Pondering and Personal Revelation

June 6, 2021

We live in a noisy world. We hear noise from machines, crowds, and traffic. In stores and other public places, we confront music and announcements. In some homes, the television blares almost constantly, or people find themselves staring at other screens, including computers, tablets, and portable phones. Sometimes we block out the world with headphones to listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts, and other sounds. We can become so accustomed to hearing sounds that silence makes us feel empty.

Not all of this is bad, of course. But at times, we need to seek silence so we can better listen to the impressions of the Spirit, a voice the scriptures characterize as still and small (see, e.g., 1 Nephi 17:3; Doctrine and Covenants 85:6). When noises, pictures, and other stimuli demand our attention, it may be difficult to feel or understand spiritual promptings.

The scriptures offer us examples of people who received revelation while taking time to ponder, generally away from the noise of the world.

In the Book of Mormon for example, Nephi heard his father, Lehi, recount his vision of the Tree of Life. Nephi wanted spiritual confirmation of what his father told him. In 1 Nephi 11:1, Nephi wrote that “after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, 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.”

Nephi’s pondering led to the spiritual confirmation he was seeking.

A later prophet with the same name, Nephi, found himself rejected and depressed and wanted comfort. In Helaman 10:2‒10, Nephi “went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” And “as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities— . . . as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him.” It was the voice of the Lord, who commended Nephi for the good he had done “with unwearyingness,” telling him “I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”

Once again, pondering led to revelation.

This last dispensation furnishes many examples of people whose pondering has led to revelation.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision resulted from deep pondering over a long period. Another great vision Joseph received after pondering is summarized in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph and his scribe Sidney Rigdon were translating New Testament when they encountered John 5:29, a verse that set them to pondering on the idea there might be multiple kingdoms in heaven. This pondering led to the revelation. As Doctrine and Covenants 76:11‒12 explains, “We, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two—by the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God.”

Pondering can help each of us understand the things of God in ways that otherwise might not be possible.

A twentieth-century example is that of Joseph F. Smith, who was then the President of the Church. He had lost an apostle son and was grieving deeply, pondering on the plan of salvation. In what is now section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 1‒11, he explained how his pondering led to revelation.

“On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen,” he began, “I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world; and the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world; that through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved.

“While I was thus engaged,” President Smith wrote, “my mind reverted to the writings of the apostle Peter, to the primitive saints scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and other parts of Asia, where the gospel had been preached after the crucifixion of the Lord. I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages: [1 Peter 3:18–20, 4:6.] As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.”

So the next time we’re tempted to switch on the television or put on headphones, perhaps we should consider instead taking time to ponder. We may receive just the revelation, comfort, or understanding we need to make our lives better.

Credit for image at top of post: Stock image from depositphotos.com.

Author: Richard E. Turley Jr.

Richard E. Turley Jr. served for twenty-two years as managing director of the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and eight years as Assistant Church Historian and Recorder. He also served as managing director of the Family History, Public Affairs, and Church Communication Departments.

Related Posts