Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

talk help: changing our hearts

Posted by Matthew on January 9, 2007

I was asked to give a talk on how we change our hearts so that it is easier to do what is right because we want to. Part of what I was asked to speak to is that when we do what is right it makes it easier to do what is right–a virtuous circle.

I am soliciting help because I want to use some scriptures that address this, but as I think about it, I can’t think of any. Are there any scriptures that speak to this? The scriptures I think of use language that focuse on a one-time change. And, if the scriptures don’t speak to this, why not?

11 Responses to “talk help: changing our hearts”

  1. Robert C. said

    Matthew, I think this is a very interesting question, related to several things I’ve been wondering about lately. First, I think a subtle assumption in the topic as you’ve described it hinges on the word do. I don’t think righteous actions apart from the state of our heart necessarily make it easier to do more righteous actions. But I do think there is some relationship between our actions and our hearts. I’ve heard this idea referred to in terms of “fake it till you make it.” I’m ambivalent about this phrase, I think it can be mistinterpreted, but there may be a true way to interpret it also. Scriptures that could be tied into this issue include scriptures about desire (e.g. Moro 7:48, praying “with all the energy of heart”) and faith-and-works passages (like in James).

    Also, Heb 5:14 may be relevant: “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” I think this passage can be used nicely as a lead-in to a non-scriptural analogy of, say, piano skills or working out, how it gets easier with practice.

    Some other loosely related passages might include: Alma 32 where I think a dialectical view of faith-growing-to-knowledge is described–the growing seed metaphor seems very conducive to this virtuous circle idea; “grace for grace” passages where there is an idea of growing and learning expressed; D&C 50:24 where it says “he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”; “line upon line” passages in 2 Ne 28:30 and D&C 128:21.

    Since Joe’s recent post has me thinking about paradox, I think a good counter-argument to consider is the pride cycle (Hel 12) where the tendency is to become complacent after doing righteous works b/c we have more blessings to sit back and enjoy (cf. “at ease in Zion” in 2 Ne and “compelled to be humble” in Alma 32).

    A resolution of the tension I’ve tried to raise might be formulated in terms of the difficulty or easiness of doing what’s right as a symptom of the state of our heart. If we are truly in a state of humility, contriteness and repentance, we should be filled with God’s love and have righteous desires. If we are struggling to make right decisions, this may be a sign that we are not sufficiently humble (cf. Alma 5: “do you feel so now?”). Also, I think the “my yoke is easy, my burden is light” type of passages vs. passages on suffering, afflictoin, adversity and endurance provide an interesting tension-framework to think about these issues in….

  2. Matt W. said

    Zech. 7 is a good negative example.
    especially correlated with 2 Cor. 3

    also there seems to be a formatting issue with the right margin of the comments box.

  3. brianj said

    I wonder about this concept: “when we do what is right it makes it easier to do what is right.” Is life really easier when we do what is right, or are we tempted and tried even harder? It might be safer to say that it is easier to discern what is right when we choose the right, and we are more likely to understand and desire the outcomes of righteousness after having “tasted the fruit.” In that sense, we are more likely to do the right thing even in the face of increased adversity.

    But that makes me wonder about those who stop doing what is right—even things they did so frequently it seemed like part of their person. Are there things that I do—daily prayer, for example—that I do simply out of habit and not out of a desire for spiritual enlightenment that I am in danger of giving up because I don’t do them out of a thirst for righteousness?

  4. Matthew said

    Thanks everyone for the interesting insights. I put together a rough outline of the talk and drew heavily on content posted. I think there are some points that warrant further discussion mentioned above and I won’t give my talk until Sunday, so if people have any additional insights please share. Thanks!

  5. John said

    [Posted last night, repost due to lack of server response.]

    Forgive me: I love this topic.

    (#1) I prefer the phrase “working from the outside in” to describe acts and practices that are intended to break down the barriers we put in place to resist change. These acts are not fake, but rather hollow–motivated by hope that someday they will arise from the “inside out.”

    The heart is the liahona of the soul. It is a gift of God and extremely important to him. If you make your heart into a stone, you separate yourself from God and can no longer hear his voice. If, on the other hand, you wish to cultivate the remarkable gift of the Holy Ghost, you must use your heart as a touchstone (D&C 9:8), fill your heart with sacred knowledge (Ps. 37:30-31), and allow your heart to become a symbol of your desire to worship God forever (D&C 56:17-18).

    The heart speaks and it reveals the type of person, whether self-righteous (Ps. 10:6,11,13), doubtful (Mark 11:23), or evil (Matt. 15:18-20). Let the heart be filled with the remorse of sins (2 Ne. 4:19) so that it may experience the joy that surpasses all words (Mosiah 4:20). The long road to exaltation begins with a change of heart (Alma 5:7-14).

    The heart is not a private space, but an intimate one. God knows the thoughts and desires of your hearts, brothers and sisters. He looketh upon the hearts of men to prove them (1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chr. 28:9; Alma 18:20,32). “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me…” (Ps. 139:23-24). A prayer like this is not for the faint/feint of heart.

    When God speaks, his words are both heard and felt in the heart (3 Ne. 11:3). Who needs thunder when the heart speaks and understands the language of the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13; 1 Ne. 17:45)?

    The “virtuous circle” is really an upward spiral. Once the importance and function of the heart is better understood, would it not be easier to yield it, humble it, purify it, sanctify it, in preparation to ultimately offer it back to God (Hel. 3:35; 3 Ne. 9:20)?

  6. Robert C. said

    (Matt #2: Thanks for the heads-up on the sidebar glitch. Matthew and I are working on some technical improvements which we’ll hopefully start implementing this week or next. If anyone has any strong opinions or good suggestions about the next version, let us know–here is probably a good place to post on this, or email works.)

  7. Robert C. said

    (John #4ff: Sorry, I just notice the spam filter caught your posts for some reason. I approved them so the spam-filter can learn. Remember we’re new at this blog stuff, it seems much more complicated to me than the wiki!)

  8. John said

    It’s not the first time I’ve tripled-posted due to some Mr. Smarty Pants spam filter. I guess there is an upper limit of links that may be specified in any given comment. Too bad, since I occasionally find a need to quote scripture.

    I will remember this lesson for future posts, both here and on T&S.

  9. Matthew said

    John, I’m glad you were persistent. Your analysis and links to the scriptures are very helpful. Thanks for the insights!

  10. John said

    Matthew, how did it go? I am curious to know if you came across any other insights as you prepared your talk.

  11. Matthew said

    Hi John, somehow I missed this question. Sorry for the late response.

    Here’s a quick outline of what did make it into the talk.
    1) distinguish between commandments that aim at actions (honest, pay tithing, go to church) and those that aim at our hearts (do not covet, pray with real intent, love your neighbor)
    2) We know how to change our actions, but how do we change our hearts?
    3) Moro 7:48 — pray… then he shall appear and we shall be like him. How do we become like God?
    4) Moses 1:30
    5) Personal story
    6) Sometimes changing our heart does take time. God often answers our prayer to change our hearts by giving us experience, trials.
    7) Jesus’s heart grew through experience, we can’t expect our change to be easy. Alma 7:12. & D&C 93:12
    8. Another example. Experience changes our hear. Hel 3:35.
    9) Hebrews 5:5-14. Our strong meat = the temple.

    In fact, though for me point 9 was a really important insight I didn’t end up sharing that. I could tell that I just wasn’t going to be able to bring it all together and it was better to stop with 8.

    Thanks again everyone for all your help. I really enjoyed the discussion in preparation. Also, if anyone else is looking for insight on a scripture and would like to post a new thread on it, let one of the permabloggers know. (If you don’t have an e-mail address for us, send it to fZeZaZsZtZbZlZoZgZ@gmail.com (remove all Z’s))

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