In those moments when the Lord is going to require an extraordinary trial or major test of His people, He warns them through His prophets and uses words like “Prepare thy heart.” Why must we prepare our hearts? How do we do it?
Why our heart?
According to Elder Marvin J. Ashton, the Lord measures our heart (1 Samuel 16:7) in order to know what we may give and what we may achieve, based on our strength and integrity in the service of others. (Marvin J. Ashton, The Measure of Our Hearts, p. 2) Our capacity to give is directly proportional to our ability to love. Elder Ashton further explains that the measure of our hearts is the measure of our total performance. (Ashton, p. 2) In the final analysis, we will be judged (how the Lord measures us) by our actions as well as the desires of our heart (D. and C. 137:9; Alma 41:3).
How to prepare our heart
The way to prepare our heart may require several different courses of action, depending on what we need to do and what we need to become so that we may face our trials and act according to the will of the Lord. Speaking in general terms, I would like to recommend five steps that we can pursue in this important task:
1. Increase our faith
The faith of which I speak is faith in Jesus Christ, since it is the only kind that will lead us to receive the blessings of His Gospel, including our Exaltation. This increase in faith in the Lord is accomplished through our asking of Him (Luke 17:5) in our prayers, in which we cry unto our Father in Heaven and plead to receive this vital principle of action. We can also receive an increase in our faith by receiving the word of the Gospel (Alma 32:28-29; Romans 10:14-17). Obedience to the commandments and covenants provides us with a substantial increase in our faith in Jesus Christ (Ether 12:4, 6, 12; D. and C. 63:9-12).
2. Develop greater love for others
In Moroni 7:47-48 we read: “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, 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”.
I am impressed with the term that the Savior employs in this scripture, “it shall be well with him.” To Him we are well when we have charity, the greatest of blessings which surpass our understanding.
We must fill our hearts with charity, which is the pure love of Christ. This will increase our ability to be accompanied by, edified by, guided through, and strengthened by the Holy Ghost as we prepare to face what the Lord would have us face. Among the best ways of which I know to acquire charity is to study and seek to increasingly appreciate the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the greatest expression of the love that Heavenly Father and the Son possess.
3. Study and ponder the Scriptures
In John 5:39, the Savior explains the law of witnesses as it applies to obtaining a testimony of Him as the Messiah, the Redeemer of the World. Those whom the Lord addressed thought that by simply reading the scriptures they could obtain eternal life. Jesus taught them that it is not by the mere act of reading the scriptures that eternal life is achieved, but rather by coming to Him as the scriptures teach that we may obtain our salvation. There is no other way back to Heavenly Father, but by the grace, merits and mercy of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is a commandment to those that follow Him to be engaged with great delight in seeking knowledge of the gospel. As we apply this knowledge to our lives, it strengthens us to live in the Lord’s way.
4. Provide true service
As we focus on the needs of others and opportunities to serve them, it correctly places our focus outside ourselves and prepares our heart to follow the Way that leads to Exaltation. Brother Udine Falabella, father of Elder Enrique R. Falabella, of the Seventy used to say: “You can serve without love, but you cannot love without serving”.
Herein lies our strength in the Lord, since He delights in supporting and sustaining those who serve Him in love and obey His will. To do this we must be both humble and willing to work for the wellbeing of others, no matter that it may be inconvenient (Mosiah 2:17; Galatians 6:2; D. and C. 76:5).
5. Do Family History and Temple Work
In the world currently there are 136 temples in operation and over 30 more either in construction or announced. The great work of the latter-days of providing the most sacred of priesthood ordinances of salvation to our deceased ancestors turns our hearts to God and to our families.
The temples are one of those high places where we can go to seek revelation from Heavenly Father. When we worthily attend the temple with inspired questions that come from our study of the scriptures and then participate in the sacred ordinances, we are prepared to receive answers that only Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can provide. If we arrive early to the temple, we can read the scriptures and meditate about them before the start of the ordinance in which we will participate. In this way we can learn about the Plan of Salvation with a higher perspective and knowledge, as provided by the Holy Ghost, while we perform temple ordinances. There will come to our mind and to our heart an understanding of the scriptures, in a flow of ideas and feelings. At the conclusion of the ordinance, if we remain in meditation, without being pressed for time, we can further consider what we have learned. Such prayers in the temple can bring about a higher degree of revelation, which corresponds to a higher degree of preparation. I promise you that answers will come in a more certain and special way. Our participation in the temple is one of the best things that we can do to prepare our heart.
The blessings of preparing our heart
To prepare our heart will sublimely bless our lives with a greater knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, along with a greater commitment to fulfill the covenants that we have made with Him. We will have the unequaled blessing of experiencing the process of progress in our heart. We will experience then the change of a hardened heart to a soft one, to a clean one, to a pure one, as well as a sincere one, on the road to attain a perfect heart, in the manner of Jesus Christ. In His blessed name, amen.