The Leopard’s Lie: Do People Really Change?

"People can change." —Thomas S. Monson

Photo by Tegan Mierle

Even with our knowledge of the plan of salvation, it can be difficult to see others as God sees them—especially when they seem unwilling or unable to progress toward achieving their divine potential.

Is permanent improvement possible? Clinton Duffy, an American prison warden known for successfully rehabilitating prisoners, certainly thought so. One critic mocked him, saying, “You should know that leopards don’t change their spots!” Duffy responded, “You should know I don’t work with leopards. I work with men, and men change every day.”

Duffy’s perspective was described by Thomas S. Monson in the October 2012 general priesthood session talk “See Others as They May Become,” in which he explains that our destinies are not cemented by who we are right now. He addresses all of us when he declares, “We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits. They can repent from transgressions. They can bear the priesthood worthily. And they can serve the Lord diligently.”

President Monson suggests that just as women need to be told they’re beautiful, men need to be told they’re valued, capable, and worthwhile. Many of us can be led to believe we’re unchanging leopards if we aren’t invited to serve—to use our unique talents to benefit those around us.

But are we also aware of the divine potential of those who are not members of the Church? President Monson tells of a missionary who enjoyed remarkable success. When the missionary was asked what he did differently, he simply said he “would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances.” He saw people in even the worst walks of life as future gods and goddesses.

Let us follow in the footsteps of these exemplary individuals by not mistaking people for leopards. President Monson counsels us, “We must develop the capacity to see men not as they are at present but as they may become.” If we can do this, we will have the courage to never give up on loving, serving, and inviting the isolated and downhearted to come unto Christ. God certainly hasn’t—and neither should we.

Want to know what happened when John Groberg and President Thomas S. Monson met the king of Tonga? Find out by reading the full talk, “See Others as They May Become.”

Source: LDS General Conference

—Alex Hugie, Mormon Insights

feature image courtesy of syna tiger resort

Find more insights

Listen to the Mormon Message “The Other Prodigal” to learn what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says about accepting people who are trying to change.

Unsure how to change the way you see others? Check out the tips in the Mormon Insights article “Judging Others—Just Stop It.”

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