Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dale G. Renlund on preserving the purity of a changed heart

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born 64 years ago today on November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"A heart transplant can prolong life for years for people who would otherwise die from heart failure. But it is not 'the ultimate operation,' as Time magazine called it in 1967. The ultimate operation is not a physical but a spiritual 'mighty change' of heart. (See Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:12–14.)
"Through the Atonement of Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, we undergo this ultimate operation, this spiritual change of heart. As a result of our transgressions, our spiritual hearts have become diseased and hardened, making us subject to spiritual death and separation from our Heavenly Father. The Lord explained the operation that we all need: '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.)
"Just as with heart transplant patients, however, this mighty change of our spiritual hearts is just the beginning. Repentance, baptism, and confirmation are necessary but not sufficient. Indeed, equal, if not greater, care must be taken with a spiritually changed heart than with a physically transplanted heart if we are to endure to the end. Only by doing so can we be held guiltless at the time of judgment. (See 3 Nephi 27:16.)
"Enduring to the end can be challenging because the tendency of the natural man is to reject the spiritually changed heart and allow it to harden. No wonder the Lord cautioned to 'even let those who are sanctified take heed.' (D&C 20:34.) ...
"To endure to the end, we need to be eager to please God and worship Him with fervor and passion. This means that we maintain faith in Jesus Christ by praying, studying the scriptures, partaking of the sacrament each week, and having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. We need to actively help and serve others and share the gospel with them. We need to be perfectly upright and honest in all things, never compromising our covenants with God or our commitments to men, regardless of circumstances. In our homes we need to talk of, rejoice in, and preach of Christ so that our children—and we ourselves—will desire to apply the Atonement in our lives. (See 2 Nephi 25:26.)  We must identify temptations that easily beset us and put them out of reach—way out of reach. Finally, we need to frequently biopsy our mightily changed hearts and reverse any signs of early rejection."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change," Ensign, November 2009, pp. 97-99
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Renlund was trained as a doctor and surgeon. He actually directed the heart transplant programs for Utah hospitals. So he was able to provide personal insight into the process of transplanting a heart, removing a diseased or damaged organ and replacing it with a healthy one. This provided an interesting analogy about another kind of "change of heart" that we all need to experience, the spiritual kind.

I've always liked the description Elder Renlund quotes from Ezekiel, about replacing a "stony heart" with a "heart of flesh" and with the "new spirit" that accompanies the process. That's a wonderful description of a process of change we all need. But then, once that takes place, the challenge is to preserve and maintain our new heart and spirit, not letting the things of the world creep in and again turn the flesh to stone. As critical as the initial change of heart is, this "maintenance phase" is perhaps more difficult and more critical for us. We sometimes call this "enduring to the end."

The key to not rejecting our new heart or letting it decay is to actively maintain it through our thoughts and deeds. Elder Renlund gave a good list of suggestions on ways to do that as we "apply the Atonement in our lives." He also reminds us "to frequently biopsy our mightily changed hearts and reverse any signs of early rejection." That kind of self-examination and sincere evaluation will bless us. The Sabbath Day is a good time to do that, particularly in sacred moments such as the sacramental service.

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