On The Virtue Of A Soft Heart, Despite Discouragement

Pessimism is tempting.  In a world where we constantly face rejection, scorn, and, for the most part, the failure of our work to do much lasting good, it’s easy to give in to the reflex to put up walls around our emotions, to practice not caring about those who we might care for but who will end up letting us down and breaking our heart.  Sometimes it feels like the only way to handle the overwhelming sadness of the world’s willful self-destruction is to shake our heads and say, “Oh well.  Good riddance.”

The Book of Mormon strongly encourages the opposite.  In the midst of risking the most bracingly discouraging setbacks, we are still shown example after example of prophets who wear their hearts on their sleeves, and invest every ounce of their own deepest feelings in their work, despite the ongoing pain.  It’s hard, it’s noble, and it’s necessary.

[all italics added for emphasis]

LEHI

1 Nephi 1:5 “…my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.”

1 Nephi 8:36 “…he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.”

NEPHI

1 Nephi 2:18 “and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, I cried unto God for them.”

1 Nephi 10:4 “…I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts…”

1 Nephi 12:25 “…I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed…”

1 Nephi 17:9 “…I, Nephi, was exceedingly sorrowful because of the hardness of their hearts…”

1 Nephi 17:47 “Behold, my soul is rent with anguish because of you, and my heart is pained; I fear lest ye shall be cast off forever…”

2 Nephi 26:7 “O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people!  For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me…”

2 Nephi 32:7 “…I am left to mournbecause of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men…”

2 Nephi 33:3 “…I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith…”

JACOB

Jacob 2:3 “…I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been.”

“MANY” CHURCH LEADERS

Alma 4:7 “…many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among the people.”

ALMA

Alma 7:3 “And behold, I have come having great hopes and much desire that I should find that ye [are righteous]…”

Alma 8:10 “Nevertheless Alma labored much in the Spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city…”

Alma 30:46 “…Behold, I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart…”

Alma 31:1-2 “…his heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people.  For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people…”

Alma 31:24 “…his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and perverse people…”

Alma 32:6 “…he beheld with great joy; for he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word.”

Alma 35:15 “Now Alma, being grieved for the iniquity of his people, yea for the wars, and the bloodsheds, and the contentions which were among them…his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.”

NEPHI, SON OF HELAMAN

Helaman 5:4 “And it came to pass that Nephi had become wearybecause of their iniquity…”

Helaman 7:6 “Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites…and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul…”

Helaman 10:3 “And it came to pass as he was thus pondering–being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people…”

NEPHI, SON OF NEPHI

3 Nephi 1:10-12 “…when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful…and [he] cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people…he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day…”

3 Nephi 7:16 “Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of the minds–went forth among them in the same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

JESUS CHRIST

3 Nephi 17:14 “…Jesus groaned within himself, and said, Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.”

“DISCIPLES”

4 Nephi 1:44 “And from this time the disciples began to sorrow for the sins of the world.”

MORMON

Mormon 2:19 “And wo is me because of their wickedness…”

Mormon 6:16 “And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people…”

“PROPHETS”

Ether 11:13 “And it came to pass that the people hardened their hearts, and would not hearken unto their words; and the prophets mourned and withdrew from among the people.”

Two things are also evident: first, true disciples of God let their hearts feel the full brunt of the natural pain inherent in seeing the the wickedness of others.  Tempting as it might be to train ourselves to get scarred and calloused, we must remain sensitive.  Second, even though I tried to stay on the topic of keeping emotions honest and on the surface here, it’s already plain that good disciples let that heartache move them to pray, minister, and strive with people for spiritual surrender to Christ. 

I’ll make the Book of Mormon’s teachings about that the subject of a list for another post soon.

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