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1-21-24 Dear Family and Friends: A Ministering Message: Hearts of Stone or ?

As I was pondering what direction the Lord would have me go with this blog, I was thinking in a totally different direction. But following is what the promptings are at this time. I pray that one of you might get something out of this.

The other day as I was sitting in the House of the Lord, waiting for Debbie and her mother so we could do some sealings. I was sitting on a bench. I closed my eyes and thought what would it be like to have the Savior come and sit with me.

In my minds eye I could see him walking down the hall and sitting next to me. He reached his arms out and gave me a hug. He then spoke to me. I do not remember the words. This all happened so fast. I opened my eyes and my short vision was gone. It caused me to reflect on the words of the following song.

If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do? Would I think of His commandments and try harder to be true? Would I follow His example? Would I live more righteously, If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say? Would my words be true and kind if He were never far away? Would I try to share the gospel? Would I speak more reverently If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would my thoughts be clean and pure? Would His presence give me strength and hope, and courage to endure? Would His counsel guide my actions? Would I choose more worthily If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would I often kneel to pray? Would I listen to the Spirit’s voice, and hasten to obey? Would I count my many blessings? Would I praise Him gratefully If I could see the Savior standing nigh watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would I comfort those in need? Would I try to show the Savior’s love in every word and deed? Would I give to those who hunger? Would I serve more willingly If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

He is always near me, though I do not see Him there And because He loves me dearly, I am in His watchful care So I’ll be the kind of person that I know I’d like to be If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me.

If the Savior Stood beside me

I think this is part of what Pres Nelson has been teaching us to think Celestial. Are our thoughts throughout the day centered on Jesus Christ? Do we make conscious efforts to elevate our thoughts to a Celestial level? Do let them control our actions and emotions? Or do we let the telestial world the natural man take charge of them?

Are we so involved with the telestial world that we lose sight of the Celestial? How much time do we spend with the Lord, in prayer, in thought, in words and deeds?

Are we so involved in our jobs and careers, chasing the almighty dollar, spending huge amount of time keeping up with our favorite sports teams. Out golfing and other sporting events hunting, fishing boating just having fun. All are good activities especially when we can share them with loved ones.

For such a long time I would think that I do pretty good giving my 10% to tithing and hopefully my time. But, lately I am slowing coming to understand that the Lord is asking 100%. To rely on him and his mercy, and atonement. In preparation of developing a Zion heart and home. In other words are we letting him change us to receive that spiritual rebirth?

Below is a drawing to illustrate ad Hard Heart. It came from a pod cast of Matt Jeppson on You tube, I invite you to look it up. Very very informative.

Just a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith

Righteousness is not that which men esteem holiness. That which the world calls righteousness, I have not any regard for. To be righteous is to be just and merciful. If a man fails in kindness, justice and mercy he will be damned. For many will say in that day: “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name done many wonderful works?” but He will say unto them “ye workers of iniquity,” etc.

Please continue on by listening to one of my favorite renditions that I have shared many many times

I invite you to continue to read below

This drawing is a depiction of a hard heart. Notice some of the heart strings show, fear, doubt, pride, ingratitude and others. Do they sound familiar to your soul? Unfortunately they do to mine.

The please read the expeience a missionary had when they came across one who had let his heart become hard. Read, what they and he learned.

In one simple experience, Heavenly Father taught me that He cares for both missionaries and those they teach—and that He can change any heart.

I looked down, tears filling my eyes. Yannick (name has been changed) had just spoken with finality: “I can’t forgive them. I can’t let go of this hurt. My heart is too hard.” Although I understood his French perfectly, I couldn’t understand his feelings.

Ten years earlier, Yannick had joined the Church despite opposition from his large family. He’d had the courage to go on a mission and looked forward to a life-changing experience through dedicating two years to the Lord. Little did he know just how life changing it would be. Only a few months after departing for his mission, Yannick was back home. The target of painful, untrue rumors from disobedient companions, he was received home by members who took the rumors for truth. Yannick felt like nobody wanted him at church. He decided not to go back.

Fast-forwarding 10 years, Yannick decided it was time to let go of his hurt and anger. He sought out the missionaries in his area—my companion and me. We’d been visiting Yannick for several weeks, sharing spiritual messages and reviewing gospel principles while we sat in the shade of his mango trees. Yannick had never stopped studying the scriptures or learning about the gospel. He’d never lost his testimony of the Church, but the shame he experienced after his mission kept him from enjoying the blessings of the gospel. I felt that I’d been sent to his area for a reason, maybe to help him realize these blessings once again.

I thought we’d been making progress, but after hearing what he said about not being able to forgive, I quickly realized we still had a long way to go.

I hung my head, wondering what to say. Yannick’s words rang in my ears: “My heart is too hard.” My companion looked as speechless as I felt. I looked at the Bible in my lap, silently resenting it for being in French. After nine months in the mission field, I still wasn’t very good at understanding scriptures in the French Bible. I said a prayer in my heart, begging to know what I could say to this man who felt his heart was beyond healing.

The answer, “Ezekiel chapter 36,” came to my mind.

I racked my brain, trying to remember if I’d memorized any scriptures in Ezekiel. I hadn’t.

Ezekiel chapter 36.” The answer came again, echoing in my mind.

I opened my Bible and flipped to Ezekiel 36. My eyes scanned the page; I didn’t see anything. Why couldn’t it have been in English? What did Heavenly Father want me to look for? I continued anyway.

“Yannick, there’s a scripture in the Bible that I’d like to share with you. It’s in Ezekiel chapter 36 …”

I had no idea what to say next, but as I looked down again at the page, my eyes landed on the right spot: “… verse 26.”

I read, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

I was no longer the only one with tears in my eyes. Yannick looked at me with an expression of wonder on his face.

“Yannick, this means your heart can change. Heavenly Father can give you a new heart.”

He choked on his reply. “How? Tell me what I need to do.”

Suddenly, a man who’d been ready to give up was now willing to believe he could change. Yannick heard the Lord’s promise within that scripture, telling him that he could let go of the bitterness in his heart and forgive those who had wronged him.

Over the following months, Yannick’s heart did change, little by little. He worked to forgive those who had hurt him and was able to let go of a lot of bitterness and anger. Trusting in Heavenly Father, he came to understand more about the Savior’s role in healing and changing hearts. After more than 10 years, Yannick began attending church again, accepted a calling, and went back to the temple. He accepted a heartfelt invitation to return to the table of the Lord and was finally able to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.

Although it was Yannick who learned firsthand about hearts changing, I learned invaluable lessons for myself. I learned that Heavenly Father fulfills His promise that His missionaries might be able to “speak the thoughts that [He] shall put into [their] hearts. … For it shall be given … in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what [they] shall say” (Doctrine and Covenants 100:5–6). Heavenly Father loves His missionaries, as well as those they teach, so much so that He inspired a missionary with the very scripture one of His sons needed to not give up on eternal blessings.

I also learned that Heavenly Father wants to communicate with us and can do so through the Holy Ghost and scriptures.

Most importantly, I know that even the hardest hearts can be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—Yannick is a living testimony of that.

A Childs Prayer

Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change

By Elder Dale G. Renlund

Of the Seventy

To endure to the end, we need to be eager to please God and worship Him with fervor.

In December 1967 the first successful heart transplant was performed in Cape Town, South Africa. The dying man’s diseased heart was removed, and a healthy heart from a deceased donor was sewn in its place. Since then, over 75,000 heart transplants have been performed worldwide.

In each heart transplant recipient, the patient’s own body recognizes the new, lifesaving heart as “foreign” and begins to attack it. Left unchecked, the body’s natural response will reject the new heart, and the recipient will die. Medicines can suppress this natural response, but the medications must be taken daily and with exactness. Furthermore, the condition of the new heart must be monitored. Occasional heart biopsies are performed wherein small pieces of heart tissue are removed and then examined under a microscope. When signs of rejection are found, medications are adjusted. If the rejection process is detected early enough, death can be averted.

Surprisingly, some patients become casual with their transplanted hearts. They skip their medicines here and there and obtain the needed follow-up less frequently than they should. They think that because they feel good, all is well. Too often this shortsighted attitude puts the patients at risk and shortens their lives.

A heart transplant can prolong life for years for people who would otherwise die from heart failure. But it is not “the ultimate operation,” as Time magazine called it in 1967.1 The ultimate operation is not a physical but a spiritual “mighty change” of heart.2

Through the Atonement of Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, we undergo this ultimate operation, this spiritual change of heart. As a result of our transgressions, our spiritual hearts have become diseased and hardened, making us subject to spiritual death and separation from our Heavenly Father. The Lord explained the operation that we all need: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”3

Just as with heart transplant patients, however, this mighty change of our spiritual hearts is just the beginning. Repentance, baptism, and confirmation are necessary but not sufficient. Indeed, equal, if not greater, care must be taken with a spiritually changed heart than with a physically transplanted heart if we are to endure to the end. Only by doing so can we be held guiltless at the time of judgment.4

Enduring to the end can be challenging because the tendency of the natural man is to reject the spiritually changed heart and allow it to harden. No wonder the Lord cautioned to “even let those who are sanctified take heed.”5

We all know of individuals who had this mighty change of heart but subsequently yielded to the natural man. They became casual in their worship and devotion to God, their hearts became hardened, and they thereby jeopardized their eternal salvation.

The lives of the people who were converted by the preaching of the sons of Mosiah offer some insights as to how one avoids rejecting the mightily changed spiritual heart. Of them, we read that “as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, … and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.”6

How did they successfully endure to the end? We know that they were “distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.”7

Their zeal towards God likely reflects an eagerness to please God and worship Him with fervor and passion. Their zeal towards men suggests an ardent interest in helping and serving others. Being perfectly upright and honest in all things suggests that they held their covenants firmly and did not rationalize their commitments to God or man. We further know that they taught their children the gospel in their homes. We know that they buried their weapons of war, distancing themselves from temptations.

They must have frequently assessed the condition of their spiritually changed hearts. They did not simply assume that all was well. By figuratively examining their changed hearts, they could identify any early hardening or rejection and treat it.

Alma the Younger poses a series of questions to contemporaries of the people of Ammon that figuratively biopsy spiritually changed hearts. Alma asks, “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 He further asks if they have been sufficiently humble, free of pride and envy, and kind toward their fellowman.9 By honestly answering questions like these, we can correct early deviations from the strait and narrow path and keep our covenants with exactness.”

In the Book of Mormon Alma 12 we gain more insight into this subject: Alma 12

A Hard or Soft Heart From the Book of Mormon seminary teacher manual

What do you think it means to have a hard heart or a soft heart toward the Lord? When Zeezrom began to ask Alma and Amulek sincere questions, Alma taught that those who do not harden their hearts can learn the things of God. Alma taught the plan of redemption and encouraged the people to evaluate their hearts. This lesson can help you evaluate your heart and your willingness to receive God’s word.

Zeezrom and others had been trying to deceive and discredit Alma and Amulek by asking questions meant to trap them (see Alma 11:21). Amulek responded through the Spirit, testifying of the Savior and of the Final Judgment (see Alma 11:26–46). Alma explained that he and Amulek knew of Zeezrom’s deceptions through the Spirit (see Alma 12:3–6).

Read Alma 12:7–8, looking for what happened to Zeezrom.

· What phrases indicate to you that Zeezrom was changing?

· What difference do you think Zeezrom’s attitude might have had on his ability to receive answers?

Because Zeezrom really wanted to know about the Final Judgment, Alma used this opportunity to teach about God’s plan of redemption. However, Alma first cautioned Zeezrom that his heart needed to be right before God.

As you read Alma 12:9–11, mark words or phrases that help you understand what happens because of the state of our hearts. It might help to know that “mysteries of God are spiritual truths known only by revelation” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Mysteries of God,”

Two principles you may have identified are (1) if we do not harden our hearts and we diligently give heed to God’s word, we can come to know God’s mysteries and (2) if we harden our hearts, we will receive less of God’s word until we know nothing about God’s mysteries. Consider writing each truth next to the hearts you have drawn in your journal.

To gain greater understanding of what it means to have a hard heart or what we can do for the Lord to soften our hearts, read some of the following verses. Next to the corresponding hearts in your study journal, write what you learn or important phrases from these verses and the verses you read from Alma 12:7–11.

· People hardening their hearts: 1 Nephi 15:3; 2 Nephi 33:2; Mosiah 11:29.

· What people did for the Lord to soften their hearts: 1 Nephi 2:16; Alma 24:8.

· What do you think it would look like for someone to ask questions with a hard heart? What would it look like to ask giving “heed and diligence” (Alma 12:9) to the Lord?

· Why might we sometimes feel tempted to harden our hearts?

· Why do you think the state of our heart toward the Lord can make such a difference in our lives?

God’s plan of redemption

Because Zeezrom began to have a sincere desire to understand the resurrection and the Judgment Day, Alma taught him about God’s plan of redemption. He taught this life is “a time to prepare to meet God” and about the essential role of the Savior in overcoming our sins and death (see Alma 12:16–18, 24–28, 33). He pointed out the importance of not hardening our hearts.

Take a moment to imagine what it may be like to stand before God at the Final Judgment after living with a hardened heart. Also imagine what it may be like after living with a softened heart.

Read Alma 12:12–15, 33–37, looking for how your heart can affect your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at the Final Judgment. You may want to mark important words or phrases in your scriptures.

· According to Alma 12:33–34, why is it essential to not harden our hearts and to repent?

· How was the Savior a perfect example of having a soft and humble heart toward His Father? (See Matthew 26:39; 2 Nephi 31:4–7; Doctrine and Covenants 19:18–19.)

Your heart

To help you evaluate your own heart, answer the following questions on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “never true of me” and 5 meaning “always true of me.”

· I want guidance from Heavenly Father in all aspects of my life.

· I am willing to obey Heavenly Father.

· I accept correction.

· I feel a need for the Savior’s help in my life.

· I am willing to turn to the Savior and repent.

Imagine that someone felt they had a hard heart in some ways and wanted the Lord’s help to soften it. How could you use what you learned today to help them? You could also share the example of the Savior and your own personal experiences.

Alma 12:10–11. What is different about those who harden their hearts and those who do not?

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy taught:

The Apostle James said, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

Some of us “hear” selectively and “do” when it is convenient. But for those who give their heart and mind to the Lord, whether the burden is light or heavy makes no difference. We demonstrate a consecrated heart and mind by consistently following God’s commandments no matter how difficult the circumstances. (Donald L. Hallstrom, “The Heart and a Willing Mind,” Ensign, Jun. 2011, 32)

What can I do to choose the state of my heart?

While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Gerald N. Lund explained:

Carefully assessing the condition of our hearts is one of the most essential things we can do in this life. …

… The condition of our hearts directly affects our sensitivity to spiritual things. Let us make it a part of our everyday striving to open our hearts to the Spirit. Since we are the guardians of our hearts, we can choose to do so. We choose what we let in or hold out. Fortunately the Lord is anxious to help us choose wisely. (Gerald N. Lund, “Opening Our Hearts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 33–34)

I invite you to listen to this special song

I’m trying to be like Jesus

Now back to the original article that we started with: And see if you can recognize the softening of your heart as it continues to progress to a Zion (Terestial heart)

Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change

In 1980 we moved as a family across the street from the hospital where I trained and worked. I worked every day, including Sundays. If I finished my Sunday work by 2:00 p.m., I could join my wife and daughter and drive to church for meetings that began at 2:30.

One Sunday late in my first year of training, I knew that I would likely finish by 2:00. I realized, however, that if I stayed in the hospital just a little longer, my wife and daughter would depart without me. I could then walk home and take a needed nap. I regret to say that I did just that. I waited until 2:15, walked home slowly, and lay down on the couch, hoping to nap. But I could not fall asleep. I was disturbed and concerned. I had always loved going to church. I wondered why on this day the fire of testimony and the zeal that I had previously felt were missing.

I did not have to think long. Because of my schedule, I had become casual with my prayers and scripture study. I would get up one morning, say my prayers, and go to work. Often day blended into night and into day again before I would return home late the following evening. I would then be so tired that I would fall asleep before saying a prayer or reading the scriptures. The next morning the process began again. The problem was that I was not doing the basic things I needed to do to keep my mightily changed heart from turning to stone.

I got off the couch, got on my knees, and pleaded with God for forgiveness. I promised my Heavenly Father that I would change. The next day I brought a Book of Mormon to the hospital. On my to-do list that day, and every day since, were two items: praying at least morning and evening and reading in the scriptures. Sometimes midnight would come, and I would have to quickly find a private place to pray. Some days my scripture study was brief. I also promised Heavenly Father that I would always try to get to church, even if I missed part of the meeting. Over the course of a few weeks, the zeal returned and the fire of testimony burned fiercely again. I promised to never again fall into the spiritual death trap of being casual about these seemingly small actions and thereby jeopardizing things of an eternal nature, regardless of circumstances.

To endure to the end, we need to be eager to please God and worship Him with fervor and passion. This means that we maintain faith in Jesus Christ by praying, studying the scriptures, partaking of the sacrament each week, and having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. We need to actively help and serve others and share the gospel with them. We need to be perfectly upright and honest in all things, never compromising our covenants with God or our commitments to men, regardless of circumstances. In our homes we need to talk of, rejoice in, and preach of Christ so that our children—and we ourselves—will desire to apply the Atonement in our lives.10 We must identify temptations that easily beset us and put them out of reach—way out of reach. Finally, we need to frequently biopsy our mightily changed hearts and reverse any signs of early rejection.

Please consider the state of your changed heart. Do you detect any rejection setting in as a result of the tendency of the natural man to become casual? If so, find a place where you too can kneel. Remember, more than mortal years on this earth are at stake. Do not risk forfeiting the fruits of the ultimate operation: eternal salvation and exaltation.

I pray that we may press forward with steadfast faith in Christ and endure joyfully to the end,11 in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Now I invite you to prayfer;u;y look at the following a depection of a softened heart. I’m sure most of you have so many of these qualities in your heart.

As I get older in this life I often think of this hymn. Am I willing to go, and do and be who the Savior wants me to be. Whether it is now or even when I cross through the veil?

I’ll go Where you want me to go

We pray that each one of us, especially me will let the Savior replace the hardness in our hearts with a soft and loving heart. One that is fully converted to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We love and pray for each of you. Please, ask for miracles in your prayers. Ask for discernment to detect to many falsehoods of the events of the last days. Pray for charity even the pure love of Christ to be a constant blessing in your lives. God bless each of you and your families.

Jesus is the Christ the Savior of Mankind. God Lives and we have a living prophet on the earth today Russel M. Nelson. I witness that your Heavenly Parents love each of you. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. amen

Debbie & Steven Larsen

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