Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spiritual Sunday: A Mighty Change of Heart

A few weeks ago, I was asked to give a talk at church about a "mighty change of heart." I debated whether or not I wanted to share it on here, and if so, if I would alter it.  I have decided to go ahead and post the talk I gave, as is.  For my non-LDS (Mormon) friends, there are both Biblical references and references from the Book of Mormon, so if you see a scripture quoted and you do not recognize the name of the book, it is likely from the Book of Mormon.

If you had known me 20 years ago, you would not recognize me today. While I was not into a lot bad things, I was a worldly girl who didn’t know anything different. I had many friends, some who had the potential to lead me down the wrong path. Fortunately, my freshman year of college, I became good friends with the girl who would later introduce me to the missionaries. I remember meeting the elders and I was blown away with what they were teaching me. I had looked for a church for several years, but none could ever answer my questions. I had begun to believe that there just was no religion on earth that made sense to me. Then, I had 2 young men in my living room answering my questions before I could even ask them. Because I already believed that there had to be prophets on the earth still today, it was easy for me to believe that Joseph Smith had been a prophet. Once I believed that, everything else had to be true as well. However, simply believing something is often not enough. There were still areas of my life where I had to have a mighty change of heart in order to live the gospel fully.

What is a mighty change of heart and how do we have one?
Just like our physical hearts, our spiritual hearts can also be weakened. Every time we sin, our spiritual heart becomes hardened and weaker. In order to repair our spiritual heart, we need to undergo a spiritual heart transplant. In Ezekiel 36:25-26, we read, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 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 an heart of flesh.“ This tells us that just as Heavenly Father can make us spiritually clean again, He can also perform a spiritual heart transplant for us. Through the Atonement of Christ, we have the opportunity to have our hardened hearts removed from us and replaced with a heart of flesh once again. We can find examples of Heavenly Father performing these heart transplants throughout the scriptures, particularly in the Book of Mormon. In Mosiah 5:2, after King Benjamin had taught his people, we read, “And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” And again in Alma 5:7 we read, “Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word”
However, just as those in the Book of Mormon learned, if you do not take care of your new spiritual heart, it will begin to weaken again. Satan quickly begins to present temptations in an attempt to cause us to spiritually reject our new hearts.

How do we maintain a mighty change of heart?
Maintaining our new spiritual heart is a lifelong process which requires certain behaviors on our part. The first being:
- Prayer: We need to maintain our relationship with Heavenly Father on a regular basis. Many of us have to take medications every day to keep our physical bodies working the way they should or to keep us free from pain. Prayer does for our spiritual health what these medications do for our physical health. But sometimes medicine is not always enough.
- Sometimes we have to give up certain things, even things we enjoy. Just as a diabetic has to give up sugary treats, there are behaviors that we need to give up when we experience a mighty change of heart. If these behaviors are closely linked with certain friends, we need to let them know where we now stand and may have to give up some friendships. I chose to give up a very close friend after I was baptized because they would not respect the changes I had made in my life. In some ways it was difficult to lose this friend, but in many ways, it was very easy as I could see the bigger picture. However, even with giving up these things, temptations will still be placed before us.
- We need to constantly be on guard against temptation, especially our former weaknesses. When bulletproof glass is hit with a bullet, it will protect the person on the other side. However, the place that the bullet hits has become weakened. If it takes a few more hits in the same spot, the glass will give way. We are the same way and Satan knows this. The things that we used to succumb to are the very things he will tempt us with, knowing that they have already been a weak point for us in the past. At the very first sign of temptation, we need to remove ourselves from the situation and pray for strength. You may have heard that it is easy to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission, but anyone who has ever been through the repentance process will tell you that is not the case.
When we do give in to a temptation, it is essential that we repent of that transgression.
- Repentance: To truly repent, we not only need to take the steps of repentance: confessing, rectifying, asking for and receiving forgiveness, but we also need to forsake the sin. This does not mean simply changing our actions, but undergoing a mighty change of heart regarding this sin.

In a BYU devotional, Brent Webb said,
“Our desires come and go, often in relation to our environment, but character and personality are more permanent, more fundamental to the makeup of our soul. The change of heart we seek that accompanies true repentance actually brings a change of appetite for sin. Our likes and dislikes relative to good and evil are shaped by the Atonement. We learn not only to avoid the sin but the temptation to sin as well. There is no earthly entity that has this power to change our temperament. Wars are fought trying to bend people's wills and loyalties, but only the Savior can transform within us something so fundamental as our character and our appetites.
Those undergoing spiritual cleansing are softened in their interactions with others. They make better home and visiting teachers. They are less apt to be critical of those around them, looking for the good instead of the faults. They see and seize opportunities to serve more readily. They are more patient and less quick to anger. (I have noticed that when I am truly seeking spiritual health, I am able to be more restrained in what can be for me most un-Christian behavior--such as when I'm behind the wheel of my car in heavy traffic.) In short, the change of heart brings the Savior's hand into every facet of our lives "at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death" (Mosiah 18:9).”

Undergoing a mighty change of heart may be a onetime thing for many people. I know for myself it has not been. I have had to have several spiritual heart surgeries since joining the church, but once I have had a mighty change of heart, it is only when I fail to maintain it that I begin to feel the symptoms of my heart hardening again. It is when I am diligent with my personal prayers and scripture study that I find myself less likely to be tempted and if I am tempted, I have much more strength to walk away. I encourage all of you to nourish your spiritual hearts and to keep it strong.

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