God doesn’t change.
And people are really struggling with that fact.
It doesn’t really matter what the issue is that people are facing. The fact that God, and therefore His doctrines, don’t change frustrates people to no end.
Why is that? Well, it seems complicated, but I think it can be boiled down to this:
- People don’t want to feel guilty.
- But we all sin and make mistakes or poor choices.
- So we all feel guilty sometimes.
- But people also don’t want to change.
Cue the realization that none of us can make mistakes/sin/etc. without feeling guilty because God is the one who set up the laws. And when we make mistakes or sin, we are primarily breaking His laws.
One of the most common things God asks us to do is keep His commandments. And honestly, most of them are pretty simple to live by.
But they aren’t always easy. And that’s why we struggle to live them.
Which is why God gave us repentance, so we can change and learn and become more like Him over time.
And it works – until we don’t want to change.
That’s when the problems arise. We start justifying the things we know go against God’s commandments.
And we ask Him to change – to change His doctrine, to change His laws, to change whatever we think should change so that we can still feel accepted by Him no matter what we’re doing. He’s literally the most perfect being in existence, the One who bases everything He does on eternal truths. And the One who, as Nephi says:
24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.2 Nephi 26:24
Think about that. Our God, who died to save us from our sins. Who was tortured, humiliated, abandoned, and persecuted. Our Brother, our Redeemer, Savior, and Advocate.
We want Him to change. We want Him to deny eternal truth, deny the sacrifice He made, deny everything that makes Him God – so we don’t have to feel bad.
Do we have the right to do that?
Or can we learn to accept that the choices we are making are not in line with God’s law and learn how to deal with that reality?
Let’s learn from an example.
Lehi Teaching Laman and Lemuel About God
When Lehi had to escape into the wilderness, he took his whole family along. And some of them were more frustrated about that than others.
Laman and Lemuel, in particular, struggled with leaving Jerusalem. Nephi tells of various times when his brothers were at odds with Lehi, and we also see various times when Laman and Lemuel threatened family members, attacked them, argued with them, and failed to keep the commandments of God.
Lehi, meanwhile, attempts to teach them every chance he can. Even early in their travels, he told them often how they weren’t living the Lord’s will and how they needed to make changes in their lives or face the consequences.
For example, after Lehi has the vision of the tree of life, he tells his family:
35 And Laman and Lemuel partook not of the fruit, said my father.
36 And it came to pass after my father had spoken all the words of his dream or vision, which were many, he said unto us, because of these things which he saw in a vision, he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.
37 And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off; yea, my father did preach unto them.1 Nephi 8:35-37
Now, did Lehi do this because he was a judgmental person? Was he trying to hold Laman and Lemuel back or control them?
No. He spoke to them as “a tender parent.” Lehi loved his sons and wanted the best for them.
But, no matter how much he loved them, he never once told them that it was okay for them to be sinning in the way they were.
And Lehi never asked God to change His ways to accommodate the sins of his sons. Instead, he lovingly pleaded with his sons to recognize that they were not living God’s commandments. Lehi simply wanted Laman and Lemuel to have true joy in Christ, but he also knew that they had to choose that for themselves.
Lehi sets a great example because he recognized that God was not in error, but his sons were. And though he didn’t judge them or mistreat them, Lehi did teach his sons truth and ask them to change their ways.
Lehi understood that God is not God if He changes His ways. And he knew the joy that comes from choosing to keep God’s commandments. So rather than justifying the sins of his sons, or his own sins for that matter, Lehi did his best to obey God and to teach his sons to do the same.
Justification vs. Obedience vs. Love
We all face moments when we attempt to justify our sins to ourselves and to God. And sometimes we can live for years telling ourselves that what we are doing is fine when we know that we are opposing God’s commandments.
And opposing God is never fine.
Justification helps us feel better in the moment, but eventually, we will have to face what we’ve chosen to do with our lives. And if that means facing a lot of justification, it’s going to be a painful experience.
I hope you know I’m not saying any of this to be judgmental. This is something I’ve struggled with, and I think all of us have struggled with this.
We don’t want to feel guilty for living our lives the way we want to. But as long as what we want opposes God’s doctrines, we will feel that way.
We can’t expect God to change for us. If that’s what we expect from Him, we will always be disappointed.
But we can expect Him to love us. And we can expect that He will be there beside us as soon as we are willing to turn to Him and ask for His help. Our Father in Heaven will help us understand His doctrines and eternal truths if we simply ask Him to teach us and are willing to listen to His answer.
Life isn’t simple. It’s complicated, and we all end up in situations and experiences that push us to the breaking point. Jesus Christ has been there too. And He’s experienced worse. He loves us and understands us because He’s been knocked lower than any of us ever will be.
Can we accept that God loves us even when He won’t change for us? Even when we want to live in ways that oppose His doctrine? Or when we make mistakes? Or when we’re faced with struggles completely out of our control?
Can we still turn to God, obey Him, and trust Him when He won’t – can’t – change for us?
What’s more, can we recognize when we’re rebelling against God and make changes in our lives instead?
Every single one of us has that opportunity. And every single one of us is loved by God. So I hope all of us will remember that as we each take a hard look at our own lives.
Truth is hard to hear sometimes. And when our Father in Heaven bases everything He does in eternal truths, we’re bound to be uncomfortable sometimes. But our relationship with God was never intended to be entirely comfortable. Discomfort helps us learn and grow.
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said,
Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.
Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Cost – and Blessings – of Discipleship,” 2014
Our Father in Heaven does not exist to make us comfortable or to do everything we want Him to do. Rather, He exists as our Parent and Creator who understands eternal truths far better than we do. His goal is to teach us His true doctrines so we can decide if we really want to accept them or not.
God’s refusal to change doesn’t stem from punishment or judgment, but from a love that must adhere to the truth. He will not alter truth, nor will He force us to obey Him. He is God because He chooses to adhere to truth, and if He were to change that, He would no longer be God. And if He were to force us to obey, He wouldn’t love us.
For us to be comfortable with God, we need to change ourselves. We aren’t God. We aren’t perfect. And we aren’t always right. So if anyone needs to change, it’s us.