The most fundamental covenant that we make -- baptism -- is a covenant to remember. We covenant to remember Christ, and in turn, God promises us that we will always have the Spirit, which has as a fundamental role to “bring all things to our remembrance.”
The more we remember Christ the greater our ability to remember Him, thus increasing our desire and capacity to serve Him, which in turn helps us to become like Him.
As I have studied the word remember, both its linguistic origins and scriptural and prophetic usages, I’ve learned that it is used to convey three specific meanings:
- To recall
- To retain
- To study
A few more synonyms to further explain what I mean by "recall" would include renew, recollect, revive, remind, awaken, return.
Because of the veil, we are prone to forget things we have learned in the past, including the most important things regarding our salvation.
In Helaman chapter 12 the prophet Nephi laments:
“…at the very time when he doth prosper his people...then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God...how slow are they to remember the Lord their God.” [emphasis added]There are numerous scriptures that command people to “return to God,” the context being, of course, when the people have become prideful and wicked because of forgetting God.
A recurring phrase in the Book of Mormon is the prophets “stirring up the people in remembrance of their duty.” God commands us to “recall” things that we have learned previously and to return to them; in other words, the concept of recall, as it relates to remembering, is also synonymous with repentance.
Other synonyms of retain include to think about or to think of, to be mindful of, to observe, to keep, to obey.
To help us retain the gospel, we are commanded to pray unceasingly, to read the scriptures daily no matter how many times we’ve already read them, to attend church meetings even when they’re boring from repetition, to attend General Conference, and even given church callings.
The institutionalized aspect of the gospel seems directed toward the goal of retention; helping us to daily observe, keep, and obey the commandments. We’re asked to make and keep covenants and then we are given physical reminders of those covenants in order that we might retain in remembrance those things necessary for our salvation.
The key here is to always be in situations where it’s easy to retain a remembrance of our covenants. Surfing inappropriate websites, listening to inappropriate music, going to the lake on Sunday instead of to church, shirking in our church callings -- all of these things and others inhibit our ability to retain saving knowledge and to always remember Christ.
Other terms that help describe this concept include seek, ask, ponder, pray.
How can we retain in remembrance something that we have not yet learned through personal study? In Alma chapter 5 Alma asks, “Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them?”
In other words, he is asking them if they have studied and remembered history.
By knowing and understanding history we are able to learn from the mistakes of others so that we can avoid them ourselves. Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Historian David McCullough added, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
In Doctrine & Covenants Section 88 we are commanded, “…seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” In Section 90 we read, “…study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.”
Elder Marlin K. Jensen taught us that one of the most significant things that we should remember is church history. One excellent way to do this is to do our own genealogy.
In his journals, my fourth great-grandfather, Thomas Sirls Terry, tells of a difficult period of his life in the winter of 1850, and then writes,
“You will see by reading the past that I have been thrown into various circumstances in life. Being of poor parentage, but yet honorably so, you will see that in all of my ups and downs in the world that I had the spirit of perseverance. In my travels through life, when misfortune seemed to press down hard upon me, I always pressed forward the harder and would accomplish that which I undertook to do. And when famine and starvation stared me in the face, and hunger had so weakened my mortal frame, that when at labor I would have to sit down to rest in order to gain strength that I might perform my day’s work, still I hung on to my faith and integrity in the Lord…Therefore, my dear children, let nothing of an evil nature persuade you from a righteous course through life, and carry out your righteous decrees and be firm in your determinations.”Until we study the gospel, the scriptures, church history, genealogy, and history out of the “best books” we have nothing to remember, retain, recall. Through study, pondering, and prayer we learn about the gospel, and then we are invited to live the gospel daily using all of the tools and resources that have been provided for us.
The Remembrance Formula
After analyzing these three aspects of remember, 1) recall, 2) retain, and 3) study, we are able to put them all together and learn a critical formula for safely navigating mortality and returning to God.
The formula is to first, acquire knowledge by study, pondering, and prayer, second, always retain in remembrance that knowledge, and third, when we forget and sin then we must recall that knowledge and repent.
Consider this: In the word and concept remember we find the entire plan of salvation.
Implicit in this formula are duties of Man and reciprocal duties of God. It is our job to study, to put things into our mind in order that we might have anything to remember in the first place. It is His job then to, as we learn in the book of John, “bring all thing to our remembrance” by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
When we have forgotten the gospel and become prideful and sinful, it is our job to recall what we have forgotten and to repent. When we have repented, it is His job to forgive us and make us whole and clean; if we remember His gospel, He will forget our sins.
As we learned from Elder Marlin K. Jensen, “Coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him is…the ultimate purpose of all remembering.”
Let us study the life of Christ, learn of him, then retain a remembrance of Him by always being in the right time at the right place and fulfilling all of our church duties, and then, if we forget at times, to quickly recall and repent.
As King Benjamin taught:
“…this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”