Read full address by Paul V. Johnson
Elder Johnson describes his grandson’s experience of receiving a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with aplastic anemia. In a bone marrow transplant, stem cells from a donor’s bone marrow are infused into a patient with the hope that the patient’s body will accept the donor cells into the body and use them to produce healthy blood.
The donor blood becomes part of the patient’s DNA, to the extent that a blood sample could be identified as the donor’s. Likewise, we can make the atoning blood of Jesus Christ an inseparable part of our spiritual DNA. Elder Johnson says, “Like the remarkable process of the very DNA of Aaron’s blood cells changing, we can have our hearts changed, have His image in our countenances, and become new creatures in Christ.”
One of the most important milestones in the transplant process is engraftment. During my time as a bone marrow transplant nurse, we carefully tracked the numbers of the different types of blood cells the patient produced each day. At a certain point, a patient’s transplanted bone marrow begins producing cells and functioning as if it was always part of that patient’s body—but before that, the patient still needed multiple blood transfusions and daily preventative medications like antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals. After engraftment, patients continued to require meticulous care to stay healthy. Likewise, even when we have a solid testimony of Jesus Christ, we still need daily repentance, prayer, and ordinances like the sacrament to stay close to Him.
Most of us will never need a bone marrow transplant, but we all need to experience a “mighty change in [our] hearts” (Alma 5:14). Just as a bone marrow transplant patient is not able to produce healthy blood without the selfless gift of another, we need the Atonement to be able to spend eternity with our Heavenly Parents and our Savior, Jesus Christ and our loved ones on earth. While it can be hard to find a bone marrow donor that matches the patient in need, the loving gift of the Atonement is extended to everyone—we simply need to accept it.
Alma 5 asks several questions about the spiritual well-being of the people Alma is preaching to in the chapter. Read Alma 5 and ask yourself those questions. If you find yourself needing to bring the Savior deeper into your own spiritual DNA, plan one action you can take to accomplish that goal, whether that is a greater commitment to prayer, spending time in the temple, performing an act of service, or something else the Spirit prompts you to do.
I am patient with myself, and God's timing, as I embrace the promise of change that is possible only through the atonement of Jesus Christ.