I had the privilege of giving this talk in church yesterday and felt inspired to share it here as well. I hope its message will find the hearts and minds that are looking for it.
This morning I want to focus on remembering spiritual experiences and in order to do so I want to outline a few foundational steps that we need to be doing/accomplishing in order to be having spiritual experiences to remember in the first place.
So, if remembrance is the goal, and one step back from that is having the spiritual experience, then once step back from that is being prepared to have the spiritual experience in the first place.
1, 2, 3, then let’s start at step one…
Being prepared to have the spiritual experience, how do we do that? If you think about preparing—there’s this space called conditioning, or training, so let’s call step one:
Conditioning our hearts and our minds to receive personal revelation:
I want to share a story given by J.D. Griffith, from a 2014 BYI-Idaho devotional. He tells the following personal story:
“When it comes to exercising and training our hearts and our minds, we know far too well that there are no shortcuts. I am reminded of a time when my wife had trained for several months prior to running a half marathon here in Rexburg, Idaho.
On the day of the race, I thought it would be great if I gathered the kids into the car and drove to the course to cheer my wife on. We headed over to Summer’s Hill, a long up-hill stretch of the race, through some dry-farms. I stopped the car and we got out and cheered on Mom as she ran past us. We jumped back in the car and I rolled down the windows, and cheered her on as we drove past her. We parked the car again a mile or so down the road and repeated this process.
Toward the end of that particular stretch, Lily, my youngest daughter, who was two and a half years old at the time, was apparently tired of getting in and out of the car and watching Mom run passed us. Nearing our last stop, Lily stayed seated in the car with the windows rolled down. As my wife passed the car, Lily screamed out the window “Mom, get in the car!” Lily did not quite understand this process. In her mind, there was an easier way to tackle this long stretch of roadway, and she was apparently frustrated with the approach we were taking.
However, just as my wife never would have thought she could jump in the car and ride to the finish line, we too should not think that we can shortcut our approach to conditioning our hearts and minds to receive personal revelation. There are times in each of our lives when we may feel frustrated or even distanced from the Lord, when we are not adequately connected to the whispering of the still small voice. In essence, we have fallen out of shape, or out of practice, and we need to start a conditioning or training program.”
So how can we be conditioning our heart to receive personal revelation? Brother Griffith goes on to give the following three ways:
1. Begin with personal worthiness
2. Act when called upon
3. Faithfully submit to the will of the Lord. If we are able to condition our minds to follow the will of the Lord, our hearts will naturally follow.
Having and recognizing the spiritual experience.
Here we learn from the scriptures (Moroni 7:13) that anything that invites and entices us to do good, comes from God, and it then adds and gives light to our life.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter… [until the perfect day.]
The church put out a fantastic 3 part video series with Elder Bednar titled ‘Patterns of Light’. And in those videos he begins by describing the light. It’s the spirit and how the spirit is what most people would call a conscience, the desire to do good and to help others.
He gives the example of someone riding on a bus and they see a person in need and have a desire to assist and serve this person. Many people would say that’s just natural behavior, when really it’s the influence of God that pulls us and influences us to do and to be good.
When we yield to that enticing to do and be good the light in our lives is increased. When we disobey the light is decreased and it becomes harder to recognize those spiritual experiences. So the thought of personal worthiness and acting when called upon from Step one becoming increasingly more important as we move along the path of having and recognizing spiritual experiences.
In the second of the three videos Elder Bednar discusses discerning between the light (the spirit) and our own thoughts. How can we differentiate between the two, and he says something that I love, he say’s ‘We first have to act and then we can find out wether it was from God or from ourselves.’
His example is of a person who forgets to say their morning prayers and in their mind hears their mother’s voice saying ‘don’t forget to say your prayers’. And Elder Bednar says another something that I love, he says ‘Why would God send an angel to remind you when the spirit can help prompt the memory of your mother saying ‘don’t forget to say your prayers’ – the effect is the same. It’s enticing and inviting us to do good.
That’s a spiritual moment.
So, we’ve conditioned our hearts to receive the spiritual experience, we’ve learned how to recognize them as they happen, and now we have a desire to Remember these spiritual experiences.
I want to go back and reference Brother Griffith’s BYU-I devotional one more time, and in there he gives us two ways to help remember these spiritual experiences.
1. Document the moments during the day when you have felt the Spirit.
A. Journal entries as simple as: “Today I felt the spirit when…”
2. Look for patterns in your life that reveal a closeness to the spirit.
B. These could be the entries like ‘when sitting in the temple…’ ‘when playing with the kiddos…’ ‘Today I felt the spirit during my personal scripture study’… and then work to add more of those particular moments into your life.
I want to leave you all with one more thought, it’s actually a question—that as we condition ourselves, recognize and remember these spiritual experiences and add more of those patterns into our lives that allow for these spiritual experiences… I wonder if there’s also a space where we could become too comfortable and complacent in our knowledge. And so the question I want to leave you with is this:
How does what we know, get in the way of what we don’t know?
And if you’re truly curious about that I have the following fantastic BYU devotional I’m happy to point you to.
I leave this with you along with my testimony that I know this gospel is true and that we do and can have amazing spiritual experiences every moment of the day when we condition ourselves to recognize and then work to remember them. In the name of Jesus Christ amen.