Only with Soft Hearts…

“As a member of the Sanger High School Choir I had many opportunities to attend festivals where we were blessed to perform for, and to observe the performances of other school choirs. There was always the temptation, as we listened to others perform, to think negatively, as if somehow that would make us feel better about our own performance. I will never forget the Christlike wisdom of our choir director Norman Wiens when he shared this advice: ‘Do not sit in negative judgment of the other choirs we hear today. Negative feelings will wear you out and not only diminish your joy in listening and performing, but will result in our own diminished performance.’ I have since found that actively thinking positively about the efforts of others brings positive feelings to my heart, positive energy to my body, and more pure performances in everything I do. Only with soft hearts can we receive and communicate the humble manner through which the Lord blesses us to do and feel our very best.”

Sanger High School Concert Choir 1981
Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 4 November 2023

Do we ponder sufficiently the end result of complaining, backbiting or speaking evil of our brothers and sisters in God? Do we think about how this kind of behavior can affect our own hearts, those of our fellow Christians, and perhaps the hearts of those who may yet become followers of Christ?

When Monica and I were a young couple, in our first year or so of marriage, we learned of a tragedy that occurred in a family that was causing the dissolution of a long marriage. This was nothing about which we needed to know, yet an unruly tongue spread the news of the sad tale, almost seemingly with joy at the opportunity of being the teller. To this day I remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach thinking about a failed marriage and the sorrow this would bring for the children of the family. I also remember clearly my disbelief in why someone would want to share such a dark tale.

Monica & Danny

Monica and I made a point of strengthening our marriage that the same fate would not befall us, and we also made a point of closing our ears and governing our tongues in avoidance of tales that could only lead our hearts, and the hearts of others, to cold and dark places.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Harden not your hearts,…” (Hebrews 3:8). A hard heart is impenetrable and not easy to feel the warm promptings of the Spirit of God moving us to where we should go. Ears that are perked to hear dark tales and gossip are not so attuned to discerning the still small voice that guides us in the ways of the Lord. Emotions of anger, distrust and spite stifle any hope of the compassion and faith needed to bring forth love, empathy and forgiveness.

It is as difficult for the Spirit to penetrate a hard heart as it is for a chef to season a frozen piece of meat or vegetable. He may sprinkle the outside with inviting spices, but inwardly there is no savor and therefore the effort is for naught.

Paul went on to further write, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14).

We should be busy in the act of softening not hardening hearts, our own as well as the hearts of others. We should be building each other up on a daily basis, forgiving one another’s trespasses, and sheltering from the ears and hearts of those who need not know the trespasses of our fellow beings.

I am encouraged by the farewell address of General George Washington as he turned over control of the continental army to the congress of a new nation. In the concluding paragraph of his message, he expresses sentiments and encouragement toward brotherly affection and love, in the exact writing of his own hand and vernacular of his day. “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination & obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field—and finally that he would most graciously be pleas’d to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves, with that Charity, humility & pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion & without an humble immitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. With the greatest regard and esteem, I have the honor to be Sir Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and most humble Servant, General George Washington” (8 June 1783).

“General George Washington Resigning His Commission” by John Trumbull (1756–1843)

If you are angry with your brother or your sister, your fellow citizen, or Christian, forgive them. If you have been tempted to speak evil, gossip, or to undermine the opinion that others might have of a fellow saint, don’t give way to temptation. If you have placed negative or degrading information about a son or daughter of God in social media, repent and remove it. If you are prone to read such information in the social media of others, stop it and go there no more. Dare not take sick pleasure or joy in the pain, tragedy, or suffering of others!

Brothers and sisters, we must soften our hearts and reserve the sensitivity of our ears for the word of God, else we will not feel His promptings nor hear His call. Only with soft hearts may the Still Small Voice of the Holy Ghost penetrate us through to a full and pure witness of Jesus Christ. I speak to you with love as a brother, for we all are children of Heavenly Parents, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have been called by His voice. Let us, everyone, reflect His countenance in what we say, in what we listen to, and in all we do. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

“Heart Shape” by Emily E. Jones

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.