Stop trying to change people. Stop it.

Living the Gospel isn’t about changing others. It’s about changing yourself through Christ.

Wednesday January 10, 2024


One thing I’ve seen a lot of people, including myself, do is try to change other people.

Come on! Why won’t you change colors?

I’m not sure why this is or why we do this. Perhaps we want others to be happier and we feel in our own egos that we know the better way. Perhaps we want our own problems to go away. Etc. etc.

The gospel isn’t about healing others. The gospel of Jesus is about individuals coming to Him for personal healing.

We can pray for others, sure. But what’s the point of that prayer?

When we pray, it changes us. What changes us? He does. Heavenly Father changes us through the power of the Savior’s atonement. Prayer is never about changing other people’s hearts, even if you pray their heart might be softened. But by praying for their heart to be softened, it actually softens your own heart.

When Alma and their people prayed for deliverance from captivity, they prayed for softened hearts:

Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites… Mosiah 23.28

The hearts softened, but the more important thing that happened is that they developed enough faith in the Lord in order to be able to sneak out and not be afraid of being hunted down or what not. Like the Israelites in Egypt it can be dangerous to just go into the desert. Takes a lot of faith. But the prayers and Miracles of Moses softened the Israelite’s hearts and prepared them to follow Moses.

But what about Alma praying for his kids?

Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith. Mosiah 27.14

Surely this is about God sending an angel to change someone. Pray hard and miracles happen, even if they don’t see an angel.

But the reality is more nuanced.

And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off. Mosiah 27.16

The angel didn’t come to change Alma.

But you’d think there would be a strong correlation between seeing an angel and changing your ways though, right? A piece of counter evidence is found with Laman and Lemuel who were visited by an angel while bearing up Nephi:

And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us? 1 Nephi 3.31

Or what about the people who saw Jesus heal and then condemn him for doing so on a Sunday? Evidence abounds that spiritual encounters don’t forcibly change us. Angelic visitations don’t change us. Jesus appearing to people didn’t change them.

This is agency. This is Heavenly Father’s plan.

When Alma saw the angel, the angel said “I’m visiting you to answer the prayers of your dad.” So yes, absolutely, the Lord does things on our behalf because we pray. But he doesn’t change us.

This very same angel gave Alma an out: “even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off”…The angel gave agency. But Alma could easily have acted like Laman and Lemuel or the Pharisees and hardened his heart. It’s also why the Lord was able to do many miracles in the Americas that he couldn’t do in Jerusalem (3 Nephi): they had faith. They chose to follow Him. They had agency.

The gospel isn’t about us changing others through prayer. It’s about us allowing the Savior to change our hearts. This same scripture could be applied when trying to change another person:

why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Matthew 7.3

Or this:

When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge people. This topic could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it! Uchtdorf

Instead, find the good in others. Focus on changing and improving yourself to be more understanding, more accepting, more go with the flow.


Bryan lives somewhere at the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and futurism and writes about tech, books, Christianity, gratitude, and whatever’s on his mind. If you liked reading, perhaps you’ll also like subscribing: