change of heart
Week 24 is scheduled for study June 10-16, 2024. Let’s talk about aspects of what it takes to obtain then keep a change of heart. All the topics this week refer to  having a change of heart.

Day 1

Alma 5:14-33 – I must experience—and continue to feel—a mighty change of heart.

Let’s start this lesson with the expression found in verse 14 – “Have you received his image in your countenances?” Here is an explanation of that statement from one of the Church manuals.

… the word countenance refers to a person’s behavior or to the way a person’s face expresses his or her character.

I am assuming that at some point in your life you have met someone who has had a rough or wicked life. The roughness/wickedness of their life can often be seen in the image on their face. They just look like they have had a hard life. Sorrow just seems to be written all over their face. Then you see someone who fairly beams benevolence and kindness. Those who have built a life of tenderness, kindness, generosity, who are forgiving and loving display such a life through their countenance. This is the countenance of Christ. I believe this is what Alma is asking of each of us. Have we sought to make Christ’s countenance ours? In other words, have we worked to become like him and have our face be loving and kind in our expressions?

I think one way to look at this change of heart Alma refers to is to compare what is important to a person before they are introduced to the gospel to that same person after they are baptized. The questions Alma asks are those things we should all be striving for now that we have made covenants with God. These things should be important to us.

Here are some of the questions Alma asks us to consider when we contemplate whether or not we have actually had a change of heart since making covenants. Remember that Alma is speaking to people who have made covenants, but many have not kept them. That is an important point to remember as you read his questions to his listeners. I have reduced his comments down to eleven questions.

  1. Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?

  2. Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

  3. I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you? Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?

  4. I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?

  5. I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil? I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.

  6. And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? Behold, what will these things testify against you? Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness? Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white? I say unto you, Nay; except ye make our Creator a liar from the beginning, or suppose that he is a liar from the beginning, ye cannot suppose that such can have place in the kingdom of heaven; but they shall be cast out for they are the children of the kingdom of the devil.

  7. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

  8. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?

  9. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.

  10. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.

  11. And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved! Yea, even wo unto all ye workers of iniquity; repent, repent, for the Lord God hath spoken it!

Several verses have been combined as part of the question that went before them. We are left with eleven points to consider when we do our own inventory to decide on the state of our heart toward the things of God.

Day 2

Alma 5:44-51 – I can gain my own witness of the Savior and His teachings through the Holy Ghost.

I have read and reread today’s verses, but I can really only see two things Alma did in order to gain his own witness of the Savior and his teachings through the Holy Ghost. He fasted. He prayed, and he did it many days. I can’t imagine that Alma came home one night and tripped over his rug and ended up fasting and praying on his bed for many days. Such an act requires premeditated forethought. He planned this.

Fasting and praying for days requires an act of faith, a determination to gain insight or knowledge you don’t currently have, and the decision that you will persist until God has given you what you want, knowing that being sincere in your desire will bring answers to your prayers. We can only do something like this when we are already sure that what we’re doing is something that God wants us to do in the first place. Asking for spiritual knowledge isn’t like fasting and praying for a bigger salary at work or to land a spot on that ball team. The things Alma was asking for are those very things God has always told us to seek for and to sacrifice for until we have built up enough faith that He cannot withhold them from us and we are able to walk away with new knowledge.

I guess the third thing Alma did was to listen to the Spirit as well as he sought for the Spirit. In today’s verses he mentions more than once that he was taught by the Spirit then lived by what he had learned. This is also an important point for us to consider in our search for truth. Living by what we learn along the way is vital to receiving more.

Day 3

Alma 7 – “I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness.”

Today’s lesson is much like Monday’s lesson. On Monday Alma asked questions of us to see if we are doing what it takes to get and maintain a change of heart. Today he is listing many of the sins of the people of Zarahemla, as opposed to the righteous behaviors of those in the city of Gideon. Alma then outlines many of the behaviors needed to become pure of heart and more fully converted. As you read Alma 7 you might want to list many of the conditions of those who are converted to the gospel of Christ. If you ever wanted a checklist of required behaviors and attitudes, this is a good one to use.

Day 4

Alma 7:7-16 – The Savior took upon Himself my sins, pains, and afflictions.

Let’s talk for a moment about temptation vs. sin. When we are tempted we are enticed, which is what tempted means. Look it up in the dictionary if you don’t believe me. To be tempted is to momentarily sense or imagine, with longing, the joy something will give us. It isn’t the same as the real thing, for it hasn’t happened yet. So far it is all in our imagination. When you go into a bakery and smell the scents of the spices in the pastries, see the presentations of the finished desserts with their frostings or creams piped on thick and high, for just a moment you can see yourself holding that thing, smelling it, and reveling in the taste that you are about to savor. The pastry itself is still behind glass, but all this goes through your mind in an instant. (There is a lot to be said for presentation.) Now you have been tempted, for you have lived something in your mind without experiencing it yet in reality.

When we are tempted it is different from the real thing. In our mind we don’t usually think of all the negative consequences that might come our way because we choose to do something. For that moment of temptation we see and feel only the satisfaction that activity promises, whether or not it will actually deliver on that promise. And all too often we have no idea what consequences might or will follow that choice.

Just today I went to the story and was disappointed that something I went to get wasn’t available, because it was a holiday and that department was closed. So I was tempted to get something in its place, because I was disappointed that I had gone all that distance and was going home empty handed. I went to the bakery and saw some sweet rolls. They were a pleasing size, only a few in number, so I wouldn’t feel greedy buying them, and were covered in what may have been a chocolate glaze, as well as a clear sugar glaze. Double sugar, what’s not to like? My mouth began to water the longer I looked at them. Without really weighing the pros and cons I grabbed them and paid for them. They were dry and I consumed empty carbs for very little return. Disappointment.

When the scriptures tell us that Jesus was tempted in all things, just as we are, that means he went through this same process. He had that proverbial carrot or enticement dangled in front of his face as Satan tried to get him to do something, anything of a selfish nature. Satan only needed to succeed once. Just once. I am pretty confident that Jesus was presented with every scene, picture, or circumstance in the book that might entice him to fulfill his own mortal/carnal desires or wants. The fact that he made it through his entire mortal journey learning how hard it is for me and you to resist such things, yet never giving in himself is amazing beyond words.

Sin

Sin is what happens when we give in to the temptation to fulfill our want, whatever that might be. Usually we know when we give in that we shouldn’t be doing what we have just chosen to do. Or we don’t do something we know we ought to do. It is not common for us to be so clueless about ourselves that we have no idea that what we are doing is against what we instinctively know to be right or wrong. Jesus went through the process of being tempted, but unlike us Jesus didn’t dwell on those temptations. He recognized them for what they were and turned his thoughts elsewhere to more worthy pursuits. That is where most of us struggle the most. We let the temptation convince us that if we don’t do it now we will miss out on something that seems important, even though we know deep down that we shouldn’t be doing it. Our foolishness begins with entertaining (spending time with) the thought in the first place.

The references in the scriptures that talk about Christ being tempted in all things so he knows how to succor/help us seem almost trite. No one ever goes into depth about what that actually represents. But when we think about how much each of us struggles with temptations of any kind, especially the ones for which we have a marked weakness, it suddenly casts a glaring light on the power of Jesus to resist any and all such temptations during the whole of his mortal journey. We need to believe that he actually felt what we feel, and was tormented as we feel tormented by things that try to press upon our minds. This can give us faith and hope in his redemptive power when we remember that he suffered everything we suffer in life with the intent of being able to feel compassion for our struggles and mortal pains.

Personal Study

Testify of Jesus Christ

I would like to present a thought or two about this little gray box on page 120 of the manual. “Consider ways you can share your testimony of the Savior and His divinity, grace, and love.” This statement is far easier said than done. Too often when people start talking about Jesus and what he has done for them, we see them slip into platitudes – expressions that are flat, non-descript utterances, over used, or without any originality. They feel trite, or lacking in freshness. Why? I think it is because it isn’t personal. This is the challenge of speaking of deity, making our professions personal and not something that was pulled from a proverbial catalog of expressions.

This got me thinking about what we hear in General Conference. When the leaders of the Church talk about Jesus and the work he has done for all of us, it feels personal. Why? I think it is because those statements about Christ are almost always accompanied by personal stories that share where they learned that lesson about Christ. They tell us what the Spirit has born witness to them about. Their stories are connected to realities we have almost all felt at one time or another. We can relate to what they are saying. We can feel their sincerity.

Speaking about Jesus and his mortal work, his immortal glory, his part in our Father’s plan for our happiness, etc., comes across to others best when what we say has a personal connection to something that has happened to us in our own life. Make your testimony personal in whatever way you can. I’ll admit that this can be very difficult, especially if we don’t feel like we have had any special experiences. But I also believe that if we spend some time and plead with the Lord to help us connect our personal lives to lessons about Christ’s divinity and his power in our life, he will open our eyes and minds to see relationships we might not have comprehended before. Give it a try. Learning to speak of Christ in a personal way will take effort and struggle, but you will be so happy once you have been made to see your own connections to his life and work and how it has affected your life and work.

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BoM24-2024 – This Mighty Change in Your Heart