I must admit I am fascinated with the heart. Not from a medical perspective but from a spiritual one.

We have long been taught the importance of having a humble heart, a broken heart, an obedient heart, a pure and willing heart — and we are continually encouraged to soften our hearts. We have been asked to serve with all our heart, to unify our hearts or give our hearts to the Lord.

I desire to follow this council and to have a loving, understanding, open and kind heart.

However, I also know when I am upset, hurt, betrayed or feeling vulnerable, one of the first things I want to do is protect my heart. I am tempted to cover or harden it, so it isn’t subject to the elements that can harm it. Just as it is when I have an open wound, I will cover it with a bandage, so it can form a scab and heal; I find myself wanting to do the same with my heart.

Yet, if I choose to harden or cover my heart, so it cannot be hurt or offended, then I rob myself of the very tool — a soft heart — that best allows me to face and effectively handle the circumstances in my life.

I am impressed with the story of Pahoran in the Book of Mormon because after he received a scathing letter from Moroni, who had jumped to conclusions, his kind and understanding heart allowed him to swallow his pride and not become defensive.

King Lamoni — who had been raised to have an angry, hardened heart toward the Nephites — had a humble heart that allowed him to listen to Ammon and feel the spirit of the Lord and be converted when he heard the gospel.

It was a forgiving heart that allowed a wife to forgive her husband and a parent to forgive a child.

It was a pure and willing heart that brought a friend out of inactivity.

It was an obedient heart that motivated my parents to raise me in the gospel.

It was a loving heart a Young Women leader used to influence my life many years ago.

It was a generous heart my neighbors had when they allowed a homeless family to move in to their home.

It was a humble heart that caused an investigator to leave an old life and start anew through baptism.

Our heart is our agent of change. It pivots us in a new direction. Therefore, if we harden it or build walls around it, we miss out on so many opportunities and blessings.

Changing our actions does not necessarily change our hearts. To have the full blessings of any opportunity is to have our heart in it.

When Laman and Lemuel saw an angel, they changed their actions for a minute, but because their hearts weren’t changed, they went back to their old ways. Had their hearts been humble, open and obedient, it would have changed the entire outcome of the Book of Mormon; it may not have impacted other evil men in the Book of Mormon, but it would have changed the course of their generations.

When we harden our hearts, the exchange of love, kindness, understanding and the Spirit cease to flow back and forth between us and others. I cannot imagine functioning without these in my life. So to harden my heart comes at a great price.

It all comes down to the heart, which is why I love the quote, “The condition of our heart determines our destiny."

I continually ask myself what I can do to make sure that my heart is pure, open, submissive, soft and willing.

Perhaps the most obvious answer is to simply swallow my pride.

Next, I might accept that the Lord can do a lot more with my life than I can, and if I cut out the ability to feel his Spirit and his love, I will live a cold and empty life.

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Third, regardless of what comes into my life that may hurt, injure or break my heart, he has the power to heal it and make it whole again.

If he was not capable of doing this, then there is no way I could remain vulnerable and allow my heart to continue to be open and subject to the harmful elements around me. There is nothing greater than knowing he has healed, and will continue to heal, my heart over and over again.

So before we bite into a heart-shaped cookie, candy, brownie, pizza or anything else we have to celebrate this time of year, let us take a moment and assess the condition of our hearts. It will determine our destiny.

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