Monday, January 9, 2012

Take from me this heart of stone (1 Nephi 15, part 1)

Nephi is sleepy.

This is a very common experience after a major spiritual experience.  Here's some examples...:

Moses 1: 9-10
9.  And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself.  And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
10.  And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man...

Joseph Smith History: 20 and 48
20. ...When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.  When the light had departed, I had no strength...

48.  ...I shortly after [Moroni's visit] arose from my bed, and, as usual, went to the necessary labors of the day; but, in attempting to work as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as to render me entirely unable.  ... in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.
Aha!  This explains why I can't make it through my Sunday meet'ns without nodding off.

Anywayz, Nephi was tired when he came back to camp after his multi-chapter vision.  And, considering what the vision had shown him about his brothers and the difficulties these two knuckleheads would pass along to their kids, it must have been disheartening when he returned to find his brothers arguing again.  Don't worry, he took a nap before dealing with them.

1 Nephi 15: 6
6.  And it came to pass that after I had received strength I spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.

Turns out, they had the very same questions that Nephi had.  The difference was, Nephi prayed for answers while Laman and Lemuel tried to figure it out for themselves.  This brought about Nephi's infamous solution to all such problems:

1 Nephi 15: 8
8.  And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of The Lord?
Their answer really tried Nephi's patience:

1 Nephi 15: 9
9.  And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
What grieves Nephi about his brothers, and what I want to talk a little bit about, is the state of their hearts.  In scripture language, one who is sensitive to the Spirit or is charitable toward his fellows has a "soft heart", while one who is insensitive, disobedient, and/or mean is said to have a hard heart.  For example:  "Pharaoh did harden his heart, therefore he would not let the children of Israel go." 

Story Time!!!

I remember one time when this heart metaphor really struck me.  I was singing with this stake choir in Cincinnati, preparing for an Easter cantata.  Our music leader had composed and written all of our songs over a period of nearly 10 years.  These songs were steeped in the scriptures, and helped me see things that I'm not sure if I ever would have seen otherwise.  There was a song in there in which the bass line soloed:
"Take from me this heart of stone; make it flesh, even as Thine own."
You may wonder why this simple phrase would stir within me so much.  Well, I don't know if you've ever been involved in a choir that was learning all new and technical (for me) music, but it's a process.  You stumble through your part, trying to learn the words, the pitch, the cues, etc, and it's not for 5 or 6 practices that you finally start to listen to and internalize what you're singing.  Wow, those songs were so inspired.  She (Natalie McKasson) surely received them by revelation.

So ya see, the process of learning 9 songs for our performance brought a spiritual awakening to my own heart, making the above phrase very personal for me.  Singing with that choir remains one of my top 4 spiritual experiences ever.

So, let's get back to some scipturizing.  When reading the scriptures, I try to look for principles.  Remember, a principle is a formula from The Lord, which, if applied, will result in a promised blessing.  It can also be a formula from The Lord describing behavior contrary to His will, which, if not changed, will result in a heap of trouble.

1 Nephi 15: 3
3.  For he [Lehi] truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto The Lord as they ought.
  • One Indication of a hard heart:  Not looking unto The Lord as you ought.

1 Nephi 15: 10
10.  Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of The Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

  • One Result of a not looking unto The Lord as you ought:  Not understanding the gospel.
  • One Result of not understanding the gospel:  Not keeping the commandments of The Lord. 
  • One Consequence of not keeping the commandments of The Lord:  Therefore, ye will perish.

1 Nephi 15: 11
11.  Do ye not remember the things which The Lord hath said? -If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

  • One Indication of a soft heart:  You will pray to The Lord in faith, believe that you WILL receive an answer, and keep His commandments diligently.
  • One Blessing of praying in faith, believing you WILL receive an answer, and keeping His commandments diligently:  He will reveal awesome things to you.

Personal observation and criticism: 
I have a heart of stone.  I think that way because of my quickness to anger, quickness to judge others, limited resources of patience that run out way too quickly, my lack of faith that I WILL receive an answer, and etc. etc.

Personal goal:
Join forces with The Lord in chiseling away the rocky ridges of my heart.  This must be a combined effort.  The choice of obedience is mine, but the ability to triumph over my own weaknesses comes from Him.  The effort to pray is mine.  The resulting increase in my faith comes from Him.  I can work on having more charity.  Only He can enable this process.  Ya see?  It's like this guy named Robert Millet said:  "Jesus is perfect.  I am imperfect.  Together, we are perfect."

Ezekiel 11: 19-20
19.  And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
20.  That they may walk in my statues, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Like I've said before, I hate it when I see how stupid Laman and Lemuel are and then realize I'm so much like them in many ways.

"Take from me this heart of stone; make it flesh, even as Thine own."

To be continued...
Peace be with you


  1. Good post. I like in the OT how Saul's heart was changed: " 1 Sam 10:9 And it was so, that when he (Saul) had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart. No softening here - full replacement!

    John: I don't want to be pushy, but you are gonna have to get a move on if I'm going to be able to use these posts to prep for my Sunday School lessons for the whole year.

  2. Thanks, Mormon guy. I love that Samuel verse too. I'm sure you do amazing without my insignificant thoughts, but thank you for the complimento gigante. I'll work it.

  3. Hey, Can i Borrow the picture of The stone heart? :)

    1. Borrow away, mon ami. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Hey, we were neighbors with Natalie McKasson about 1993 & 1994. I love that wonderful lady! I remember that song too!