Sometimes I have to convince myself that I am not special. There are plenty of others just like me. I don’t think I am alone in suffering from that problem. I have felt for years that because I have not had some grand experience that has stripped me of my desire to sin, that I have not experienced what the scriptures refer to as the mighty change of heart. I have to keep convincing myself that there are probably at least a few others out there who are in the same predicament – no mighty change.
This problem appears to fall under the same category as those who talk about their testimony of the Book of Mormon, or some other principle of the gospel, in terms of a grand experience. One minute they were like me, and the next minute they were fully converted. How do they do that? More importantly, why can’t I do that? I was sitting in the temple chapel thinking about issues in my life I need to deal with, and the thought came into my mind to write about the mighty change of heart. “Great,” I thought, “The one topic I totally fail on.” Well, I am here to tell you that the Lord opens doors when He tells you to go through them.
As I started my search for something one of the Brethren might have said concerning this mighty change of heart that we all need to experience, I came across an article in the Ensign Magazine by President Ezra Taft Benson. Since we are going to be studying his words next year, I thought this might be just the ticket. When I started to read the article I found that all my questions were answered, step by step.
What is the Mighty Change?
What the Lord wants is a people who have lost the inclination or disposition to do evil. These are the people He considers to be members of His church. Being a member of record is a good beginning, but that doesn’t get us where we need to go. A dramatic example of a whole group of people who had this mighty change of heart at the same time is found in Mosiah 5:2. After King Mosiah finished speaking to them he asked if they believed his words. This is their response.
… 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.
So this mighty change the Lord wants us to go through is the purging from our souls of all desire to sin in any manner. We must desire to do good continually. This is the part about the change of heart that has always bothered me, well, besides the fact that they got it all at once and I haven’t been able to do that. I have always been a lover of good and a doer of good. It is in my personality. So why don’t I qualify for the change of heart?
Requirements for the Change
Repentance is a gift from God. It requires faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We must come to Him with humility and a broken and contrite heart, willing to take any chastisement or correction in order to be forgiven for what we have done. That has always been my downfall. For some reason I am still trying to do this whole change by myself. It galls me that I have to admit that I can’t save myself. I can’t change myself by myself. I have to rely on someone else to make those changes for me. In effect, I have been fighting against myself all these years.
I have to be willing to admit that my changes have to be made by having my heart changed. That means that I have to humble myself to the point that I admit that I do not have the power to change the disposition of my heart. I do not have the power to change how I am on the inside. I can fake it on the outside, but my core is just the way it has always been as long as I have tried to do the changing by myself.
It is only when I accept the fact that Christ is the only one who can change my heart, my very disposition and inclination so that my desires to bypass His role in my salvation are replaced with gratitude for His role in my salvation, that I will be able to experience the change I have been searching for all these years. I have to stop trying to do it all by myself, and let Him do what He does best, save people by changing their hearts.
Once I can let the Savior do His job of changing my heart, I begin to experience what the scriptures call godly sorrow. When I am doing this whole repenting thing on my own, I feel bad for doing wrong, but I don’t necessarily do anything to change. I just know I am not happy. When you have godly sorrow for sin, you realize you have offended Him whom you love most, and you desire to change your life and bring it into conformity with His laws. You know that this pleases Him, and this is what makes you happiest. Everyone wins. The wicked only sorrow for not being able to find pleasure in the sin. The righteous experience sorrow that actually causes them to seek out repentance, which is permanent change for the better. The end result of godly sorrow is peace, joy, and forgiveness.
How long does the change take?
I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to read this Ensign article by President Benson. I strongly urge you to read the whole article. It will bring you hope and joy. I promise. Here is the part I found most hope in.
The … final point I wish to make about the process of repentance is that we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.
But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)
We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope (President Ezra Taft Benson, A Mighty Change of Heart, First Presidency Message, Ensign, November 1989).
So there you have it. My answer to my one time witness of the Book of Mormon is the same as my answer to my own change of heart. As I try to become more godly, day by day, the Lord works with me, matures me, teaches me, witnesses to me, and often I don’t realize that I have had a baptism by fire until I spend time counting my blessings and searching my soul as I take inventory of my life. The changes are coming. They are happening all the time. As I was shown the door to open today in the temple, I was able to take one step closer to the humility I need to let the Lord change my disposition to one of greater humility and gratitude. I still have a way to go, but I won’t lose hope in the process.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.