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Heart and Soil

By Rex Goode

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In a Sunday School lesson I attended, the question was asked, “How do we overcome the influence of Satan in our lives?” Though I didn’t specifically hear any wrong answers, I was frustrated that they all had the same basic tone: just decide you are going to not do what he wants you to. I can’t refute a single answer others gave, it didn’t match with my understanding of the scriptures and was certainly contrary to what I had experienced in my life. At some level, obedience has always been a matter of choice, determination, and struggle. I have not achieved whatever obedience I have without make an effort to choose to do right, being determined to stick to that choice, and working hard for it.

Still, I don’t think of those things as the power behind the obedience. To me, if obedience is the plant, effort on my part is merely the soil. I have all sorts of ways to prepare the soil for receiving the seed, including weeding out the undersirable plants, getting rid of stones, avoiding polluting it, and enriching it with things like prayer, scripture study, hymn singing, and pondering the gospel.

In several instances in the scriptures, the seed is compared to the word of God that is planted by teachers of the word. These include Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-30, Mark 4:1-21), Paul’s admonition  about the differences in preachers (1 Corinthians 3:4-7), and Alma’s analogy comparing the word to a seed (Alma 32:28-43).

For my analogy, Paul’s admonition completes it. Paul was writing to the Corinthians about their tendency to identify themselves by which missionary brought them the gospel. He pointed out that the missionary wasn’t important. What was important was God.

He said:

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Corinthians 3:4-7.

In my life, there have been many planters, many waterers, and some helpers in preparing the  soil. Yet it is God who gave the increase. He took all of the weakness of the mere mortals involved and provided the strength to obey.

I remember the conversation between Zeezrom and Amulek where Amulek said that God did not save people in their sins. In pondering that, I know that what Amulek means is that we can’t just sin at will and say that God will justify it. I also know that Amulek means that God saves us from our sins. Through yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19), God takes us from the natural to the spiritual, without which no obedience can save us.

People who have faced and obtained victory over addictions know this well. We can always manage a stretch of good behavior if we really exert a lot of energy and devote a lot of brain power to it. Yet, without a change of heart, exhaustion will overtake us, and we will return to our drug of choice.

It is in the change of heart that we find peace and rest from the temptations that plague us. The change of heart is something we can’t create for ourselves. I don’t think that medicine will ever advance to the point of being able to perform open heart surgery on ourselves.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

In this change of nature, afforded to us through the atonement and the ministrations of the Holy Ghost, we overcome the influence of Satan in our lives.

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2 Responses to “Heart and Soil”

  1. noxid said:

    Thanks Rex.

    I agree that the most lasting changes come after a change of heart. I can think back to a couple of times in my life where I have felt I have had a change of heart and have been able to see more clearly the benefits of living a more honest, chaste, obedient life free of addiction. Undoubtedly, a changed heart will lead us to the point where we no longer have a desire to do evil, but instead to do good continually.

    The danger as I see it, however, is that we may be fooled into believing that because we have had an experience where we have hit rock bottom, approached priesthood leaders, prayed and repented fervently and felt that our hearts have been changed that we are henceforth able to resist any temptation put before us. That is, we may believe that a change of heart is just a single experience. Instead a change of heart is a continual conversion process from which we take steps, some larger than others, towards a heart like that of our Heavenly Father.

    The difficulty is that at times ( sometimes just moments) in my life I have become lazy or have temporarily forgotten where I am headed and seem to stumble down the steps. It seems that these falls feel even harder after progress has been made and it seems unsafe to stand up a begin the climb again only to face the fear of falling again. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling (and failing). It hurts to fall and seems more comfortable to wallow where you land. However, without getting up you continue to sink further and further into a mire of filth and grime which only leads to shame a guilt further making it difficult to stand and begin again.

    But the scriptures admonish us:

    2 Ne 1:23 :
    Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust

    2 Ne. 4: 28
    Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

    Let us be courageous and stand today and take a step up toward and more perfect heart!

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, noxid. I have never personally been through disciplinary action, but those I know who have tell me that in many ways, before any restrictions are lifted, they have to show a change of heart and demonstrate in some way that they have progressed beyond some point of no return to the sins that got them in trouble. I have a hard time fathoming that. I think that even with a change of heart, there are plenty of ways to head back the wrong way in times of spiritual challenge. Working on recovery is a lifelong pursuit. It can never be ignored. The good news is that the things we do for recovery are all wonderful things that we should be doing anyway.

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