I have spent many years trying to heal my heart due to challenges I faced in my childhood. In my search for answers, I decided to read and study the entire Book of Mormon in one month. During that time, I underlined every scripture that had the word “heart” in it with a red pencil.
Many of the phrases I underlined had an obvious meaning, such as “having the love God always in your hearts” (Alma 13:29). Other phrases, like ”to retain the name written always in your hearts” (Mosiah 5:12), were less clear to me. So I got a notebook and wrote down my questions as they arose: What does it mean to write something on your heart? How do you soften a heart? Why does God want us to give him a broken heart?
I prayed and pondered about each question until I received understanding. From this experience, I learned that the references about the heart in the Book of Mormon were powerful content to study. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed this before.
One day I became overwhelmed reading about all the battles in the Book of Mormon. It seemed like each battle became more intense and destructive the further I read. I found myself wondering, simply out of curiosity, what the greatest battle in the Book of Mormon was. I started thumbing back through the pages in search of all the war stories. What I discovered was a revelation to me.
The condition of every battle in the Book of Mormon varied. The groups of people that were righteous and unrighteous changed, the leaders and their war tactics differed, and the locations and cause of each battle was unique. The shocking part, however, was that despite all of the variations of war, every battle in the Book of Mormon started with one common denominator. Every war scene was preceded by the same phrase underlined in red in my scriptures: they hardened their hearts.
Once their hearts were hardened, they became emotionally past feeling and were capable of all sorts of murder and mass destruction. They also disconnected from the light of Christ within them.
My own heart was heavy as I pondered this. How could such a blessed people devolve into such a horrific state? An entire civilization destroyed because of the state of their heart? It was then I received an epiphany—the greatest battlefield in the Book of Mormon was not a single, geographic location.
The greatest battlefield of the Book of Mormon was the heart!
If Satan could win the hearts of men, destruction was sure to follow. If they disconnected from their hearts, they disconnected from God. Without God’s influence, the natural man prevailed, susceptible to all manner of temptation and wickedness.
The realization of that awareness was heavy. For days I pondered the battlefield of the heart. For days I felt the sorrow, lamentation, and loss of the Nephites that were once a righteous and delightsome people. Mormon wrote to his son Moroni that their wickedness had exceeded that of the Lamanites and he could not bear to write the atrocities of his fallen people (Moroni 9: 11–15, 18–20). As I pondered this war tactic of Satan, I realized that the battle for the heart has never ended. Satan’s attack on the heart is as prevalent today as on any page in history.
In our day, the battle looks a little different. For the most part, many of us will never step onto an actual battlefield as the Nephites and Lamanites once did. Some of us are not even aware that a battle for our hearts is taking place. But the battle is still raging, and Satan’s game plan has never changed.
In my professional life, I work with clients trying to find peace and healing for their hearts. The specific conditions of their traumas vary: divorce, abuse, anxiety, death, financial ruin, depression, addiction, and the list goes on. No matter what life circumstance we talk about, the effect of these life traumas is often the same—the heart becomes the modern-day casualty of the war.
So what can we do? How do we heal and protect the heart? How do we strengthen our heart connection?
The good news is that the scriptures assure us the heart can be changed. A hardened heart can be softened. A broken heart can be mended. A disconnected heart can be connected. A faint heart can be strengthened. A loving Savior has already paid the price and suffered for our sins and sorrows. He knows your heart and He knows you.
But the question is still worth pondering: why would the adversary care so much about the heart? As I studied, I found that our ability to live the gospel of Jesus Christ relies on our heart connection. I would like to share five significant components of heart-based gospel living:
1. Our Sacrifice
Before Christ came to earth and performed the Atonement, God asked mankind to offer animal sacrifices. The animal given had to be the best of the best—the unblemished lamb, the unspotted sacrifice (Deuteronomy 15:21), the perfect and the pure. When Christ came and fulfilled the law of sacrifice, the offering up of animals ended. However, God did not leave us without a way to show our willingness to sacrifice for Him. The new law, as described in 3 Nephi, taught that we should offer up our own sacrifice by giving God our broken heart and contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9:18-20).
Why did the heart become the replacement for burnt offerings? I believe that our hearts are the purest part of who we are and the highest and most ennobling aspect of mankind. Our physical heart is our connection to life. Without that connection, we cannot survive. Similarly, our “spiritual heart” is our connection to the divine, and without it, our ability to live life fully suffers.
Our heart is a portal for the Spirit and a source of truth. It is the wellspring of charity and compassion and our connection to love. Of all the things that God could ask us to sacrifice, a broken heart and a contrite spirit are the purest gifts we could give Him to show our obedience, submission, and love.
2. Keeping the Greatest Commandment
The heart is needed not only to offer our sacrifice to God but to fulfill the first and greatest commandment. In Matthew 22:36-39, we are commanded to “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” To love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as we would ourselves, we must have an open heart and exercise our full capacity to love unconditionally.
3. Obtaining the Essential Attribute
The greatest attribute we are asked to obtain is charity, or the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47). This one characteristic is so important that even if we have faith and hope, we are nothing without this. How can we have the pure love of Christ within us and share that charity with others if our heart is hardened, disconnected, or weak? It is impossible. Our hearts must be open and free to love.
4. Righteous Living
In all of our scripture, there has only been one society of people who were so pure that they were eventually taken to heaven because of their righteousness. We find a description of the people of Enoch in Moses 7:18:
“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
The hallmarks of a Zion society are dependant upon the state of the heart, the state of the mind, and righteous living. These essential characteristics make us worthy to live with God.
5. Our Divine Connection
When King David assembled the leaders of Israel and appointed his son Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 28:1–6), there was an inner chamber of the sanctuary that was separated by a veil from the outer chamber. The inner chamber was called the Holy of Holies and could only be entered by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement when he would go there to communicate with God. It was regarded as the most sacred or special place within the temple walls.
1 Corinthians 6:19 teaches us that our body is a temple. I was visiting with friend and author Dr. Jeff O’Driscoll when he brought new meaning to this statement. He shared, “Our body is a temple. In the center of our temple is our personal Holy of Holies, the most sacred place, open to the presence of God, where we can go to communicate with Him. Our spiritual heart is our Holy of Holies.” Our divine connection comes through the heart.
Is it any wonder that the heart is under attack? Your heart enables you to:
—Give your greatest sacrifice to God
—Fulfill the two great commandments
—Develop the essential attribute of charity
—Prepare to live in a Zion society
—Have a divine spiritual connection
The battles of today that are damaging the heart may not be avoidable. In our lives we will experience trials and traumas. However, we cannot afford to let those life situations determine the state of our heart. Take courage in knowing we can heal, protect, and nurture our hearts. By relying on the Savior and following the steps outlined in the scriptures, we can become the pure in heart God invites us to be.