In ancient times, the heart was considered the center of knowledge and thoughts. There are 1,475 references to the heart in the scriptures, and 66 specifically mentioning a change of heart. I personally see proof of the importance of the heart in the simple fact that the adversary is so interested in it!
Shortly after Christ was born, the Nephites on the American continent had been seeing signs and miracles in heaven to show them that Christ had been born on the other side of the world. We often use the phrase, “seeing is believing,” and if that’s true, how could you possibly get someone to disbelieve something they had actually seen?
And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also, and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen—
Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people; and thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes and lead them away to believe that the doctrine of Christ was a foolish and a vain thing.
And it came to pass that the people began to wax strong in wickedness and abominations; and they did not believe that there should be any more signs or wonders given; and Satan did go about, leading away the hearts of the people, tempting them and causing them that they should do great wickedness in the land.3 Nephi 2:1-3
Satan used their hearts! He used their hearts to disbelieve things they had actually seen.
What is a Change of Heart?
Apparently, our hearts are a really big deal. So what is a change of heart? And why do we need one?
The dictionary definition of a change of heart is: “a reversal of one’s feelings, intentions, or opinions.” So I might say I’m not going to the Christmas party but later have a change of heart—a reversal of my feeling or intention—and decide to go after all.
The Lord’s definition of a change of heart is similar, with one important difference. We can understand what the Lord means by a change of heart as we read the description of the Nephites after King Benjamin’s address as well as the words of Alma the Younger to the Nephites living in Zarahemla, both recorded in the Book of Mormon.
After King Benjamin’s words to his people, he asked if they believed what he had taught them. Their response shows an important part of what the Lord means by a change of heart:
And they all cried with one voice, saying: 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.Mosiah 5:2
About 45 years later, Alma retired from his position as chief judge (or President of the Nephites, if you prefer) because he saw so many problems caused by the pride of the Church members at that time. His words to the Nephites in Zarahemla give us a little more insight into what a change of heart means to the Lord. Alma first talks a little about the history of their church and what God had done for their ancestors who had joined the church. , and then says in
Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word…Alma 5:7
How to Change Your Heart
A worldly change of heart is basically just changing your mind or your opinion or your intention. A godly change of heart is also changing your mind and your intention, but it has a different purpose. It leaves you with “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” You leave the direction you were headed, yes, but you move toward God.
King Benjamin’s people attributed this change to the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent. Alma attributed it to God (who, of course, is a close friend of the Spirit)—saying: “He changed their hearts; He awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God.” So, a godly change of heart is more than just backtracking. It’s going where God is. It’s turning away from something and then TO God.
Neill F. Marriott calls it “yielding your heart to God.” She explained how her family’s motto is based on the Lord’s power and mercy. Their family motto (which is a yielding of their collective hearts to God) is: “It will all work out.”
Marriott told of an experience their family suffered through when her 21-year-old daughter was killed in a bike accident. She said:
With grief and shock running through our family like a current, how could we look at one another and still say, “It will all work out”?
Following Georgia’s mortal death, our feelings were raw, we struggled, and still today we have moments of great sorrow, but we hold to the understanding that no one ever really dies. Despite our anguish when Georgia’s physical body stopped functioning, we had faith that she went right on living as a spirit, and we believe we will live with her eternally if we adhere to our temple covenants. Faith in our Redeemer and His Resurrection, faith in His priesthood power, and faith in eternal sealings let us state our motto with conviction.
Our family motto doesn’t say, “It will all work out now.” It speaks of our hope in the eternal outcome—not necessarily of present results. Scripture says, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.” This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good, and the timing is the Lord’s. We wait on Him, sometimes like Job in his suffering, knowing that God “maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” A meek heart accepts the trial and the waiting for that time of healing and wholeness to come.Neill F. Marriott, Yielding our Hearts to God
A change of heart is like saying, with Job, “That which I see not, teach thou me.” (Job 34:32) Instead of relying on ourselves and our own understanding or limited worldly knowledge, a change of heart is reliance on and trust in our Father in Heaven to take care of all the things He said He would when He sent Jesus Christ to atone for us and fix all the sins, injustices, disappointments, and sorrows of life. A change of heart brings peace—a depth and completeness of peace that Paul described as “peace that passeth all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)
I have had plans and expectations for my life that have required a “reversal of intention” on my part after the Spirit said to me, “Here’s what you need to do instead,” or after God placed things in my life that I wouldn’t have chosen. Trusting Him is the best thing I have ever done. Sometimes I see the end, and sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t actually change anything. I know that yielding my heart to Him will make everything work out.
When we have undergone this mighty change, which is brought about only through faith in Jesus Christ and through the operation of the Spirit upon us, it is as though we have become a new person. Thus, the change is likened to new birth. Thousands of you have experienced this change. You have forsaken lives of sin, sometimes deep and offensive sin, and through applying the blood of Christ in your lives, have become clean. You have no more disposition to return to your old ways. You are in reality a new person. This is what is meant by a change of heart.Ezra Taft Benson, A Mighty Change of Heart
One of the big reasons I have chosen to yield my heart to God is because I have experience doing it. I tried it once a long time ago, and it worked, so I kept doing it. I know from experience it’s the best thing I can do. I know I can trust God with my life and my heart. Changing your mind, your direction and your intent to fall in line with God’s is a rich source of many blessings. Yielding your heart to God is the only way to live.