33 And it came to pass that when Ammon arose he also administered unto them, and also did all the servants of Lamoni; and they did all declare unto the people the selfsame thing–that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil.
Earlier in this chapter, we read that Ammon was glad that the king had fallen unconscious because “he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God…had infused such joy into his soul…that this had overcome his natural frame” (Alma 19:6).
After awakening from this coma, the king, his wife, and many of their servants declared “that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil.” This is nearly identical to the testimony of the people of King Benjamin after hearing his speech (Mosiah 5:2) and is similar to the experience of Alma the Younger after seeing an angel (Mosiah 27:24-26).
What is the nature of this change? Were these people immune to temptation after that time, and was the change permanent?
We clearly have layers of desire. For example, when your alarm clock rings in the morning, you may not be excited about waking up, but your actions are hopefully governed by a deeper desire to begin the activities of the day on time. My guess is that having “no…desire to do evil” means that your commitment to righteousness becomes so strong that localized temptations lose their appeal.
However, once you have been “born again” and have achieved this state in which your desires are aligned with true principles, you can’t take for granted that you will always feel this way without any effort on your part. King Benjamin counseled his people to do the things which would enable them to retain their conversion (Mosiah 4:11-12). Likewise, Alma later challenged the people of Zarahemla who had experienced this change of heart, “can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)
What about the people of King Lamoni? Even though they had no more desire to do evil, they still needed to engage in the activities which would enable them to retain their conversion. For example, they buried their weapons as a covenant that they would no longer participate in violence (Alma 24:11-13). Years later, the prophet Helaman pled with them that they not break that oath (Alma 56:7-8), even though other people were losing their lives defending them. According to Elder Richard G. Scott, part of the reason Helaman cared so much about that decision was because there was some danger of their slipping back into old habits:
It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit (“Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” General Conference, October 2013).
Today I am grateful that, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, my desires can be shaped to be consistent with eternal truths. I will seek His help in aligning my desires with His will. I will also remember that such a conversion must be sustained, and I will continue to rely on the grace of God to maintain the righteous alignment of my heart over time.