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I was reading the Book of Mormon when I came across two scriptures with the same phrase. The first was Moroni 6:8, which says, “But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” In the next chapter, Moroni 7:9 states that, “…if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart . . . it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.” I know I had hear the phrase “real intent” throughout my life many times, but reading those two scriptures back to back made me pause and ask myself, “Do I know what ‘real intent’ actually means?” I certainly wanted to know, because my forgiveness, and my prayers, according to Moroni, depend upon the realness of my intent. Consequently, I began a search.

Let’s first look at the numbers of my search so we can begin to comprehend the importance of the phrase “real intent”. In the scriptures, there are 116 instances of the phrase. In general conference, there are 135 instances in the last 10 years. In the missionary material, there are 24. It’s clear that real intent is an important concept for Latter-day Saints.

So what does it mean? How do we make sure that we’re repenting and praying and (I would venture to say) living as disciples with real intent? In Elder Oak’s October 2016 conference report, he clarifies what this means. He states:

“When we pray, we should remember that prayers for this kind of inspiration [he’s talking about missionary work] will be answered if accompanied by a commitment—something the scriptures call ‘real intent’ or ‘full purpose of heart.’ Pray with a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive, promising the Lord that if He will inspire you to speak to someone about the gospel, you will do it.”

Although this in regards to missionary work, this seems like it has pretty clear application to all parts of our lives. Real intent means commitment. It means saying to the Lord, “I will go where you want me to go and be what you want me to be.” Often, I pray with fervidity, but I think I miss the mark of real intent because I’m fervent in MY desires and the way that I want the Lord to answer my prayer. Saying, “I will do what you want” is hard for me. I think our beloved former President Monson was a good example of real intent. He did what the Lord needed when the Lord wanted him to do it.

Elder James B. Martino Of the Seventy stated that the Lord will answer our prayers “when we have ‘a sincere heart’ and ‘real intent.’ He does not answer just to respond to our curiosity.” This reinforces Elder Oak’s definition of real intent. It requires a promise to the Lord to follow his path and to do what is right. Curiosity implies that we are not committed to the idea that we are seeking answers to. It means we want to know more but we aren’t sure we want to believe the answer we are given. Real intent means we will believe, and on top of that, that we will follow.

Implementing real intent within our lives is a difficult thing to do. It means acting on whatever the Lord needs us to do—and that can be scary. However, I know that if we live our lives with real intent, if we decide to do as the Lord asks (when he asks), we will begin to live with real intent, and we will become better disciples of Christ.

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