I don’t generally share much about my faith publicly. But, I was asked to give a talk in our church last week and the response surprised me. Despite being an inexperienced, and self-admitted awful, public speaker it seemed to resonate with many in the audience who were in the depths of some personal and spiritual struggles. The occasion for the talk was to welcome home a friend’s son who was returning from a 2-year mission in Durbin South Africa and I was given 10 min to speak. There are a million additions I would make if I’d had more time and maybe I’ll go back and make them someday. Sharing here in case there was some anyone else these words need to reach. If this stuff isn’t your bag, feel free to skip. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming shortly…
I’ve been asked to share a few words on the power of prayer and personal revelation. And on a day where we’ve heard stories from Noah’s mission highlighting the power of prayer in conversion and seen for ourselves in his personal transformation, I thought there might be no better place to start than in a few verses he’s likely shared hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the past 2 years.
Despite all the faults and frailties and doubts that swirl in the mind of every missionary, the one assurance we’ve all taken courage in when donning that name tag is that we are not the ones doing the converting. No amount of charisma, charm or salesmanship we may, or may not possess, can lead an earnest seeker of truth to lasting conversion. Instead, we, in all our weaknesses, take courage in a challenge and promise delivered by the prophet Moroni in chapter 10 verses 3–5.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
These few verses have been central to countless conversions.
As investigators from Durbin to Des Moines take confidence in Moroni’s Promise and turn to the Lord in prayer with sincere hearts, real intent, and faith in Christ the Holy Ghost has given them assurance of not just the truth of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, within these verses, investigators find a framework of faith and the blueprint for personal revelation with a promise that, through the power of the Holy Ghost they can know all things.
There is a precondition to the promise.
In verse 3 we read:
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.
This verse stops me in my tracks every time.
Remember how merciful the Lord hath been and ponder it in your heart.
How often do we allow ourselves the space to simply remember and reflect on how merciful the Lord has been to us and others?
Brothers and sisters, we live in challenging times. Our faith is tried and our humanity tested every single day. Given the headlines in the news and the challenges in our homes, it would be so much easier to get swept up into despair than to see and remember the Lords’s merciful hand in our lives. The mists of darkness seem far more present and available for pondering day to day than the light that it is working so tirelessly to snuff out.
If today seems more than you can bear, reflect for a moment on Moroni’s personal conditions at the time of this promise. At the very moment he was admonishing future generations to remember and ponder upon the Lord’s mercy he was in hiding, cut off from everything and everyone he had known and loved:
“I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished, and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me. For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred, they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ. And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life”.
These same people that he was in hiding from had already killed his father, his family and were systematically putting to death his people in the most horrific ways.
If anyone deserved a pass for being swallowed up in darkness and despair, it would be Moroni. And yet, from a place of deep personal pain, he finds himself reflecting on the Lord’s mercy. How can he see the Lord’s hand when the hands of his enemy have destroyed so much of what he had loved?
How many of us can relate to the losses and pain Moroni must be feeling?
How many of us are in hiding?
How many of us are surrounded by more ephemeral enemies that we can’t seem to escape? Fears? Anxieties? Digital distractions?
How many of us related when Sister Sharon Eubanks empathetically shared at our last General Conference that “some of us are JUST SO TIRED”. As she spoke those words there was an audible exhale of acknowledgment that filled the conference center.
There are so many real and unseen circumstances pulling us away from turning to the Lord. The lift from where we stand to where we want to be can feel simply insurmountable at times.
In these circumstances, the Lord isn’t calling on us to rearrange our lives or sacrifice everything we have when we feel we have nothing left to give. He simply asks us to remember.
First, he asks us to remember his mercy generally. From the time of Adam, how has he shown mercy to his people? How is his hand mercifully manifest in their lives? In this exercise, we could dwell on struggles of the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for 40 years OR, we could ponder the mercy of the Lord in providing them mana. We could focus on the suffering and death of the Savior OR we could focus on our Heavenly Father’s miraculous mercy in raising him from the dead. No one would have faulted Moroni for dwelling on the loss of his family and fear of the enemies who’d sent him into hiding. And yet he knew that the Lord’s hand wouldn’t be revealed by dwelling on the darkness.
The same applies in our own lives. How have you experienced his mercy? How has he answered, comforted or spoken peace to your mind in the past? It is in this precondition of reflecting on and remembering, that the Lord prepares our minds to receive the personal revelations and insights we’re currently seeking. It is only by remembering how his hand has moved in the light of our lives, that we can see our way through the darkest of times.
For a church that can often feel so full of rigid rules and high bars to clear, we can often lose sight of the central role that mercy plays in the Savior’s gospel.
In his talk at last week’s Stake Conference, Elder Roney shared a parable from Christ’s ministry that captures so much of the contrast between the jarring reality of justice and the tenderness and compassion of mercy.
From Mathew 28, starting in verse 23:
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
For each of us, the faces of the king and the fellowservant have likely been present at various points in our lives. Maybe it was a boss or a sibling a parent or a child. We’ve felt the sting of justice in decisions made that lay an unfair burden upon us. Or, seen long term negative effects based on choices we’ve made or others have made that were outside of our control.
But, we’ve also felt the mercy of the king’s forgiveness. In our pleading and despair, we’ve had a load lifted, a tender mercy extended or a prayer answered. We’ve felt comforted by a friend and felt the comforter in our hearts, even the Holy Ghost.
The precondition to personal revelation and the lynchpin of Moroni’s promise hangs on remembering the latter. To see and reflect on this light and mercy as we’ve experienced it in our lives and as we’ve seen it move in the lives of others.
The answers or comfort we seek may not come immediately, but in creating space to remember how the Lord has work in the past it will give us the perspective to drop our defenses, and open our hearts to his will, not ours. To his ways, not out ways. To his eternal love and mercy, not to our own limited earthly understanding.