Clinging to the comfortable past is no way to live. The world around us is constantly changing, and we need to be prepared to face new challenges—and to enjoy new blessings—every day.
In the version of the Sermon on the Mount which the Savior delivered on the American continent, He said, “Old things are done away, and all things have become new” (3 Nephi 12:47, compare 2 Corinthians 5:17). The world had changed a lot for His listeners. All of them had likely lost loved ones in the cataclysmic series of natural disasters which had occurred shortly before. Whole cities had been burned, buried, or submerged. (See 3 Nephi 9:1-12.) It’s safe to say that their daily life was nothing like it had been before. Many of their goals and plans were now irrelevant. They were picking up the pieces of their former life, developing new skills, and rebuilding what they had once taken for granted. Embracing change was essential for them.
His audience had a hard time understanding what He meant, though, so He provided a clarification. Some things do not change. Prophecies will be fulfilled. God will keep His covenants. There are some things you can absolutely rely on, no matter what happens. But circumstances change, and you will be happier if you can adjust to the new reality quickly. (See 3 Nephi 15:2-10.)
During His mortal ministry, Jesus taught this principle with two simple parables. No one would waste new cloth by sewing it onto an old garment. And no one would waste new wine by pouring it into old wineskins (Matthew 9:16-17, Mark 2:21-22, Luke 5:36-38). The lesson: if you are clinging to the past—if you are an “old garment” or an “old wineskin”—you may find it difficult to receive and assimilate the knowledge and blessings of God in the future.
The apostle Paul taught that, after baptism, we should “walk in newness of life” and “serve in newness of spirit” (Romans 6:4, 7:9). Because of our faith and trust in the Savior, we can face changed circumstances with confidence instead of retreating to the familiar and the comfortable.
Speaking of the days of commotion preceding His Second Coming, the Savior said, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). In the days of Abraham, when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, messengers from God warned Lot and his family to leave their home and flee from the city. They instructed the family, “Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17). But as they journeyed, “his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). Commenting on this story and on the Savior’s admonition, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:
Apparently what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her….
So…I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought—fatally, as it turned out—that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind.“‘Remember Lot’s Wife’: Faith Is for the Future,” BYU Devotional Address, 13 January 2009
Thomas S. Monson counseled: “The past is behind—learn from it; the future is ahead—prepare for it; the present is here—live in it” (“Go For It!” General Conference, April 1989).
Today, I will walk in “newness of life.” I will live in the present and look to the future. I will place my faith in Jesus Christ, believing that, with His guidance and blessings, the future can be far better than the past.