When we are baptised into the Church of God, it does not complete our path of discipleship. We need to continue to endure to the end. There is something that can greatly assist us to, not only endure faithfully to the end, but also ‘enjoy’ life faithfully to the end. That is, receiving a mighty change of heart. This will give us a desire to follow the commandments of God – not just follow them because we have been asked to.
This change of heart can come about in many different ways. It might come as we pray earnestly, studying the scriptures or actively trying to obey a commandment. Here are a few examples:
The people of King Benjamin were not a wicked generation – the King had reigned in righteousness, equity and fairness. However, a mighty change in heart still had to, and did, take place. This indicates it’s certainly not just the wicked who can receive a mighty change in heart. After King Benjamin delivered his powerful sermon from the tower, the people said “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.” (Mosiah 5:2) This is a perfect example of what happens when we receive a change in heart, you have no disposition to do evil. The change is so powerful that Satan has no effect on you!
Alma the Younger was another person who was given this powerful change in heart. He, unlike the people of King Benjamin, was wicked. At the time he was seeking to destroy the Church of God and yet he was given an experience that would change his life forever. As the story goes, he was stopped by an angel and was unconscious for “the space of two days and two nights.” (Mosiah 27:23) As he was in this state he cried out to God for forgiveness. When he came to, he said “I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit…” (Mosiah 27:24) and the Lord had told him that unless people “become new creatures…they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:26) Alma became a ‘new creature’ or, in other words, had this change of heart.
Many more examples are given of this mighty change – however, there are obviously those whose hearts are too hard that they can’t (or won’t) change. Of course, I’m sure God has the power to penetrate any heart, but it’s down to people and their agency as to whether they will let him in or not. The first example that comes to mind is that of Laman and Lemuel. In the story of retrieving the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel begun striking Nephi and Sam with rods because they felt that they’d lost everything. An angel appeared and commanded them to stop, telling them that the Lord would deliver Laban into their hands. Even so, “…after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur…” (1 Nephi 3:31). For a person who was prepared to receive this mighty change (like Alma) this experience would have had a great impact even to the point of conversion, but we see Laman and Lemuel were too hard-hearted to receive that. Another example is that of Pharaoh when Moses was commanded to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. They saw many miracles and wonders in Egypt, wrought by God through Moses and Aaron, even to the point that Pharaoh’s magicians said “This is the finger of God…” but “…Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them…” (Exodus 8:19) – his heart would not be changed.
One of the most tragic occurrences is when one does receive a mighty change of heart, but then later on forgets and loses it. Elder Dale G. Renlund explained this in the October 2009 General Conference. He said, speaking of physical heart transplants “…the patients own body recognises the new, lifesaving as ‘foreign’ and begins to attack it. Left unchecked, the body’s natural response will reject the new heart, and the recipient will die.” It is the same with our new, spiritual heart. If we do not give the proper care and attention we need to, problems and even loss of the spiritual change will occur. Elder Renlund went on to say “Occasional heart biopsies are performed wherein small pieces of heart tissue are removed and then examined under a microscope. When signs of rejection are found, medications are adjusted. If the rejection process is detected early enough, death can be averted.” We ourselves need to perform these biopsies on our spiritual hearts, particularly when there has been a positive change. Our medications are things like reading the scriptures, praying, obedience, fasting and so on. If we become casual or carnal in taking our medication, we are putting our spiritual hearts at risk.
One example of this is Saul in the Old Testament. He was chosen by God to be King over all the Israelites and was very blessed spiritually. In fact it says “that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart…” (1 Samuel 10:9) so he also received a mighty change in heart, so much so that he was found later prophesying among prophets (see 1 Samuel 10:10-12). Saul was blessed and given great success for a time – but it all went wrong. It began with Saul offering a burnt sacrifice to God without the authority – practising unrighteous dominion. Samuel arrived and said, once he discovered this “…Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandments of the Lord thy God…” (1 Samuel 13:13) and, further disobedience led to a loss of this spiritual rebirth. This culminated in 1 Samuel 16:14 JST where it says “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit which is not of God troubled him.” How did this mighty man lose the spiritual experience of his heart’s mighty change to become one of the most tragic figures in the Bible? He did not preserve that mighty change by obeying God’s commandments and by doing so, allowed an evil spirit to enter in and take the new heart’s place.
This also occurred in the History of the Restored Church. In Kirtland, Ohio some of the greatest spiritual experiences of this dispensation were bestowed on the people by the Lord there. One of these experiences was the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. However, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in the January 2010 Ensign tells us that “Members of the Church – even some of those closest to the Prophet, many of whom were present at the dedication of the temple – apostatised and condemned Joseph as a fallen prophet.” How could these members witness such marvellous scenes, and undoubtedly experience some sort of changes in their hearts, and then reject it all? One of the latter-day prophets, President Harold B. Lee taught “Testimony isn’t something that you have today and you keep always…Testimony is either going to grow and grow to the brightness of certainty, or it is going to diminish to nothingness, depending upon what we do about it. I say, the testimony that we recapture day by day is the thing that saves us from the pitfalls of the adversary.” We need to, everyday, be nurturing our mighty change in heart, just like we would our testimony. As we preserve our conversion feelings and fuel our testimony with that – we can become powerful witnesses of the truth.