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What Does "A Mighty Change of Heart" Mean?

Updated: Feb 24

Talk given by Melissa B. during church sacrament meeting in Huntington Beach, CA. 1/29/23

A change of heart is a reversal in position or attitude that results in a change of life. There are many examples in the scriptures of mighty changes of heart. In the New Testament, there is the leperous Naaman who was instructed by the prophet Elisha to bathe in what he considered to be the dirty water of the Jordan River 7 times to be healed. He didn’t want to do it but with a little encouragement from his servants, he had a change of heart and decided to be obedient to the prophet Elisha and was healed. There is also Saul the Pharisee who became Paul the Apostle and changed from persecutor to prophet which was certainly a mighty change of heart. In the Book of Mormon, there is Alma the younger who went around persecuting the members of the church until he was instructed to stop by an angel and had a complete change of heart, repented, was forgiven and went on to do the Lord’s work the rest of his life. Mormon also tells us in Alma 23 about a group of Lamanites who had been wicked and bloodthirsty but who had a change of heart and were “converted unto the Lord”. These people changed their name to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and “became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God anymore, neither against any of their brethren”. These are amazing examples of mighty changes of heart. But do you know what the most important story of a mighty change of heart is? It’s ours. Yours and mine. When was the last time you had a change of heart? Was it just now as you partook of the sacrament? Hopefully, if you came in today feeling a little empty and with a week’s worth of calcification in your heart you were able to lean on the Savior and His Atonement and have your heart softened and made new again. It is no less a miracle when we slowly grow toward the savior, repenting and continually trying daily to do our best to be what he wants us to be. Todd D Christoferson says, “Most of us find ourselves at this moment on a continuum between a socially motivated participation in gospel rituals on the one hand and a fully developed, Christlike commitment to the will of God on the other. Somewhere along that continuum, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ enters into our hearts and takes possession of our souls. It may not happen in an instant, but we should all be moving toward that blessed state. It is challenging but vital to remain firm and steadfast when we find ourselves being refined “in the furnace of affliction,” something that comes sooner or later to all of us in mortality. Without God, these dark experiences tend to lead us to despondency, despair, and even bitterness. With God, comfort replaces pain, peace replaces turmoil, and hope replaces sorrow. Remaining firm in the faith of Christ will bring His sustaining grace and support. He will convert our trials into blessings and, in Isaiah’s words, give beauty for ashes.” Last Sunday I was able to attend the Stake Relief Society Meeting where we were taught about how to be a ‘seeker of truth’. One of the sisters in our stake shared how there was a time when a few of her friends were making the choice to leave the gospel path and she herself began to doubt her testimony. She didn’t like the feeling that was in her heart. She began to feel lost and confused and was hesitant to even share these feelings with her husband. She missed the feeling of peace that used to be in her heart. She ended up calling a friend who had been her institute teacher and asked him to help her with her questions. They visited together and although he didn’t answer all of her questions at that time what he did do was remind her of her testimony. He pointed out that by even calling him she was expressing her faith because she knew that the answers he would give her would point her back to the Savior. She had a righteous desire to have her heart healed and the spirit bore witness to her that even though she didn’t have all of the answers what she did know was more important than what she didn’t know. And what she knew was that she was a daughter of God, that the atonement of Jesus Christ was available for her, and that the gospel had been restored on the earth in these latter days. Her heart was healed. And she was able to experience the promise found in Ezekiel 36:26 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. There is a saying that big gates move on small hinges. I believe that these small hinges lay in our hearts. They lay in these moments when we decide how we will move forward and who we will trust our heart to.. the world or the Lord? We heard from Melissa Richardson last week and she talked about King Benjamin and how the people faced their tents toward him in order to hear the words of their prophet. What way are we facing? What voices are we listening to? What effect are those voices having on our hearts? I have been a member of the church for almost 40 years….don’t do the math there haha! In the beginning, I had a simple testimony and a heart that really wanted the church to be true because I loved the feeling I had when I was at church and I wanted the peace that I felt in other members' homes to be in my home when I grew up. Through study and prayer and a few big trials sprinkled in there for good measure, my testimony was deepened as I learned I could lean on the Lord and that through him I could always have my heart filled with peace. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been times when I have had questions but as we (the sisters) were taught last week there is a difference between having sincere questions and questioning, between finding faith vs finding fault, and between being a defender of truth vs being defensive or embarrassed of our knowledge of Christ. There have been times when I have been unhappy, my testimony has felt weak and my heart has felt depleted. These times seem to mysteriously correlate with the times in my life when I am not doing the best job at saying my prayers and studying his word and I am just going through the motions at church. I have learned that when this happens it means I need to humble myself, re-orient my proverbial tent doors in the right direction again, and nourish my testimony with study and sincere prayer. When I do this my heart is filled with peace once again. I haven’t yet found anything else in this world that offers that same feeling of peace, the kind of peace that we can still have even when things feel hard in our lives and like they aren’t going the way we want them to. Our testimonies and hearts are living things that need constant nourishment and care to remain strong. There’s a joke about an unhappy wife where the stoic husband says something like I told you I loved you when I married you and if anything changes I’ll let you know…

That is probably not going to lead to the best marriage and it's the same with our relationship with God. We can’t just let him know that we love him and want to follow him one time when we get baptized and then expect to have a good relationship with him. He needs to be constantly in our hearts in order for us to be happy. President M. Russell Ballard explained that we can benefit from asking ourselves regularly, ‘How am I doing?’ It’s kind of like having a personal, private interview with yourself. And if when we ask ourselves that we find that we are feeling like we could use an extra dose of heart softening we can always pray for help. I love the scripture that talks about the father going to Jesus and asking for a blessing for his son the Savior asks if he believes and the father says yes initially then falters and begs ‘Help thou my unbelief’. Jesus then heals the man’s son. If we pray for him to help build our faith he will help us. President Russell M. Nelson has declared: “You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.” When James promised that God “giveth to all men liberally” who seek His wisdom, he also cautioned: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Our Savior, on the other hand, was the perfect example of stability. He said, “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” If you think about the men and women like Esther or Nephi from the scriptures who, like the Savior, were firm and steadfast They weren’t afraid to take a step in the direction of obedience and it was then that they “were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord. Their minds are firm, and they did put their trust in God continually.” They acted in faith and obedience and because of that, their faith grew. We can choose to be this way as well, to take a step in the direction of obedience trusting that as we do so we can have the same blessings of the spirit being poured into us, softening our hearts and strengthening testimony in return. To persevere firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ requires that the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate one’s heart and soul, meaning that the gospel becomes not just one of many influences in a person’s life but the defining focus of his or her life and character. Our faith becomes our legacy. By contrast, there are those who haven’t given their whole hearts over to the Lord yet and are selective about the doctrines and commandments they will follow and where and when they will serve in the Church. I don’t say this so we can look around and judge each other but so that we can reflect on our own discipleship because it is in keeping our covenants with exactness that we are able to avoid self-deception and remain firm in the faith of Christ. Elder Gavarett spoke at General Conference last year and said: "Members can know their hearts are changing when they want to please God in all things, treat others with love, assimilate the attributes of Christ, feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by keeping the commandments. "We maintain that mighty change by partaking in the sacrament, turning one’s life into the temple, and loving and serving our neighbors. “This mighty change of heart brings us a feeling of freedom, trust, and peace. This change of heart is not usually a single big event; it is a journey that takes faith, repentance, and constant spiritual work to happen. It begins when we desire to submit our will to the Lord, and it materializes when we enter into and keep covenants with Him." He closes his thoughts by saying, “Today is the day to decide to follow the Lord Jesus Christ” and I will close MY thoughts by bearing my testimony to you that I know that our Savior loves us and wants us to let him into our hearts so he can help us be more like him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen



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