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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Meditation, Part 1 - Evolving Beyond Pondering


As we learned in Enter the Presence of the Lord, modern-day prophets have encouraged us to meditate.  Our prioritization (or lack thereof) of meditation in our lives led Pres. Thomas S. Monson to recently ask,

"In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation – even thoughts of timeless truths?" ("The Race of Life," April 2012 General Conference)

It’s a terrific question.  However, just how does one meditate?  If you visit lds.org or even the beta version of its new search engine, you’re not going to find a lot on how to meditate; in fact, you’ll find little regarding meditation.  This is surprising to me, considering how potentially potent meditation can be:

“I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion.

In our worship there are two elements: one is spiritual communion rising from our own meditation; the other instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation.

Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord" (Pres. David O. McKay, “Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life,” Improvement Era, June 1967, pp. 80–82).

Luckily, we have several examples from the scriptures and church history, as well as some insightful quotes, that potentially pave the way to a greater understanding of meditation and how you can use it to pass into the presence of the Lord.

Evolving Beyond Pondering

As we discussed in a previous post, there is a difference between pondering and meditation.  Pondering often involves deeply contemplating the words of God.  Meditation, on the other hand, involves repositioning oneself away from the storms, turmoil, chaos, loudness and confusion of life to a solitary, peaceful environment to become better attuned to, and eventually enjoy the presence of, divinity.

There are two instances in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith that illustrate how his spirituality developed from pondering to meditation, from using tools to know the Word of God to knowing them without any tools:

The Sacred Grove: Prior to his Sacred Grove experience, Brother Joseph first pondered the word of God – the scriptures. He then went to a place of solitude, and finding himself alone, knelt down and offered up the desires of his heart (JSH 14-15) – all classic examples of a meditative state.

The Urim and Thummim: As we know, the Urim and Thummim was a material instrument through which spiritual communication was conducted from God to man. Its powers of vision illuminated the eyes, the mind and the spirit of the beholder -- reflecting the events of the past or highlighting those of the future. Through this instrument, the mysteries of ancient, dead languages could be interpreted, or the seer could envision the untold sublime wonders of the celestial glories. In Joseph’s case, he was given the Urim and Thummim mainly for the purpose of translating the Book of Mormon as well as the Pearl of Great Price (P.P. Pratt, Millennial Star, 3:47).  Soon, however, the Prophet no longer needed use of the Urim and Thummim. Elder Orson Pratt reported that Joseph Smith told him that the Lord gave him the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced as a translator but that he later progressed to the point that he no longer needed the instrument ("Two Days' Meeting at Brigham City," Millennial Star 36 [1874]:498-99).  Elder John A. Widtsoe explained why:

“The Prophet did not always receive revelations by the aid of the Urim and Thummim. As he grew in spiritual power, he learned to bring his mind into such harmony with divine forces that it became, as it were, itself a Urim and Thummim to him; and God’s will was revealed without the intervention of external aids; that is, truth may become known without outside help when one is in harmony or in full tune with the requirements of the subject in hand.” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.90; emphasis mine)

(Wow, there’s that ‘tune’ word that kept popping up in a previous post)

The Lord continued increasing the spiritual maturity of the Prophet. As Joseph translated the New Testament, no longer did he need the Urim and Thummim, for his mind was in harmony with the Divine and had become, as it were, a Urim and Thummim unto itself.

In my opinion, these two excerpts from Joseph’s life can be replicated, to a certain extent, in our lives as well.  Joseph’s search for divine answers evolved from pondering to meditating (note that after the Sacred Grove experience, he never abandoned turning to the scriptures for more answers – far from it!).  Later, his reliance on tools to interpret the Word of God evolved to where he, himself, became the interpreter.

In my next post, we’ll combine principles we learned from these above events – and more – into an LDS approach to meditation. 

President Monson encouraged us to meditate.

His predecessor, President McKay, said meditation “is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.”

We discussed what meditation is in a previous post.  Beginning with the next post, we'll learn more about meditating: how to prepare for it, how to do it, and what we can realistically expect from it.

4 comments:

  1. I think the McKay quote was the biggest hint from the Brethren about what we really need to be doing as saints to connect with the Lord. I wish I would have taken this idea more seriously a long, long time ago. I love the Lord more and more everyday. I spend time each day in meditation conversing with the Lord about what I should be doing. It has been the best part of my spiritual life. I can honestly say it is more important to do this than any other thing I do. It is the best 30-40 minutes I spend everyday reading, pondering, meditating, praying, communing and conversing with the Lord through the veil.

    Also, I have found myself spending much less of my personal prayer time asking for God to hear the words from my mouth. When I converse in quiet meditation, I am confident only God hears the thoughts of my mind. I can pour out my whole heart and all my devotion that builds as I go about my life. It is amazing how much love and acceptance the Lord shares back with me. Also, he reveals His desires for me. It is a deep, personal communion with the Lord where I can share the most sacred and secret desires of my heart. Truly an experience worth having every single day of my life. In the past 4 months I have missed maybe 4-5 days where I was not able to make the time. The Lord understands, yet he is very eager when I return - as am I!

    Learning to converse with the Lord through the veil is the single most important thing I have learned in my life.

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  2. I loved the picture of the urim and thummin and breastplate....where did you find it?

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  3. I can't remember precisely. But I'm glad you liked it!

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  4. Thanks. Appreciate the post

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