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What would you say is the most significant contributing factor to spiritual growth and revelation? Would it be reading and studying the scriptures? Prayer? These things are indispensable. How about temple work? Or bearing testimony? Repentance? All have a place, but I submit that it just might be pondering and meditating that contribute most significantly to receiving revelation and our spiritual growth.  

Webster defines ‘pondering’ as a “careful weighing of a problem or, often, prolonged inconclusive thinking about a matter”. Pondering implies moving towards a decision or some course of action, whereas meditating is a more “definite focusing of one’s thoughts on something so as to understand it deeply.”  Both skills are necessary for our spiritual development.

Pondering and meditating lead to revelation, and revelation can and should guide our lives. Thinking deeply about concepts and principles we discover in the scriptures, or learn from Prophets and Apostles is an essential step in personal conversion. Contemplating, beforehand, our discussions with God, and evaluating if our actions are in line with knowledge gained, help us to move toward becoming like Jesus Christ and building our relationship with our Father in Heaven.

President David O. McKay gave some good advice on this subject: “Don’t be too busy to meditate, and when the answer comes, have the courage to execute it. Order commences with meditation; and meditation includes thinking, analyzing, prayer, fasting if needs be, and always planning. Meditating requires that time be regularly set aside . .”.  (Quoted by Franklin D. Richards, Conference Report, October 1964, p.76)

On the whole, as a society, we don’t often spend time mulling things over, or questioning introspectively where our personal values, testimonies and conviction sit in comparison to gospel principles and concepts. It seems to be of more import to use our time wisely and effectively rather than to just sit and think. Multi-tasking is popular and frequently encouraged. How many of us listen to audio books, Ted Talks or General Conference talks while doing other activities, like driving or exercising?

While not a ‘bad’ use of time and resources, is it done at the expense of spending time to deliberate over the messages we hear and learn? Five minutes here and there, is just not enough time to contemplate the solemnities of eternity. Think about the last time you gave yourself substantial uninterrupted quiet time to reflect deeply upon your place and roles in the plan of happiness, or any principle or doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

If we aren’t multitasking, we are running from one activity to another, far too busy physically and mentally to reflect. “Reflection . . . is required in order to assimilate all of our on-rushing experiences”, taught Neal A. Maxwell. “Patience facilitates such pondering and reflecting. Pondering sorts things out, rearranging some of the furniture of the mind while giving place for new furnishings.” (Neal A. Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ, p.27)

Several years ago, we were in the Boston Temple district, which is a two hour drive each way from our home.   At one point, I was attending the temple twice a month and I would stay for the day. Instead of listening to talks or books, I would put on soft, classical music in the background, and  spend my car time pondering. Four hours of uninterrupted contemplation time– sometimes longer depending on traffic. I looked forward to this time, and loved the opportunity to ponder and listen to the Spirit. 

Often I would get inspiration and revelation for challenges in my life and callings. The time driving to the temple helped me prepare for my mind for my temple experiences, and driving home I could reflect on the things I had learned. Having that uninterrupted, scheduled time to reflect was a wonderful blessing.  We have the Hartford temple now, which is closer and only a one hour drive each way. And although I am grateful for a closer temple, I feel the loss in my hours of contemplation.

Pondering has played an incredibly important role in the spiritual growth of individuals, as well as the church as a whole. Joseph Smith contemplated and studied to know which church was right. Joseph F. Smith was pondering when he received a vision, which is now section 138 in the Doctrine and Covenants. John Taylor, likewise, was deliberating when he received the revelation of the Manifesto. Spencer W. Kimball spent years weighing the options of priesthood privileges for all worthy males as he continuously prayer with the brethren before receiving the revelation which is now the second Official Declaration recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Nephi pondered and desired to know more about his father’s vision. Enos had the words of his father sink deep into his heart as he wrestled before the Lord. Pondering and meditating can be arduous work as we wrestle with thoughts and concepts that are new or hard to comprehend and reconcile. Quite often we need to ‘wrestle’ mentally as we seek to align our will with God’s. Somehow, we need to plan and schedule time to think deeply and contemplate great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures (Doctrine & Covenants 89:19). 

Even Jesus went out, often, into the wilderness—not for a spa day, or to race camels across the desert, but to contemplate and commune with God. I wonder how often He did that.  And He clearly promoted pondering for others. When speaking to the Nephites after His resurrection He said: “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all of my words… Therefore go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask the Father in my name, that ye may understand and prepare your minds for the morrow and I come unto you again” (3 Nephi 17:2-3). He invited them to contemplate His words overnight, so they could understand what He was teaching and to help them to be prepared to receive more the next day. Are there things we don’t understand? Try taking a chunk of time to ponder.

The Prophet Joseph Smith acknowledged these truths when he said: “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity — thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [1938], p.137). I think we, as a people, underutilize our ability and privilege to ponder. I have personally made a goal to work on this and plan to schedule more time for pondering.

Image taken June 2019 from http://nephicode.blogspot.com/2017/09/why-mormon-gave-so-many-geographical.html.

Our family scripture study seems to be in a constant state of flux. Is this happening to anyone else? What worked last month doesn’t seem to be working this month. And what we plan this month, may not work next month. My husband recently received a new calling which takes him away from the home more often, and we need to re-evaluate many of our scripture study ‘traditions’.

The goal we made last month to have one individual facilitate our weekly discussions was ‘okay’. Not what we imagined it to be, but better than some other things we have tried. This month, due to travel, summer camps, and other activities, we will not be together as an entire family very often. One thing we will try to do, is to have everyone read through the material individually, and then gather together to share individual insights. This could be done when we are together physically, or with a phone or Facetime if necessary. We’ll see how it goes. Following the prophet is worth the struggle.

Lesson Enhancements: Pick one or two things from the options below to enhance your studies this week.  Most of these will have some component of pondering included with the activity.

Jesus Christ Directs His Church By Revelation

  • Can you name Christ’s original 12 Apostles?  What can you find out about each of them? Have a discussion on how new apostles are chosen.
  • If you have young children you may want to show pictures of the 12 Apostles.  You could play a matching game with the photos and their names. Or you could take time to find a favorite quote from each of their talks this past General Conference. Here is a link to some flashcards from www.sisterswhat.com.
  • Make a list of recent revelations shared by Church leaders. Discuss how these affect members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? How have they affected you personally?  Do they affect people not of our faith? If so, how?
  • Look into how Pentecost is celebrated today.  Are there lessons and ideas you can incorporate into your worship, either as a family or personally?
Image taken June 2019 from http://biblescripture.net/1Peter.html.

The Gift of Tongues

  • Define what you think the gift of tongues includes. Did you include speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost?  How about the tongue of kindness? The tongue of encouragement? Think outside the box and add more to your list. Is there one that stands out to you? Make a goal to establish and hone that particular gift of tongues.
  • Share your testimony of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Share some experiences when you have felt the Spirit directing you.  Record your thoughts and experiences in your journal.  
  • Write a poem about the Holy Ghost.
  • In your prayers this week, share your gratitude to Heavenly Father for granting the gift of the Holy Ghost to help us while we are on the earth.

The first principles and ordinances of the gospel help us come unto Christ

  • How will the millennium when Jesus Christ returns to the earth be like a ‘time of refreshing’?  
  • A short video: What Is The Doctrine of Christ? (Knowhy #58) Published by Book of Mormon Central  on Mar 21, 2016:
  • Mind your mind! Spend some time this week to contemplate what you are learning in your studies. How is your life different since you have been doing the Come, Follow Me studies?

“Sometimes, take a moment and ponder; yes, take a moment and stir your life just as you stir that delicious stew! Taste it to know how delicious, or the otherwise, it is! And if there be a need for a change, be swift and tactical.”    ― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Disciples of Jesus Christ are given power to perform miracles in His name

  • Read the talk–The Doctrine of Christ: Our Daily Walk. Douglas D. Holmes

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/douglas-d-holmes_doctrine-christ-daily-walk/

  • Choose some things that you can do this week to include Christ in your daily activities.
Peter and John perform a miracle. Image taken June 2019 from                     https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/are-the-acts-of-the-apostles-examples-for-us-to-follow/.

How to be a witness of Christ

Here are some resources and articles that give ideas on how to be a good witness of Christ.  

1. How to Be a Witness for Christ (Acts 3).   Published by Bodie Quirk on March 3, 2019.

2. 7 Keys for Fruitful Witnessing. Posted by Pastor Shyju of Guarding The Heart, Feb 23, 2012

3. Five Truths About Witnessing. Published by Micheal R., Jan 3, 2018

  • Discuss what you can personally do to be a stronger witness of Christ?  Make a list of things you can do and pick one to work on this week. Maybe keep the list in your journal so you can refer back to it frequently.

Videos:

–The Bible Project overview of the book of Acts Chapters 1-12. Published October 4, 2016

–Acts of the Apostles, (3.21 minutes) Peter and John heal a crippled man

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media-library/video/acts-of-the-apostles?lang=eng

–Peter Preaches and is Arrested (2.51 minutes)

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media-library/video/2011-10-045-peter-preaches-and-is-arrested?category=acts-of-the-apostles&lang=eng

–Peter and John are Judged (2.51minutes)

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media-library/video/2011-10-046-peter-and-john-are-judged?category=acts-of-the-apostles&lang=eng

–Peter and John continue Preaching the Gospel(5.38 minutes)

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media-library/video/2011-10-047-peter-and-john-continue-preaching-the-gospel?category=acts-of-the-apostles&lang=eng

  • Dan Stevers – The Grim Tale of Ananias & Sapphira (3.43 minutes) This is a great video of Ananias and Sapphira
  • Witness of God video (2.41 minutes)

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/youth/video/a-witness-of-god?lang=eng

  • Gospel Media Library videos for this week:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media-library/video/jul-1-7-acts-1-5?lang=eng