I’ve been noticing a lot in the Book of Mormon recently the use of the words “hardening hearts.” It has stood out to me more over the past month than in my previous readings.
In 2 Nephi 33:2, in The Book of Mormon, it says, “But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.”
In Mosiah 11:29, it says, “Now the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore they hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him. And king Noah hardened his heart against the word of the Lord, and he did not repent of his evil doings.”
They hardened their hearts. It was a choice. The consequence of that hardening of the heart was that The Spirit could not be with them after they had hardened their hearts. It doesn’t say that their hearts were hardened, but they did harden their hearts. It was their choice to harden their own hearts.
In Alma 12:10, it reads, “And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.”
Could it be as simple as deciding to soften your heart towards God? Towards His prophet? Can we be the one who softens our heart towards the Book of Mormon, toward the Apostles, and towards our local leaders? Can we just make the decision to soften our heart towards the Lord? And then, will God will speak to our heart again with His Spirit, even if it has been a long while since we have prayed or been close to God?
This has been on my mind recently. Nobody controls our thoughts and our innermost feelings but ourselves. Whatever our circumstance, we control what we will harden our hearts towards. We have been given agency to think for ourselves. We also are the only ones who can soften our hearts towards God. I often pray for Heavenly Father to “soften the hearts of….” I think that I’ve been thinking that something had hardened a particular person’s heart. Yes, there there things which maybe led to the hardening of the heart, but ultimately that person alone decided to harden their heart. In the end, it is only that person who can decide to soften their heart. The prayers are still needed and they are heard by our Heavenly Father. There are things which might happen in their life which may cause them to reflect on their reasons for hardening their heart, and circumstances might become favorable to soften the heart. Elder Steven R. Bangerter in the October 2018 General Conference said,
Years ago, while I was serving as a young bishop, an older gentleman asked to meet with me. He described his departure from the Church and the righteous traditions of his parents when he was in his youth. He described in detail the heartache he experienced during his life while vainly seeking lasting joy amidst the momentary happiness the world has to offer. Now, in his later years of life, he experienced the tender, sometimes nagging whispering sensations of the Spirit of God guiding him back to the lessons, practices, feelings, and spiritual safety of his youth. He expressed gratitude for the traditions of his parents, and in modern-day words, he echoed the proclamation of Enos: “Blessed be the name of my God for it.”
In my experience, this dear man’s return to the gospel is characteristic of many and is repeated often among God’s children who leave for a time, only to return to the teachings and practices of their youth. In those moments, we witness the wisdom of the writer of the proverb, who exhorts parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
There is a lot that must happen on one’s life to bring them to the point where they may want to soften their heart. But when it happens, it is always our own choice. There may be the “tender, sometimes nagging whispering sensations of the Spirit of God guiding him/her back”, but we must chose to soften our heart towards God, and then there will be rush of feelings of love from Heavenly Father, as we allow ourselves to again feel His Spirit. Each of us is the Prodigal son/daughter.
“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf.” Luke 15
1 Nephi 16:22
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.
Now the Lamanites of themselves were sufficiently hardened, but the Amalekites and the Amulonites were still harder; therefore they did cause the Lamanites that they should harden their hearts, that they should wax strong in wickedness and their abominations.
Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.