They Become More Hardened – Alma 24:30

30 And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.
(Alma 24:30)

Why would anyone reject the truth? It sounds ridiculous. If something it true, we ought to believe it, and if it’s false, we should discard it. Yet we see examples every day of people ignoring or dismissing facts which are demonstrably true yet which conflict with their preconceived notions of how the world should be. Why does that happen?
The world is so complex and our knowledge is so limited that we have to simplify things in order to make decisions and be productive. So we build mental models which we know are imperfect but which serve as guides for our daily decisions. When we encounter information which conflicts with our mental models, we have basically three options:

  1. Reject the new information. This is the easiest approach, and the most hazardous. In the short run, it allows us to continue to make decisions efficiently. But it it also prevents us from progressing and increases the risk that we make bad decisions.
  2. Ignore the new information. Sometimes, we just can’t figure out how the new information fits. We don’t deny that it exists, but we aren’t ready yet to update our mental models to accommodate it. If the new information doesn’t directly affect our day-to-day decisions, we may decide to place it on the “back burner.” We know it’s there, and we know we can’t fully explain it, but we aren’t ready to address it yet, and we intentionally delay updating our mental models until we have more time or until we can gain additional knowledge.
  3. Update our mental models. This is generally the best approach, but it has its own hazards. For example, if we overemphasize new information, we may react hastily to untested hypotheses, and we may have a hard time pursuing a consistent course of action over time. As the Apostle Paul warned, people who react too quickly are susceptible to being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).
As Ammon and his missionary companions experienced great success among the Lamanites, a pattern began to emerge. In the prior chapter, Mormon listed seven Lamanite cities in which everyone was converted: Ishmael, Middoni, Nephi, Shilom, Shemlon, Lemuel, and Shemnilom. Then he pointed out an interesting fact: all of these cities were inhabited exclusively by Lamanites. In the other cities, where there was an Amalekite or Amulonite influence, very few people were converted.
The defining characteristic of the Amalekites and the Amulonites was that they were apostates. They had previously enjoyed the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and known spiritual things, but they had rejected those truths which they had once known. In the process of abandoning those truths, they had hardened their minds and their hearts, so that it was nearly impossible for them to overcome their hostility and recognize the truth when they encountered it. Sadly, this not only prevented them from accepting the gospel; it also had a profound influence on the people around them:

And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities (Alma 23:14).

Today, I will open my mind and my heart to the truths Heavenly Father wants me to learn. I will remember Mormon’s inspired warning: rejecting the truth today can make it harder for me to accept it in the future, and can adversely affect not only me but the people around me as well.

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