“Their Hearts Had Been Changed”

Brant Gardner

Those who remained were those who had been willing to hear. They had not only seen a miracle, they had been touched by it. They had not only heard Lamoni, “their hearts had been changed.” This saving change of heart is reminiscent of Alma’s discourse to the people of Zarahemla:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. (Alma 5:6–7)

Not coincidentally, similar imagery describes the experience of Lamoni and his people. Alma uses the image of being awakened from a deep sleep “unto God.” Lamoni and those with him had been in the profound slumber of ignorance, their spiritual faculties dormant. Awakening unto God was a different realm of being for them. Alma, of course, had had the identical, transforming experience. The similarity in these two passages suggests that Alma, in reporting Ammon’s experience, used the language with which he had described his own experience. Or possibly Mormon, remembering Alma’s words, intentionally echoed them here in describing Ammon’s experience.

The important point, however, is the change of heart. In the scriptures, the heart is the seat of spiritual feelings. Hardening one’s heart describes the exclusion of spiritual influences from one’s life. Conversion changed the heart, figuratively speaking, from hard to soft; it can now deal with the spiritual. Since gratitude and joy accompany this tremendous transformation, even the physical countenance changes perceptibly.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4