“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).
Thus said King Solomon, who prayed for understanding, and also prayed for a HEART to Judge God’s people in 1 Kings 3:9. When Solomon prayed for wisdom and a heart to judge, the Lord answered him, “Behold, I have done according to thy word; lo, I have given thee a WISE AND AN UNDERSTANDING HEART.” (I Kings 3:12 IVB) And so we see that the great wisdom of Solomon (until he unwisely worshiped other gods) involved an understanding heart, a WISE Heart.
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and LARGENESS OF HEART, even as the sand that is on the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29 IVB). In the preceding scriptures we see that the heart is somehow linked with wisdom and understanding.
There is another peculiar depiction of the heart in scripture – it is called “the thought of the heart”. The thought of the heart can be either evil or good. God has thoughts of the heart: “The anger of the Lord shall not return, until He have executed, and till He have performed the thoughts of His heart; in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.” (Jeremiah 23:20 IVB).
God also knows the thoughts of our hearts: “And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.” (Mosiah 11:59 RLDS).
Almost since the beginning, the thoughts of men’s hearts have been carnal, sensual and devilish. “And God saw that the wickedness of man had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart; being only evil continually.” (Genesis 8:10 IVB).
How important are the thoughts of the heart to God? We can know the answer to that in the greatest commandment. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:36 IVB). With this type of love for God, one gives ALL the energies of heart, mind and soul to Him together as ONE LOVE for Him. When we describe the people of the Lord they will have ONE HEART AND ONE MIND. So, yes – the thought of the heart being a combined force for good or evil, is of the utmost importance. For if we keep the greatest commandment which is regarding combined and complete thoughts of the heart – we will keep all the commandments.
Will the people of God also be of one heart and one mind with each other in the community of Zion? I believe they will, but this will only happen as people first become of one heart and one mind with God. Therefore, if we desire to build and live in Zion, we must pray with all the energy of our hearts to become one with the thoughts of God’s heart. We must sanctify our minds, and purify our hearts as a joint task in becoming closer to God. Understanding this joint task in purifying the thoughts of the heart is a simple calculation which takes repeated practice and exercise. First, we must sanctify our minds. If unclean thoughts enter the mind, cast them out! If this casting out of unclean thoughts is exercised faithfully, then eventually no unclean thing could enter one’s heart. By the grace of God because of forgiveness of past sins, and the concentrated effort to cleanse the mind, one’s heart can become pure. The result is a person who is of One Heart and One Mind (thoughts of his heart) and Pure in Heart. A group of such people would have pure thoughts of the heart individually and collectively.
The thought of the heart must be something powerful if it can cause men to be evil continually, or if it is important for those of us in the latter days to understand PERFECTLY, that the Lord will perform “the thoughts of his heart” as stated by Jeremiah.
The “heart” of one’s spirit is easy enough to understand – it is a place of FEELING in the soul. In this modern day, “feelings” are often quenched and scowled at as being false spiritual manifestations. But, is this always so? Can we discount every heartfelt tear during a testimony service as a false spirit? Of course not. If we begin to harden our hearts until there is no recognizing the pure flow of godly feelings within our beings and others, we soon forget how to feel the touch of angels as they speak the words of Christ, though silent and calm – those words are carried into our hearts – and when we FEEL the words of Christ we have ears to hear.
The still, small voice of God is so still and so small, that it requires us to feel it more than “hear” it. Nephi told his brothers, Laman and Lemuel, “and he hath spoken unto you in a still, small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words;” (1 Nephi 5:146 RLDS).
Repentance involves a very deep feeling of humility. In Matthew 5, some of the first words Jesus uttered were, “Yea, blessed are they who shall believe on your words, and come down into the depth of humility,” Humility is not just a deep thought – it must be accompanied with deep feelings of humility. Oh that humility was a foremost thought in everyone’s heart today!
In the Book of Mormon, it is clear that the ancient prophets had a good understanding of the importance of feelings. “And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God, that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.” (Mosiah 9:154 RLDS)
“Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point, because of your sins, by denying the justice of God, but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long suffering, have full sway in your heart; but let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” (Alma 19:114 RLDS)
When Lehi spoke his final words of exhortation to his children, and children’s children, Nephi described him thus: “And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that, perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off;” (1st Nephi 2:88 RLDS). And then, “and it came to pass after my father Lehi had spoken unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart, and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, he waxed old.” (2 Nephi 3:22 RLDS). Were Lehi’s feelings important enough that Nephi’s description of them should be preserved for thousands of years for our benefit? Yes! The feelings of Lehi’s heart were ONE with the Spirit of the Lord which was in him. Nephi knew that we need to understand that.
Nephi’s brother Jacob described the exceeding tender feelings of the women and children to some of their hard-hearted husbands and fathers in this way, “And also, it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech, concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceeding tender, and chaste, and delicate before God, WHICH THING IS PLEASING UNTO GOD;” (Jacob 2:7 RLDS)
The Fruits of the Spirit are also pleasing unto God. They require deep, genuine feelings of the heart – including Faith! As the Fruits of the Spirit, such as Love, Joy, Peace and Meekness are manifest, they can be felt as an energy which exhilarates or that calms, that burns in the chest or sweeps and radiates through one’s being – and often, others can feel the power of the Fruits of the Spirit which radiates from a godly person. The fruit of Faith, which requires the mental capacity to think and evaluate, also requires the heartfelt capacity to Hope.
“And now I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would shew unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; (Ether 5:6 RLDS). In its simplest description, Faith is a thought of the heart since faith is a mental belief combined with a feeling hope – and it is made acceptable with meekness and lowliness of HEART.
“And again, behold I say unto you, that he can not have faith and hope, save he shall be meek and lowly of heart; if so, his faith and hope are vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly of heart;” Again, faith requires feeling for it to be acceptable before God. (Moroni 7:49 RLDS).
Galations 5:22-24 tells of the opposition of evil or good thoughts of the heart: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Here we see the thoughts of the heart which involve earthly affections and lusts as evil, but the thoughts of the heart involving love, joy, peace, etc. free us from the laws of mortality. Those godly feelings are of utmost importance to our eternal welfare, and the greatest of these is Charity.
Without Charity we are nothing. NOTHING. Without that Pure Love of Christ, that feeling, that energy, that power of perfect love – nothing matters. All knowledge is nothing; miracles mean nothing; giving every dime to the poor means nothing if it is without Charity. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with ALL the ENERGY of HEART, (muster up all your godly feelings in that prayer!) that ye may be filled with this love which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son Jesus Christ, that ye may become the sons of God, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is, that we may have this hope, that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:53 RLDS).
And so, I implore you today to allow yourself to feel again when you pray; when you sing; when you testify; when you LIVE each moment. Feeling is encouraged in the scriptures and it is important to turn back to tenderness-of-feeling if one has a hardened heart. It is easier to hear God when we realize that we should feel His still small voice. And it is impossible to have legitimate faith without feeling humility. If one does not know how to feel, but desires to feel, then I would encourage that person to muster up all the energy in their soul to pray and ask God to help them feel. For he who asks receives!
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the HEART of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15 IVB)
R. Whitefield 01/01/2019
(Scriptures in this article are quoted from the Inspired Version of the Bible, and the RLDS 1908 Book of Mormon. Corresponding LDS scriptures can be searched for here: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng )