11 And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives.
Just before the children of Israel entered the promised land, the prophet Moses preached three sermons to them, as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses begins his second sermon by reciting the Ten Commandments, which he refers to as a covenant between Israel and God. After reminding them that they promised to obey every commandment God gave them through him, Moses shares God’s response to this promise:
I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! (Deuteronomy 5:28-29)
In other words, “They’re saying all the right things. I hope they really mean it. I hope they feel it, and that their words translate into actions.”
In the following chapter, after giving the commandment which Jesus would later identify as the first great commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37-38), Moses urged the people to internalize it: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6).
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a time when Israel would live up to Moses’s admonition: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).
In the passage above, Abinadi explains to the priests of King Noah why he is about to recite to them the Ten Commandments, which they already knew very well. It’s not because he thinks they aren’t familiar with the words. It’s not because he doesn’t realize that any one of them could give a compelling and eloquent sermon about any one of these commandments. It’s because the commandments have not become a part of them. In his words, “I perceive that they are not written in your hearts.”
President M. Russell Ballard has taught that a superficial understanding of the gospel is insufficient to bring God’s power into our lives:
It’s not enough to learn these lessons as a matter of history and culture. Learning the names and dates and sequence of events from the printed page won’t help you very much unless the meaning and the message are written in your hearts….
You cannot do a Google search to gain a testimony. You can’t text message faith. You gain a vibrant, life-changing testimony…through desire, study, prayer, obedience, and service (“Learning the Lessons of the Past,” General Conference, April 2009).
Today, I will seek to internalize the word of God. Rather than merely study and memorize words on a page, I will strive to write those messages in my heart and put them into action in my life.