“Remember” as a Missionary Principle
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?