“Remember” as a Missionary Principle

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by Ray DeGraw

My mind is prone to wandering to and fro trying to understand everything I read and hear a little better as I go about my daily life. I am an explorer by nature – not a physical explorer, but rather a mental explorer.  I am what I have come to call a “thinker tinkerer.”  I love to take ideas apart, examine them and put them back together in whatever way makes the most sense to me.  What grounds me, however, are my experiences – things that are so vivid and unexplainable that I simply cannot let my mind move me away from them.

When you have experienced the truly miraculous, everything else is secondary.

I would assert 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, but when I attended Seminary multiple decades ago, the verses we memorized included Moroni 10:3.

[Just as an aside, I don’t like the word “challenge” in connection with Moroni 10:3-5, since those verses actually are phrased, literally, as an exhortation (“deeply felt invitation” or “heartfelt plea”) and not as a challenge in any traditional way – but that is a topic for another post.]

In that verse, we are told to “remember” before we ponder and pray. 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 remember that He has spoken to people for thousands of years – and use their experiences and our remembering of them to help us come to believe that we can have a similar experience. Remembering their experiences serves as the foundation for our faith in the possibility of our own – and that is true even if we have had no such experiences ourselves.

Think about how powerful that message is:

If I remember how God has been merciful to others throughout history, God will be merciful to me.

I think we do a terrible disservice to our religion and its missionary effort when we preach “read, ponder, and pray” alone and apart from our collective, experiential memory as a people (both a unique Mormon people and a common people who constitute the family of God) – when we make gaining a testimony an intellectual, or even strictly prayerful, process void of contemplation and reflection on previous experience (both our own individually and just as importantly others’ collectively). Remembering such experiences, especially of those who have experienced God in the past, is one of the first steps for many people in having their hearts turned to their ancestors: the binding power of understanding God’s mercy.

So, the next time you are sharing a missionary moment with someone, please take the opportunity to help them remember by sharing how merciful the Lord has been to you and others before you ask them to read, ponder, and pray – or even attend Church with you. Testify of His grace and mercy first, of the things that He has taught you second, and of the fact that He can do the same for them last. Too often we short-circuit that process and deprive both ourselves and others of an amazing experience.

  • How have you felt God’s mercy in your life? 
  • How has reading of God’s mercy to others helped you recognize His mercy in your own life?   

About Ray DeGraw

I am the husband of my high school sweetheart and father of six children. I basically have no life outside of family, work and church - except blogging, which I have been doing actively, to put it mildly, for the past 5 years. I have lived in almost every section of the United States and currently reside in Carson City, NV. I have written at Things of My Soul, Mormon Matters, Times & Seasons and StayLDS.com - and commented more than occasionally at various sites in the Bloggernacle.

3 Responses to “Remember” as a Missionary Principle

  1. Susanne says:

    You’re absolutely right, Ray! I’ve often thought that ‘remember’ is the most difficult word for the human race as a whole. ( . . . and especially poignant on Veterans Day, btw.) I appreciate this wonderful reminder.

  2. jendoop says:

    It’s always interesting to me when God asks us to remember. Our mortality makes that command very difficult. One of my greatest frustrations in life is not remembering- forgetting an appointment, lack of memorization of info for a test, carrying out the details of the gospel that I have a testimony of, or forgetting in a crisis moment how much I don’t want to loose my temper. Often I pray for help in remembering, asking God to bring things to my awareness in the moment I need them. He’s promised he will help us in that way with the scriptures, and he’s helped me in that way with learning to control my temper. Although he doesn’t help me remember my grocery list, probably because I’m capable of writing it down. Which leads me to my next thought- how important writing is if we truly want to remember. Monteserrat’s recent post, Count Your Blessings illustrates this point well. While our mortal experience makes remembering difficult, the Lord has given us abilities (like writing and memorization) so that we can remember if we make the effort. I appreciate your emphasis on remembrance as part of the conversion process, it is crucial in maintaining our conversion as well.

  3. Bonnie says:

    The title page of the Book of Mormon states as one of its purposes to bring the children of Israel to a remembrance of the goodness of God to their ancestors. When I was young I used to think, “why do I care how great God was to people I never even met? what I care about is what he’ll do for me.” As I’ve grown older I get that God has proven himself to us all throughout time. That means something, and more and more somethings as I age. We do need to teach memory to our children. It grounds them in something far beyond their fractious existence.

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