What exactly is involved in obtaining a change of heart? And what can insure it remains permanent? Sometimes I feel like a yo-yo, saint and sinner, going back and forth and never quite being one or the other. How do I know I am on the right track?
Robert, from Grants Pass, Oregon
Here are the words of Samuel the Lamanite on the subject—
And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them–Therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free (Hel 15:7-8).
So the change of heart to which you allude is a change from worldliness to godliness. And the change is brought about by faith and repentance. Now if you have that yo-yo feeling of going back and forth between saint and sinner, you have not really repented of the things you keep going back to. Therefore you have not yet had that change of heart, i.e., change of character that would convert you into a person who is firm and steadfast in the faith. But, you are on the right track! One must struggle against the desires of the flesh until they are completely overcome. Overcoming the desires of the flesh does not mean that they no longer exist, but that they are under the complete control of the righteous will of the person. Satan attempts to get at us through our emotions, and the influence of the Spirit is an influence of the intellect. We must learn to control the emotions and have them dominated by a righteous intellect. Then we will have had a change of heart. What at one time was a struggle to overcome because of its tempting desirous nature, now becomes repugnant to us. We come to the point that we cannot look upon sin except with abhorrence. Then we will have had a change of heart. Now you may think that such control would be almost impossible to attain, but that is not the case. Alma tells us that among his people there were an exceedingly great many who had achieved such a state—
Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God (Alma 13:12).