After reading my cousin's wife's post about Helman 6:36, I wrote some additional commentary on my Book of Mormon Inspection blog ... you can read the whole entry here.
This is what I added:
Hardened vs. Willing Heart
This morning, I read a blog post by my cousin's wife about her thoughts on Helaman 6:36. She had some really good insight into this verse. So I read Helaman 6:36 as well as the preceding two verses.
Mormon contrasts the hardened Nephites with the willing Lamanites. Helaman 6:34-36 says, "And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.
"And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.
"And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words."
She cross-referenced the word "willingness" to Exodus 25:2 and 2 Corinthians 8:12. Then she noted that "willingly" in Exodus 25:2 is cross-referenced to the Topical Guide entry of Initiative. She comments, "Do I take the initiative to ask and find out what the Lord wants, rather then wait till the last minute and decide to follow him when things get difficult, or complain and make excuses? I have experienced both scenarios and I can say that I have felt the blessings of taking the initiative and being willing. Not only do I experience great blessings but my faith is strengthened."
Regarding taking the initiative in keeping the commandment and following the will of God, there are two people who are great examples of keeping this counsel … President Henry B. Eyring and our current stake president Gary Riding.
When President Eyring was called to the Apostleship, there was an article in the September 1995 Ensign that talked about his life. There are two sentences I remember from this article. In talking about his father Matthew Eyring said, "My father has told us that there are two things that he prays for every night. The first is, ‘What blessings do I have that I am not aware of?’ and the second is, ‘Whom can I help?’ And,” Matthew adds, “Dad says there has never been a day that his prayers haven’t been answered.” (Gerald N. Lund, “Elder Henry B. Eyring: Molded by ‘Defining Influences’,” Ensign, Sep 1995, 10)
I am such a laid back person that I’m afraid I feel pretty content with what I have been blessed with. But after rereading part of that quote and also what my cousin's wife said, I wonder how many blessings the Lord has for my family and me that I have not asked for. In her post she says, "I think sometimes it is easy to say, "I don't want any more or I have all that I need." I have met many people who have said this. When we have a willing mind, then I believe our minds are enlightened and the power of the Spirit is able to expand our learning and knowledge."
The other person who I think takes the initiative is our stake president Gary Riding. I have heard him speak on more than one occasion of how he prays for guidance from the Lord. Like President Eyring, he specifically asks the Lord what he needs to do that day … who he can serve. Then he would proceed to give examples of how his prayers have been answered.
One example of his that I remember is when he was jogging through the park and came across a man who seemed to be in mental anguish. President Riding felt inspired to stop and talk to the man. I don't remember all the details, but I think the man was having some marital and other problems in his life. A missionary moment ensued and the man was later baptized. After President Riding finished his talk, the man stood up and testified how his life was changed because of President Riding's prayers and his willingness to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
So I guess the personal application here is that I need to be more earnest in my prayers, have a willing heart … be willing to accept the Lord's will and then do it, and then be diligent in seeking the Lord's will through daily and constant prayer. Then I need to recognize and heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost through the course of the day. And in order to recognize those promptings, I need to listen. In the July 2008 Ensign in another article about President Eyring, he teaches, "The key to hearing those answers and knowing that God has an interest in our lives, he says, is to develop a listening ear. “We’ve got to be quiet and listen. In my life, when I have failed to receive a clear feeling or have missed the voice of the Spirit, it is because I was too busy, too noisy inside, and too full of my own world.” (Robert D. Hales, “President Henry B. Eyring: Called of God,” Ensign, Jul 2008, 8–15)