Interesting discovery today: it does not appear that the concept of Christ changing or converting our hearts for us was written about in the Book of Mormon before Mosiah 3 (King Benjamin), unless you count Jacob 5, which is a pretty big stretch to apply it to hearts specifically, or 2 Nephi 16:10, which is more about our understanding being opened by the word of God and us being converted, rather than Christ changing us. The word converted is essentially not used, change or changed is not applied to people, and any turning people do is of their own volition. But starting with Mosiah 5 we have a landslide of change going on, and though the people generally express their desire to be changed, they repeatedly state that the changing was done by the Lord: “the Spirit of the Lord . . . wrought a mighty change in us,” or “He changed their hearts,” or “they did all declare . . . that their hearts had been changed,” or “all . . . must be born again; yea, born of God, changed.”
I think that delay is fascinating, particularly since a) we know Nephi and his people had transcended the “law” and saw it for what it was: an instrument to point them to Christ (2 Nephi 25:25), and b) this change is so remarkably powerful in the middle books of the Book of Mormon as to convert entire cities of the Nephite’s enemies, as well as those going about directly to destroy the church (contrary, interestingly, to the woes expressed by Enos, that there was nothing that could be done for the Lamanites).
Why would such a powerful principle have been withheld from the people? They were worthy, they had “many revelations daily,” and they were centered on Christ. Hmm. Note–it may be pure conjecture that the principle was withheld; its absence from the text certainly doesn’t mean the concept wasn’t understood or even preached. But given its prevalence and effect in the later books, as well as Nephi’s heavier emphasis on individual choice and the Lord’s deliverance rather than conversion, I think it’s plausible to say the principle was revealed anew or at least given entirely different emphasis starting with King Benjamin.
I should also write that I was seeking revelation today, and the Lord directed me toward the Liahona, where my eyes found an article about childlike faith. The first two topic headings within that article were astonishing to me, and so comforting. Then I pivoted to studying the Book of Mormon, and there I read, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” I wondered at that. What is the Lord asking me to do at this time? And how can I be “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, [and] willing to submit to all things which [He] teeth fit to inflict upon [me]?”
Ok, hold up here. So let’s combine those two, hey? 1. I need to submit to the things the Lord is asking me to do at this time. I need to be meek and humble and patient and full of love. 2. Instead of muscling through that, trying of my own accord to change my heart so it fits that mold . . . why not let Him change my heart? 🤔 I don’t need to fear that if I let Him change my heart, He may also change some of the things I think are important—I can rejoice in the fact that if He does indeed change my focus, it will be to my benefit and joy! Let Him change me, and let Him make patience and meekness and humility and love become automatic and second-nature. Deal.