MMM Challenge: A Simple List of Great Power

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A Simple List of Great Power

The last few weeks have been busy, leaving me little time for social media. I did notice that the latest Facebook challenge making the rounds was to make a list of 10 concerts you have seen. I didn’t do it on Facebook, but it did get me thinking and reminiscing. Eventually, I sat down and typed out a list of every concert I can remember attending. It was fun and nostalgic. But wait, it gets better.

Friday morning I was thinking about my list and I had the idea that maybe since I found some enjoyment in making a list of such an insignificant thing, that perhaps, I could think of a list topic that might actually matter. Since then I have been digging in my mind and heart as I work on a new list:

My Top Ten Spiritual Experiences.

I have been blessed so many times in my life with spiritual experiences. Some of them made tremendous impact on my life, some were minor gifts or even course corrections. The problem is that many of them have gone un-recorded because I either wasn’t journaling at the time, didn’t think about writing them down, or considered them too sacred to share.

Since Friday, I have been thinking about it, at my heart is full. Each item on my list deserves to be recorded, but very few of them were. The “whys,” “the hows,” the circumstances, the impact – each experience deserves documentation. Some experiences have found their way into my blog, some are in journals, some have never been written down – some have never been spoken.

Here are a few reasons why making a similar list might be of worth to us:

It can bless our posterity.

How I wish I could have a list of my parent’s top ten spiritual experiences! When you think about it, much of the Book of Mormon is simply a collection of spiritual experiences.

Back in 2007, President Eyring talked about documenting gratitude. I think the inspiration he felt fits nicely here. “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.” (link)

I would like my children and grandchildren to be familiar with what are, inevitably, the most important experiences of my life. Personally, I have done a poor job of that up until now.

It can strengthen our faith.

Sometimes when things get difficult and our faith starts to waiver, we turn to books, scriptures and the experiences of others to help buoy us up. What about being strengthened by our own words – our own experiences? A lot of us are terrible at keeping a journal. Maybe a list with the spiritual “high points” might be more attainable and more accessible than a lifetime of journals.

When Oliver Cowdery was struggling, the Lord had him look to his own memory of a previous spiritual experience to serve as a witness for himself:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22-23)

It can keep our memories honest.

Often, when experiencing a crisis of faith, there is a tendency to re-write our own histories. We can forget, and/or deny the reality of what we have experienced spiritually.  Our memories can be fickle. I wrote about this idea a while back in my post “A Quarter and Two Big Lies.”

This is a dangerous time, spiritually. As was prophesied, it is a time when “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them.” (D&C 88:91)

Our own memories can serve as a bulwark to defend against forces that can tear down our faith.

It can bring the Spirit.

The Holy Ghost seems to love it when we focus our thoughts on things of God. He wants to help us remember.

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

My challenge for you: Make a list of your Top Ten Spiritual Experiences.

***WARNING: This is not a cute, quick little list that you would post here or on Facebook. This is sacred stuff. Remember that whole pearls/swine thing? Exactly.***

Seriously. Take some time. Can you think of a better Sabbath day activity? Make it as detailed or as simple as you want. Don’t feel pressure to rank them #1-10 unless you feel like it.

I can promise you, from personal experience, that you will be filled with gratitude. The Spirit will fill your heart. You will feel strengthened – and that is just while you making the list.

Here are some thoughts about getting started:

You might not remember all the best stuff right off the bat. I’m sure there are memories deep in my brain that I vowed I would never forget that might take some cajoling. Thankfully, the Spirit can draw those memories out for us. President Eyring: “I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”

There are some things that happen in our lives that tend to naturally draw the Spirit close. Some examples to help memories flow…

  • Baptisms, confirmations
  • Your personal conversion process***
  • Temple endowment
  • Marriage
  • Temple attendance
  • Family History work
  • Being set apart for callings
  • Health blessings
  • Comfort blessings
  • Patriarchal blessings
  • In prayer
  • While fasting
  • Seeking forgiveness. (See Enos)
  • Grieving
  • Seeking guidance
  • Reading scriptures
  • When witnessing miracles
  • Hearing the testimony of others
  • Bearing testimony
  • In crisis
  • When serving others

And there are so many more. Everyone is different, and there are no rules as to when or where a spiritual experience can happen. (One of the most significant spiritual experiences in my life happened while I was 40,000 ft. over the Atlantic in the middle of the night, while returning home from Africa.)

There is a chance that some could struggle finding ten spiritual experiences that deserve to be on the list. That’s okay. Write what you can and then dig deeper. If you still come up short, well, then you have a great new goal to strive for.

My list is not complete – I’m not sure that it will ever be complete. I imagine it will go through many different iterations as long as I am still living.

I don’t intend to share my list with you, nor would I want you to show me yours, but I would be curious to know if you went through the process, and how it impacted you.

Give it a try.   I double-dog dare you.

*** It is almost that time of year again: International Hug a Convert Day. It is time to submit your conversion story, or cajole your friends into submitting theirs. They will be published the first week of June. Email to mmm@middleagedmormonman.com

 

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29 COMMENTS

  1. Your first example, from Brother Cowdery, IS my conversion story. Maybe this year, I’ll work up the nerve to send it to you.

  2. I so love this post. Really, all of your posts are just fabulous!

    I took to heart Elder Eyring’s call to keep a journal detailing God’s tender mercies daily a couple of years ago. I was tired of hearing the question in Sunday School, “How has God blessed you?” and drawing a blank. I knew He had so many times and could recall some big things that I didn’t want to share in class. What about the countless many times? It is so easy to forget them. So, I started keeping a journal noticing that day a tender mercy. It evolved into many times that I was a “tender mercenary” for someone else. It took only about 5-7 minutes at the end of the day to record something. And now I’ve transitioned to doing it online. You can start a google doc and just talk into your phone with a thought. I also use JRNL and can dictate entries and easily add pictures. It takes so little time. Any kind of journal keeping is better than none. Any spiritual experience builds faith and testimony and I’m so thankful for them. And I’m grateful that I have a record of some of them. Rock on, MMM, I appreciate you and your wisdom. You are part of my spiritual experiences!

  3. I took a month-long road trip in the summer of 2010 from western Canada to the east coast. I had to get to Toronto for a memorial service for my mom who had passed away in the spring and had a ton of relatives there who weren’t able to attend her funeral. I continued on to Boston, then on the drive back west I did a church history tour – Palmyra, Nauvoo and Carthage, Salt Lake City, and then to the west coast to visit friends before going home. I drove in silence most of the time, just thinking and praying, and I often listened to conference talks and John Bytheway. I can’t count right now the number of times I felt so completely loved and protected as I drove across the continent by myself, being in new places and not knowing anyone. The confidence I gained from having the companionship of the Holy Ghost made me feel like wherever I put my feet on the ground, I was home. That trip was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever had. I had never felt more loved and safe and secure as I did then, being alone in strange new places, knowing God was with me at every moment. Every time I talk about that trip I just want to go do it all over again.

  4. Thanks Middleaged Mormon Man, your post helped me understand a Conference talk from a few years ago. Elder Neil L Andersen told youth to “Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.”

    I always thought that was kind of a strange challenge and to be honest, a little disconcerting. I wondered why he would extend such a strange challenge. But your post today (and the linked quarter and two big lies post) helped me see it in a new light: we need to record our testimonies to remind ourselves of what we know and feel.

  5. I’m sitting in an airport ready to return home after a ten day visit with my son and his family. Last Sunday he spent a lot of time telling his young kids funny stories that happened to him as a kid, and they absolutely loved it – so much so that for FHE he decided to tell them his conversion story. I learned things I had never known, and then their mother shared her story and I shared mine and their grandpa’s. They’re too young to remember what we said, so I’m determined to write them down and add them to our “Family Book of Inspiration.” I wish we had added more to that little notebook as the kids grew, but I’m grateful for the few family nights we did spend recording special experiences. Thanks once again for a wonderful post.

  6. Wonderful post, and thank you for the reminder to keep journaling and focus on writing down our spiritual impressions and experiences!
    I’ve kept a journal for the past 4 decades, but I admit that blogging and increased time spent on social media have distracted me away from my regular writing habit. That’s really sad!
    I’ve found that when I take time to sit quietly and write about my life, amazing memories and insights begin to surface. It strengthens my soul. I encourage all of us to make that time! Even if it’s just a few minutes each day or some time each week. Writing these things down will be a blessing for us personally, and a priceless gift someday for our children and posterity!

    • Awesome, but not the challenge. The hope in the challenge is to make a summation of the MOST significant things, so we and our posterity aren’t required to read tons of journals to glean what matters most to us.

  7. I started a significant experiences journal. I took a cue from the Book of Mormon writers who had to be selective in what they included. It’s a great spiritual and mental challenge to think about what is of most worth.

      • You’re right. Thanks for the gentle rebuke. These experiences are not necessarily for anyone else, but reminders to me of how I’ve seen the Lord work in my life. Challenge accepted.

  8. AuntSue
    What a Great Challenge! Lately, I have been thinking about writing my experiences down, and your challenge is a good kick to get started. On next Sunday’s Keep the Sabbath list.
    Thank you.

  9. This is a timely subject for me. I journal a lot. I write down a lot. But sometimes my spiritual experiences, if they come in times of seeking and learning what the Spirit is teaching me, I don’t know how to write down. I don’t know how to explain them. I can note them, but I don’ t usually get all of what I saw in my mind or felt because my mind can’t interpret it yet. So some time and continuing through my trial or time of learning, usually helps me figure it out more. But I have noticed this past few months that as certain things came up, I remembered those times with clarity, enough that I was able to get more details on the paper than I had if I just made a note of it. Just this week though, I was wondering, if something is very spiritual, and if I could find the words, should I write it down? I decided that I could attempt to do so, with as much information that I could think to write down, knowing how many times I went back in a journal to see what I had written about a particular experience and finding very little to nothing about the actual experience, but I remembered the day it happened by what I did write. But I know I had hoped to find the words or understanding in time, but sometimes I forgot to go back and write about it.
    And now, I am also trying to decide if I need to write in my “blog” (I had an old one, but I’m rambly and wordy and family judgement and everyone got on FB…. so I stopped because there was no need. Then I decided to just hide the old ones and start a new one, but it’s still private and I have two wimpy “testing… testing” type posts, and something about felines in a draft that I really would like to finish ) or just share things on FB, or just save it for when a situation arrives that I can just share person to person. I don’t know what to do. I don’t think in paragraphs- everything kind of flows out of my brain in a long strand of words, so I have no patience for going back through and editing, or subjecting my 22 year old to be my editor. And, I really felt hurt by family criticism of the things I was sharing that were personal. Pearls and Swine are constantly on my mind. But so is not fearing man. I do not know how the Lord wants me to share some of the … not experiences, but what I have learned from my experiences. I thought he did want me to blog, and I was ready, but not sure how to organize my thoughts, so I have been making notes, but I am back at when do I need to share, how do I need to share? And who will even care? But the reason I thought I needed to write was, I need a place to get all of it down. My family and friends can only listen to me go on for so long. But if no one would want to read it, perhaps just writing word documents would suffice and then I could be less wordy in other situations because when I did blog, it helped me listen more, because I didn’t have all of it trapped inside waiting for unsuspecting victims to listen to me sort out my thoughts and make connections as I’m speaking. I am sure I’ll figure it out, but this was a good post for me to ponder some more.
    Yeah, I am not even going to go back and read through that. I will end up rewriting it 6 times, and it’s not that important.

  10. I apologize, but I have another comment. Since you approve them, you can delete this one after I have asked, as it’s directed at an item on your list. Question: What constitutes a miracle? My husband have talked about it. What is a miracle, and what is a blessing, or a tender mercy?

    I am going to probably be studying about this now, because I don’t know the line. Is the never ending box of moon pies (cap’n cruch another time) on top of the fridge when my husband and his companion were on their mission a miracle?

    I don’t know if I have enough experience with miracles to know one from a blessing. But I am sure if I think about it long enough, I could probably come up with one or two. Time to go to the topical guide.

  11. Thanks for this post. It got me to thinking about a GC talk I love.

    In his second General Conference address Elder Bednar spoke about the tender mercies of the Lord in each of our lives. He talked about learning to recognize those personal giifts from the Lord and to thank Him for them.

    I think it is time I started a list of the times the Lord has shown me His tender mercy. I am even writing it long hand in a journal!

    • One of my favorite memories is reading the Book of Mormon with my then 10-year-old daughter. Each morning we’d read a couple of chapters together before school, looking for the tender mercies of the Lord – both in the lives of the scripture characters and then our own. It was a beautiful way to obey the counsel of President Hinckley to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, and to also apply that conference talk from Elder Bednar. The idea to do so was in itself a tender mercy!

  12. I’m working on my list. I’ve recorded 6 so far. I’m still working on my last 4…because I can think of 6 rather “big” things I wanted to record and then a number of “smaller” things that have also influenced me. I’m still sorting through in my mind to determine what I most want to record on my list. But just pondering the list throughout the week made me aware of some smaller, every day type tender mercies that occurred that I am grateful to have noticed and need to also record. This has been a great exercise. Thanks for issuing the challenge.

    Becky, I love what you shared about reading the Book of Mormon with your daughter and noticing the tender mercies of the Lord. What an amazing idea!

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