Shortly after Nephi’s family left their comfortable home in Jerusalem and began camping in the wilderness, Nephi prayed to understand “the mysteries of God.” In response, he tells us that God visited him “and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (1 Nephi 2:16).
Nephi shared his spiritual experience with his brother Sam, who believed him. But two of his other brothers, Laman and Lemuel, would not listen to him or take his words seriously. He said that he was “grieved because of the hardness of their hearts” (1 Nephi 2:18).
Nephi chastised his brothers many times for their hard hearts (1 Nephi 7:8, 1 Nephi 15:10, 1 Nephi 17:46). Their father Lehi did the same (2 Nephi 1:17). In the end, the hardness of their hearts placed a barrier between them and God and prevented them from receiving His blessings (2 Nephi 5:21).
- A hardened heart represents an inflexible person, a person who thinks they know best and are unwilling to receive direction. Therefore, a hardened heart is a disobedient heart.
- A hardened heart also represents an insensitive person, a person who is either unaware of the suffering of others or unwilling to empathize with them. Therefore, a hardened heart is an unloving heart.
Nephi tells us that the devil’s purpose in tempting us is to blind our eyes and harden our hearts (1 Nephi 12:17). Our hearts can also be hardened by going through difficult experiences. No wonder that, during the tribulations preceding the Second Coming of Christ, “the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). The Great War between the Nephites and the Lamanites recorded in the Book of Alma had that effect on some people, but not on everyone:
Because of the exceedingly great length of the war
between the Nephites and the Lamanites
many had become hardened,
because of the exceedingly great length of the war;
and many were softened
because of their afflictions… (Alma 62:41)
Many things can soften our hearts:
- The Lord can soften our hearts when we pray, as He did for Nephi (1 Nephi 2:16).
- Our hearts can be softened by the prayers of others (Mosiah 21:15, Mosiah 23:28-29).
- The Spirit of the Lord can soften our hearts (Alma 24:8).
- Our hearts can be softened by the pleadings of other people (1 Nephi 7:19).
- A terrifying experience can soften our hearts (1 Nephi 18:19-20).
- Pain and suffering can soften our hearts, if we let them (Alma 62:41),
Today, I will strive to have a soft heart, a heart that feels empathy for other people and that is willing to adapt to the commandments of the Lord. I will remember that giving in to temptation will harden my heart and that following the promptings of the Holy Ghost will soften my heart. I will look for ways in which my heart is hard and will pray to know how I can soften it, so that I can be more obedient and more loving.