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One night several years ago, we had an older teenaged daughter who did not arrive at her 12:00 a.m. curfew. One o’clock came and she still wasn’t there. We did what any good parent would do. We panicked. We prayed. We made those awkward middle-of-the-night calls to her friends. 2:00 a.m. Our imaginations were flying with the dangers she could be in. We prayed harder. I cried with worry. The minutes seemed like hours. 2:30 a.m. 2:45 a.m. The world was asleep, but not us—two parents so concerned about their precious daughter.
At last, at 3:00 a.m., we heard the front door quietly open. We had decided on a plan to divide and conquer. My husband, Scot, stayed up in our bedroom and prayed for me while I went down to greet our daughter. The conversation was just as you might expect. I pounced on her—not literally, but there was an edge in my voice. I reminded her of her curfew, told her of the dangers and temptations abroad in the late hours of the night, described our painful worry.
She was defensive. She asked if we didn’t trust her. She told me she was too old for a curfew. The more she resisted my teaching, the more tension you could feel between us. I badly needed help to turn this divisive conversation into a sweet moment of love and teaching. Just then I felt the influence of my husband’s prayers for me, and an impression came into my mind. I had been praying much for this daughter of ours whom I had been worried about, and just a few days earlier the Spirit had whispered something about her to me.
I stopped my lesson on curfews for a moment. I was still and knew that this was the moment to tell her that message. “Last week,” I said, “the Spirit told me something about you.” Her defensiveness began to fall from her. It was the first time she really heard anything I said. “Tell me,” she said with real eagerness. I answered, “The Spirit told me not to worry so much about your life because all things would work out for you, that everything would be OK.”
“You heard that, Mom?” she asked eagerly. “What else did the Spirit tell you about me?” Listen to the faith in her questions. She believed that God had heard my prayers and answered them. She believed that he knew her and loved her. When I saw her as a daughter pushing the limits by coming in late, he knew her heart and the faith that resided there that maybe she didn’t even know. Our conversation became sweet as I told her of the confidence that God had in her and of his personal knowledge of her heart and goodness.
Before, she had been eager to escape my presence and lecture. Now, she was all ears and we talked until 4:00 a.m. I count it as a treasured hour in my mothering experience.
The Need for Revelation
This experience demonstrates why we need revelation so much. Our natural man solutions, however well-intended, so often fall short. I asked a group of college students recently why we need revelation and many hands shot up. Of course, what is on their minds right now is choosing a career path and much more importantly, being led to find their spouse. We started by their saying they needed revelation to help make choices, but the discussion continued from there.
Life presents one moment after another to us, and knowing how to respond, seeing with clarity, and understanding what each part of it means requires insight beyond our own. We need revelation because we simply don’t know very clearly how to be. We aren’t even entirely clear about who we are, let alone how to respond to the questions life poses us hourly and incessantly.
Dark Stones Filled with Light
Our life is like the journey the Jaredites anticipated across the stormy sea, where the mountain waves would dash them, they would be carried here and there by the winds, and they would be tossed by strong currents. This is a journey they could not survive in the dark.
Was there anything really wrong with the way I began talking to my daughter? Given the situation, I was fairly calm, I was clear, I was also right. The problem was, until the Spirit stepped in with his light, I was also totally ineffective.
The brother of Jared sought a remedy for the darkness. Putting his mind and muscle to the solution, he “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear.”[i] I have tried to imagine the work and ingenuity it would take to melt stones. What kind of grueling labor in those times was required to create a heat source that can melt stones, sweat dripping from your brow?
Yet still, after all the brother of Jared could do, after hard labor and effort, and the best solutions of his own mind, still he had only sixteen dark stones. They were only able to shine when they were touched by the finger of God.
So often we are troubled and hurried, wearied and overworked. We create the equivalent of sixteen stones in our lives, and that is where we leave it. The world is so much with us that we do not take the journey to the mountaintop and let the Lord touch all our dizzying effort with his finger and fill it with light. Until he does, however, we are still traveling in the darkness.
Busy and hurried, too often we take “natural man” solutions, rushing from one task to another, checking off the items on our to-do lists in a mad frenzy without the transforming power that spiritual insight always brings.[ii] The alarm rings in the morning, and we are off and running, too often without climbing the mountain to have the stony pieces of our lives touched with light.
The True Meaning of Blindness
The scriptures have a phrase for this hurry in the darkness. They speak of people who suffer from “the blindness of their minds.”[iii] The original Greek translation of this word “blindness” yields some profound understanding. The word is poˊ-ro-sis, which means: “the covering with a callus; obtrusiveness of mental discernment, dulled perception.”
Paul, before his conversion, had this kind of blindness. He went around with great zeal doing the wrong thing, spewing out anger and persecuting Christians. Then after his vision on the road to Damascus, he literally lost his sight. He was blind until he received a blessing and the scales fell from his eyes.[iv]
Then there was the man, blind from birth, whom the Lord healed on the Sabbath. Of course there was a ruckus and the Pharisees called the man before them, wanting to know how he had received his sight. They said, “[The man who has done this] is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day.” Healing was not a Sabbath-day activity to their way of thinking. The healed man answered, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”[v]
Is there anything greater than those moments in our own lives where the scales fall from our eyes, when we can say, “Whereas I was blind, now I see”?
Alma says the Spirit enlightens our understandings and expands our minds.[vi] Conversely, you can feel the lack of the Spirit sometimes when you wander along, dulled and shrunken, blind and blunted in your mind and heart.
From Belief to Enlightenment
King Benjamin said, “Believe in God; believe that he is, … believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”[vii]
He comprehends the answers to every question we have. It isn’t his will that we travel in the dark. He knows how to spring us from our limitations and lift the roadblocks. Don’t you wonder: How can I love effectively and open my heart to bless those whose lives touch mine? How do I choose between all the possibilities and make the best use of my life? How do I find sustenance for the dry times? What is the song I came to sing? How can I overcome the things that hurt? Who am I? And dear Lord, who art thou?
The Lord offers us his solutions to all our questions, and he tells us, “I am more intelligent than they all.”[viii] There is not a problem we can pose to him or a challenge so perplexing that he does not already have the answer. How can some of that light be shed into our own minds?
The Forgotten Practice that Increases Personal Revelation
The scriptures reveal a pattern for receiving enlightenment—and it is not one we usually talk about: Serious reflection precedes revelation. Too often in our world of distractions and hurry as our busy lists for the day pound on our heads, we take no time to think—or at least think deeply. Our minds flit around like an anxious bird caught in a room, trying to get out. We mentally jump about, caught in triviality. We respond to many things that are urgent, but not really significant.
Not only are our lives riddled with distractions, too often we think the distractions are what life is all about. We become “caught in the thick of thin things.” In fact, should we have a moment of quiet, too often we actively seek to fill it with more distractions. We turn on radios in cars, or work to the background of the television’s blare. We stay on the shore playing with plastic beach toys instead of wading into the deep water where so much waits to be discovered.
Even if we have developed the skill to stay focused on a thought, too often our thoughts are snagged in nothings that do not lead us to the Lord. Our topics are shallow and we let them swirl again and again in our heads without moving us to the mountain where the Lord is.
Yet, the scriptures so clearly demonstrate that a key to this personal revelation for which we so hunger involves deep thought and serious reflection.
Prophets Whose Ponderings Led to Revelation
Lehi tells his sons about his vision of the tree of life, and they have vastly different reactions. Laman and Lemuel went into a tent and fought about its meaning, but Nephi turned his mind to serious reflection. His mind became a fertile field in which the Lord could plow. He says, “As I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.”[ix]
Laman and Lemuel’s debate in the tent did not lead to revelation. Nephi’s pondering opened the door to an expansive revelation that has blessed us all. Serious reflection was Nephi’s way of being, for he tells us later, “My heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.”[x]
In October of 1918, Joseph F. Smith received a glorious vision of Christ coming to the host of the dead. The record of that vision is now found in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this vision he saw the joy and gladness of the innumerable company of spirits who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus Christ. What opened his eyes to receive this powerful experience? He said, “I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures,” and again, “As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened.”[xi]
Joseph Smith tells us that before he received his First Vision of the Father and the Son, his “mind was called up to serious reflection.”[xii]
What is serious reflection? It is focused and concentrated thought, like sunlight through a magnifying glass that will burn a hole in paper. It is not superficial. It does not flit around from one distraction to another. It does not leap off course or waver like the waves of the sea.
Why Deep Thought Helps
Deep thought opens the door to revelation. The scriptures make it clear, but why?
When we begin to look closely at something, its dimensions begin to emerge to us. It loses its flat quality. Our minds begin to expand around the issue. Angles and questions arise that we didn’t know we had. Even contemplating with a computer at your fingers may help to begin to write down what you aren’t sure of. That may bring more ideas to mind with additional questions and thoughts. Mental connections may be made between ideas that you hadn’t seen before, like lights darting between dark cells.
You will find that the Spirit is working on you all the time that you are seeking more light on the issue.
A contemplated question or desire becomes richer and deeper, expanding our own minds and souls. Many of the insights the Lord wishes to give us cannot come to a contracted mind or heart.
Just as you cannot teach calculus to a child who has not yet learned addition, the Lord must expand our souls to receive his enlarged gifts to us.
How could we understand answers to questions we haven’t thought to ask? How could we move into a holy place where revelation abounds if we refuse to turn our thoughts from Babylon long enough for the move?
Contemplation also leads us to see our own frailties more clearly. We can pretend that we are self-sufficient, that we can go it alone, but life will teach us that our best solutions are not nearly good enough. We have to recognize that we really need God’s help or there is no getting through. We start yearning for Him and His light.
Finally, in that contemplation we begin to move into His light. That is why pondering the scriptures and pondering what He would have us be is so essential. Our daily thoughts just don’t take us there. In deep pondering, we begin to see who He is. We begin to feel who He is—more intelligent than they all.
As the Brother of Jared said in his pleading prayer, so heartsick about moving forward in dark barges where the winds of the sea would encompass them, “I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man.”[xiii]
This is the God, the Master and Creator of the entire universe, who yet will condescend to personally bless us and guide us through this daily walk. He will help us through this life whose convergence of roads and possibilities, seem endless. Yet, He asks something important, because He can do it no other way–that we not seek His revelations casually, that we not approach Him, having taken no thought. To receive what He has to give us often demands that we need to expand our soul.
Something casually requested means little to us. Even the most precious gift, casually taken, can then be casually forgotten.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must have arrived at a solution before we can come to Him. We involve Him in every aspect of our deep thought, even as we begin. But it does mean that there is not a cheap price put on the blessings of heaven, that revelation is not thrown out like candy at a small-town parade.
We are surrounded by the light that emanates from the bosom of God. To receive that light, we have to be in a place of light, and pondering Him and His word helps put us there.
[i] Ether 3:1
[ii] See 1 Corinthians 2:14
[iii] Alma 13:4
[iv] See Acts 9:1-18
[v] John 9: 15, 25
[vi] Alma 32: 28, 34
[vii] Mosiah 4:9
[viii] Abraham 3:19
[ix] 1 Nephi 11:1
[x] 2 Nephi 4:16
[xi] D&C 138: 1,11
[xii] Joseph Smith—History 1:8
[xiii] Ether 3:4