Hardened Hearts

Why would the leader of a nation continue to pursue a harmful course of action in the face of increasing punishments? I’m not talking about Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine in spite of severe international sanctions; I’m talking about Pharaoh’s unwillingness to let the Israelites go free while his country was pummeled by plagues. Human nature can cause us to behave irrationally, to dig in our heels, to double-down and accept severe consequences rather than admit we were wrong and willingly change course.

The concept of a hardened heart appears 39 times in the Bible. Twenty of those occurrences are about Pharaoh’s response to the plagues (19 in Exodus 4-14 and one in 1 Samuel 6:6). Although the text indicates several times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Joseph Smith revised each of those passages to clarify that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. (See the Joseph Smith Translation in the footnotes of Exodus 4:21, Exodus 7:3, Exodus 7:13, Exodus 9:12, Exodus 10:1, 20, 27, Exodus 11:10, Exodus 14:4, 8, 17.)

Hardened hearts are also a significant theme in the Book of Mormon, appearing about 95 times. It begins with Nephi, who prayed to have his own heart softened (1 Nephi 2:16), then lamented several times the hardness of his brothers’ hearts (1 Nephi 2:18, 1 Nephi 7:81 Nephi 15:101 Nephi 17:46). Many times, Book of Mormon prophets referenced the admonition in Psalm 95:8, “Harden not your heart.” (See Jacob 6:5-6, Alma 12:33-37, Alma 13:4-6, Alma 34:31, Helaman 7:18.) And the prophet Alma proclaimed that revelation will only come to those who choose not to harden their hearts (Alma 12:9-11).

As I’ve thought about these passages today, I’ve asked myself the following questions:

  1. Am I willing to accept new information which may call into question my previous decisions?
  2. Do I really want to know God’s will for me, and am I willing to prioritize what He wants me to do over what I want to do?
  3. If my heart is harder than it should be, am I willing to ask God to help me soften it?

Today, I will avoid hardening my heart. I will remember Pharaoh’s error and will strive to be receptive and willing to change. I will seek God’s help in humbling myself so that I can receive and follow His guidance.

3 thoughts on “Hardened Hearts

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  1. Hi Paul, I recognise that this not a place for political discussions but I feel your point about Putin needs bearing out. When I started reading your post and before I got to you mentioning Putin, my first thoughts were about Biden. Why does he pursue strategies and policies which undermine the stability of the US despite those policies having a detrimental effect upon the people and the country. We have examples from the Book of Mormon that governments fall because of secret combinations, so surely this isn’t simply about Putin having a hardened heart, this goes much deeper and the reasons why he is making the decisions he is, in fact Biden has recently acknowledged that sanctions will hurt the US (People, not him) as well, so who has the harder heart?. In fact I would suggest that there is much more of a case for US politicians having hardened hearts than Putin.I have more of a problem with the West that the East and I suspect God is the same, based on the information we have (Discernment needed) it is easy to make a decision on the evil nature of Putin and his regime, however, surely the West are worse in God’s eyes (I’m in the Uk) as we commit atrocities under the guise and banner of virtue whilst all the while being the worst hypocrites. The fact of the matter being that they are all wrong, we know that Jesus Christ is the only answer, I follow and enjoy your insights regularly. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your perspectives, William. I’m glad that you enjoy the blog.
      As you mentioned, the purpose of this blog is not to engage in political discussion but to share divine principles I’ve learned from the scriptures. I definitely see parallels between President Putin’s current situation and Pharaoh’s during the plagues. My main point in sharing those two examples was to make a general observation about human nature: We all have a tendency to harden our hearts, It’s hard to humble ourselves. It’s hard to admit we’re wrong, even when the evidence is overwhelming. It takes effort to soften our hearts, and we may need God’s help to do so.
      I am personally horrified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and devastated by the suffering of so many innocent people, including millions of refugees. But I’m certainly not in a position to judge the relative hardness of anyone’s heart. My takeaway is that we should each look for signs of hardness in our own hearts and follow Nephi’s example in praying for the Lord to help us be more humble (1 Nephi 2:16).
      I hope that’s helpful.
      Paul

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