As Amulek stepped forward to defend the unpopular prophet Alma, he explained to his neighbors that he had recently become aware of some obvious facts which had previously escaped his notice: “I have seen much of [God’s] mysteries and his marvelous power,” he said; “yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people. Nevertheless, I did harden my heart” (Alma 10:5-6).
Our thought patterns have a certain stickiness. We adopt mental models, and we are slow to discard them, even when they fail to work. We seek out evidence that our models are still functioning, and we ignore evidence that we need to change.
We can choose to be more stubborn or to be more malleable. Alma said, “He that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word” (Alma 12:10, italics added). We learn faster when we are less “clingy,” more willing to acknowledge facts which challenge our models and to adopt new models that make more sense. In other words, we learn and progress faster when we are willing to repent.
In Amulek’s case, it was a heavenly messenger who prompted him to confront his own willful ignorance. But we are also capable of self-correction. We can intentionally open our eyes to the breadth of information around us and to the diversity of experience of the people we interact with. This selfless acknowledgement can help us overcome our provincial instincts and appreciate the richness of the world.
Amulek overcame his stubbornness: “I know he is a holy man,” he said of Alma. “I know that the things whereof he hath testified are true” (Alma 10:9-10). He now recognized what he had actually known all along but had been previously unwilling to accept or acknowledge. (See Alma 10:6.)
Today, I will be less stubborn and more attentive. I will strive to improve my mental models and to acknowledge truths I come in contact with, even when those truths compel me to change. I will remember that progress and growth depends on my willingness to repent.