“Pondering Isn’t Preposterous,” New Era, May 1976, 49
The steady buzz of the alarm clanged into my sweet repose.
“Night over again? Oh no!”
Finally its piercing lullaby ceased, and I reluctantly stirred.
“It’s Saturday. Who needs to get up today?”
Then I saw her, sleepily gathering her robe and slippers in the dim light of the morning bedroom, stretching and slowly slipping to the door.
“Maybe she’s sick; I’ll follow.” No, she passed the bathroom. “Maybe it’s a Saturday exam, and she didn’t study during the week.” No again. “What is she getting? A notebook, pencil, and the scriptures? Can this be? Is she ill? Is this any way to act on Saturday?”
I watched her kneel before the couch in prayer, then arise and curl up on the couch, draping a blanket over her. She began to read, then stopped, seemingly to think. (“Aha, getting sleepy! I knew it wouldn’t last.”) But she was writing in her notebook, pausing, reading, writing—she seemed very intent.
Who could this strange girl be? What had motivated this unusual behavior? Then I recognized her. Why, it was me! The new me. The one who is learning what it means to hunger for the gospel.
What can I gain from scriptures and notebooks and thinking before Saturday breakfast? Much, even eternal life. How great it is to hunger for the words of God, to be filled not with bread but with truth. Perhaps I can give you some background as to how I grew into this insight.
“During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection.” (JS—H 1:8. Italics added.)
These are the words of Joseph Smith in his boyhood at the time of religious confusion before the Restoration. As I first read these words, I marveled at his youthful capacity to think and reason deeply.
Nephi as a young man also had this gift.
“As I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Ne. 11:1.)
What wisdom in youth! Can we gain that wisdom or is it a special gift to a few?
As I rushed through high school days, pushed by a seemingly full schedule, I felt it would be wonderful to be caught up in the Spirit as Nephi was or to know the Lord as Joseph Smith did, yet I failed to realize, as many do, the necessity of stopping and pondering. They stopped—I didn’t.
What is pondering?
I didn’t know because I hadn’t done any. I thought I was too busy, and you can’t ponder in a hurry.
As I used to read the scriptures (when I managed to take the time), I tried to read them as I read other things—quickly, scanning, in a hurry for story content and maybe a wee bit of wisdom. I didn’t understand that to digest the scriptures, one must go slowly and learn from scratch the forgotten art of pondering. There was too much “living” to do to spend time in quiet meditation, I mistakenly thought.
In the final year of my crowded college days, I was called to teach a Sunday School class. This was the Lord’s gift to me in the form of a challenge so that I could learn to think and to ponder the things of his kingdom. I had to read and reread the scriptures and slowly ferret out the meat of the gospel verse by verse so that I could present these truths to my students. I balked sometimes at the great amount of time I had to give, and yet this gift was precious. It was water for the tiny embryo seed of my soul that had thirsted so long. I learned to a small degree how all the holy men of God learn to know God and the gospel. It is not a gift to a select few, rather a blessing predicated on the law of obedience, long hours, and study.
As I read the scriptures in these early mornings, I learned some of the basics of pondering and searching.
1. Pray always before you begin to read the scriptures. Slow your mind down and be free from this world. Also, pray all the while you read—as certain concepts of the gospel illuminate your soul or as you have questions. Don’t hesitate to call upon your Father.
2. Keep a paper and pencil handy while you read. This is a stimulating activity, and often goals, exciting ideas, or original thoughts will creep into a stale mind.
3. Go slowly! This study is not a race. No longer do you have to finish a prescribed number of chapters before you go to bed. Spend several days with a single chapter or verse. Memorize scripture and it will bloom with hidden meanings you hadn’t been cognizant of, meanings pertinent to your life today.
4. Ask questions as you read the scriptures. As I read the sacrament prayers (“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” [Moro. 4:3; italics added]), I would ask myself these questions and try to answer them:
(a) What does it mean to be sanctified?
(b) Have I shown my Father that I want to take upon myself the name of his Son? How do I show him?
(c) How can I witness that I always remember him?
(d) Do I always remember him? How can I?
Through working out these questions and answering them, I found a deeper self than I had known. Question and then call upon the Lord. As I questioned, the doors of my heart unfolded and left room for the Holy Ghost to dwell in me.
5. Stop many times during the day and ponder the single thought that you have searched out in depth. For instance, consider the truth “love your neighbor as yourself.” Repeat the scripture, question your every action, and keep the thought with you on a small card.
All of this is a matter of making yourself take the time; it’s a daily renewal. You’ll be gratified as it refreshes your viewpoint. There will be a new direction in your life and even daily revelation.
All this pondering leads to the true and deep understanding of the gospel, our mission, and God’s glory. Many times as you ponder you pave the way for the sweet peace of the Holy Ghost to enter your heart and illuminate your entire being with truth. This is the glory of the gospel and the glory of intelligence. As I have experienced these things, I have been full of a burning and exultation beyond compare as my mortal understanding has progressed beyond my mortality even for a brief moment.
“Your bosom shall burn.” (D&C 9:8.)
“Through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understanding.” (D&C 88:11.)
Our beloved prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said, “All my life I have studied and pondered the principles of the gospel and sought to live the laws of the Lord. As a result there has come into my heart a great love for him and for his work and for all those who seek to further his purposes in the earth.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1971, p. 6.)
Take the time to ponder. It is a key to unbelievable joy and knowledge here in mortality.
“I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.” (D&C 88:62–63.)