Accounting professor shares how to achieve ‘eternal win’

BYU accounting professor Melissa Western shared her conversion journey and told faculty and students how to achieve the “eternal win” during the July 13 devotional. (Dallin Wilks)

BYU accounting professor Melissa Western told faculty and students to achieve their eternal purpose — the eternal win — during the July 13 devotional.

Western discussed her “starting point” in life and conversion journey, as some of the challenges she faced are common to mortality. She shared the ways individuals can become Christlike and achieve the eternal win, or eternal life despite trials.

Conversion story

Western was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eight years ago. “In fact, my life was a bit of a mess,” she said. “All I worried about was outcomes. I did not understand my purpose or the endgame.”

When her marriage of nine years ended, Western said she felt she had failed at something that really mattered. Growing up, her family had taught her the principles of hard work and accountability. While these principles helped her progress in life, they were not sufficient on their own to bring peace amid trouble and heartbreak.

Western remembered the stories about Jesus her mother had taught her and called upon Him for help. “That reformative year allowed me to become intimately associated with our Savior, Jesus, because He carried me through it,” she said.

After being divorced for about two years, Western said she prayed differently one evening. This time, she expressed her complete willingness to walk whatever path was required of her. 

She said she received strong confirmation that “additional light” would come and she would get married that year. When she met her husband, Marc, she learned he was a member of the Church. She was intrigued by his love of the Savior, but only wanted to go where Heavenly Father directed her. 

Marc invited Western to watch General Conference with him. She said she knew President Monson’s words were true when she heard him speak. “The conversion process was not linear for me,” she said. “Still, I pressed on, and little by little, as we read and I prayed, I began to feel peace.”

Western was baptized on January 25, 2014. “The clarity and energy that came from my covenants astonished me. I could see the path clearly for the first time and I was energized to take it.”

Seven years after being baptized, hard things still happen in her life. But thanks to the Savior, Western said she feels confident in her ability to keep swimming, to keep trying, no matter how rough the water gets. 

“If we are willing, He can bring about great changes in us that strengthen our faith and refine our character, placing us on the path that leads to eternal life—the eternal win,” Western said.

Becoming Christlike

Western’s experiences taught her the purpose of life on Earth — to become Christlike. This process cannot happen in an instant, she said, sharing a few steps people can take on their journey to becoming like Him. 

“First, to become Christ-like, we must desire to have the Spirit of God in our hearts and be willing to act as directed by the Spirit. Our Heavenly Father respects our agency,” Western said.  “If we want him on our team, we need to humbly request His Spirit with a heart ready to act when He provides direction.”

She referenced Matthew 26:38-39, in which the Savior prays to Heavenly Father while carrying out the Atonement: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

God’s children must be willing to do the hard work they are called to do, Western said. “I only received direction from heaven after I was willing—and I mean truly willing—to do whatever was required to have the Spirit of God reside in my heart.”

The second way to become Christlike is to practice living gospel principles, such as hard work, accountability, forgiveness, repentance and the ability to receive personal revelation.

“I often hear people complain about certain gospel principles and commandments as if they are without purpose and merely a spiteful way to ruin our fun,” Western said. But the commandments keep God’s children on track for the eternal win.

Commandments are gifts from a loving Father who knows the many roads that lead to destruction, Western said. “I see the commandments like a big hug from our Heavenly Parents — that is, the commandments feel like love to me.”

The third way individuals can become Christlike is by accessing Godly power through covenants. 

“Covenants direct our gaze toward eternity and help us see the reformative purpose of mortal experience,” Western said. As she uses her covenants to access God’s power, she said she can discern the right path and is empowered to walk it. The path directed by Heavenly Father leads to a Christlike and eternal life.

Western closed by reminding the audience they can have peace no matter the circumstances of their lives.

“If you understand the purpose of this life and rely on the Savior Jesus Christ to help you achieve the eternal win, you can confidently move forward with guidance from heaven, having joy and peace in all circumstances, even when your mortal experiences are far from what you had hoped,” she said. 

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