The Desire of Their Hearts

Only by educating and training our desires can they become our allies instead of our enemies!

Neal A. Maxwell, “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” General Conference, October 1996

To the ancient prophet Jeremiah, God said, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Alma reaffirmed this principle: “I know that [God] granteth unto men [and women] according to their desire” (Alma 29:4). But this acknowledgement came in the context of Alma questioning some of his own desires:

Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?

Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth?

Alma 29:6-7

And when Joseph Smith wondered how his brother Alvin could have been exalted, since he had not been baptized in this life, God taught him the same principle: “I, the Lord, will judge all men [and women] according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9).

I find this doctrine to be both comforting and challenging—comforting because there are many things I want to do but can’t, challenging because some things I want are not right.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that the Lord is focused on our deepest desires, not “passive preferences or fleeting feelings.” He said, “What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity.” But he added that we can and must improve and elevate our desires through intentional effort:

Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service, and each act of worship, however small and incremental, adds to our spiritual momentum. Like Newton’s Second Law, there is a transmitting of acceleration as well as a contagiousness associated with even the small acts of goodness.

According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” General Conference, October 1996

Today, I will educate my desires. Like Alma, I will watch for desires I need to minimize or eliminate. I will also act on righteous desires, believing that such action will cause them to grow.

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