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What are Hard Hearts in the Scriptures?
(1 Nephi 15)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 4:
“Armed with Righteousness and with the Power of God” (1 Nephi 11-15)




Over and over again in the Book of Mormon, we read of those who have hardened their hearts. We also find the same concept in the Bible, but even though we hear this expression a lot, it can be beneficial to dig a little deeper and find out what all of this hardening and softening of hearts is all about. To do this, I will consider several passages of scripture that help us get an idea of what hard or soft hearts are all about.

Isaiah 6:10 says, “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” This isn’t exceptionally clear by itself, but the Lord while teaching the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 spells out what it means (I have included a link to a video where I go over the parable in more detail, but the key part is the Lord’s comment, beginning at verse 14,

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

This makes sense of the eyes and ears somewhat, but what about the heart? In verse 19 he says, explaining the parable, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.”It thus appears that the thing that should be taking root in our heart is the word of the kingdom as Jesus calls it, but it is not the words themselves, but rather the understanding that needs to take root in a person’s heart in order for it to be effectual.

King Benjamin, in Mosiah 2:9, similarly exhorts his listeners,

My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

A comparable metaphor was employed by Alma in Alma 33:1

Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in one God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith.

This also seems to be the difficulty faced by the contending Laman and Lemuel in 1 Nephi 15:3 when trying to understand their father’s words, “For he 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.”

This likewise hints at the key cure for hardening of the heart, humbling oneself and approaching the Lord in the prayer of faith, all of which softens the heart and prepares us to receive the Lord’s instruction to us.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 and 11:19-21 describe the Lord restoring the hearts of his people with the implication that the Lord’s law is written therein because of the consequent ability of the people to keep the commandments and walk in the Lord’s paths

25 ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 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.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Ezekiel 11:19 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 statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God.

Jeremiah 31 is even clearer:

31 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Thus it is the Law of the Lord which should be written in our hearts or, in practical terms, the principles of the gospel. If these are not found in us, through ignorance, pride, or rebellion, we risk ending up as Laman and Lemuel, who Nephi reports (2 Nephi 5:21), “had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint;…” If on the other, as Alma 32:41 tells us, “ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.” The principles of the Gospel when they take root within us bring forth the fruit of the spirit and that fruit is indeed sweet.

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