us that He does anything – gives us commandments, prophets, the Priesthood, truth, enlightenment. Everything the Lord does is out of love. We can trust Him implicitly because He is the constant.
I mean, the talk could have ended there – with the constant of this world being Heavenly Father and His great love for us. Do we really grasp His love for us? Imagine the way that our lives might change if we allowed ourselves to both feel and believe that He Loves Us.
Though President Nelson could have ended his talk with the love and constancy of our Godhead, he didn’t.
There is another personage that is constant does not love us and we must recognize his existence. President Nelson stated:
Satan is real. He wants us to be miserable. He understands the plan of salvation, the plan of happiness, and he has rejected it. He wants us to reject it, too. All I can say is, he is kind of a jerk. Sometimes, we tend to satirize his existence – characturizing him as some kind of goon from a horror movie. But the fact is, he is real. He is scarier and more dangerous than we can imagine. He is a constant in this world, just as much as our Godhead is.
I don’t think that President Nelson wanted to scare us by reminding us of this truth. I think that this is a helpful hint – to remind us that there is an active force working against us. When we take into account the existence of Satan, both recognizing his power and yet his powerlessness in comparison to God, then I think we are better able to make decisions that put us in line with our Heavenly Father and His power over the destroyer.
Next, President Nelson discusses another constant – plans.
President Nelson talks about God’s plan. In the scriptures it is listed in various names – though they are synonymous:
- the plan of happiness
- the plan of salvation
- the plan of redemption
- the plan of restoration
- the plan of mercy
- the plan of deliverance
- the everlasting gospel
This plan hinges on the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Think about that for a second!
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no happiness (I think that this is the same in life – no sacrifice, no joy)
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no salvation
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no redemption
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no restoration
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no mercy
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no deliverance
- Without Christ’s sacrifice, no gospel – or good news
I realize that I can make this list about the connection between Christ’s sacrifice and these various blessings, but that this list seems meaningless unless we realize why we need salvation, redemption, restoration, mercy, deliverance, or good news.
President Nelson stated:
“Before we can comprehend [Christ’s atoning sacrifice], though, we must understand the fall of Adam. And before we can fully appreciate the Fall, we must first comprehend the Creation. These three events—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are three preeminent pillars of God’s plan, and they are doctrinally interrelated.” – Russell M. Nelson
The Creation – Paradisiacal Creation
President Nelson taught:
“The creation of the earth was a preparatory part of our Father’s plan.” – Russell M. Nelson
It’s pretty obvious. In order for the Lord’s plan to move forward, a physical realm needed to be created. I don’t think that I need to belabor the point. The creation was a must. Without a creation, there would have been no chance for Adam and Eve to “fall,” which also would have made an atonement completely unnecessary.
Of course, we can go back to the first point and remember that God loves us. The scriptures teach:
“Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.” – 1 Nephi 17:36
“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” – Isaiah 45:18
“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:18
Heavenly Father loves us, so He made a plan which included the creation of the earth. The earth was created so we could dwell here and learn. This does not mean that we should destroy the earth! We should remember that it is a gift and blessing from God.
Of course, when Heavenly Father created the earth He also created our first parents – Adam and Eve. President Nelson related:
“Adam and Eve were the first people to live upon the earth. They were different from the plant and animal life that had been created previously. Adam and Eve were children of God. Their bodies of flesh and bone were made in the express image of God’s. In that state of innocence, they were not yet mortal. They could have had no children, were not subject to death, and could have lived in Eden’s garden forever. Thus, we might speak of the Creation in terms of a paradisiacal creation.” – Russell M. Nelson
Had the plan of Salvation stopped at the creation of the earth, then there would be no salvation. We would be sitting in Heaven waiting for progress and hope. There would be no need for an atonement. Thankfully, the plan didn’t stop here. It continued on with a difficult choice made by one of the strongest women to live on this earth.
The Fall – Mortal Creation
Heavenly Father, in order for His plan to continue, gave Adam and Eve a commandment: to multiply and replenish the earth. However, this would require another choice – to partake of the tree of knowledge – which would also introduce death.
President Nelson stated:
“We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise. Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation, because “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).” – Russell M. Nelson
Not only am I grateful for Eve’s choice, I’m also grateful to be in a religion that recognizes Eve’s choice as a courageous one. She made the choice that would usher in our existence. Her choice brought us agency, wisdom, and life.
Of course, this choice also brought death. But – Heavenly Father had a plan all along. He knew that we would need to go through opposition in order to gain experience and wisdom. Before He even created the world, He had a plan for our salvation – a Savior.
The Atonement – Immortal Creation
Mortal life (and then death) was not the final destination, nor was it ever meant to be. Heavenly Father loves us and He had a plan! President Nelson said:
“Given that reality, still another change was necessary. An infinite atonement was required to redeem Adam, Eve, and all of their posterity. That atonement must enable our physical bodies to be resurrected and changed to a bloodless form, no longer liable to disease, deterioration, or death.
According to eternal law, that atonement required a personal sacrifice by an immortal being not subject to death. Yet He must die and take up His own body again. The Savior was the only one who could accomplish this. From His mother He inherited power to die. From His Father He obtained power over death.” – Russell M. Nelson
All along, this was God’s intention. His work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. He had a plan. He didn’t react. He wasn’t shocked by Eve’s choice to partake of the fruit. Her choice was the plan! Adam and Eve would need to choose to progress. Heavenly Father loves us and respects our agency. He wouldn’t have forced them to move on. They needed to make that choice.
And they did!
They made the choice to obtain knowledge and fulfill the first commandment – to multiply and replenish the earth even before they knew that a Savior would be able to help them return into the presence of their Father.
Of course, Heavenly Father had a plan! And this plan included the Savior, who overcame the negative effects of the fall while accentuating the positive ones.
Just as God’s plan is a constant, there is another plan that we must be made aware of. We learn of Satan’s plan in the Pearl of Great Price:
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” – Moses 4:1-4
Satan wants to destroy our agency and take the power of God. In order to accomplish this plan, Satan tries to deceive us so that we can be led captive by Him. In order to remain liberated and happy, we need to hearken unto the voice of God.
President Nelson expands on how Satan tries to accomplish his plan of destruction:
“Before leaving our discussion of unchanging plans, however, we need to remember that the adversary sponsors a cunning plan of his own. It invariably attacks God’s first commandment for husband and wife to beget children. It tempts with tactics that include infidelity, unchastity, and other abuses of procreative power.” – Russell M. Nelson
Satan’s plan opposes God’s plan. So – maybe a helpful exercise would be rename Satan’s plan in various ways:
- the plan of misery
- the plan of destruction
- the plan of abandonment
- the plan of damnation
- the plan of cruelty
- the plan of captivity
- the everlasting bad news
I need to wrap this up, but I wanted to quickly quote President Nelson:
“Unchanging principles are so because they come from our unchanging Heavenly Father. Try as they might, no parliament or congress could ever repeal the law of earth’s gravity or amend the Ten Commandments. Those laws are constant. All laws of nature and of God are part of the everlasting gospel. Thus, there are many unchanging principles.” – Russell M. Nelson
I really love this because I believe that like gravity, God’s laws are NON-NEGOTIABLE!
Now, we can’t confuse laws and principles. Principles are based on laws, though, and so many principles are also unchanging.
President Nelson lists several unchanging principles:
- The Priesthood
- Moral Law
- Divine Commandments
I encourage you to read through these subjects in his talk.
This world is changing. It has changed so dramatically since he gave this talk! Think of life in 1993. It was different. But there are constants that we can hold on to. I’m so grateful for this knowledge and the gospel.