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?
I remember how often He has forgiven me, and continues to forgive me. How He still loves me, though I mess up so often. How He continues to correct my mistakes and lead me to a better way. How He is always there to comfort me when I need it.
Thanks for this post. I don’t think I remember enough. It’s too easy to see what I don’t have.
I couldn’t agree more!
This is the exact thing that kept me in the Church during my adult crisis of faith (does it ever end once it starts?). I’ve had an extremely positive experience in the Church spiritually. I remember what it was like before I took it seriously. I remember the changes the practice has brought about in me in many dimensions. I have indeed experienced manifestations and gifts of the spirit. It has brought me closer to my Savior. It appears to be leading me in a direction I want to go — towards love and divinity.
But then what do I do with the “factual” problems in history and doctrine? I decided that I had to put my own firsthand, direct experiences with God, the Gospel and Christ as primary. The journals and scraps of information we call history comes second for me. I am VERY interested in the history. I value it, but I can’t place someone else’s opinion from 150 years ago above what *I* experience today. It’s my faith too.
I’m not just talking about a dependence on warm-fuzzy indigestion (the burning of the bossom). I am a different person (reborn?) in a lot of ways. I like how I changed. It makes me happy and positive. It makes me patient and loving. I’d almost call it a righteous hedonism — it makes me feel good. So I go with it. It brings me peace and happiness, and makes the world of my family better. I am far from perfect. I can’t even say that I am a “good” mormon by a lot of members’ measuring stick, but I am far better than I was.
The Lord has been very merciful and patient with me. VERY patient. I don’t deserve it, but it is a precious gift.
I remember a summer of despair. One moment I’d feel like I was turning into a monster and be angry with God for creating me that way, and other moment I’d feel horribly broken and wish he would reach down and fix me on the spot. He never did, but when I begged one night to know whether there was any way at all he was happy with me, the answer was an immediate and unqualified YES. My problems didn’t go away, but they instantly became bearable without the burden of guilt.
I remember that God knows me much better than I know myself, and that his mercy is greater than I ever imagined.
As Truman G. Madsen has said, to get at truth ‘we have the breakthrough of experience’. I am with you on this Ray. I too am pleased to excercise those intellectual faculties that our Father has seen fit to bless me with but it is the spiritual experiences that place me on the restored straight and narrow.
And I add my voice to those above about Fathers mercy and Christs atonement. I was humpty-dumpty, and only the Prince of Peace could put me and keep me back together again.
Prayers of gratitude could be helpful in remembering. When Alma the younger saw the angel he was told to remember the captivity of his fathers which thing he said he had done since then, which is evident in later writings and sermons to his people and his sons.
Valoel, third paragraph–great stuff! Thanks!
Way to notice the details Ray! Great suggestion. I think remembering is so important. It seems to invite us into a more powerful frame of mind for spiritual things than pondering alone. In memory are powerful images, senses, flashes of insight, strong emotions — positive and negative, glimpses.
I’m remembering my most powerful memory of sensing God’s mercy and grace: when I recognized these feelings at the time they “spoke” to me in a way that felt completely different. I knew I had been touched and changed, or was being touched and changed. It was funny that it kind of felt like it was happening, yet had already happened, at the same time. I still can’t quite explain the odd sensation of timelessness but feeling very “in the moment.” I felt hope. I felt rescued, or that I’d be okay, even while the tide of grief dominating this time of my life didn’t go away.
Even now I don’t have any rational certainty of the memory, or that even if the experience was “external” to me. Neither do I really feel any doubt it. However, it seems that it was so precisely what I needed at the time that I should desire to doubt it. It’s like I don’t care either way because doubt, as a tool, and an old friend, wouldn’t lead me to any real conclusion about what happened. I had a distinct experience, or perhaps it’s better said … an impression. I was touched in a new way, and led me to feel less alone and more connected with my own humanity, inside and outside of me. I sensed a compassion I associated with God. But God felt just beyond me, out of reach, but not far away — just enough to make me want to stretch further my spiritual pursuit after the experience or impression subsided.
I remember at the time trying to picture in my mind’s eye from where these feelings and sensations were coming, really working to “externalize” it, trying to make it seem visible in my mind even as clear as a dream, in order to, somehow, prove to myself that it was “really” happening — either “just as a dream” or as something outside myself. But I couldn’t find anything clear to focus on with my mind’s eye as I felt these impressions upon me.
All I have is the memory of how I felt. My understanding about it since hasn’t become more clear. Yet I have a peace with not really overworking it more than that. There’s been a drive and longing to pursue my heart, and faith, ever since. A passion. Yet I still haven’t fully healed from my sadness and anger about that time in my life. Somehow this fuzziness of detail keeps it still existing in my present, living enough to keep me hopeful and still in pursuit. Maybe, someday, it will be a memory I look more “back upon.”
Thanks, everyone. I only have two minutes, so I can’t add anything other than my gratitude for the comments – and that I know what you each mean. One of the sweetest aspects of my personal walk with God is that I honestly can say, “I understand what you mean.”
When I recall all the damage I’ve done in the lives of people I love, I do in fact consider it a miracle that I can be forgiven, that I can get the Lord’s ear, at all. Let alone the mercy and help that he gives me all the time.
I’m _so_ with you re: the Moroni Challenge. There is so much more to it than read a couple verses, say a quick prayer and see if you don’t feel good. It is a scripture profoundly misused.
Thomas, you reminded me of something that I have considered strongly recently in my work with missionary committees:
In the early days of the Church, the initial focus was on two “simple” things – the Book of Mormon and the calling of a new prophet. The earliest missionaries didn’t “teach about” the Book of Mormon much; they gave someone a copy and asked them to read it. They didn’t give them selected passages to teach specific doctrines; they had them read it cover to cover, while praying about it as they read.
Reading Moroni 10:3-5 came at the end of over 500 pages of reading about God’s mercy to the people in those 500 pages. It came after reading over 500 pages where Jesus and The Father are mentioned well over 1000 times, in pages that reflect on the mercy of God from Adam and Moses through their day on to ours.
If I could change one thing about our missionary “program”, it would be to encourage our members to invite people to attend church with them and read the Book of Mormon cover to cover – only introducing them to full-time missionaries after they had expressed interest in learning more. As I read Preach My Gospel, the central message I get is that there are certain things that need to be accepted prior to baptism, but understanding and believing in God’s grace and mercy and turning to Him with a sincere heart and open mind is what converts – not being “taught the discussions”.
Just to be clear, I believe “the discussions” should be taught, but I believe they should be taught to people who have read, remembered, pondered and prayed and attended Sacrament Meeting – or at least who have committed and begun to do so. I would encourage the missionaries to teach the discussions only to those who are willing to make that minimal commitment first.
Wonderful post, Ray. When I remember, I recall particular events in my own life, things my parents and grandmother told me about their lives, and sometimes the longer, broader view of family or Mormon or other history, and God’s workings on smaller and larger scales.
It is the experiences and the remembering of the grace of God and His Son that has allowed me to study the history, warts and all, and not be shaken. I have had experiences spiritually that are so strong, I cannot deny them (to coin a phrase). And I try to remember to keep my eye on the mark, which is Christ.
I love seeing something so old and familiar in a whole new light like this. Great post. Do I smell a series of posts exposing threadbare scriptures to the light of contextual re-reading??
#13 – Yes. The first one was the one about the Sons of Helaman (“Common Scriptures in Review: God Would Deliver Them”).
This has been a very uplifting discussion. Thanks everyone.
Made me think of when Oliver wanted revelation and what he got was the direction to remember the previous spiritual experience he had had. Or Mary, who would have experiences she did not understand, but would hold them in memory.
This has been truly edifying.I have used your ideas in discussions with my children and the spirit bore witness to me of the truths of these principals through the generations of our family,and of the ‘captivity of our fathers’as they struggled with incorrect traditions.I hope that I can remember and practise these principals of remembering in order to testify,particularly to my children in order for their hearts to be turned to their ancestors.Bless you.
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