This article covers just the material for the first day’s lesson for the Come, Follow Me lessons for week 23, Alma 5-7. I could see that there was too much in this day’s lesson to talk about in a small space, so I have broken it out into its own article.
I won’t be covering all of Alma 5, just the main verses where doctrine is taught. In the PDF link below the verses covered are listed. Feel free to print it out so you can study it more closely as you read the verses. This chapter takes some thinking power to work through it. It isn’t difficult doctrine per se, but Alma uses terms we seldom use in modern English. Hence my desire to translate these passages using concepts that are more familiar to us. I hope this makes it easier to understand this wonderful chapter of scripture.
The mighty change of heart
The whole week of Come, Follow Me lessons centers around the mighty change that needs to take place in our hearts. But what exactly does that statement mean? How is this change supposed to happen? What can we expect life to be like after it has happened? Will we still be the same people we were before the change took place? Will we recognize ourselves? One of the changes that is supposed to happen is to have Christ’s image in our countenance. What does that even mean? How can we tell if it is there? Too many questions.
Describing the concept
The first step in entertaining the idea of having a change of heart, or a change in our dispositions, our desires, is to have something to compare it to. I found my own comparison for needing to see a change of heart in my need to lose weight many years ago. Before I tell you the story – yes, I lost the weight, but no, I didn’t keep it off. Hopefully I will do better with my change of heart.
Many years ago I needed to lose weight. It’s a long and sad story, but the need was genuine for the survival of my family. But I found that I was actually afraid to lose the weight. My fears told me that the person I was at that time had been hiding behind my weight for protection. I feared that if I lost that public shield (the fat) the person who I currently was would be exposed to the world, or worse, lost. I was actually afraid of disappearing emotionally. I wouldn’t recognize myself without the facade of the weight to hide me, protect me, from the world. That kind of intimate exposure was almost more than I could emotionally handle.
Eventually, I reasoned with myself that since losing weight is a slow process, if at any time I saw myself disappearing, I could stop the process or make changes to protect myself. I was venturing into uncharted territory, since I had been heavy from the age of 12 on. I had never seen myself as an adult with hips. For me, putting on a belt was like trying to get a belt to stay on an orange. It was a careful and sometimes painfully squeezing process.
What I found as I lost weight was that I was daily discovering a whole new me. I noticed one day that I could stand straight up and look down and actually see my toes! That hadn’t happened since I was a child. My pants rested on actual hips, without requiring a cinched belt to hold them on my body. I could walk into a clothing department and actually pick something off the wrack and it would fit. This was a whole new experience for me. It felt great! With every five pounds I lost I was finding there was something in my life that was easier or now possible to do that I couldn’t do or do comfortably before.
Once I was down to near normal weight I couldn’t imagine what kept me up at that higher weight. Life was so good at this lower weight. Yes, I was still over my ideal weight, but I had come miles from where I started, and I never wanted to go back. I was so happy that if I had any kind of singing voice I’d a been busting out in songs that gladden the heart at every chance.
This weightloss story is what having the mighty change of heart is like. The prophet Alma is telling us that we need to change our disposition from enjoying our worldly ways (our old habits) to finding the joy that comes from losing our desires to sin. And most worldly habits contribute to sin wither directly or indirectly. This is the mighty change to which he refers. It is a mighty change, because it requires an overhaul of emotional and spiritual desires from being worldly their aim to being godly or righteously inspired.
Making the change
It can be scary to contemplate giving up who we currently are for a new us. We don’t know what life will be like, if and when, we make the change. We don’t know what to expect will happen or how we will feel. Our identity will change, and that can be emotionally unsettling to contemplate. It is like being taken to the edge of a dark cliff where you can’t see what’s down at the bottom then being told you need to step out into the darkness. “Are you crazy? I’ll fall to my death for sure!”
Many of us have been in this situation before with the Lord, where He says to take that step into the unknown and trust Him. It can be the most terrifying move in your life. What is it we are afraid of? Do we fear losing the only identity we have ever known? Is it that we don’t trust that we will like who we are after the Lord has changed our desires to do good more consistently? (That sounds silly when I write it, but it didn’t sound silly when I felt it on an emotional level.)
The “mighty change of heart” is really just this – that we lose our desires to sin and be willful with the Lord, and instead, rejoice in His goodness, because we have lost our desires to be wayward, and instead love to be obedient and to serve others in our expression of thanks to our God. The change is all about leaving behind our natural man attitudes and adopting the attitudes of those who are holy or righteous, like the prophets.
Changing our heart requires a change in habits. Instead of finding joy in our personal pursuits and individual desires, we intentionally seek to please the Lord by serving others and furthering His work here on earth during whatever time we have left here. It is learning to find the joy that comes from obedience to commandments, instead of still struggling to find happiness in addictions and purely earthly pursuits that will disappear forever once we leave mortality. Seeking a change of heart means seeking for a way to think in terms of eternity rather than just what will please us in the next few hours or weeks. It really is a spiritually maturing process.
The change of heart must be something that we seek. This is an intentional change we want to implement in our lives. This isn’t something that happens by accident. As you read the verses below, Alma gives the people of Zarahemla some deliberate steps they can take in their effort to seek this change of heart or change of disposition. And remember, this is a gradual process. We only have a very few examples of this happening quickly, and I think the reason those examples are in the scriptures is to demonstrate the full “before and after” picture for us. For most of us this happens gradually over the course of years. If, in your seeking for the change of heart, you discover that you don’t like being that happy, you can always go back to doing what you were doing before and see if makes you as happy as you thought it did. Personally, I find it better to have hips than to not have them.
Everything you just read was only written to prepare you to read the PDF file below. Please click the link and either read it online or print it then read it. I welcome your insights and comments in the comment section below.
The PDF below is the verse-by-verse comparison of Alma 5.