1 For it came to pass 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.
(1 Nephi 11:1)
ponder – Think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion (Oxford English Dictionary)
The Book of Mormon is very clear on the importance of pondering as a preparation for receiving revelation. For example:
- After hearing his father describe a vision he had experienced, Nephi wanted to see firsthand the same things his father had seen. In the passage above, we learn that he received that blessing as he “sat pondering in [his] heart.”
- Nearly 600 years later, another prophet named Nephi received great promises as he walked “toward his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him” (Helaman 10:2-3).
- At the end of the first day of Jesus’s visit to the American continent, He directed the people who had heard his teachings to return to their homes, ponder the things they had heard, pray for understanding, and prepare their minds for His return the following day (3 Nephi 17:3).
- At the end of the Book of Mormon, the last prophet, Moroni, promised that, if we will ponder the message of the book and ask God if it is true, “he will manifest the truth of it unto [us], by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).
Consider also the following two examples:
- Joseph Smith’s received his First Vision as a direct result of pondering a passage of scripture. After he read James 1:5, he tells us that “it seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith—History 1:12).
- Joseph Fielding Smith received the vision recorded in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants after pondering two passages in the New Testament: 1 Peter 3:18–20 and 1 Peter 4:6.
In the Oxford Dictionary definition of pondering (quoted above) I see three essential components:
- Pondering requires an object. We ponder something–a question, a passage of scripture, something we have been taught, or something we have experienced. Pondering differs from daydreaming, because it is focused on understanding something in particular.
- Pondering is “careful.” It is not sloppy. It involves reasoning with rigor and integrity.
- Pondering presupposes that we don’t yet fully understand. We recognize that there’s more to learn about the topic, and we refrain from drawing firm conclusions or making decisions before thinking the topic through.
In his last General Conference address, President Thomas S. Monson urged us to read the Book of Mormon daily. But he didn’t just ask us to read it; he encouraged us to “study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives.” Later in the talk, he said, “My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day” (“The Power of the Book of Mormon,” General Conference, April 2017).
Today, I will ponder important topics: gospel questions, my own experiences, and specific scriptures which I would like to understand better. I will dedicate attention to these topics, think about them rigorously, and recognize the limitations of my own current understanding. I will remember that pondering can prepare the way for me to receive revelation from God.