In Alma 5, the scriptures record a sermon given by Alma. In it, he talks about a “mighty change of heart.” At the end of his sermon, the people are so moved that they are filled with the Holy Spirit and lose all their desire to do evil.
I can only think of two times when this has happened to me. The most recent was when I knelt at the altar of the temple to marry my husband. The first was my baptismal day.
I waited almost exactly 15 years from the end of my first marriage to begin my second. Eight of those years were spent in an exclusive relationship with my husband, and for the last 4 1/2 years we were engaged. That’s a long time to spend sorting through feelings of being punished even though you really did try your best at the first marriage, to feel lonely and broken, and to wonder if maybe being single really was the best thing for me.
One major obstacle to my second marriage was the roadblocks established by the court (to the delight of my ex-husband). Even so, I knew that my personal history and my husband’s personal history gave us a high likelihood of creating a disaster. I also knew that, as compatible as we are, there were things about my intended that would be “rather bothersome” in a marriage, and I suspected I had qualities that would give him the same feeling.
So, when I went with him to the temple to be sealed, I still had a lot of doubts in my mind. I knew I loved him, and I knew that I had felt God’s approval in making this decision. It was when I knelt across the altar from him and willingly agreed to live in a sacred, eternal covenant with him that I felt my heart change. I no longer had any doubts, and I’ve never really looked back.
Even so, life is stressful, and there are temptations to forsake my covenant with him. I recognize that my change of heart won’t last forever unless I do something about it.
I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints over some very healthy opposition from my family. The only support I received on my baptismal day came from the missionaries who had been teaching me and my new church family.
I remember how clean I felt as I emerged from the water, and the sense of a glowing fire entering my body as I was confirmed a member of the church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. For weeks, I felt happy and totally alive. I longed to be able share this feeling with everyone I met.
However, the newness faded, life stress took its toll, and I “lost” that change of heart, too, even though I still possessed a testimony of the restored gospel.
A Permanent Change of Heart
Experiences like these help me understand why so many things that Heavenly Father promises occur slowly over time. I see the same principle in weight loss.
When things happen miraculously and fast, it’s like a person on a yo-yo dieting cycle. I get the biggest charge out of the miraculous change, and want it to keep happening over and over again. While it can, I don’t learn any of the principles to make it happen in my life.
When I am put in the position of having to study the principles where I am lacking knowledge and understanding, and then I have to put those principles to work in my life, it is like the person who seeks out the best experts on weight loss, weighs the advice and counsel in her mind, and puts a plan in place that will create a sustainable life pattern where weight is lost and health is gained over time.
That is why I can only see the mightiest change of my heart as I look back over my life: the change was slow an imperceptible as it occurred. Over time, as I have learned what it takes to live the gospel piece by piece, I have built habits and patterns that have changed my heart, my mind, and my soul. These changes are as permanent as anything gets in this life. (After all, agency allows for me to make grave mistakes and sad choices, just as anyone can quit exercising and making healthy food choices and return to a less-healthy lifestyle.)
The God-given pattern of study, work, patience, and faith creates the permanent change.