Todd B. Parker: Four principles to change behavior

Todd B. Parker speaks to students in the Marriott Center Tuesday, Jan. 20. (Screenshot)
Todd B. Parker speaks to students in the Marriott Center Tuesday, Jan. 20. (Screenshot)

Todd B. Parker, associate professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, spoke about how understanding true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior at the Marriott Center Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Parker posed a question to the student body: “What causes a change in attitude and behavior?” He then quoted President Boyd K. Packer in response.

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior,” President Packer said. “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.”

Parker then explored four points of doctrine found in the scriptures and in the words of modern-day prophets. The first principle was to “draw upon the power of the word daily.”

Brother Parker told of his experience as a seminary teacher and the change he saw in his students over a nine-month period as they prayed morning and night and read a chapter of scripture on their own each day.

His students wrote about their feelings toward God, Jesus Christ, the First Vision and anything else they felt impressed to write about at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year he had them again write down their thoughts and compare them to the first note.

Julie, one of Parker’s students, was overwhelmed when she compared the notes and showed them to Parker. Her first note was full of doubt and uncertainty that there was a God and that Christ lived, but her second note showed new understanding and proclamations of what she knew to be true.

“I counted nine times when she said, ‘I know.’ That is the power of the Word in a young lady’s life,” Parker said.

Parker had challenging classes in which he wondered if students were getting anything from his lessons.

“As I considered my role in their temporal salvation (because they seemed so impossible to reach), I thought the only way that I could ever help save them would be to wait until they all died and do work for the dead. That, however, was not a viable option,” Parker said.

He gave these difficult students the same challenge as his other classes. One student, Larry, submitted a first response that included doubt about God and confessions that he only went to church to make his parents happy. Larry also confessed that he always wanted to do something wrong, which Parker testified he was an eyewitness of.

Brother Parker then quoted Larry’s second response: “I know the Church is true. I have a testimony of it. I love my big Brother and my Heavenly Father, and I know they live. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and I have a testimony of it. I love this church with all my life. Some say they do not know if they would give their life for it, but I know, if need be, and my Father willed it, I would.”

Parker testified that there is power in studying the word of God and that power can be drawn upon daily.

Parker’s second principle was to “let the scriptures and the Holy Ghost tell you all things that you should do.” He quoted 2 Nephi 32:2–5: “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do … and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”

He told a personal account about finding the right house to live in when he and his family moved to Tucson, Arizona. They were struggling to find a home that was within budget and that met the needs of their family, when Brother Parker turned to the scriptures in search of guidance.

“I was reading Ether chapter 12 in the Book of Mormon about faith,” Parker said. “I came to verse 32. I read: “And I also remembered that thou has said that thou hast prepared a house…” I stopped. I looked up. The Lord had spoken to my soul.”

Parker said he knew there was a house prepared for his family. The next day the family went to visit a previous house they believed might work for their family. Brother Parker inspected the outside of the home and then knelt down to ask God if this was the house prepared for his family.

“As I opened my eyes and arose from my knees, I saw a magazine in a bush,” Parker said. “Could the magazine contain direction? I went to the bush and opened the magazine. It was a pornographic magazine. I closed the magazine, put it back in the bush, went into the house and announced to my wife, ‘This is not the house.’ My wife said, ‘How do you know?’ I said, ‘It’s a “bush” thing. I’ll explain later.'”

As they proceeded to the next house, they saw a house for sale in a neighborhood they liked. The house they spotted was unlisted, but the agent made a call and they were able to visit the house.

“After we pulled into the driveway and got out of the car, I said to my wife, ‘This is the house. I know it. I couldn’t be any more sure than Moses and the burning bush.’ She looked at me and said, ‘This bush thing again?’” Parker said.

They made an offer on the house, and later that day it was accepted. When Parker discovered the address of the property, he was surprised.

“The address was 1509 South Burning Tree Avenue. I said, ‘Burning Tree as in Burning Bush?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I about fell in the pool. A house had been prepared. The Lord had spoken to my soul through Ether 12:32.”

Parker testified that through the scriptures and the Holy Ghost, “You can be told and shown all things you should do.”

The third principle was to use the scriptures to chase darkness from one’s life.

Parker described a time in his life when everything seemed to be going wrong. His wife was ill during the pregnancy of their fifth child, he was struggling to care for his four small children, things were breaking around the home, and he was dealing with a heavy school load.

He had also committed to teach an evening Book of Mormon class. He shared how he felt as he prepared to teach that evening class.

“For the first time in four weeks, I wasn’t depressed. It was also the first time in four weeks I had immersed myself in scripture study,” Parker said.

He testified of the power scriptures have to chase the darkness in life away.

“I acknowledge that scripture study alone can’t resolve all despair and depression. But I do know that when I was finally compelled to act and not be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:26) it was the keystone (the Book of Mormon) that led me back to the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), Jesus Christ,” Parker said.

The fourth principle was encouragement to look for the different types of Christ during scripture study.

“When we can grasp the idea that Christ is the master teacher, the universe is his classroom, and the curriculum is the Atonement, we will never read the scriptures the same again,” Parker said.

In one long breath, Parker made fast-paced connections between Moses and Jesus Christ, between the parting of the Red Sea and the need to be baptized, even between the resurrection and daily sleeping habits.

“The universe was designed to testify of Christ. … Why do you go to bed at night? Because you are tired? No. You symbolically die every night. Why do you get up in the morning? To go to school? No. You symbolically resurrect every morning.”

Parker left students with a challenge and prayer that they would be changed by their study of the gospel.

“My challenge to you is to study the scriptures daily, draw upon the word daily, let the words of Christ tell you all things you should do, and drive darkness from your life. May you always remember that all things testify of Christ.”

Watch the full Devotional at

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