As I’ve said previously, although I truly enjoy intellectual analysis, what grounds me are my experiences – things that are so vivid and unexplainable that I simply can’t let my mind move me away from them. I have experienced the truly miraculous; everything else is secondary.
In that light, I submit that the core of this experiential conviction is summarized perfectly in the foundational missionary verse we too often overlook while quoting those that follow. We speak constantly of the “challenge” written in Moroni 10:4-5 (although I much prefer the word “invitation”, since I see no attitude of “challenge” therein), but when I attended Seminary so long ago, the verses we memorized included Moroni 10:3 – which reads:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
In this verse, we are told to “remember” before we are told to ponder and pray in the next verse. Think about it. We aren’t told to read, ponder and pray; we are told to read, remember, ponder and pray – and we are told explicitly to remember how merciful the Lord has been throughout history. In effect, we are told to “experience vicariously” His grace and mercy toward others – to realize that He has spoken to people for thousands of years – to use their experiences to help us come to believe that we can have a similar experience – to believe that He will speak to us just as He spoke to them. Their experiences serve as the foundation of our faith in the expectation of our own experiences.
I think we do a terrible disservice to our religion and its missionary effort (or to those around us irrespective of their particular religion) when we preach “read, ponder and pray” apart from our collective, experiential memory – when we make gaining a testimony an intellectual, or even strictly prayerful, process void of contemplation and reflection on previous experience (both our own and others’). So, the next time you are sharing the Gospel with someone (no matter the format and no matter your denominational affiliation or lack thereof), please remember to help them “remember” by sharing how merciful the Lord has been to you before you invite them to do anything else. Testify of His grace and mercy throughout history first – of His mercy toward you second – of the fact that He can extend that same mercy to them, as well. Ground your invitation in the collective experiences of the ages, and allow them to experience a bit of their heart turning to their fathers. Too often we short-circuit that process and deprive both ourselves and others of an amazing experience.
When you “remember” how merciful the Lord has been, what is it you remember?